Originally published at WikiLeaks Central on 1st December 2012.
wide-ranging exclusive interview with WL
Central, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm
Fraser has accused the current Gillard government of acting as
though Julian Assange "doesn't exist, that he's not an
Australian citizen." Mr Fraser slams the existing relationship
between Australia and the United States as "far, far too close"
and claims Australia is "a strategic colony of the United
States, under current circumstances."
Condemning both major parties for doing "everything they can
to help the United States and nothing that would offend the United
States", Mr Fraser claims that "in many ways our parliament
has abdicated Australian sovereignty".
"If we could ever again get a government that would stand up
for Australian independence, that government would of necessity have
to do a number of things that the United States would not like,"
said Mr Fraser, citing a range of issues, from US bases to
immigration policies, where the government was failing in its duties.
"And nobody is held accountable. Nobody pays the price.
Nobody loses their job. Nobody is demoted. Nobody is fined. Now, you
have to have accountability."
The former right wing Liberal Party leader says today's supposedly
left wing ALP government is "far more right than I was".
Defending his own record in government, which included conscription
for the Vietnam War, the establishment of "shared" military
facilities such as Pine Gap, and rumours of CIA involvement in the
dismissal of the Whitlam government, Mr Fraser insisted that even
former ALP PM Paul Keating, who recently condemned Australia's'
influence, "underestimates the danger of the current
relationship with the United States."
Full transcript below the fold. Audio link
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TRANSCRIPT (starting after 1 min chat)
"I've really enjoyed following your tweets. I guess it's
interesting to see a person in your position using Twitter as a way
to make your voice heard because it's something that the rest of us
all struggle to do."
"Well I think it's important that people be heard. The way
political parties operate today, you get a great deal of
regimentation and not much individuality. There's certainly
individuality on Twitter."
"There certainly is - there's no shortage of it! Speaking of
individuals, Bradley Manning's finally had his day in court, Julian
Assange is still in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. How do feel
that the Australian government, in particular, has handled the issues
of WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular?"
"The government to me appears to have acted as though Assange
doesn't exist, that he's not an Australian citizen. Quite clearly the
United States has been very annoyed and put out at what has happened.
The government has demonstrated - and the Opposition would be no
different - on more than one occasion that they want to do everything
they can to help the United States and nothing that would offend the
United States. You know in many ways our parliament has abdicated
Australian sovereignty. That's something that I think is more than
"Assange... Bradley Manning, if he you know did as alleged,
took secrets or whatever, and then gave them to WikiLeaks, or for
that matter to anyone else, then he is guilty of all sorts of things
under American law. It would seem though from some of the reports
that he's been pretty harshly treated in the lead-up to the trial. At
least now he gets his day in court.
"For Assange, at one level what WikiLeaks has published is no
different from any newspaper publishing something that they get told
by a public servant. It might be more serious, it might be more wide
ranging - it certainly has been - but if you are going to say that if
any whistle-blower or any person in the public service who tells
something to a newspaper - and then that newspaper publishes it - is
guilty of a serious offence, well then that is going to stifle the
media in a very, very major way. The person who gives the information
might well be, and probably is, guilty of an offence, but so far we
have not tried to suggest that the person who publishes it is guilty
of an offence."
WLC: "I guess from Bradley Manning's point of view, if you
are a witness to war crimes then you have an obligation to speak up
for them. So as far as, I guess that's a legal argument in his case."
MF: "Well I guess it is. But the West in recent times - and
not only the United States - has been prepared to condone things from
their own administrations or from their allies which they would
certainly brand as war crimes or terrorist acts if undertaken by an
opponent. In other words, you know, double standards most certainly
apply. The torturing that went on in American jails in Iraq or
Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay, the way that 'enhanced interrogation'
was approved right at the very top by Rumsfeld and the President
himself, and his signatures on documents approving the techniques -
I've seen it - that, I think, is really guilty of War Crimes. The
other thing about it is -"
"I was just wondering, in your own time as Prime Minister of
Australia, how you would have dealt with something like WikiLeaks.
Obviously, the technology is totally different, but I was looking
Wikipedia entry, and you were Minister for the Army in 1966 and
actually handling Vietnam conscriptions, and became Minister for
Defence in 69, and resigned in 1971 because you thought the Prime
Minister was getting too involved in your portfolio, allegedly, which
lead to the downfall of Prime Minister Gorton. People would say,
especially with regards to the, with the possibile CIA involvement in
the overthrow of the Whitlam government, those issues of US
involvement with Australian politics go a long way back. So how do
you think that things have changed since then?"
"I don't really believe that the CIA has been involved in
domestic Australian politics. I didn't at the time, I don't now.
There are many faults that we have in the relationship that we have
with the United States, including during the Vietnam War. Because
while we made a very substantial contribution - about 8,000 troops
Tuy Province - we had no say in terms the overall strategy and
conduct of the war. And you know I think that's very difficult. And
even in those days I said I would never want to be involved in a war
with the United States unless I had somebody in the inner councils,
with strategy in relation to [the way] that war was undertaken. You
know, we've never achieved that.
"But at another level, Americans influence on our defence
machine, on the purchase of defence equipment, on the way that
equipment operates, joint exercises, joint planning, I think the
relationship between Australia and the United States is far, far too
close. I am told - I can't prove it but I am told - that when a new
White Paper comes out on Defence programs a few years ahead, as
happened two or three years ago, that America is almost involved
every step of the way. Now this should be an Australian matter. There
are many things where we might have interests in common with the
United States, but there are certainly Australian interests which we
do not share with the United States.
"You know, we live in this part of the world, the United
States doesn't. They can ultimately withdraw to the Western
Hemisphere. We are part of East South East Asia and this is where our
future lies. And what Paul Keating said about it all the other day is
totally right, but I think Paul underestimates the danger of the
current relationship with the United States."
"I think you have spoken out about, I think you had a letter
to the 'White Paper on Australia's Asian Century' where you spoke
about US drones coming to the Cocos Islands and troops in Darwin and
the possibility of a [US] Naval Base in Perth and again - without
trying to have a go at you, I'm just looking back at history - and
like, Pine Gap started in the 60s and got underway in the 70s, and
then we've got North West Cap and the Geraldton base, which are all
part of ECHELON, and that's a history of perhaps conceding
sovereignty to the US over time. And again I am just interested, how
you think it's come to the point, that the US influence has become so
sort of toxic now."
"Well, the relationship has gone far further and is far
deeper than it used to be. There'd be, um, Pine Gap, as originally
established, was an information gathering operation. It was not
something that was integral to American space warfare or nuclear
warfare. North West Cape, as I am advised, is now critical in
relation to cyber warfare, it's um, well it's again warfare in space.
Its purpose has changed very significantly from that which it was in
the earlier days.
"But look, a number of things have changed. The Cold War is
over. I believe the West needed to show a concerted, if possible,
unified, approach to the Soviet Union, which I regarded as an
aggressive, outward-thrusting power, looking for opportunities. You
know, we forget these days, and it's before most Australians were
born: they put down the Hungarian Revolution in 56, they put their
tanks into Czechoslovakia for the third time in 1968, there were
Communist insurgencies in Thailand, in Malaya, an attempted Communist
coup in Indonesia. So it was really a very, very different world.
"But when the Soviet Union blew apart, there was then an
opportunity to establish a different kind of world. Instead of having
two major Superpowers sort of balancing each other, as the Soviets
and the United States did, there was just then one Superpower,
absolutely supreme militarily and economically. Now there was a great
opportunity to try to make a partner of Russia, for example. But that
was blown totally by pushing NATO, whose job had been done - its job
was to hold the Soviet Union and not to allow them to take over all
of Europe, they only took over half of it, but that half had been
freed. Instead of saying NATO's job was done, that's fine, that's
great, they pushed NATO to the very boundaries of Russia, including
all the countries of Eastern Europe, and trying to include the
Ukraine and Georgia. Now, in other terms that would be like trying to
include Mexico in an offensive alliance against the United States. If
anyone tried to do that, they'd go bananas. So the chance to
establish a co-operative relationship with Russia was pushed aside.
"And in addition to those mistakes, I think the United States
has changed very significantly. It has become deeply divided
ideologically, we've seen the recent debate and the Tea Party's
philosophy is deep and strong. The idea of American supremacy, of
American Exceptionalism, of America's obligation to spread
Christianity and Democracy worldwide, is very deep in a lot of
America. And I don't think that existed through the 50s, 60s, 70s.
It's a different America, in my book."
"Would you agree with Eisenhower's characterisation of the
military-industrial complex, and do you think that those people have
perhaps acquired too much power in the US, and that same sort of
power is now corrupting Australian policy and politics?"
MF: "Well, it's not power from Australian terms. It's the
influence and power of the American Defence machine within Australia.
It's influence over our own Defence Department, over our Armed
Forces, over the equipment they buy, over their operational
procedures. We really, we are a strategic colony of the United
States, under current circumstances."
"I know in 2006 you warned against the continued involvement
in the Iraq War and the possibility of Islamophobia growing in
Australia, and the treatment of David Hicks, and in 2007 you
supported a Getup campaign along those lines, and the following year
you were being called out by a Liberal MP as a "frothing at the
mouth leftie". And after that you resigned from the Liberals. Do
you think that Australian politics has moved so far to the right
that, like, you were the leader of a right wing government in
Australia but looking at Gillard's government today do you feel that
they are in some ways more right than you ever were?
"Oh, they're far more right than I was. Because whatever my
reputation in terms of - and I suppose I was regarded as leading a
right wing government because of my attitude to the Soviet Union,
which I did regard as a dangerous force in the world. But if you look
at the record of my government in relation to human rights, human
rights legislation, the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, the
Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Freedom of Information legislation -
which was stronger then than it is now - the way Vietnamese refugees
were treated compared to the way refugees are treated today, the
values which I carried out in government are really the values which
I still fight for."
"Just going back to what you said about not believing that
the CIA was involved in Australian politics. I know that Gough
Whitlam in his book, he said, he claims that Warren Christopher, the
former US Secretary of State, said to him that "the USA would
never again interfere in Australian politics." So I guess his
interpretation is that that word "again" implies that they
did interfere. And Sir John Kerr was a member of a CIA-backed
"Association for Cultural Freedom" before he became
Attorney General. Do you have any comment on that?
"Well, you know, what you've said, I know that Association. I
think many of its members were good and honourable people and they
were determined to oppose Communism and it was their way of doing it.
I knew a little of what they were doing and I didn't know of anything
that was untoward or that would cause concern. They were certainly
very much opposed to Communism. But I was too. I still do not believe
that the United States was involved in any way.
"Look, if you look at the record, Gough had many grand ideas,
but he could not run a team. And look at his changes of ministers and
the arguments he had with his own ministers, look at the scandals
that went on for 18 months before the end of 75. The 1974 budget was
budgeted for increasing expenditure of 14% in real terms, and you
know if anyone tried to do that today they'd be told they had to get
out of power very quickly. The next budget was a 22% increase in real
terms. So you didn't have to look to any foreign influence, you just
had to look to things that Gough did himself.
"One of things I would agree with Gough... No if I could
just... Gough had a sense of Australian identity. Keating had a sense
of Australian identity. And I think I did. And I would agree with
both of them when they stood up for Australia and for Australia's
independence. Now, the United States may not like that. If we could
ever again get a government that would stand up for Australian
independence, that government would of necessity have to do a number
of things that the United States would not like. I mean one of them:
take troops out of Darwin!"
"One of the interesting things which Gough Whitlam set up
which your government overturned was a Ministry of Media. I'm just
looking now at what's happened with the media landscape in Australia
and round the world, particularly the Leveson inquiry in the UK, and
perhaps Rafael Correa's changes to the media in Ecuador, and
wondering if others?"
"Well, I think it's an absolute nonsense to say that the
media can self-regulate. This is like saying that banks can
self-regulate, that you don't need a Reserve Bank. Or it's like
saying that the corporate community does not need an ASIC to see that
corporations stay within the law and don't rob their shareholders
blatantly and openly. So there needs to be an appropriate supervisory
structure for banks, er, for the media. It will be interesting to see
how the debate unfolds. You know I don't, I wouldn't want a Ministry
for Media, I wouldn't want a Minister involved in doing this. It
needs to be independent. But I also think it needs to be established
by a statute, so that the media itself will have to pay attention to
what it does. But once it's established by statute, that's the end of
whatever the government does. If the government want to have any
influence on it, they are going to have to change the law. And you
really need a process which will enable you to put people in charge
of that media supervisory body who are totally independent. You know,
one way of helping to ensure this may be that the appointment has to
have the agreement of both the government and the opposition. But it
would not be all that easy to get the balance of such a body right.
But I am sure that if it is going to be effective, it would need to
be established by legislation."
"Yeah, personally I think if you have corruption in
government then it's hard to see how anything that is set up to
control the media or the banks is going to be effective. And I guess
that's why I'm a strong supporter of WikiLeaks because I think that
transparency that WikiLeaks provides is really the key to change in a
real sense. For example, the Visa-MasterCard blockade on WikiLeaks is
an example of corporate ability to try to silence media. Now we're in
a landscape where the media - the mainstream media as it's called -
is struggling to make profits, so perhaps that whole media landscape
is changing and the way ahead is more to be defending independent
voices such as Julian Assange's.
"Well, independent voices certainly need to be defended.
Those independent voices though, need to stay within the law as it
is. If the law is wrong, then there has to be a campaign or an
attempt to get that law changed. Look, I passed the first Freedom Of
Information legislation. The major opponents of that legislation were
not my own ministers but the Commonwealth Public Service. And a lot
of things are classified, at different levels of security, that do
not need to be classified. I agree with you that maximum transparency
is very important. And people sometimes classify documents for no
other reason than to protect themselves.
"Transparency, openness - but for that to work you need
something else. You need accountability. And if you take the Palmer
and Crowley reports into the Department of Immigration, they
reveal great grievances were exposed, wrongs against individuals, an
Australian deported and nothing done about it even though it was
known that the Australian had been illegally deported. And nobody is
held accountable. Nobody pays the price. Nobody loses their job.
Nobody is demoted. Nobody is fined. Now, you have to have
"We've had calls for inquiry into the Iraq War..."
"Well, I've supported that. Because I believe we just
followed Britain and America. And I have no doubt that they knew that
what they were saying about Weapons of Mass Destruction was false.
They just thought they could get everyone's agreement, that's a good
reason to have the war."
"I'd like to get back to something you said a while ago,
because I think it's not the most malign influence in the United
States. You referred to the Military-Industrial Complex. The changes
in American ideology which I think have done enormous damage were the
changes that were initiated really by the formation really of the
Neoconservatives, by their statement of principles which was
published in 1999. And by their consequent influence, especially in
the second Bush government, their influence in think-tanks like the
Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. And if you
look at that statement of principles clearly, and boiling it all
down, it's really saying America will only be safe if the whole world
is a Democracy. It's America's job to try and persuade the world to
be a Democracy. But if we can't persuade them, then we do it by force
of arms. I think that people who probably passed exams with First
Class Honours at Yale or Harvard were totally naive, even stupid.
They believed that if you get rid of Saddam Hussein, a benign
democracy would emerge and Democracy would flow from Iraq throughout
the Middle East. Now you might find that far-fetched but I really
believe that is what the Neo-".
(APOLOGIES: recording was cut short just before end of interview.