Labour’s Pacific charm offensive aims to strengthen Australian and US dominance – Solidarity Online

Labor Foreign Secretary Penny Wong spent her first weeks in government bolstering Australian sub-imperialism in the South West Pacific across the arc of Australian strategic interests.

She first joined Anthony Albanese in Japan for the Quad meeting, an anti-China alliance made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia.

A visit to Fiji followed, where she addressed the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), made up of all 18 Pacific island nations, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang embarked on a historic eight-day tour. island nations in the region, traditionally dominated by the regional power – Australia. Next, a trip to Samoa and Tonga.

Then he traveled to Indonesia, again alongside Albanese, apparently for trade talks with a country that was worth $7 billion in exports to Australia in 2020, compared to $160 billion in exports to China that year.

But like Melbourne Age pointed out in an op-ed, the other purpose was to discuss “the two countries’ efforts to manage relations with China.”

The new Labor government is on a so-called ‘charm offensive’, where Foreign Secretary Wong has said all the good things other nations wanted to hear, such as promoting a change of pledge to act against the climate change.

However, this was all designed to reassert the Australian ruling class’ rivalry for influence in the region against China.

Penny Wong admitted as much in Fiji, when she met Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, where she argued that “regional unity” faces “unprecedented challenges with COVID, climate change and competition strategic”.

The current “regional unity” is one where Pacific island nations must accept Australian and American dominance and agree to limit China’s influence. This “unity” is beginning to unravel, with China offering alternative aid, investment and trade deals.

The first major break was in the Solomon Islands, which signed a security treaty with China in May, much to the chagrin of the paranoid Australian media. However, China’s proposed regional security deal involving ten Pacific countries was rejected during Wang Yi’s tour, with some countries fearing it would increase Chinese and Australian military tensions in the region.

But China has signed new economic and aid agreements with Fiji and Samoa.

Despite efforts to portray China as the aggressor, Australia is helping to build a series of alliances aimed at encircling China and keeping it out of the local area. The most important are Quad, PIF and Indonesia.

Thus, the new Labor government is proposing a defense training school for the military forces of the Pacific island nations. But any Chinese security deal is viewed with outright hostility.

The United States already projects its power across the Pacific from its bases in Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines.

The drawing in Japan and India, China’s longtime rivals, is designed to block China across the vast area now called the Indo-Pacific.

The Indonesian archipelago also straddles the Indian and Pacific oceans and dominates maritime bottlenecks.

Climate change

Australia is meant to respond to Pacific island nations’ desire for action on climate change.

But there are limits to Australia’s success in the charm offensive.

Pacific island nations are looking for more than just words about climate. They want meaningful action from an Australian government. At the next PIF in July, The Saturday newspaper reported that “Labour’s climate commitments will be scrutinized” by the leaders of the PIF who “are going to want more and they have already made it clear”.

The climate change targets the Albanian government has committed to are still too low for 2030 and 2050 due to Labour’s loyalty to the fossil fuels of Australian capitalism. Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has called on Australia to “phase out coal”. Yet this is something Labor has no intention of doing. In fact, it supports the expansion of coal mining, with coal still accounting for 23% of Australian export earnings.

The Labor government has already ruled out going beyond the targets it had set for the election. It will therefore not increase its efforts to the real level needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong told the Guardian in late April that as foreign secretary she would like to ‘spend more on aid’ but that it was also important for a Labor Government to be “fiscally responsible”.

After the climate crisis, the PIF nations rank the issue of West Papua independence from Indonesia as next on their agenda, as they “have always considered West Papuans to be part of of their family”. They will be bitterly disappointed by Labor’s refusal to do any better than the Liberals to help a ‘family member’.

The Labor government remains fully committed to Indonesian control over West Papua. The same was true under the last Labor government, with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard refusing to even raise the issue when she met Indonesian President Yudhuyono in Bali in November 2011.

Just as Prime Minister Gillard met the Indonesian President amid the West Papua uprising and deaths at the hands of the Indonesian police and military, a similar context is unfolding today in West Papua for the Minister of Business Foreign Wong. As it is the same shameful silence.

Australian strategic and defense policy is not about protecting ordinary people or keeping them safe. This is to ensure continued profits for BHP, Rio-Tintos and Visyboards in Australia and their nearly $3 trillion investments globally.

Working class people in Australia have every reason and every right to oppose Australian sub-imperial machinations, whether by a Liberal or Labor government, because our lives depend on resisting these plans.

By Tom Orsag

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