Like me, you are probably still reeling at the revelation that a pro-business, right wing ideologue and apologist for repressive, anti-democratic regimes somehow found their way into our revered federal parliament. How will those selfless, charitable-to-a-fault servants of the public who usually populate the esteemed corridors and taxpayer-funded lunchrooms of power ever cope? The mere thought that someone prepared to take money from dubious sources to fund a grubby election campaign is walking amongst them will be simply too much to bear.
Yet Gladys Liu has fitted right in. Her dedication to business large and small, sufficiently reactionary social values and proven ability to win elections by whatever means necessary have earned her flying colours in the fit and proper person test of Canberra. Her close relationship with one of the most powerful authoritarian regimes on the planet has proved no barrier, perhaps because she is far from being the only politician to accept cash and appointments from organisations and individuals connected to the Chinese government.
And nor is she the only politician to advocate for a repressive foreign power: Israel and Sri Lanka are two that enjoy vocal support in Canberra, not to mention the slavish devotion to US imperialism which is virtually in the job description for mainstream Australian politicians.
This is not just the proclivity of the Liberal Party. Labor’s failed candidate for the seat of Chisholm, Jennifer Yang, is similarly connected to Beijing, having, like Liu, served as honorary chairperson of the Beijing-aligned United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia. This did not in any way disqualify her candidature. The problem, as far as the Labor party is concerned, is not one of being aligned with repressive regimes per se. The problem is not being sufficiently aligned to the right ones. Earlier this year, Labor’s preselected candidate for Curtin, Melissa Parkes, was forced to withdraw after not demonstrating enough loyalty to one of the most racist, undemocratic and warmongering regimes on the planet: Israel. When the barbaric foreign regime is in the US camp, the loyalty of Australian politicians apparently does not imperil the national interest.
So Labor’s attacks on Liu are as hypocritical as Morrison’s defence of her. Because, while politicians are happy to take money from Chinese sources, or defend their allies, that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten which side their bread is buttered on. Every aspiring manager of Australian capitalism is and must be committed to the US alliance as the preeminent foreign policy prerogative. It remains key to protecting and advancing the position of Australian capitalism in the imperialist pecking order, which at this juncture requires making some show of hostility towards the Chinese government’s intensification of soft power initiatives.
Ordinary Chinese people can and will be affected by the racism this positioning will inevitably give rise to, but that is not what is driving the controversy about Gladys Liu. It is yet another expression of Australian capitalism’s eagerness to stay on side with the world’s number one superpower while at the same time avoiding burning too many bridges with that of the future.