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The role of Australian imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region
Democratic Socialist Party
This is the text of a resolution adopted by the 19th Congress of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party, held January 3-7, 2001. Except where specified otherwise, dollars in this article are Australian dollars. At the time of writing, A$1 was approximately US$0.55
- Australian imperialism
- Australia's sphere of dominance
- Australian imperialism in Asia: junior partner of Washington
- Australian imperialism and Indonesia
- East Timor
- Australian imperialism's military role today
- Our demands
1. Australia is an imperialist power, albeit a small regional imperialist power integrated into the global alliance of imperialist powers led by the world's largest economic and military power, the United States of America. Within this global alliance of the ruling classes of the world's richest countries—whose vast wealth is derived in large part from the super-exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the world's population in the Third World—the Australian capitalist class also pursues its own interests.
Capitalist Australia is not a colony of US imperialism (nor was it an exploited colony of British imperialism) but is its junior partner, with its own definite economic and military "sphere of influence", primarily in the Melanesian region of the South Pacific (Papua New Guinea, the Solomons Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji) and parts of south-east Asia (most directly East Timor). This sphere of influence is by and large recognised and accepted by the world's other imperialist powers (although without forgoing their "right" to compete for greater economic advantage within it and despite inevitable tensions at times with French imperialism, which also claims parts of the Pacific—Kanaky, Tahiti, Wallis and Futuna—as its direct imperial domain).
2. As an outpost of British capitalism directly benefiting from—and directly assisting—Britain's domination of the world market in the nineteenth century, and with a small population in a large and resource-rich continent geographically isolated from Europe, Australian capitalism enjoyed a less turbulent development than most of the other industrial capitalist societies. With the rise of a capitalist export agricultural industry to dominance in the mid-nineteenth century and the establishment of a powerful layer of capitalist farmers, the preconditions for the development of industrial production gradually appeared. However, not until the gold rushes of the 1850s did a strong industrial bourgeoisie begin to consolidate. With the gold rushes began a massive influx of white settlers—the population trebled to 1.2 million in the 1860s and reached 3.8 million in 1901. A long boom (1850-1890) was triggered and fuelled by a sustained large inflow of British capital. The Australian colonies were the most important single borrower of British capital between 1875 and 1883. The inflow of British capital in 1860-90 surpassed locally raised savings by a large margin. Australian merchants, bankers and industrialists benefited from the wealth of the goldfields, the inflow of British capital and the growth of wage labour and of the domestic market as a result of large-scale immigration from the British Isles.
The British ruling class did not think it necessary, nor was it able, to block the rise of an independent Australian capitalist class. The creation of an independent nation-state in Australia involved few fundamental political or economic conflicts between the British and Australian ruling classes. During the second half of the nineteenth century, a modern national capitalist economy began to develop out of the politically separate Australian settler colonies. Manufacturing industry grew to meet local demands for food and drink, clothing, furniture, building materials, agricultural implements, railway equipment and machinery. British and local capital funded the building of a relatively diversified and integrated economy upon a base of raw materials exports to Britain. Processing industries (such as flour milling, breweries and smelters), service industries for the sale and distribution of commodities and banks to finance capitalist enterprises developed, while the roads, railways and ports were built by the states.
Like other developed capitalist economies, by the early twentieth century, the Australian economy had become dominated by monopoly capital and each industry by one or a few large companies. The concentration and centralisation of capital that grew out of the period of free competition after the mid-nineteenth century led to the formation in the developed capitalist countries of powerful monopolistic cartels, syndicates and trusts, linked by the banks. The national market came to be dominated by a handful of financial groups that controlled banks, other financial institutions, big industrial and transport trusts and big retail chains, mining and international trade. By controlling markets and limiting price competition, the big combines were able to obtain profits greater than those in the non-monopolised sectors and therefore to accumulate abundant capital. The monopoly capitalists were driven to seek new fields to invest this capital profitably. The export of capital to the non-industrialised parts of the world and the construction of infrastructure there to cheapen the export of raw materials required for Western industry, led the capitalists of the industrialised countries to demand that their states take permanent control of these parts of the worldeither directly as colonies or indirectly as economically and militarily dominated neo-colonies (known today as the Third World).
3. The rise of monopolies in Australia was accelerated by the depression of the 1890s, which drove many smaller firms out of business. Monopolies were strengthened by the military demands of World War I (which reduced access to European heavy imports and speeded the growth of the metal and heavy engineering industries) and the establishment in the 1920s of new industries requiring large capital investments (domestic appliances, electrical and rubber goods, chemicals). The capitalist state facilitated the monopolies' dominance by protecting them behind high tariff barriers. The largest source of monopoly super-profits was from within Australia itself. During these decades, the Australian capitalist class began to seek its own colonial and neo-colonial empire (and the exclusion of rival non-British imperialist powers—particularly Germany and France—from the region). Australia directly acquired Papua (1906) and New Guinea including Bougainville (1914), and soon economically dominated Britain's South Pacific colonies—the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and Fiji.
One of Australia's oldest monopolies, and one of the first to export Australian capital into the South Pacific on a large scale, was the Sydney-based Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR). CSR was closely linked, through family ties, common shareholders and shared directors, with the Sydney-based Commercial Banking Company and the Bank of NSW, as well as NSW's leading industrialists. By 1906, CSR had monopolised the sugar industry in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. CSR was the largest public company in Australia from 1887 until 1941, when it was overtaken by BHP. CSR entered Fiji in 1882 and by 1900 had invested more than £2 million and was exporting around eighty-eight per cent of the Fiji islands' sugar products—sixty-five per cent of their total exports. Between 1879 and 1920, it was responsible for large numbers of indentured workers being shipped there from India to work the company's sugar plantations.
At the beginning of the second world war, Australia's Sydney-based transnational merchant capitalist corporations—Burns Philp, W.R. Carpenter and Steamships—dominated Papua's, New Guinea's and the British-controlled region of the New Hebrides' plantation and trading economies. They dominated much of the Pacific islands' economies (other than Fiji) with vertically integrated growing, trading, shipping and finance empires. Burns Philp, W.R. Carpenter, CSR, Steamships, the Bank of NSW (now Westpac) and several other big Australian companies led the charge into the Pacific. Vast fortunes were made from exploiting the labour and the resources of Pacific islanders. This paved the way for Australian big business to dominate the economies of Melanesia throughout the twentieth century, and for the Australian imperialist state (in partnership with the New Zealand imperialist state) to dominate the South Pacific politically and militarily.
In the 1970s—with the opening of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia's (now Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining giant) giant Panguna copper mine in Bougainville and BHP's huge Ok Tedi gold and copper mine in western PNG—Australian mining companies became the dominant exporters of Australian capital to Melanesia—and the region's greatest exploiters.
4. The working class shared in Australia's general prosperity during its formative long boom (1850-1890). Living standards were perhaps the highest in the world, per capita income and consumption levels in the 1860s being fifty per cent above those in the US and double those of Britain. They continued to rise steadily until 1890.
The small size of Australia's population led to a relative shortage of labour compared with other industrial capitalist countries. These conditions helped to create a comparatively self-confident working class, which was able to win wages and conditions that were high by the standards of late nineteenth century capitalism.
The prosperity of pre-federation Australia was largely fuelled by the migration of capital from Britain. This capital was the product of the profits of British colonialism, accumulated through the exploitation and immiseration of the peoples of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Many trade union leaders, pro-labour politicians and layers of better paid and literate workers recognised this, and believed they had a material stake in the success of British imperialism, and later Australia's own home-grown imperialism. The racism, national chauvinism and deep-seated imperialist class-collaborationism and reformism that the Australian trade union movement and its political expression, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), have exhibited from their very foundations attest to the strength of the material basis that existed in Australia for the development of what Lenin described as the "Labor aristocracy".
From their birth, the institutions of the Australian labour movement were infected by the view that it had a common interest with the Australian capitalist class in defending and advancing Australian capitalism and British and Australian imperialism. The labour bureaucracy, resting upon the Labour aristocracy, saw its interests in working with Australian capitalists against the working people of the rest of the world. This was reflected in its bipartisan support for, and championing of, the bourgeoisie's protectionist policies, the racist White Australia Policy and Australian imperialism's adventures overseas.
5. Australia's "Monroe Doctrine" in the first half of the twentieth century succeeded in making Melanesia Australian imperialism's recognised sphere of political and economic dominance (in partnership with New Zealand imperialism, whose interests are centred on Polynesia—Western Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue—Australia dominates the South Pacific) and a source of enormous wealth. Australian capital dominates every sector of the Melanesian countries' economies (although British interests are relatively more prominent in the Solomons; France continues to control Kanaky). Australia also dominated these countries' trade. Australian governments consciously fostered local political (and later economic) elites keen to collaborate with Australia's political and economic interests both during the colonial period and after formal independence.
Australia's direct investments overseas, even as late as the 1970s, were concentrated in Melanesia—especially PNG and Fiji. In the period 1967-71, PNG alone received an average of fifty-eight per cent of total annual Australian private investment overseas. Of the twenty Australian-based multinational corporations with three or more overseas subsidiaries in 1975, ten had operations in PNG and six in other Pacific islands (primarily Fiji). W.R. Carpenter in 1975 derived thirty-one per cent of its profits from PNG and another thirty-eight per cent from the Pacific islands. Burns Philp generated thirty-five per cent of its profits from PNG and seventeen per cent from the Pacific islands. Thiess Holdings in 1974 generated fourteen per cent of its profits from PNG.
The list of Australian companies, or Australian-based subsidiaries of US or British companies, active in PNG in 1976-77 revealed the extent of Australia's economic penetration. They included: Amatil, Ansett, APPM, Arnotts, ACI, AGC, ANZ, Bank of NSW (Westpac), Boral, Burns Philp, BHP, W.R. Carpenter, Comalco, CIG, CRA, Dunlop, Herald and Weekly Times, ICI, Lend Lease, Mayne Nickless, the National Bank (National Australia Bank), Pioneer Concrete, Reckitt Coleman, Repco, Rothmans, Thiess, Wormald. All but two made profits from their operations there, CRA, W.R. Carpenter and Burns Philp leading the field.
A list of Australian companies in Fiji for the same year reveals many of the same companies, W.R. Carpenter and Burns Philp being the most profitable.
Beginning in the 1960s, Australian capital's expansion overseas increased considerably. Total Australian investment overseas grew from $225 million in 1961 to $845 million in 1975, to above $1 billion in 1978-79, and involved 600 companies. The average annual growth rate was ten per cent; between 1968 and 1972 it was thirteen per cent, dropping to eight per cent during the 1973-75 recession. Australian investment in south-east Asia doubled between 1972 and 1978. While this indicated a shift from Australian capital's traditional destinations—Britain, PNG and New Zealand—to south-east Asia and North America, a 1976 Macquarie University study found that of the total $95 million profit made overseas by Australia's largest ninety-nine transnational corporations in 1975, $11 million was made in PNG (and $19 million in NZ); investments in Third World Melanesian countries remained the most profitable. In 1976, PNG remained Australia's third largest market for manufactured goods.
Australian overseas investment has continued to rise; from the annual average increase of eleven per cent in the 1970s, it skyrocketed to nearly forty per cent a year in the second half of the 1980s. Australia's total direct investment abroad was more than $47 billion in 1995, much of it being invested in south-east Asia. Total profits earned in Asia by Australian companies in 1994 were $825.4 million. If the $579.1 million earned from Hong Kong were excluded, this dropped to $246.28 million. Indonesia earned the twenty-four Australian companies, with thirty-six subsidiaries, active there $53.4 million profits. This compares to the profits earned by Australian companies in the South Pacific in 1994 (excluding the $742 million obtained in New Zealand) of $439.57 million. PNG accounted for $404.8 million, Fiji for $23.86 million, the Solomons $4.36 million, Vanuatu $3.2 million, New Caledonia $2.67 million and Western Samoa $2.58 million. There were fifty-eight Australian companies, with 122 subsidiaries, in PNG in 1994 and nineteen Australian companies with thirty-three subsidiaries in Fiji. Almost twenty per cent of all Australian profits earned overseas in 1994 were sourced from the island countries of the South Pacific other than New Zealand.
6. PNG and the rest of Melanesia remain vitally important to the political, military and economic interests of Australian imperialism, even if their relative economic significance has declined in comparison with the ASEAN, APEC and north Asian countries since the mid-1990s. The Pacific islands are the base from which Australian big business has sought to diversify and expand into Asia—and a most reliable source of profits. The Pacific remains one of Australian capitalism's areas of most intensive investment. Australia continues to dominate most sectors of the Pacific islands' economies. The many huge mining and oil developments on the cards in PNG, the Solomons and Fiji—not to mention existing lucrative projects like BHP's Ok Tedi copper and gold mine, BHP's involvement with the massive Kutubu oilfield, Canadian-Australian Placer Pacific's Porgera and Misima gold mines, Rio Tinto's part-ownership of the Lihir and Mt Kare gold mines (all in PNG), the Emperor gold mine in Fiji, and the Australian government's hope that Rio Tinto's giant Panguna copper mine in Bougainville will resume production—mean this will not change.
Australia is PNG's largest foreign direct investor, accounting for two-thirds of total foreign equity holdings in PNG. PNG is Australia's 11th largest investment destination, with an estimated $2.3 billion invested there at the end of 1998 (up from $1.5 billion in 1992) now predominantly in the mining, petroleum and services sectors. Among the projects that will boost this further will be a $1.5 billion, 2100-kilometre natural gas pipeline from PNG's Southern Highlands to Gladstone in Queensland. The Australian Gas Light Company, Ltd. and Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas have won the bid to build, own and operate the Australian section.
In the Solomon Islands, the Australian-owned Delta Gold mining company is developing the Gold Ridge gold mine on Guadalcanal. It generates an estimated thirty per cent of the Solomons' GDP.
Direct Australian investment in Fiji stands at $600 million, and unofficial government estimates put it at double that. Gold mining is a growing sector of the Fiji economy, and Australian companies dominate. Apart from the Australian-listed (but formally domiciled in the Isle of Man since 1986 to avoid tax) Emperor Mines Limited gold mine at Vatukoula (Fiji's largest private employer), at least three gold mining projects are on the drawing boards. Placer Pacific (which got its start mining gold in Papua in 1926) also has a huge copper mine planned in the Namosi province of Viti Levu.
7. The Pacific islands are an assured market for Australian manufactured and processed products, with a market penetration that is extreme. In 1998, the South Pacific region accounted for $2.1 billion worth of Australian exports (about the same as exports to Indonesia). The balance of trade is overwhelmingly in Australia's favour. Through the South Pacific and Regional Trade Agreement (SPARTECA), specified exports from South Pacific Forum countries receive duty-free and concessional entry to Australian and New Zealand markets. This has allowed an industry of sweatshops in Fiji to come into existence since the 1987 coups that employs 19,000 Fijians making clothes largely for the big Australian retail chains. A similar agreement, the PNG-Australia Trade and Commercial Relations Agreement, operates with PNG.
PNG is Australia's 18th largest trading partner, with total bilateral trade worth around $2.1 billion in 1999. Australian exports to PNG were worth almost $1 billion ($1.15 billion in 1997-98), over half of which were manufactured goods, making Australia PNG's largest source of imports at 52.8 per cent. PNG is Australia's seventh largest market for the key category of "elaborately transformed manufactured goods". Australia is PNG's largest market, with 19.7 per cent of PNG's exports going there in 1999. Primary products dominate, with $716 million worth of crude oil, $328 million worth of gold and $49 million worth of coffee and coffee substitutes being the largest.
Bilateral trade in goods and services with Fiji reached $1.5 billion in 1999. Australia's exports account for forty-eight per cent of Fiji's imports. Australia is Fiji's largest export market, with 33.3 per cent of Fiji exports winding up in Australia—mainly clothing, gold, textiles and footwear. Australia is the principal source of the Solomon Islands' imports—mainly fuel, manufactured goods and processed foods—accounting for almost forty-two per cent of all imports (worth $101 million in 1999). The Solomons' exports to Australia amount to just $4 million a year (1.7 per cent of total exports)—mainly timber, seafood and gold.
Similar patterns—where current figures are available—apply to many other Pacific countries: fifty-three per cent of Samoa's exports go to Australia (ranking number 1), while 16.7 per cent of its imports come from Australia (ranking three after New Zealand and Fiji); Australia is Vanuatu's second most important source of imports (twenty-two per cent); however, Vanuatu's exports to Australia are negligible.
8. Some academics and media commentators have described the levels of aid, especially to PNG, as "generous" and "altruistic". This misses the point. The primary function of Australian aid to the countries in the region is to ensure those countries perform their roles as secure and profitable centres for the expansion of Australian capital. It also is used to coopt and foster local elites that will collaborate with Australian imperialism. For example, in the years 1972-74, overseas corporations siphoned more than $330 million in profits from PNG—the equivalent of twenty-four per cent of PNG's GDP—far more than Australian aid and budget subsidies for those years. The provision of aid, or its withholding, can be used to blackmail governments into adopting policies in keeping with Australian imperialism's preferences.
Reflecting the continuing importance that Australia places upon its main neo-colony, Canberra provided $328 million in aid to PNG in 1999-2000. More than $300 million in aid will be provided each year between 2000 and 2003. This represents almost fifty per cent of Australia's total bilateral aid. PNG is the largest single recipient of Australian aid. Since 1975, Australia has provided $4 billion in aid to PNG. Military aid will amount to approximately $30 million (including a one-off "emergency" grant of $10 million to "reorganise" the PNGDF) in 2000-01, the largest allocation to any single country. Much of the "aid" is in the form of training military personnel. Four Iroquois helicopters and patrol boats provided by Australian were essential for PNG's war against rebels on Bougainville.
Fiji in 2000-01 (before the latest coup) was allocated $22.3 million in aid. Australia has provided military aid to Fiji, including three patrol boats and training to both the Fiji army and navy. Australia is also Vanuatu's largest aid donor, providing $18.1 million in 2000-01. Australian military aid will run to $1.74 million in 2000-01. The rest of the Pacific islands received combined aid of more than $130 million in 1999-2000.
At the October 27-29, 2000, Pacific Islands Forum, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced that Australia's 1983 Pacific patrol boat program, which has provided Pacific island governments with twenty-two patrol boats, would be extended. $350 million will extend the life of the ships and provide training for a further twenty-five years. Australian navy personnel, who help to maintain the boats and advise on their use, are considered a strategic benefit for the Australian military because they act as "eyes and ears" in the recipient countries.
9. Because of Australian capital's monopolistic position in the South Pacific nations, the Australian ruling class will not abandon the Melanesian region to other Western powers. It will also attempt to extend its influence into those parts of the Pacific dominated by France. Australian imperialism will continue to stand in the way of Pacific peoples' attempts to exercise national self-determination by using its formidable political, diplomatic and economic power and, if that fails, its military power.
Australian imperialism has jealously guarded its interests in the Pacific and has maintained the political and economic status quo—using its dominance in trade, investment and aid provision—both in its own interests and those of the West. Some of the more recent notable examples include:
- In 1985, the Hawke labour government pressured the South Pacific Forum to adopt a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty with provisions that fell far below those demanded by most Pacific island governments. The Australian government imposed a treaty that served to protect the immediate nuclear interests of Australian and us imperialism by ensuring that it did not outlaw port visits or the transit through the Pacific of nuclear-armed or -powered ships; the siting of communications and intelligence bases essential for nuclear conflict; the launching of nuclear weapons from the waters of the Pacific; the maintenance of military alliances with nuclear powers; the storage of nuclear waste; or the mining and export of uranium.
- In 1985-86, the Australian Labor government, citing "security implications", applied pressure on Pacific island governments—in particular Kiribati—not to sign fishing agreements with the Soviet Union that offered favourable terms and recognition of Pacific island countries' territorial waters. At the time, the US was refusing to respect Pacific island countries' 200-mile exclusive economic zones. In 1987, prior to that year's South Pacific Forum meeting, the Australian Labor government launched a scare campaign over the Vanuatu government's independent foreign policy. Australia attempted to have Vanuatu's foreign policy discussed and condemned by the SPF. Vanuatu's relationship with Libya was Canberra's pretext to isolate and destabilise the Vanuatu government, which was at the time an active member of the Non-Aligned Movement, strongly supported national liberation movements in Kanaky, East Timor and West Papua and had established diplomatic relations with Cuba, Nicaragua, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Soviet Union. Vanuatu had also signed a fishing agreement with Moscow.
- At the 1997 South Pacific Forum, Australian PM John Howard bullied Pacific island leaders into dropping references to binding greenhouse emission targets from its final communiqué by threatening to cut aid. Howard openly campaigned for Australia's right to increase greenhouse emissions and described the SPF leaders' backdown as a "victory". The Alliance of Small Island States, an organisation that includes thirty-eight states most vulnerable to climate-induced sea level rises—including many Pacific island states—was campaigning for industrialised countries to agree to a twenty per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2005.
10. Most recently, the Australian government has been at the forefront of pressuring Pacific island countries to adopt neo-liberal economic policies and privatisation.
PNG reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March 2000 for a US$115 million stand-by arrangement, and subsequently with the World Bank for a US$90 million structural adjustment loan. Aid from Australia was made conditional on the implementation of an IMF/World Bank structural adjustment program. On June 22, 2000, Australia signed a $130 million bilateral loan agreement with PNG and has provided technical assistance in budget and economic planning, collection of economic statistics, privatisation, taxation "reform" and other areas of economic management. On December 19, 2000, Canberra granted a further loan of US$30 million. "The loan complements the considerable financial and technical assistance already provided by Australia to the reform program", said Australian treasurer Peter Costello. Costello said that both loans had been requested by the IMF in support of PNG's structural adjustment program demanded by the IMF and World Bank.
Vanuatu too has been pressured to implement what the Australian Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) describes as a "wide-ranging reform program"
since 1997. Vanuatu adopted the Comprehensive Reform Program, which DFAT calls
"a blueprint for renewal of the institutions of governance, the development
of a redefined role for the public sector and improved public sector efficiency,
private sector led growth and improved equity between sections of the population".
A significant "right-sizing" of the public service took place in 1998 and 1999. A retrogressive value added tax was introduced in August 1998. A US$21.2 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was granted after the government signed an agreement in April 1998 on "public sector restructuring, financial institutions restructuring and fiscal consolidation". "Australia's development assistance program centres on activities to strengthen public financial management and public sector effectiveness", DFAT states.
In the Solomons, a "Public Sector Reform Program" and reductions in protective tariffs have been forced on the people by Australia, the IMF/World Bank and the ADB.
This is all Orwellian newspeak for the selling of impoverished Third World countries' meagre public assets, reduced government spending and services, increased unemployment and poverty and reduced national sovereignty for the Pacific countries involved.
11. The Australian imperialist ruling class also has significant interests in the Asian region—especially south-east Asia—but its relationship to that part of the world is different from its political, economic and military relationship with Melanesia and the Pacific. The Australian capitalist class, before and after federation in 1901 and until 1939, traded with the British, Dutch and US colonies and protectorates in Asia as well as the nascent imperial power, Japan. However, this trade was a small proportion of overall Australian commerce, Britain being Australia's dominant trading partner. Australian investment in the Asian region was almost non-existent, British, Dutch and US capital being the major investors in their respective colonies.
The fundamental thrust of Australian ruling class policy towards Asia was solidarity with European and US colonialism and imperialism throughout the region. The Australian state recognised the authority of the colonial governments and had no dealings, and showed no sympathy, with any of the nationalist movements in the region. Foreign and defence policies of the Australian state took their lead from British imperial policy in the Asian region. Australian imperialism, however, did see itself as a competitor with emerging Japanese imperialism. The first concrete issue around which this rivalry was expressed was the Australian state's attempt—against the consensus of the European imperialist powers—to prevent former German possessions in the northern Pacific above New Guinea becoming Japanese protectorates. The Australian government lobbied for them to be placed under Australian control.
The generally apathetic attitude of the Australian ruling class towards Asia was disturbed in the 1930s by the rise of Japanese imperialism. Japan's military expansion into Manchuria and then China, and eventually its declaration of war on the USA and Australia in 1941, forced the Australian ruling class to prioritise political and military relations with the US. After the war, the US replaced Britain as the dominant imperialist power in Asia.
12. The Japanese military's defeat of European and US military forces in the Philippines, Korea, China, Indochina (Vietnam, Thailand, Laos), Malaysia, Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies opened the way for a massive upsurge in the national revolution in these countries after Japan's defeat. As these revolutions unfolded, Australian policy became further aligned with US policy. Australian imperialism opted to play the role of US imperialism's junior partner, taking Washington's lead in the defence of the general interests of imperialism.
Australia aligned itself with the US policy of withdrawing solidarity with European colonial domination of the Asian region. This was particularly evident in the case of the Netherlands East Indies, where the US and Australia were the strongest imperialist supporters of the nationalist movement. For the US, this opened the possibility of ending European commercial hegemony for the whole region. For the Australian ruling class, the experience of World War II taught it that Australian capitalism had separate interests from those of the British and European imperialist powers.
Australian imperialist policy was also closely aligned with US (and British)
policy in the emphasis it gave to containing and, where possible, defeating
national revolutions that were influenced by Communist parties and might develop
into "communist revolutions", i.e. the establishment of worker-peasant
governments. Communist parties played major roles in the national revolutions
in Korea, China, Indochina, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Imperialist governments' support for national independence, even in their own colonies, became a necessary tactic in the struggle to defeat or contain the radicalisation of national revolutions into social revolutions. Containment of social revolution was the overwhelming content of Australian imperialist foreign policy in Asia until 1975. Key foreign policy and military interventions by Australian imperialism during this period included:
- Support for the US position of forcible disarmament of the Indonesian left in 1948.
- Support for the US/UN military intervention on the Korean Peninsula 1950-53.
- Signing the ANZUS military treaty with US and New Zealand in 1951.
- Support for the US policy of isolating (including the continued fostering in Australia of the "yellow/red peril" scare) and refusing to recognise the People's Republic of China (PRC), the exclusion of the PRC from the UN and recognition of Chiang Kai-Shek's government on Taiwan until 1972.
- Support for the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), a military alliance aimed against the PRC.
- Military support for the British war against the Communist Party of Malaya.
- Together with the US, the provision of military equipment, funding and intelligence support for the 1956-58 ultra-rightist military rebellions in Indonesia.
- The military (especially air force) build-up in Australia 1959-65 aimed at Indonesia under President Sukarno; Support for British military activities against Indonesian and Sabah/Sarawak guerrillas in Kalimantan during the same period; and the propaganda campaign against Indonesia as a "communist threat".
- Immediate political, diplomatic, financial and military support for the Suharto dictatorship during and after the 1965 massacres of the left.
- The formulation of a "forward defence" military policy to legitimise military intervention within the region.
- Insistent urging that the US government send troops to Vietnam after the defeat of France and escalate its involvement; full-scale military involvement in the war against the Vietnamese national liberation movement until 1972.
- Political, diplomatic, financial and military support for the Suharto dictatorship's invasion of East Timor in 1975 to crush the Fretilin liberation movement.
Between 1939 and 1975, Australian trade with and investment in Asia remained minimal, with the exception of the explosion of exports to Japan. The main area of Australian imperialist political and military intervention, south-east Asia, was insignificant as a destination for Australian exports and capital. Australian imperialist policy during this period was not motivated by a desire to protect major investments or to achieve a boost in commercial activities for Australian capitalists.
Australian imperialist policy was part of a general imperialist strategy in the post-war period to defeat and contain the revolutionary impulse that was released by World War II—manifested in the Asian region with the victory of the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the 1945 Vietnamese Revolution and the Indonesian national revolution in 1949—and restore capitalist stability to Australia's near region.
13. Although imperialism suffered a major defeat and humiliation with the final victory of the Vietnamese Revolution in 1975, the degeneration of the Chinese Revolution and the defeat of revolutionary movements throughout the rest of Asia succeeded in stabilising capitalism in the region. China and Indonesia, which had been closed to large-scale foreign investment since 1949 and 1957 respectively, began to lift restrictions. South Korea and Taiwan, assisted by massive aid and investment promoted by the US government as a part of its containment of China, had begun industrialisation by the early 1970s. These states had repressive governments that enforced cheap labour and imposed minimal environmental regulations. By the mid-1970s, Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea were achieving economic growth rates of six to eight per cent. These rates coincided with the onset of a recession in the rest of the world. Australian capitalists hoped that Asia might be the solution to Australian capitalism's depressed state.
The Australian government prioritised commercial penetration of China and north-east Asia and Indonesia. The Whitlam Labor government recognised the PRC in 1972. It also launched the so-called “special relationship" with Indonesia. Between 1972 and 1989, Australian big business's progress in Asia was steady but very modest. Australian mining companies, such as BHP and Rio Tinto, established major investments in Indonesia. But Australian investment in Asia remained very small compared to its investment in the US, Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific, and even South America.
14. Mirroring its role in foreign and military policy, Australian imperialist trade policy has been to participate in broader imperialist campaigns to force Asian states to liberalise their economies so as to increase access for Australian goods and services and Australian capital.
In 1989, the Labor government commissioned a report from academic economist Ross Garnaut that argued for "integration" of the Australian economy with the growing economies of north-east Asia. A key element of this strategy was the campaign for deregulation of trade regimes throughout the region, including in Australia itself. The Australian government hosted the first meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1989. APEC initially included the USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the six ASEAN countries, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1991, it was expanded to include China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The 1994 APEC summit agreed that the “advanced industrial Countries", including Australia, would eliminate all tariffs and barriers to investment by 2010 and the developing economies would do so by 2020.
The 1997 economic crisis forced the governments of Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia to request assistance from the IMF. The assistance, in the form of loans, was provided on the condition that even more severe neoliberal economic policies would be implemented.
To date, specific Australian trade deregulation initiatives in Asia have been unsuccessful. This reflects Australia's relative lack of political and military weight in the region. Australian imperialist intervention in Asia has almost always needed to be in alliance with the US. The same applies to the neoliberal offensive. The deregulation of trade and investment in Indonesia, for example, is occurring as a result of IMF agreements with Indonesia rather than through. Australian proposals.
15. From the mid-1980s until the Asian economic crisis in 1997, the Indonesian economy expanded at around six per cent a year. Jakarta opened its economy to more foreign investment. The extreme level of cronyism in Indonesia required close personal and political connections to be established if Australian capitalist interests were to be favoured over those of other imperialist powers. This was the context of Australia’s “special relationship” with Indonesia. The strategy relied on successive Australian governments giving unqualified political support to the Suharto regime, including its brutal occupation of East Timor. Prime ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard all lavished praise on Suharto. Australian diplomats became the most energetic defenders of the Indonesian government in international fora. Even after the Dili massacre in 1991—the same year in which the Timor Gap Treaty was ratified—Australian governments backed Indonesia's occupation.
In 1995, the Keating Labor government secretly negotiated a security treaty with Jakarta. The Howard government continued strong support for the Suharto dictatorship until its collapse in May 1998.
16. Australian imperialism's political agenda in Indonesia has operated differently since the 1997 economic collapse and the fall of Suharto. Personal connections with Suharto and the ruling clique are no longer so significant. There is no single ruling clique any more. Furthermore, the increase in the power of the IMF in the economy also reduces the importance to foreign investors of connections with cronies. This means that the Australian government can afford to be more critical of the Indonesian government on some questions.
The Australian government, along with imperialist governments in general, now sees the primary objective as forcing the pace of neo-liberal deregulation and austerity in Indonesia. This can involve using political criticism of the Indonesian government as a means of applying more pressure on it to implement the IMF reforms. The Australian government, like other imperialist governments, is concerned with the problem of how to manage social unrest and dissent that will continue to arise from neo-liberal deregulation. The Australian and US governments have increased their interference in the activities of Indonesian trade unions and community organisations. The Australia Indonesia Institute, a funding agency of the Australian government, has rewritten its mandate to include funding projects to "assist civil society". Before 1998, this body did not deal with dissident organisations.
The Australian government, again like other imperialist governments, is preparing for possible military interventions if social unrest and political instability threaten capitalism in any part of its "back yard", which it defines as the arc of islands from the Indonesian archipelago into the South Pacific Ocean.
Australian imperialism's role in Indonesia will be more and more conditioned by its need to accelerate imperialist exploitation as well as to contain and assist in suppressing opposition to this exploitation. In this respect, Australian imperialism's posture is similar to that which prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s. It is likely that anti-Indonesian racism and xenophobia will be revived in Australia to justify this role.
17. The Australian imperialist state's leadership of the international intervention force in East Timor in September 1999 reflected an agreement with the US that East Timor was within Australia's sphere of interest. This was a change of policy by both Washington and Canberra, since previously East Timor was considered Indonesia's political and military responsibility. However, the process of East Timor becoming an Australian neo-colony has only just begun and has not yet been achieved. Australian interests are not dominant in the UN administration. Australian imperialism also faces competition from Portugal. Portugal has established a bank in East Timor and attempted to have the Portuguese currency adopted there. While this was rejected by the UN, the Australian dollar was also not adopted but rather the US dollar. Portugal is campaigning for the Portuguese language to be adopted, which would allow East Timor to have a special economic relationship with the European Union because of treaties granting special privileges to countries belonging to the Union of Portuguese-Speaking Nations.
Australian capital's position is strengthened by the almost inevitable involvement
in the exploration for oil in East Timorese waters by Australian companies,
the importance of Darwin for access to East Timor and as a supply centre for
the oil and gas industry in the Timor Gap, the importance of Australia as a
source of skilled labour and technical expertise, the very large Timorese diaspora
in Australia, the integration of East Timorese telecommunications into Australian
telecommunications and the likely dominant role of Australian forces in UN border
security operations. It is likely therefore that Australian imperialist interests
will dominate. However, Portuguese rivalry is likely to continue for some time.
18. Australian policy towards East Timor will be the same as that towards Papua New Guinea: minimum expenditure, maximum exploitation. This is reflected in the hard stand by the Australian government against East Timorese demands for new Timor Gap oil treaty boundaries in accord with international law, as well as the paltry level of development assistance being provided by Australia.
19. Melanesia, Including East Timor, has been designated Australian imperialism's direct sphere of political and military influence and responsibility in the division of labour between it and US imperialism. Australia is the South Pacific region's cop, whose prime obligation is to maintain order and capitalist "stability" in the interests of Australia's ruling capitalist class and the dominant world powers.
In its defence policy discussion paper ("Defence Review 2000—Our Future Defence Force", released in June 2000) the Australian government candidly states:
In today's interconnected world, turmoil anywhere can affect Australia's interests in many ways. The global market gives us interests wherever we trade ... But most of our strategic interests are concentrated in our own region, the Asia-Pacific. It covers a big part of the Earth, in a triangle stretching from Pakistan to our northwest, to Japan and Russian Siberia to the north, and New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific in the east.
Our strategic interests are engaged especially in the relations between Asia's "major powers": Japan, China, Russia and India. US engagement in Asia is very important for major power strategic competition. We can best promote our interests by supporting the US in its stabilising role ...
Our most immediate strategic interests are in the arc of islands stretching from Indonesia and East Timor through PNG to the islands of the Southwest Pacific ... Our relations with the countries in this "inner arc" must recognise a mutual strategic interest in stability. We might wish to take a major role with our nearer neighbours in preserving the security of our immediate region.
That the Australian ruling class's definition of its sphere of imperialist responsibility has altered little over the past 100 years can be seen by the above quotation's similarity with the conclusion of the 1896 Intercolonial Military Committee meeting in Sydney: "Instead of thinking in terms of the continent and Tasmania ... the defence region of Australia be extended to include New Zealand, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, New Guinea and portions of Borneo and Java".
20. The Australian government's defence white paper, "Defence 2000: Our Future Defence Force", released on December 6, 2000, outlined Canberra's plans to boost defence spending over the next decade, beginning with a $500 million boost in the next financial year and an extra $1 billion the following year. After that, military spending will increase every year by an average of three per cent in real terms until 2010, when it will be almost $17 billion annually (not including the impact of inflation—it is likely to be above $20 billion a year if an average two per cent inflation rate prevails over the decade), compared to $ 12.2 billion a year in 2000. Between the financial years 2000-01 and 2009-2010, approximately $162 billion in today's dollars will have been spent on the Australian military.
The government states that Australia must expect to be "the largest force contributor" for operations in PNG and the Pacific island states. In south-east Asia, the white paper states, Australia "would want to be able to make a substantial contribution to any regional coalition we decided to support" and does not rule out being the leading force in an such coalition.
In the "wider Asia Pacific region", the document states that Australia "would want to make a significant contribution to any coalition" but "in most eases" the US would lead such a coalition. "Beyond the Asia Pacific region", the white paper adds, Australia "would normally consider only a relatively modest contribution to any wider UN or US-led coalition". Such a contribution would be restricted to air and naval forces rather than troops in the case of "higher intensity" operations. However, Australian troops "would be ideally suited to provide contributions to lower intensity operations including peace enforcement, peacekeeping" and "humanitarian" operations.
For the first time in two decades, Australian government policy is to increase the number of military personnel—from 51,000 to 54,000. More importantly, Australian troops will be ready to mobilise for action in the region at much shorter notice; the structure of the military will be geared primarily for "lower intensity" conflicts in the near region. The white paper provides for six battalions of about 1000 troops each to be always ready for action within ninety days, and most in less than thirty days. The elite Special Air Service Regiment will also be on high readiness. Its numbers will be boosted.
It is envisaged that the Australian army will be geared "to sustain one major deployment and undertake a lesser deployment at the same time".
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) reserves will play a greater role in military operations. In what will be the largest increase in the militarisation of Australian society since the abandonment of conscription in 1972, twenty-four helicopter gun ships will be purchased to provide "high-precision firepower and reconnaissance to ground forces". An additional twelve troop-carrying helicopters, to be based in Darwin and Townsville, will be provided to deploy rapidly Australian troops to regional "trouble spots". New fixed-wing troop carriers will be introduced. The army's landing ships will also be upgraded and replaced. A new guerrilla-war training base will be established In Townsville.
Australian troops are to be equipped with state of the art night-vision goggles, shoulder-fired missiles, high-tech communications and computer equipment and body armour, and new battlefield air defence missile systems.
The fifteen Fremantle class patrol boats will be replaced with a new class of vessel from 2004. These vessels will be ideal for use in the Pacific islands (as was shown by the PNG Defence Force's use of its Australian-supplied patrols boats against Bougainville rebels), as well as boosting the ability of the military to intercept refugees before they can land in Australia (keeping refugees out is a stated goal of Australian "defence" policy).
The white paper also repackages Australia's aggressive Cold War-era "forward defence" military policy—the ability to attack any south-east Asian or Pacific island country—as "pro-active defence".
Australia's seventy-five F/A-18 fighter jets—already among the most advanced warplanes in Asia and unrivalled by any south-east Asian air force—will be replaced by state of the art jet fighters by 2012. The RAAF's specialist "strike" fighter-bombers ("strike" is a term that refers to weapons that are designed to attack other countries), its twenty-five F-111s, will be replaced by a strike version of the same warplane that replaces the F/A-18s. Up to five new air-to-air refueling aircraft will be purchased that will, in practice, give all proposed 100 new warplanes the capability to bomb any major city or installation in Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
The Australian military's already dominant technological and firepower edge in Asia will be further enhanced by acquisitions designed to neutralise the region's air defences. Four airborne early warning and control aircraft (AWACs) and a possible three more are to be purchased. Among the billions to be spent on twenty-nine new naval vessels will be funds for three new high-tech "air-warfare" Navy destroyers designed to eliminate aircraft over the horizon.
The massive enhancement of the RAAF's air-strike capability, as well as the
navy's and air force's extra capacity to intercept aircraft, would ensure, as
the white paper so subtly states: "the capability to contribute to the
defence of Australia by attacking military targets within a wide radius of Australia".
But the white paper's own very clear statement as to the chances of an attack on Australia gives the game away. The document admits:
The chances of an attack on Australian remain low. A full-scale invasion of Australia, aimed at the seizure of our country and the erasure and subjugation of our national polity, is the least likely military contingency Australia might face. No country has either the intent or the ability to undertake such a massive task.
The white paper followed a period of debate within the ruling class (reflected in the previous "green paper") about how much needed to be spent (and whether it could convince the Australian people to accept more austerity to do so) to enable the ADF to best serve Australia's interests as the South Pacific's major resident imperialist power, as well as meeting its obligations as US imperialism's junior partner in imperialist domination of the Asian region.
Some of Australia's rulers had advocated an ADF better structured to participate in US-led "high intensity" wars such as in 1991 against Iraq—or a future conflict with China—as well as playing a greater policing role in south-east Asia and the Pacific. This view was supported by important sections of the US ruling class.
Others in the Australian capitalist elite felt that Australia should pay more attention to maintaining "regional security", meaning that the ADF needed to improve its capability to intervene militarily in "low intensity" conflicts in the areas that are seen as Australian imperialism's direct responsibility. This section of ruling class opinion questioned the need for the purchase of as many expensive "big ticket" military items and the necessity of full "interoperability" with US forces, especially if moving along that path compromises Australian imperialism's ability to police its interests in the region.
The ruling class consensus that emerged—expressed in the white paper—supports Australia having a military force that is technologically capable, resourced enough and able to be integrated into US-led wars to protect the interests of imperialism as well as being able to put down insurgencies, revolts and revolutions and to threaten independent governments that dare to challenge Australian imperialism's exploitation in its declared "sphere of influence".
To do both, the ruling class must convince the Australian people that billions more must be spent on military power—and that inevitably will mean more taxes on workers and more cuts to health, welfare, education and other government services.
21. The Australian imperialist ruling class can be expected to take an increasingly aggressive stance in the region to resolve, in its and the West's favour, crises like those that have recurred or erupted in Bougainville, East Timor, West Papua, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. Such crises are likely to continue to arise and intensify. They are the product of the distorted and stunted social and economic development that a century of imperialist exploitation has imposed on Pacific island countries (Bougainville, Solomons, Fiji) as well as the failure of imperialism's allies, the region's neo-colonial elites, to crush the long-held aspirations for democracy and/or national self-determination of subject peoples (Bougainville, East Timor, West Papua, Fiji, Aceh).
In many Pacific island countries, the ability of the pro-imperialist neo-colonial elites to rule in the old way is being challenged as societies evolve. Chiefly elite rule is under threat in Fiji, Tonga and Micronesia. The Indonesian regime was not able to defeat the East Timorese liberation movement, and the West Papuan struggle for independence is gaining strength and is likely to be the next major regional flashpoint, much to the consternation of Canberra.
Imperialist-imposed neo-liberal austerity programs will intensify the social tensions within Asia and Pacific island countries, triggering national, ethnic, religious, "settler versus indigenous" conflicts and class antagonisms that the narrow, undemocratic elites may not be able to cope with.
"Environmental imperialism"—pollution caused by Western mining companies throughout the region; the threat of global warming caused by the rich industrialised countries' greenhouse gas emissions; the unresolved consequences of US, British and French nuclear testing; the continued transport of nuclear wastes, plutonium, nuclear weapons, and uranium through the region; overfishing by Western fishing fleets-continues to rankle Pacific Islanders and create issues around which disparate governments can unite.
22. It is the duty of socialists in Australia to oppose and expose the Australian ruling class's exploitative activities in the region. Socialists must join with the peoples of the Pacific and south-east Asia to campaign against Australian imperialism's economic, political and military domination of the region. Through its statements and press, the Democratic Socialist Party must explain to the working class of Australia the nature, role and history of Australian imperialism.
Through political action and propaganda, Australian socialists must build solidarity with all struggles against oppression in the region, including: national liberation struggles, like those in Aceh, East Timor, West Papua, Bougainville, Kanaky and Tahiti; democratic struggles against imperialist-backed neocolonial elites, like those in Fiji and Tonga; struggles by those affected by environmental degradation or loss of land rights caused by Western big business; and region-wide economic and environmental justice campaigns, like those relating to global warming, nuclear issues, toxic waste dumping, overfishing, the recognition of small island states' sovereignty over territorial waters and resistance to IMF/World Bank/ADB austerity and Third World debt.
The DSP seeks to build links with, and encourage the development of, Marxist and socialist parties and currents in the region and do all in its capacity to help them publicise their ideas and activities through Green Left Weekly and Links. Strengthening the coordination between revolutionary and progressive organisations in the region which are building movements against the neo-liberal economic offensive will be a central part of Australian revolutionary policy.
The Indonesian archipelago remains the most volatile part of the area which Australian imperialism has defined, with open US blessing, as its primary arena of intervention. The Indonesian archipelago is also the area within Australian imperialism's "back yard" where revolutionary and radical forces arc most developed, namely the People's Democratic Party (PRD) of Indonesia and the Socialist Party of Timor (PST). It is clear that building a comradely relationship with those parties must be the highest priority.
23. More specifically, the Democratic Socialist Party:
Opposes increases in Australia's military budget. It should be slashed to the bone, not expanded. As the government's discussion paper concedes, Australia does not face a military threat: "We do not expect to be attacked by anyone and cannot readily foresee the circumstances under which an attack might occur or where it might come from". The military forces of the Australian imperialist state do not defend the security of the majority of people in Australia. They defend the security of the Australian capitalist class its property and profits—against working people both within Australia and abroad, especially Asia and the Pacific.
The "security" of Australia’s working people—in terms of lives saved and improved—would be far better served by ploughing the billions of dollars wasted on high-tech killing machines into hospitals, schools, child-care facilities and public housing, especially for Australia's indigenous people.
Similarly, "regional stability" for the poor peoples of the Asia-Pacific (as opposed to the area's corrupt, pro-Western capitalist elites) would be better achieved by diverting Australia's "defence" billions into no-strings-attached aid to help overcome decades of imperialist-imposed underdevelopment.
Unconditionally supports the right of national self-determination for the peoples of West Papua, Bougainville, East Timor, Kanaky and Tahiti. The Australian government must pressure the Indonesian government to allow a UN-supervised referendum on independence in West Papua. Similarly, the government of Papua New Guinea must agree to the people of Bougainville's demand for a binding referendum that includes the option of independence.
Australian troops, as part of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, should remain in East Timor only for as long as the East Timorese people feel it is necessary UNTAET's mandate must be restricted to ensuring that the transition to independence, managed in consultation with the representatives of the East Timorese people, is thoroughly democratic and transparent. Elections must be held, free of repressive restrictions on the formation and functioning of political parties (including unequal access to the media). UNTAET’s armed forces must act to ensure the safety and security of those East Timorese being held in pro-Jakarta militia-controlled camps in West Timor and those seeking to return home. UNTAET's armed forces should rapidly train and equip an East Timorese armed force to assist a speedy construction of an independent East Timorese State. The oil fields in the Timor Gap should be returned immediately to the people of East Timor, and the Australian government should abandon all claims to them.
Demands that the elected Fiji Labour Party-led government be reinstated forthwith and that Canberra be guided by the Fiji workers' and democracy movements on what measures to apply to achieve that end.
Demands that all Australian military aid to the region's governments be ended and replaced with no-strings-attached development aid and unconditional, free of charge access for the region's young people to Australian educational and training institutions.
Demands that all restrictions on the entry of the region's peoples to Australia be lifted, that Australia's harsh immigration laws and the policy of mandatory detention of people who arrive in Australia without prior approval be rescinded and that the detention centres be closed immediately All people who arrive in Australia—by whatever means and under whatever circumstances—should immediately be entitled to full political, social and economic rights.
Demands that the Australian government legislate that the operations of all Australian corporations in the region comply, at the minimum, with environmental, workers' health and safety, labour rights (the right to strike and to bargain collectively), native title and consumer protection standards that apply within Australia.
Supports a genuine South Pacific nuclear-free zone treaty that outlaws the passage through the Pacific of all nuclear-armed and -powered ships (including the banning of port visits), the transport of all nuclear-related materials and the mining and export of uranium, and which requires the closure of all nuclear war-related military bases and facilities. Such a zone should be extended to the entire southern hemisphere.
Demands Australia's withdrawal from all imperialist military alliances, cooperation agreements and joint military exercises; the immediate closure of all US military and spy bases on Australian soil, in particular Pine Gap; and denial of access to Australian ports and airfields for US warships and war planes.
Demands the repeal of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to the Civilian Authorities) Act, which was introduced into parliament by the federal Coalition government in 2000 and passed in 2000 with the support of the ALP. The act authorises the prime minister, defence minister and the attorney general to advise the governor-general (the commander-in-chief of the armed forces) to call out military personnel to deal with "domestic violence" that is considered a threat to the nation or to an Australian state or territory.