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Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

Who is Australia’s enemy?

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Australia in someone’s sights? Digital image David Lowe.

In this Anzac week, Australians have been thinking again about what happened at Gallipoli. This has been a useful thing for politicians who have spent the last month talking about defence-related issues.

As the Anzac myth spreads its strange, schizophrenic glow over the country, in which war is not glorified but stone soldiers on plinths are honoured with music and prayers by the religious and secular alike, it’s a good time to consider our enemies, then and now. Because without enemies, war is impossible.

We are urged to remember the dead on Anzac Day, but it’s a selective remembering, and has been since the beginning. The Aboriginal people who died in frontier wars with Europeans are not to be officially remembered at this time, and neither are the Turks, who were likewise defending their homeland against an aggressive invader and died in much larger numbers than the Australians and their allies, in spite of the gross incompetence of the British command.

We were told the Turks were our enemies then, because of their alliance with the Kaiser, but they are not our enemies now, and neither is Germany, or Japan. So who is?


Labor Foreign Minister Penny Wong recently made a lengthy speech about Australia’s geo-political challenges without specifically naming enemies, but our chief subtextual enemy at the moment is China, our largest trading partner, and a country which already owns large quantities of Australian real estate, mining interests, pastoral industries and our most northerly strategic port, among many other assets.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects troops. Photo Li Tao/Xinhua.

One wonders why China would bother declaring war on a country which it already owns substantial chunks of, without firing a shot, thanks to the greed and shortsightedness of Australians whose real fealty is to the dollar?

Still, China appears to be the justification for the $368 billion nuclear submarine program touted by Scott Morrison and pushed forward by Anthony Albanese, described by Paul Keating as the ‘worst international decision’ by a Labor government since conscription in WW1.

For his part, Defence Minister Richard Marles has said this is part of an attempt to ‘reshape’ the armed forces to prepare Australia for future conflicts, and project power beyond our shores.

In military terms, we are told that nuclear submarines are necessary to keep our enemies at bay, despite the fact that submarines in the recent past have mostly been used to sneak commandos into enemy ports (nuclear subs are too big for this), and the whole field of submarine warfare is rapidly modernising, with the new underwater arms race all about inexpensive, easily sacrificed drones, which can take out large traditional submarines in much the same way that aerial toys are destroying expensive tanks in Ukraine.

China’s navy is already bigger than that of the United States, and rapidly growing and modernising, with four million soldiers including reserves, so the idea of Australia defending itself against China militarily is laughable.

Is Russia the enemy? Vladimir Putin has accused Australia of joining a global axis which he likened to that faced by his country in WWII, and there is more talk of Russian spies in Australia than at any time since the Petrov Affair.

Australia’s military support of Ukraine has been limited, so far, but our leadership has certainly made it clear which side Australia is on in that conflict.

Vladimir Putin. David Lowe with Midjourney AI.

In practice though, war with Russia is mainly happening on a cyber level, and appears to be more about money and crime than competing national interests.

Junior villains

Is Indonesia the enemy? Apparently not, as our military continues to train their military to kill resistance fighters in West Papua. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were the enemy for a while, but are rarely mentioned now.

North Korea is named as an enemy from time to time, although it can barely feed its own people as it diverts resources to a weapons program in an attempt to make the wider world take it seriously.

What about the UK, are they our enemy now? Ruled by an unstable cabal, with a unique history of detonating atomic weapons in this country and an MO including invading countries all over the world, but no.

Could India be an enemy? The world’s fastest growing country is armed with nuclear weapons, and full of people who believe in different things to Australians, and led by an extreme right wing religious nationalist – but India is a democracy, and part of the Quad, so apart from on the cricket pitch, the subcontinent does not qualify as an enemy of Australia, for now.

With friends like these…

Some people would argue that our closest ally, America, is actually an enemy, having painted an enormous target on our back with Pine Gap and their large military bases in this country, and by encouraging us to join their disastrous conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and elsewhere.

As their empire fades, our leadership appears determined that we will fade alongside them, with anyone who suggests otherwise, such as Gough Whitlam, being rapidly removed from the scene. No matter the hard reality though, America’s soft power ensures that most Australians will always love America, and cannot consider them as an enemy.

Who is the enemy? David Lowe with Midjourney AI.

That leaves Australia as its own foe. We are the people who have destroyed much of what we claim to love on this island continent, in the form of soil, living things and fresh water. Despite our small population compared to our land mass, we are in the top five countries for species extinctions.

We are the people who continue to sell off our forests and mineral assets to overseas corporations.

As a nation, despite our unprecedented wealth in historical and individual terms, we are never content. We’re a bit like the bully who steals something from another kid in the playground and is scared the same thing is going to happen to him. Sometimes it seems like our greatest enemies are our own shadows.

David Lowe
David Lowe – photo Tree Faerie

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.

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  1. David Lowe, superbly written.
    We are our own worst enemy but Australia always needing a’bogeyman’, China just the latest to wear that guernsey.

  2. We have surrendered our sovereignty to the US which seems bent on goading the Chinese into an unwinnable war.
    Why are we joining in the provocative exercises in the South China Sea like hoons doing donuts in front of the Police Station?
    As David points out, China has no reason to attack us. Having spent several hundred years under the yoke of European nations, then Japan they have very right and need to build up their defences against.

    • Under the Han dynasty, China expanded their power so far into central Asia they were a hares breath from direct contact with the Roman empire.

  3. Our enemy are indeed stupid Australians that believe the government and media. They tend to get people killed quite often.

  4. The Anzac’s never wanted Gallipoli commemorated, they hated it and they hated the British in command. It was a slaughter best forgotten, we should respect their wishes. This was forced on us by those that demand we keep Australia, British!
    We should really be commemorating the battles of Kokoda, Darwin, Sydney Harbour, the attacks on coastal shipping and the Pacific theatre of war, when the British left us to fend for ourselves. The real war that Australia actually fought against the Japanese, with our allies the USA.

    • Actually, actual Gallipoli ANZACS spoke to us kids every ANZAC day. It began during the war, to honour the dead, and the horror of war.

  5. And why do we follow America’s lead, after they led us into the immoral, unwinnable and unjustifiable wars (no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the Veitnam gulf of Tonkinn Resolution is finally acknowledged as total fallacy).

  6. Unlike many commenting on defence policy, I don’t pretend to be an expert on either all the relevant geo-political background and the attendant secret intelligence nor the technology of modern warfare. When confronted with questions like “Who is Australia’s enemy?” I tend to think also about how history shows us how rapidly these things can change.

    When Prime Minister Menzies announced in 1939 that because ‘Great Britain has declared war upon Germany, Australia is also at war’ how many in this country envisaged that in a few years they would be facing the imminent threat of Japanese invasion and that PM John Curtain would be feuding with Churchill to redirect the efforts of Australian troops closer to home.

    More recently, after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 amidst the developments of glasnost and perestroika, how likely did Ukrainians judge Russian invasion to be?

    As a flower power child of the 70’s, I’m very familiar with the blithe “make love not war” philosophy and remember how smug we were about how this simple mantra could solve problems. How we scoffed at the generation who preceded us – the ones who actually faced a real enemy and knew what it was like to be shit scared – and their commemorations of those who didn’t make it home.

    Youth can be forgiven smugness and naivety – we thought we invented sex, we thought we invented pacifism. A little more experience generally smooths off the rough edges of smugness and teaches us that, despite all our well intentioned idealism, there will unfortunately always be psychopaths and megalomaniacs. Some of them reach positions of great power and influence.

    Who Is Australia’s enemy? I don’t profess to that level of prescience, but this doesn’t mean I confidently assume there will be none.

  7. Where do you get your information that drones are going to make anything, let alone submarines, completely obsolete?

    Bearing in mind nuclear submarines from the 70s and 80s (depending on country of origin) can elude entire surface groups dedicated to finding them.

    • Don’t look now, but the ‘Speartooth’ ( an underwater drone ) is going to make life for subs rather interesting.

      • How is more threatening than your standard issue torpedo? How does it track submarines better than current systems?

        • Are you asking how a couple of dozen self targeting bombs sneaking around looking for you is more dangerous?

          • How’s that more dangerous than whole surface task groups, which are often backed up by air support?

            If a submarine can evade that, a “couple dozen drones” with no where near the level of sensors probably isn’t the threat Quora admirals think they are.

  8. Labelling India’s leader as “extreme” and “right wing” is quite pathetic in my view.

    I have watched the India news bulletin, and regularly I see him trying to lead his people to make better personal decisions about their carbon footprints. Most generally, he seems to spend much more time on discussing HOW TO address climate change than anyone here in Australia.

    Your approach to flicking him off with derogatory labels, based on no presented argument whatsover, is the real act of warmongering David

  9. I’m not sure where people are getting the idea Australia can just opt out of major geopolitical events.

    Neutrality is not some magic spell which cannot be violated by anything as trivial as man and destructive genius. Most of the time it’s simply ignored. Put another way, history has a habit of picking sides for you.

    • It’s about making yourself the most unattractive target possible. Switzerland isn’t just neutral. The citizens have access to grenade launchers, chain guns, anti-tank and aircraft missiles, recoilless cannons, and there is mandatory training to use all these things. The terrain is hard to traverse, and they have plans to rapidly create blockages at choke points. Their economic wealth is also setup to evaporate upon invasion. That’s why wars pass them by. Invading Switzerland would be expensive and pointless. We could do the same.

      • Australia is not Switzerland and attempting the same strategy is a fools errand.

        We have a nation about the size of the US with a tenth the population. You’ll never have the man power to defend it all.

        Our option, singular, is fight potential enemies as far away from shore as possible. If it comes to the Army fighting invaders on the beach, we’ve lost; war is over bar the shouting.

        • Our Navy and Air force have always been our focus because it is very difficult to drive a tank to Australia. The plan has been to stop them landing. We have a desert about the size of the US, with no cover from air attack, and with people like me in it.

          If you are talking about China, the one child policy means that entire family lines have exactly one descendent. They actually can’t handle many losses politically. The Chinese are real thingy when it comes to family and legacy.

          I defer to Sun Tzu. Don’t give anyone a reason to attack. Make it so they are a not sure how you’re armed, and how you will react. Make your territory ‘harrowing ground’, or at least ‘contentious ground’. And above all, deception, deception, deception. Make it seem more beneficial to work with us, than attack us.

          What exactly are you thinking someone would expect to gain by invading us? So I can address it.

          • When I say if troops land on Australia’s shore we’ve already lost, that means an enemy already has naval and air superiority.

            Which of course means invasion is completely redundant. If nothing approaches Australian ports without being sink or seized, you have the nation by the balls.

            What we do with our terrain and people is meaningless because invasion is not necessary to cripple Australia, arguably never has been. Which is why I say we cannot be like Switzerland.

  10. It’s obvious who the enemy is. UK always has been.
    We should be having a referendum to remove our nation from the commonwealth. Go Harry for having the balls to stand up to these bullies.

    • Think you would have to cherry-pick negatives and conflate historical conditions with current to make such a claim, but I’ll indulge you. Why is the UK currently any more of a problem to us than any other country?

    • Justsaying, I feeling you.

      Fancy us on Saturday night, as Charlie is crowned, having to say …
      “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”
      “God Save the King”.
      “God save King Charles, long live King Charles, may the King live forever.”

      Enough of this monarchy bollocks, we need to have another question on the same referendum ballot paper for The Voice and that is to vote, Republic Now.

      • You haven’t been required to pledge allegiance to the crown since the 1890s. Australia has not been subject to the British crown since 1986. Less feeling, more thinking.

      • I see Joachim.. who are you going to call
        Upon when the ships & planes start coming?
        Ghost Busters !! It’s green voters that have
        Put this country in the position It’s in
        ATM ..we are virtually defenceless..
        Thats the Greens.. as for the Voice with respect to our Aboriginal people’s..they have systems in place now to .ake Decision’s
        On the betterment of the Aboriginal People’s.. they have ample representation
        In our Parliaments..32 Activists making
        Decision’s to close down our waterways
        Etc ..no thanks ..35 billion dollars handed out
        Annually to those bodies..and only 25 cents
        In the dollar gets to the most vulnerable..
        Rest remainder sucked up by lefty
        Bureaucrats…just vote yes ! The Voice
        And the government and it’s supporters
        Have been very secretive on the detail..
        Much Respect to our Aboriginal people’s
        No detail no vote for me ..

  11. “Lemme tell you the truth, Aus has ZERO enemies. None of these countries above will invade Australia as they have no direct geopolitical conflicts with Australia. BUT, the politicians desperately need one to get the darn money out from the parliament.

    What interests on earth do we have in Iraq and Afghanistan? And the commie China, surely we don’t agree with them on lots of stuff, but will there be a stranger that punch you just cuz you don’t eat steak with chopsticks, ? Let alone the huge amount of bilateral trade.

    Gov taxes, the money either goes to the def budget and sneaks to politicians’ pockets or goes to nonsense Medicare and infrastructure. What would you pick if you are an MP


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