CHRISTOPHER DORE: Timid Prime Minister opts for prostration in face of military provocation

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Christopher Dore
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Terrified of falling back into China’s diplomatic deep freeze, Anthony Albanese opts for prostration in the face of military provocation.
Terrified of falling back into China’s diplomatic deep freeze, Anthony Albanese opts for prostration in the face of military provocation. Credit: Supplied/The Nightly

Ah no, Hans Blix. Anthony Albanese perfectly channels Team America’s take on the former UN nuclear arms inspector in his quite surreal handling of Beijing’s deliberate, dangerous and somewhat aggressive real-world threats against the Australian military.

On the scales of provocation, firing flares from a fighter jet at a Navy Seahawk helicopter more or less minding its own business in the Yellow Sea isn’t exactly the same as slipping submarines into Sydney Cove or bombing Pearl Harbor, but it’s not nothing either. Rather than fire up his Dr Strangelove motor and start shooting metaphoric missiles across the South China Sea, Albanese reached for the human resources management handbook instead.

This is “unacceptable”, our Prime Minister whispered, fearful that if he spoke with too much vigour in defence of his own sailors and chopper pilots, Beijing might actually hear him.

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It is “unprofessional” and “unsafe”. Yeah, it is, isn’t it? It’s all of that, but it’s a bit more than that too, surely. “This action by China was unprofessional and unacceptable. We have made that very, very clear going forward.” Phew.

Pressed on whether there would be any consequences for his old Beijing buddies, what are you going to do about it Albo!!??, he may as well have gone full Hans Blix: “We will be very, very angry at you and we will write you a letter telling you how angry we are.” This shouldn’t happen, Albanese said. “We were behaving as we should have, as good international citizens.” OK.

“I’ve been very clear, where we disagree with China we’ll say so, we’ll call it out.” How? “We raise things through appropriate channels at every opportunity.”

What he doesn’t say is that Australia, so scared of falling into a Scott Morrison Chinese freezer, has not made any serious attempts to escalate this matter. No calls to the President, to the Premier, no calls from ministers to ministers. Nothing beyond officials.

No strong line in the sand from Australia. No show of strength. When Karl Stefanovic asked him to pick up the phone and take a stand, Albanese said this: “Well, we’ve made it very clear, Karl, through all our channels, at all measures at our disposal, including here publicly. I’ll give you a big tip. China will be very aware about this interview.”

Oh, we get it now. It’s a joke. Karl and Albo having a laugh. About defence personnel, for the second time, being harassed, harangued and endangered by Chinese military maddies.

Any word from China? “They haven’t responded publicly at this point in time,” Albanese said on Tuesday. “But I think the Australian public would expect some form of explanation about how this could occur.” We would. But, instead, when it finally came, we got a Team America Kim Jong Il response: “Hans, Hans, Hans we’ve been through this a dozen times, I don’t have any weapons of mass destruction, OK Hans.”

If it wasn’t predictably ludicrous, it would be funny, but the Chinese response could not be any more humiliating for Albanese.

“What truly happened was that an Australian military aircraft deliberately flew within close range of China’s airspace in a provocative move that endangered China’s maritime air security.

“We urge Australia to stop provocations to prevent misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

Anthony Albanese portait
Anthony Albanese. Credit: Commonwealth Government/Supplied

Wowser.

This is the point at which the Prime Minister of Australia, having been called a liar, and been gaslit by Beijing, might turn around and pick up the phone.

Nope.

Albanese decided instead in consecutive interviews to engage in a semantic tit-for-tat with unknown lowly Chinese Ministry of Defence officials about whether our chopper was in international waters or Chinese waters, and therefore a legitimate target. “This is an area of disagreement,” Albanese said. “We’ve called it out.” Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, on behalf of every brave digger, thank you. Strength.

Albanese takes great pride in not being Scott Morrison. “One of the things that had broken down over a period of time was any dialogue. Dialogue is important. It’s always important to have avenues of communication,” Albanese says. They wouldn’t even take his calls, Albanese says of Morrison. Not me, I’ve got all their numbers. Look. Great. But what exactly is the point of having Xi Jinping or Li Qiang in your contact book if you never have the compunction to call or send a nasty WhatsApp or a solemn Signal? Premier Li will be here in June. I’ll have a crack then.

This is a Prime Minister of Australia twisting and turning, zigging and zagging, and frankly just refusing to be open, up-front and transparent with his people.

He’s playing silly games with words, and sticking to silly scripts from DFAT and other hopeless bureaucrats, clearly so worried that any loose utterance will lead to a wine export contract being cancelled or some other absurd overreaction from Beijing.

Albanese is now in the habit of routinely mangling messages and simply refusing to give a straight answer to any question.

He is so incapable of breaking the shackles of his public servant masters, he gets stuck repeating the same meaningless, vapid phrases, to really important questions.

When it comes to Australia’s relationship with the communist regime, Albanese, Li’s “handsome boy” is performing torturous acts of acrobatic alacrity and sickening subservience in order to appease Beijing.

And in return, they disdainfully mock our Government and insult our country. No one wants a fight with China. But no one wants our Prime Minister, and by extension all of us, to be treated with such utter contempt either.

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