11 Pages

‘an Empire that don’t care what you do…’

There is a view of the relations between Britain and Australia which has long been popular amongst Australian radicals, and which has recently been extended to relations with the United States. It is put in terms of dominance and protection: just as the United States now protects Australia, so Britain used to.1 The details of the relationship are, in each case, largely subordinated to the central concept of a small population disturbed by its proximity to Asia, and anxious that its security should be guaranteed by a major power. Once upon a time Britain was sufficient; then the United States was; now, perhaps, after the Vietnam war, the United States has ceased to be sufficient, though it may still be necessary, and may still wish to dominate. The economic as well as the military relationship between Australia and larger powers is often interpreted in similar terms. Britain used to be able to provide markets and investment, but can do so no longer. Today Australia’s external economic dependence is split, as it were, between the United States and Japan; and one can see similar views being developed about both. From the standpoint of the radical intellectual, the attitudes of politicians in these situations of dominance/protection are essentially subservient: the Deakins, Fishers, Hugheses, Bruces, Lyonses, Menzieses, and Holts not only crawl to their protectors from overseas, they also enjoy what they are doing. They are the prisoners who love their chains, the captors who believe that their gaolers are protecting them from unnamed horrors outside the walls of the prison.