The Australian’s foreign editor, GREG SHERIDAN, pulls no punches in a relentless critique of Labor’s chaotic, morally bankrupt recent behaviour; in this extract he takes aim at its foreign policy, national security and defence.
The Albanese government is coming apart in foreign policy, national security and defence.
It has become incoherent and indecipherable. It consistently tries to hide basic information, can’t maintain cabinet unity or policy consistency, its ministers frequently contradict each other and often seem to have no idea what they’re talking about.
The government is now desperately reactive, unable to hold a position from one day to the next.
The wheels are coming off
The wheels are coming off in what had once seemed potentially a strong suit. In the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Albanese government has been completely out of its depth. On China it has become self-contradictory, weak, and has been outplayed by Beijing.
And the fiasco in defence goes from bad to unbelievable, almost beyond parody.
The government’s biggest moral failing has been its response to the Israel-Hamas war. Labor is much less a friend of Israel than the Liberal and National parties. Even before the atrocities of October 7 – when Hamas engaged in a savage burst of terrorist torture, murder and kidnap at a level of barbarity as grotesque as anything in modern history – Labor had moved decisively against Israel.
It reversed a series of key votes in the UN, dropped diplomatic recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and abandoned the previous government’s correct designation of Gaza and the West Bank as disputed territories, labelling them “occupied Palestinian territories”. It also doubled aid for a virulently anti-Israel UN agency.
Pro-Palestinian motorcades drove through areas in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with strong Jewish populations in a naked bid to intimidate local Jewish people. Two Jewish young men in Bondi were told they’d be killed if they didn’t put an Israeli flag away.
Yet when condemning such unspeakable actions, ministers have had to give themselves an anti-Islamophobia alibi. No one has been worse than Tony Burke. He initially declined to condemn remarks by a Muslim religious leader in his electorate welcoming the Hamas atrocities. And when asked on Radio National whether Israel was guilty of genocide in Gaza he could only say he didn’t want to get hung up on words.
This is one of the most morally bankrupt and ethically disgraceful comments ever made in Australian politics. Israel certainly has never been guilty of anything that could ever be described as genocide. That Burke could not even bring himself to say this demonstrates he is a senior figure in a political movement completely bereft of any principle. At best, it’s rank moral cowardice.
Being in government means making hard choices. Labor, as much as the Coalition in its last term, seems incapable of deciding what it thinks is right and then persuading the electorate through patient advocacy. Instead, it seeks magically to arrive at positions that don’t offend the jostling, contradictory interest groups it’s trying to appease. The result is complete incoherence.
We see this on China policy. As Michael Shoebridge from Strategic Analysis Australia observed, Albanese went to Washington, stood beside Joe Biden and pledged to de-risk supply chains overly dependent on China. He then went to Beijing, lavishly praised China and beatifically promised Australia would do every bit of trade with China it could. Then he went to the South Pacific where his government has been warning regional governments not to get too close to China.
The problem with speaking out of different sides of your mouth to different audiences is that sometimes people can see how contradictory, and therefore ultimately how worthless, your remarks are.