Speaking of Australia’s relationship with the United States, Michael Wesley characterised it perfectly as he described how, over time, the US became less of an ally to Australia and more of a “mate” [$] – and how that isn’t necessarily a good thing:
Yet Australia’s continual invoking of loyalty and sacrifice has given the alliance a marriage-like status, in which adherence to our ally’s cause has become a test of national character. We have lost sight of the limited-liability nature of the alliance at a time when this quality is more necessary than ever. As the United States needs Australia more, we have the chance – and the obligation – to shape the alliance in our interests. Instead, we have become less questioning and more compliant with each presidential tweet.
According to Wesley, no politician of a major political party in Australia has questioned the Aus/US alliance since the early 2000s. That’s not healthy. And recent events in the USA should make that clear.
Nor is it the usual order of things:
For seventy years Australia has been creative in reshaping its alliance with the United States around the evolution of their shared challenges; it must rediscover this tradition at a time of arguably the greatest contest over their positions in Asia.
Wesley was writing about how China is “testing the alliance” between the United States and Australia. And it is.
Right now, the actions of the American government should be testing it too. Australian politicians have been presenting the “mateship” between the countries as a matter of values – not pragmatism – for quite some time. It’s time to ask what they stand for.
But, given the way countless Australian governments have treated our Indigenous population, maybe our countries have bonded over shared values we don’t like to talk about all that much.