2011-03-19 On Julia Gillard’s ‘real mates talk straight’ and the betrayal of Julian Assange.

On 10th March 2011 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a speech to the US Congress. It was notable for one reason, the US media appeared barely to report it—Google searches show Australian entries page after page—and perhaps that’s because the US media market for show ponies, seals and canines performing obsequiously for an audience is already saturated.

Crafted for a US audience it was as Hugh White (Australian National University professor and a former senior Defence Department official) said: a piece of policy-free puff…I suppose she wanted the Americans to like her, but she decided not to say anything serious to them.

Our leaders never say much that is seriously an assertive, independent point of view to the USA. This is of course as befits a thoroughly one sided relationship characterised by ultra obsequiousness by an almost endless line of Australian prime ministers from Robert Menzies who begged the US to join in the Vietnam war; Harold Holt’s—all the way with LBJ and more lately John Howard who jumped on the Bush orchestrated litany of lies bandwagon, otherwise known as the second Iraq war (and absurdly incorporating a war on an abstract noun--terrorism) as if we somehow owed an eternal debt--which can never be repaid--as a satrapy of the USA and our prime ministers are the satraps. Or as liberal party Senator Brandis, leaker of the ‘Ratty’ label might have said in the case of John Howard, a ratsap.

Watching briefly I was hoping that someone would throw Gillard a fish (please, just an itty bitty sardine!) that she would catch instinctively in her mouth, a legacy perhaps from humans having, aeons ago, a common ancestor with seals. It would have been so symbolic of the relationship Australian political leaders have with the USA: always craving that photo-op on the White House lawns, always bowing and scraping to ingratiate themselves while hoping for a lift in the polls back home.

Poor Billy McMahon on the other hand suffered the indignity of being upstaged by his wife whose photographed split dress coming down a White House staircase made world headlines while Billy was nowhere to be seen. The best laid plans of mice and men epitomised our Billy as it often does those craving popularity by association. Nixon didn’t even bother to tell him in advance about the China rapproachment, that’s how much Australia rated in the scheme of Pax Americana.

The only time this writer can ever recall an Australian prime minister being critical of the US was Gough Whitlam when he said that the Nixon administration was “parlous.”

Julia Gillard did however say something of note: In both our countries, real mates talk straight.. That is of course a noble sentiment that is not exclusive to the USA and Australia alone, but the inference she was making was that as two nations we “talk straight” to each other. Sorry Ms Gillard, the Americans talk straight from time to time, we do no such thing unless perpetual yes sir no sir three bags full qualifies as straight talk.

US Presidents talk and say things like “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists” and as we know, Australian prime minister John Howard (wilfully unable to see a false dichotomy even if it was an Indonesian Komodo dragon or a despot called Suharto literally or metaphorically chewing on his incredibly thick political hide); quicker than Judith Miller writing “weapons of mass destruction” in the New York Times: jumped into the planning and execution of an illegal war against the wishes of his people.

If Julia Gillard was talking straight to the Australian people, she would have tried to enact the following legislation, (which some people overseas might have believed was already on the statute books?):

Criminal Deeming (Preventing Embarrassment to the USA at all Costs) No Defamation in Political Speeches Bill 2010 Cth.

Armed with this legislation, Ms Gillard could have said anything she liked about the illegality of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, which is what in fact she did on 2nd December 2010. As that legislation does not exist, that comment said outside the House without parliamentary privilege, was potentially defamatory.

Attorney General Robert McClelland might have been talking straight to the Australian people if he had introduced the:

People Who Piss Off the Powerful in the USA (Australian Cancellation) Passport Amendment Bill 2010

Wilfred Burchett was another Australian whistleblower who likewise earned the wrath of the USA. He was the first to report sickness of Japanese from the radiation effects in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was a story dismissed by the New York Times as Japanese propaganda. Burchett was banned from entering Japan by General MacArthur and much later, after he reported the Vietnam war from the North Vietnamese side, the conservative Australian government refused to replace his lost passport. He was refused entry to attend his father’s funeral in 1969 and only got his passport back during the Whitlam Labor government.

Times have not changed that much in Australia for acts of political bastardry.

What would Gough Whitlam think of those threats to cancel Julian Assange’s passport Mr Attorney General?

What can we make of an Australian Attorney General, kowtowing to US interests and using his power to threaten a citizen who has committed no legal wrong? Not much other than negativity.

The Honourable Minister it must be remembered, swallowed the US propagandistic Assange-is-not-a-journalist bilge:

Mr McClelland's spokesman said later there was a distinction between WikiLeaks, which obtained and distributed the information, and media outlets that then reported the material.

The fallacy is glaring but I will point it out to the apparent wilfully blind: Senator, how does a media outlet report material if they don’t first obtain it? What does Wikileaks do that the New York Times doesn't do except provide a more sophisticated method for whistleblowers to use?

America can do anything said Ms Gillard in her speech to Congress, but would they please send over Forrest Gump if not to be our next Attorney General then to teach our leaders something about mateship, something about loyalty to countrymen and women and talking straight? Is Tom Hanks at a loose end these days, anybody, to talk on a level that some of our leaders might just understand?

One cannot readily visualise our leaders saying, as per that particular movie: “I gotta get Bubba.” Although some of us might readily see ‘Lieutenant’ John Howard saying “Don’t worry, the VC will look after him and have got these really neat underground hospitals.”

True mateship and love of country means looking after any citizens of our country we happen to be with at the time, which was so nostalgically, powerfully and emotionally (for this writer at least) depicted in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’. In this the ordinary soldiers of Australia and the USA were very very close, having fought that horrible war together.

Where there is a legal duty, as there is, for governments to protect their citizens - so eloquently pointed out by Julian Burnside at the Sydney Town Hall meeting the other night - it is so depressing that opportunistic politicians hoping to tap into the community’s political faultlines, can be so foolish as to betray their own citizens, like Julian Assange, and betray the very idea of democracy for which we the people give up some personal autonomy to the state, give loyalty to it, but expect the state to do all in their power to protect us.

How bitter it is when the state betrays that contract.

It has been said that an American grand jury can be persuaded to indict a ham sandwich. If as seems likely, a Virginian grand jury indicts Julian Assange, it will be that ham sandwich indictment (of that we can have little doubt given the desperate legal fishing expeditions currently underway) and we the Australian supporters of Wikileaks and Julian Assange say, (if I may be so bold) that the Australian government must tell the US administration that it will be totally unacceptable by the majority of Australian people. The Alliance will be threatened if the US proceeds along that path.

We will give you, whoever are our leaders in power in Australia at that time, absolute hell by demonstrations and other dissident conduct, harnessing world support as well, if you do not do your duty.

This is not a partisan issue so do not make the mistake of trying to find a wedge on this matter.

We can have no doubt, given the torture of Bradley Manning - if he was a prisoner of war it would be a violation of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions - that Julian Assange would be treated far worse if extradited from the UK or Sweden to the USA.

The message to the Australian government must be made clear.

Australian electors should contact their local members and press them now to take a stand, because if they don’t our citizenship will be demonstrated to be worthless and it will be confirmed that we are all ultimately the slaves of a foreign power to be abused at will.