7 March 2024

I’m Paul from the past and I’m here to help: Labor legend launches word grenade on China approach

| Chris Johnson
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Penny Wong

Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong has hit back at more foreign policy criticism from Paul Keating. Photo: Facebook.

Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has once more turned the spotlight on Australia’s current foreign policy approach by trying his best to rain on Anthony Albanese’s parade.

While the actual PM was busy hosting ASEAN leaders and conducting a string of bilaterals with his Southeast Asian counterparts, the PM from three decades ago was happy to lob a bitter word grenade into the camp.

However, the barb wasn’t directed at Mr Albanese; it was more directed towards his Foreign Minister Penny Wong and ASIO boss Mike Burgess.

Angered over Senator Wong’s speech on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Melbourne, during which the Foreign Minister warned of the region’s “the most confronting circumstances”, the former PM issued a fiery statement to accuse the government of alarmism over China.

“It doesn’t take much to encourage Penny Wong, sporting her ‘deeply concerned’ frown, to rattle the China can – a can she gave a good shake to yesterday,” Mr Keating said on Tuesday (5 March).

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It’s not the first time the Labor legend has taken a swipe at Senator Wong and her foreign policy approach, but this time, he also blasted ASIO’s director-general for talking about foreign entities recruiting a former Aussie politician.

“The resident conjurer, Mike Burgess, who runs ASIO, gave us a week’s worth of spy mysteries – only for us to find via a leak to the Herald and The Age that the mysterious state running the spying was, you guessed it, China”.

Describing it as a “kabuki show”, the former PM suggested too many people in power at the moment are anti-Beijing and should be sacked, including Mr Burgess.

“The anti-China Australian strategic policy establishment was feeling some slippage in its mindless pro-American stance and decided some new China rattling was overdue,” he said.

Laura Tingle and Paul Keating at the press club

Paul Keating isn’t shy about sharing his views on Australia’s China policy approach. Photo: Screenshot.

He added the director-general of the Office of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, and the now former Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo to the list (along with Mr Burgess) of people Mr Albanese should have sacked as soon as he took office in 2022.

“These people display utter contempt for the so-called stabilisation process that the Prime Minister had decided upon and has progressed with China, and will do anything to destabilise any meaningful rapprochement”, Mr Keating said.

“Burgess runs the primary goon show while Shearer does all in his power to encourage Australia into becoming the 51st state of the United States.”

During the ASEAN gathering, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim bought into the wider debate, saying if Australia and the US “have problems with China, they should not impose them upon us”.

READ ALSO Lots of speculation but no name (or prosecution likely) of former political agent

Mr Keating seized on those words, praising the Malaysian PM and saying Anwar had “dropped a huge rock into Wong’s pond by telling Australia not to piggyback Australia’s problems with China onto ASEAN”.

The former Labor leader said Australia’s present policy direction was at odds with the ASEAN’s strategic interest.

However, Senator Wong hit back, saying on Wednesday that Mr Keating’s view of the world was not necessarily shared by the current federal government, which, she said, was focused on Australia’s national interest.

“Mr Keating is entitled to his view, but the government is focused on how we work with countries in the region to encourage peace, stability, and prosperity and ensure economic and national security,” the Foreign Minister said.

“It was a new position to be lectured on whether or not I understood the country of my birth in Malaysia, but he is entitled to his opinion.”

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HiddenDragon7:36 pm 07 Mar 24

“During the ASEAN gathering, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim bought into the wider debate, saying if Australia and the US “have problems with China, they should not impose them upon us”.”

But it was quite OK for Australians and others to fight and die to prevent a communist takeover of Malaya. If things get sticky again, whoever is running Malaysia at the time will no doubt have a convenient change of heart and suddenly discover that the meddling westerners aren’t so bad after all.

In the meantime, and on the subject of whether all of ASEAN agrees with Ibrahim and Keating, we witnessed today the extraordinary spectacle of the Vietnamese and Australian PMs warmly embracing at Parliament House in Canberra – there’s a great big reason for that (and it’s not because they’re both Swifties and were thrilled to be exchanging friendship bracelets).

PJK needs to be careful what he wishes for – if his Sinophilia (Sinolatry?) is embraced by the contemporary political class, Albanese and Wong might give him the same treatment that Hu Jintao got from Xi at the October 2022 National Congress of the CCP.

Clever Interrobang5:43 pm 07 Mar 24

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner and in large part our future is dependent on them.

Peace and cooperation with China wherever possible is an admirable goal.

It is disappointing that some Australians still think we are in lock step with the US. Ask anyone who is dealing with US trade and industry folks and they will tell you that the US is a nightmare. They are currently blowing up a range of international fora and Australia is definitely not in lockstep with them. But then again if all you do is read the Canberra Times and listen to the ABC you will get a very narrow and jaundiced view.

Jenny Graves4:36 pm 07 Mar 24

Paul Keating has been acting as a mouthpiece for China pretty much ever since he left office (as did Hawke!). He’s right that China isn’t planning to invade us (I think), but they plan to turn the whole of the rest of the South Pacific into China supporters, which isn’t in our best interest.

I think everyone in Government knows this, and they smile gently and just ignore him. He can explode all he likes: he has no power or influence any more.

Also he is the same age as Biden, Trump, and younger than Bernie. He has years of wisdom and intelligence behind him and doesn’t need to toe any party line.

Australia should back off from being the US lackey. Our unquestioning loyalty is obviously dangerous. The US only does things to benefit itself, they don’t care about anyone else, we are just cannon fodder. We are kidding ourselves if we think any different. They are using us and our geographical location to threaten China on their behalf. In any conflict with China we will lose. If you lived next to a wild animal would you befriend it or poke it? Luckily China is civilised enough not to have retaliated, so far.
Keating is the one that makes sense.

Some of what Keating says is correct. Too many in the bureaucracy, defence & intelligence sectors are keen on tying us in lockstep with the US & any number of their foreign policy disasters.

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