Australia’s militaristic obsession
We have a duty to refuse the government the ability to sweep this new drive to war under the rug, and that must eventuate as a large-scale peoples’ power movement which puts power back into the majority’s hands. A long-haul effort some might say, but a worthy one nonetheless if students wish to have any say in the matter of militarism, welfare, health, and education.
CW: This piece mentions hateful behaviour towards the Trans community. Readers are advised this may be distressing.
The drive to war with China by the US, and with Australia hot on its heels, represents a monstrous disjuncture in this country’s international interests whilst waging a war against its own people. Cutting welfare and housing, promoting environmental devastation, and screwing over students and workers comes at the same time that billions of dollars is spent on stage 3 tax cuts for the rich and, of course, Labor’s silver bullet: the AUKUS deal.
It’s worth driving home the point of this entire exercise: the policing of people within and beyond states – from the NSW anti-protest laws to the AUKUS deal – in pursuit of the protection of capital.
In March, hundreds of trans-exclusionary “radical feminists” and pro-life church-goers marched alongside an organised crew of neonazis from the National Socialist Network (NSN) in Melbourne and Sydney. Whilst many of these so-called radical feminists attempted to distance their anti-trans cause from that of the NSN, the leader of the NSN, Thomas Sewell, makes clear the links between White Supremacy and anti-trans rhetoric in Australia:
“Today in Melbourne, the National Socialist Network acted as a vanguard for a protest against the constant paedophilic agenda being forced upon our children and our people.”
It is interesting to note, that police in Melbourne were willing to allow members of the NSN to seig-heil and openly call for a genocide of trans people — “Destroy Paedo Freaks” read their banner — from behind a large barricade blockading pro-trans counter-protestors.
This should come as no surprise. Behind the dogmatic pledge to “protect and serve” lies an intricate network of links between the Australian police and military, and White Supremacy groups. The case in point is Nathan Bull, a senior member of the NSN, a Melbourne anti-trans rally participant and the son of a Victorian Police officer. Bull’s father is currently on extended leave after “fail[ing] to declare his son’s neo-Nazi activities”.
So we must ask — protect and serve who?
Leniency towards the far-right at their demonstrations whilst greeting queer activists with batons, horses, and tear gas only serves to emphasise the function of police and military as instruments of state violence. This violence contravenes any notion of protection and service towards the working class, or even the public at large, but rather reinforces its role in the protection of capital and the status quo. Why else would the 2022 NSW anti-protest laws be passed with bipartisan support if not to suppress dissent towards and disruption of business-as-usual?
But when trans people demand the new Labor government enact meaningful legislative change, they are met with hollow promises to ban the Nazi salute, and the enduring possibility of the Religious Discrimination Bill — the biggest attack on LGBTQIA+ kids and workers in recent memory — resurfacing. Indeed, when students protest against ongoing course cuts and university corporatisation, their HECS debt is indexed to skyrocketing inflation rates and affordable university accommodation is privatised. When ordinary people cry out for an ounce of support, they are met with excuses and platitudes saying that the budget has been “booby-trapped” by the previous government, and, “oh, it’s a balancing act” as finance minister Katy Gallagher proclaimed.
However, when the US threatens war with China over the Pacific and Taiwan, Australia jumps at the opportunity to use militarist power at an international scale, pulling $368bn from thin air. The $368bn AUKUS agreement stokes the fire of an artificially manufactured war which will line the pockets of weapons manufacturers and corporations who will benefit from control over foreign markets and territories. The ALP have indicated their seriousness in this drive to war, pulling an additional $19bn to bolster their long-range missile capabilities, citing the need to be able to “project with lethality”, as well as putting a 50% contingency ($122bn) aside for any unexpected costings throughout the 30-year-long AUKUS project. Students must reject this drive.
To cement US-Australian hegemony over the Indo-Pacific and maintain a western-backed “rules-based order”, as the Albanese government’s strategy suggests, requires abandoning vulnerable people out of money that could be used to solve the cost-of-living crisis, housing crisis, climate crisis, and the crisis of higher education. This comes in the same way that USyd’s partnership with Thales, encouraged by clear profit motives, comes at the detriment of practically everyone else, but most notably, students. In order to secure a bigger slice of the “democracy” and “freedom” pie, the Australian government has, ironically, sought to divert its gaze from the slew of injustices against the “democracy” and “freedom” of its own working class. If historical precedent is anything to go by, this drive to war will involve killing off whatever “democracy” and “freedom” the Chinese and Indo-Pacific working class can maintain in the crossfire between these two Great Powers.
We know what this war will look like. It will look like an unnecessary and cruel foreign intervention which will result in a devastating human and environmental toll. And at the end, the government will throw its hands up, stained with blood, to say “it was necessary to maintain sovereignty and freedom.” But sovereignty and freedom for who? Not for Witness K, who was tried and convicted in absolute secrecy in a nation which supposedly regards “privacy [as] the anathema of Australian democracy” for their role in exposing illegal ASIO bugging operations in Timor Leste. Not for the millions of people who have been displaced by wars that have nothing to do with them. Certainly not for the 39 Afghanis who were extrajudicially killed by elite Australian soldiers during the war in Afghanistan.
The Australian government will happily offer a few sacrificial lambs to cover for widespread war crimes in Afghanistan, because it would never dare to prosecute itself for its own illegal involvement in these imperialist conflicts. As students, we do not have a mechanism to question and prosecute the government for its human rights atrocities unless we make it their problem. We have a duty of care to refuse the government the ability to sweep this new drive to war under the rug, and that must eventuate as a large-scale peoples’ power movement which puts power back into the majority’s hands. A long-haul effort some might say, but a worthy one nonetheless if students wish to have any say in the matter of militarism, welfare, health, and education.