Greg Sheridan writes in The Australian on 6 May, 2006 that the birth of AUKMIN has been the single most significant development in the Australian foreign affairs architecture for many years. AUKMIN is meant to parallel the annual Australia- US ministerial meeting concerning foreign affairs and defence.
The AUKMIN concept was announced by Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Blair at their joint press conference in March, 2006. It was conceived by the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and is of singular importance. But as Mr Sheridan says, this was substantially missed by the media. He says that the reason for this was in part because there had been no bureaucratic or political build-up. Even then, I am sure that had this been established with any other power, even a minor power, the republican commentariat would have gone into overdrive. In their infantile anti-colonialism, or whatever afflicts them, they forget that if we were in serious need, the countries most willing to help would probably be the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand. And only the US and the UK would have the capability to help significantly.
This news was also missed by the media because it had long been the agenda of the elites to put the most malevolent interpretation on British intentions in every aspect of our relations from 1788.
This is probably to compensate the fact that we never had to fight for our independence, a fact which the elites fear weakens their anti-imperialist credentials -as if anyone were interested in that. Another reason for their anti-British feelings is because of some event in the distant past of absolutely no connection with Australia. Yet another relates to some aspect of the first or second world wars. But the fact is that in wartime, the best of plans can fail. Only an armchair critic with the benefit of hindsight and a mandatory hatred of the British Empire would seriously expect success in every campaign. Setbacks and failures, whether at Gallipoli, or on the Western front, or in Singapore are in not in themselves evidence of British bad faith.
The same considerations which to put the most malevolent interpretation on each and every British act also ground the prevalent form of infantile republicanism which is too common among the elites, and even mandatory in the commentariat. This is a republicanism not driven by a wish to improve the Constitution, but only a desire to rid us of our Sovereign at any price, even if many now admit that her service has been impeccable.
As we suggested in our column of 3 April, 2006 , a low point in relations between Australia and the United Kingdom came unexpectedly during Question Time in Parliament on 27 February 1992 . It was not as though we were in the midst of some acute dispute with Downing Street. The then Prime Minister, Paul Keating, accused Britain of abandoning Australia to the Japanese during the Second World War. He said that Britain was the “country which decided not to defend the Malayan peninsula, not to worry about Singapore and not to give us our troops back to keep ourselves free from Japanese domination.”
In his irrational hatred of Britain, Mr. Keating is to be contrasted with all – I stress all – of the great leaders of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the conservative side, none of whom have harboured such a curious and irrational dislike of the British. Mr. Keating has more than once demonstrated that he has little grasp of history, but on this and other occasions he was also ready to offer one of our closest friends the most gratuitous and the most undeserved of insults. As many Australians thought at the time, even if Mr. Keating actually believed this concoction, how dare he say so and potentially damage our relations with a principal ally? Fortunately the British are used to this sort of infantile behaviour and took this in their stride.
As Mr. Sheridan points out, the UK is “the fourth largest economy in the world (possibly now overtaken by China), one of the most powerful military powers globally, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with the power of veto, a member of the Group of Eight. Because of its tradition of great power diplomacy, and indeed of a highly competent foreign service and foreign ministers, it does much of the institutional heavy lifting at the UN and in many multilateral organizations. It is especially helpful to Australia to have such a close friend inside the EU.” And for many reasons, the people of the two countries will remain close, without of course excluding other relationships or either party’s freedom of action.
Only a foolish person would think otherwise. Only a prime minister recklessly indifferent to the best interests of the nation, more consumed with a visceral hatred than good sense, would actually publicly and viciously attack a close ally and risk damaging the underlying relationship.