The craven manner in which Australia continues to bow before the US is borne of a deep-seated fear that Washington will again choose to interfere in Australian politics as it did in 1975.
That year, the late Gough Whitlam, who was prime minister, hinted that he might have second thoughts about renewing a lease for Pine Gap, a base in Australia’s northern parts which the Americans use for spying on other countries.
Whitlam was sacked by the governor-general John Kerr shortly thereafter. A full account of the affair is here; the CIA’s involvement has never been in doubt.
The mess that has resulted in Afghanistan has shown that Australia should be wary of getting involved in American military adventures because they always end in tears. But Australia never learns; there is much talk of the Anzus treaty between the two countries whenever anyone raises doubts about American intentions, even though this treaty only requires the two nations to consult each other were either to be threatened by an adversary.
On at least two occasions, Australia has sought American help but has been snubbed. In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy told then prime minister Harold Holt that the US would not go to war with Indonesia to support Australian and British troops in Malaysia.
And in September 1999, with East Timor in turmoil, President Bill Clinton told Prime Minister John Howard that the US wouldn’t supply any combat troops for the international stabilisation force, INTERFET.
But Australia, lapdog that it is, has continued running behind the US to prostrate itself whenever possible. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US never asked Australia for troops; Howard decided to offer them, leading to this country’s long involvement in the messy Afghanistan adventure.
Howard has form in this regard; in the early 2000s, it was he who ran behind George W. Bush seeking a free trade agreement, apparently in the belief that he could get a good deal because he considered the US president a “mate”.
Bush, however, had no such illusions; for him, the priority was ensuring that the constituencies which traditionally vote Republican were not affected by the treaty. Thus, when Howard pleaded for an extra export quota of 100,000 tonnes of beef, he was flatly turned down.
And the current statistics for US-Australia trade show clearly who is the beneficiary: in 2018-19 official figures show Australia’s imports of American goods and services totalled $51.638 billion.
What Australia managed to export to the US was less than half that: $24.748 billion.
Australians love to think of themselves as being very important in the US worldview. The truth is that this country is just another state that the Americans exploit to prop up their position in the world.