A fair and entirely sympathetic summary of two recent speeches by Malcolm Turnbull on China in the most recent Spectator has Liberals hopping mad about the former Leader’s incursion into foreign policy and his undermining of Tony Abbott’s position.
Tony Abbott has much to worry about in the year ahead. He has achieved greatly in the two-party-preferred polls but his personal ratings are seen as a “drag on the ticket” and has tricky Turnbull to deal with, not just on foreign policy but in many potential intrigues around leadership.
At the very least, Turnbull is hoping to “use this coming year to get out of Communications and into a more senior role like Treasury, with the best option for that being a leadership challenge and not necessarily coming directly from him either, he could be part of a ticket with Hockey or maybe even Scott Morrison if Turnbull could stomach it,” a senior source familiar with Turnbull’s plans told VEXNEWS.
“Some of the young and the restless crowd (in the party room) might be tempted to roll with Malcolm,” one Liberal told VEXNEWS but this “China stuff is a reminder of his unprincipled and possibly devious qualities.” Another thought it could all be explained by Turnbull wanting to build another fortune post-politics, probably ticket-clipping on Chinese investment in mining here, in the style made infamous by “China Clive” Palmer.
“Julie Bishop’s furious with Turnbull intruding on her turf, but that’s normally the case anyway these days. If the leadership does go Turnbull’s way, which is still a possibility, he’s going to have to check these Beijing-buddy-buddy views at the door,” our insider explained.
Turnbull’s speeches on China are stock-standard, short-range, half-considered deeply unprincipled stuff about how we need to treat China and the US as moral equivalents and maintain a certain distance from both while working to extract what we can from the relationship.
It’s the view one would expect of a Sydney merchant banker spiv on the make, someone whose yacht payments preclude indulging in too much analysis of the moral peril involved in dealing with the world’s most brutally efficient police state that we concede has made amazing progress but is still what it is.
The Beijing regime jails political prisoners indefinitely. It orders some to be executed. It sends the bills for the bullets to relatives. It even systematically sells the body parts of the executed to visiting rich German health tourists who need a transplant. We wish we were making it up.
And, to be sure, engaging with China is perfectly legitimate and might even help its regime crawl out of its moral abyss. But to do what the Spectator’s outrageous leading article – apparently written by potential Liberal candidate Tom Switzer – suggests which is to limit the natural development of our strong alliance with the United States for fear of offending Beijing is appeasing a country’s government that doesn’t share our values.
If it topples, as very nearly occurred, in 1989, how will the people of China regard those of us who coddled up to the former regime? We’re tipping not very favourably, so Turnbull’s doctrine is not even a sensible pragmatic position, unless it is naively assumed that totalitarian regimes never fail.
It shows that not much has changed in politics since the days when appeaser Conservative Neville Chamberlain nearly gave up most of Europe to a mad tyrant with an efficient military. What would have happened if lion Conservative Winston Churchill hadn’t have roared on the scene doesn’t bear thinking about.
For all of America’s faults, laid bare in their open, raucous media for all the world to see, they do share our values. If I wrote speeches for the PM, we might say, you knew it was coming, we are us.
And many Liberals (and Labor people come to that) simply cannot agree that this is the “easy talk of stark choices.”
No, no, and no again, it’s the tough world of recognising right and wrong. And the choices and consequences that flow from it. It’s certainly not easy.
It is right to have free and open elections. It is wrong to have a communist dictatorship, however growth-focused.
It is right to value individual rights and protect even the least popular and annoying of, for example, independent journalists and bloggers. It’s wrong to throw them in jail and persecute their families.
So, none of this means we should shut the door to China. Australia has stuff we want to sell to China and they have plenty of stuff we want to buy. Political moderates have no issue with that.
But China needs to accept us on our terms too. We are a liberal democracy that values the rights of individuals over state power and we will find common cause with countries that are and do the same. Compromising that is the most sinister of propositions.
And no matter what Bob Hawke, Paul Keating Malcolm Fraser, Tom Switzer or Switzer’s apparent mentor Owen Harries think, our terms are that we are America’s ally, not only because they’d help us militarily if we needed it but because we value the same principles.
China, unlike the Soviet Union, does not seek to export its ideology or system of government to other countries.
Taiwan. Tibet. The Uighurs might disagree too.