IT seems governments nowadays can segue from one steadfast policy to another and media gizzard whisperers act like nothing happened, however ridiculous the switcheroo. Winston Smith knew the phenomenon well: “There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known – with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once – that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy.” I almost feel embarrassed for the editorialists at The Australian who railed against the then Opposition Leader and his deputy during the longer campaign prior to May’s election. In February, the national daily came very close to suggesting that Anthony Albanese – a man with a “ringing endorsement” from the Chinese Communist Party (via the Global Times) – was actually a Manchurian Candidate. As for Richard Marles and Penny Wong, they were dishonestly “squealing” about the Morrison government’s politicisation of foreign and defence policy. But that was fifteen minutes ago. Wong is now applauded by her former critics for so elegantly curtsying to China and The Australian – tritely comparing Zelensky to Churchill – editorialises (on Christmas Eve) about the importance of the “free world” fighting Russia forever. It’s not that we ‘now know’ the following three things are true; they were obviously true all along.
First, Scott Morrison and then Defence Minister Peter Dutton were indeed absurdly hyping conflict with China to put voters off the Labor Opposition. Because Morrison was so abjectly indifferent to the terror endured by Australians during the country’s ironically China-style lockdowns, it followed that he had no idea voters were fed up with scaremongering and hypothetical catastrophe. A Prime Minister disinclined to stop Victorians being shot at wasn’t of any use to Taiwan – quixotic AUKUS submarines or no. Second, because News Corp and Sky exaggerated Albanese’s Castro-radicalism on foreign policy, when he became Prime Minister and dutifully went to all the scheduled confabs, ratified all the accords and formalised new ones placed in front of him – Biden-like – to sign, the Bolts and the Sheridans were forced to playact delight and praise his “surprising” orthodoxy. From that point, thirdly, détente with Beijing was inevitable. It looks like an Albo rout for the annals but ScoMo would have finessed the same deal eventually. Thanks to him, we need the money. What’s a concentration camp or two between friends when $20 billion of trade hangs in the balance? Most Australians probably think the Uyghurs are the French Wiggles anyway. With extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, as Orwell’s Smith was made to say, both major parties and commentators throughout the land agreed that China is not the enemy.