Red Dawn or Red Daze? Abetz and Hastie ‘Wolverines’ hurt Australia’s interests in attacks on China

by Robert Barwick | Mar 24, 2024 | Comment & Analysis, Latest Posts

A cabal of neo-conservative, anti-China politicians who call themselves the Wolverines, a nod to the 1980s Patrick Swayze movie Red Dawn, have just spread their network to Tasmania, thanks to last night’s election of Eric Abetz, and are ramping up their presence in WA. Robert Barwick reports.

Former soldier Andrew Hastie and Tony Abbott are trying to install a candidate in WA who has written a fictional book to scare people about a Chinese invasion of Australia. Meanwhile, ultra-conservative former senator Eric Abetz has just been elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.

The connection here is that Abetz and Hastie are both members of a gang of politicians in Canberra who call themselves “the Wolverines”, after the teenage heroes of the1980s Patrick Swayze movie Red Dawn, who fight back against an invasion of the United States by an alliance of communist countries.

The Wolverine gang roams around Parliament House posting stickers of claw marks on doors to mark their territory.

Wolverines

Anti-China senator James Paterson pointing to the Wolverine claws

According to The Australian:

And hours after King used an appearance on Sky News to criticise the Wolverines — the not-so-secret-anymore group of bipartisan pollies formed to defend Australian sovereignty. Members include Hastie; Labor’s Kimberley Kitching and Anthony Byrne; Liberals Tim Wilson, Phil Thompson; James Paterson, Eric Abetz, and Nats senator Matt Canavan. Plus honorary addition, American ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr.

It all sounds very juvenile, and things have moved on since then with the passing of Kimberley Kitching and the departure of Abetz to state politics, but the Wolverine movement is as committed as ever and has been re-energised by the recent rise of China fear-mongering in the media.

Andrew Hastie and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott are trying to stack Parliament with China hawks to ensure Australia marches in lockstep with our Anglo-American AUKUS partners and their military agenda, which is hostile to China.

Hastie is now backing a candidate for Liberal Party pre-selection for the WA seat of Tangney who has written a fictional book about a civil war in Australia in 2034 instigated by … China. The Hastie ally is Mark Wales. Like Hastie, Mark Wales is a former SAS soldier; his soon-to-be-published book, called Outrider, appears to be inspired by the same Red Dawn fantasy and Cold War paranoia as Hastie’s Wolverines.

Swayze fantasies are costly

The problem here is not merely xenophobia and the gross exaggeration of China’s threat to Australia, it is bizarrely damaging to our national interests, and particularly to Western Australia.

Western Australia exported $270 billion worth of goods in 2022-23, of which more than half, $147.7 billion worth, went to one country – China.

China’s 54.6% share of WA’s exports dwarfs every other customer; the next biggest trading partner, Japan, buys 13.4% of WA’s exports.

What China pays WA for iron ore and other goods works out at a stunning $51,723 for every man, woman, and child living in the state—very few places in the world enjoy such a bounty from a single trade relationship.

So why is the Liberal Party, which claims to be the party of trade and business, trying to trash it?

Liberals have worked to trash the relationship for at least five years, especially the Member for Canning, Andrew Hastie, who has gone out of his way to insult China at every turn.

Are Hastie and his Wolverines acting in Australia’s interests or on behalf of other countries in a way that undermines Australia’s, and especially Western Australia’s, economic interests?

Yet the momentum is with them thanks to the controversial AUKUS treaty which is also menacing to our biggest trading partner.

Who are the beneficiaries of AUKUS? Our partners, the UK and the US who will receive the $368B in Australian public money for nuclear submarines. Anti-China sentiment is very good for business in the UK and US. Indeed they have a deep commercial interest in making Australians scared of our biggest trading partner.

Death of Sovereignty: everyday Australians will pay the cost of US kowtowing, AUKUS, inevitable war

After-Parlie tutorials in history for the Wolverines?

And they have enthusiastic partners in our Wolverines. For example, in 2019, Andrew Hastie gave a speech at the extremist British neoconservative think tank called the Henry Jackson Society, in which he compared the rise of China to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

In fact, China suffered terribly under Nazi Germany’s Axis ally Imperial Japan in the 1930s and WWII, with 15-20 million Chinese deaths from occupation and war.

All of China, including the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong, fought on the side of the Allies against Japan. As documented in The US Crusade in China 1938-1945 by Matthew Schaller, US President Roosevelt’s envoy reported back that “while the Communists were undoubtedly social revolutionaries … they were also bona fide nationalists, who were eager to cooperate with the United States to defeat Japan and reconstruct China”.

China today honours its history of fighting with the Allies against the Nazi-Japan Axis, so naturally, the Chinese were upset when a politician representing the Australian state that benefits the most from China’s economic rise was compared with Nazis.

Adding to the insult, the London venue for his speech, the Henry Jackson Society, is a think-tank of extreme neoconservatives who advocate invading and overthrowing all governments that are not so-called “liberal democracies”—including China’s.

Curiously, while claiming they formed to fight for Australia’s “sovereignty,” in 2020, Hastie made the US Ambassador to Australia an honorary member of the Wolverines.

Red Dawn, the sequel

Now Hastie is backing a candidate for Liberal Party pre-selection for the WA seat of Tangney, who has written a fictional book about a civil war in Australia in 2034 instigated by … China.

Like Hastie, Mark Wales is a former SAS soldier; his soon-to-be-published book, called Outrider, is clearly inspired by the same Red Dawn fantasy and Cold War paranoia as Hastie’s Wolverines.

Over recent years, Australian Chinese have grown increasingly concerned about the escalating war rhetoric in Australia about China because they know China better than anyone and know many of the claims about China are ludicrous.

They have found it hard to speak out, however, because their loyalty has been called into question, including in the 2018 “yellow peril” book Silent Invasion by Clive Hamilton, who claimed without evidence that 20 per cent of Australian Chinese are loyal to China, not Australia; Andrew Hastie promoted this book in Parliament.

Getting tangy in Tangney

Despite that, some members of the Australian Chinese community in WA, and the Australian Asian community more generally, are speaking out about Mark Wales being parachuted into Tangney, where 16.5 per cent of residents are Australian Chinese.

The Australian reported on 17 March that Tony Chong, president of the Western Australia Chinese Chamber of Commerce, was very concerned about the tone of Mark Wales’ book: “The community feels, rightly or wrongly, that they are being attacked or singled out unnecessarily”, he said.

The Australian also quoted Suresh Rajah, a former president of the Ethnic Communities Council of WA, who said Australia’s history of “yellow peril” fears meant Asian Australians were particularly sensitive to any allusion to invasion.

“When these sorts of novels talk about an invasion from this group of people, it is really just exacerbating that stereotype that has been created,” he said.

Mark Wales’ backers, including Hastie and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, are trying to stack Parliament with China hawks to ensure Australia marches in lockstep with our Anglo-American AUKUS partners and their war agenda against China.

This is a moment of truth for Australia.

It’s clear that our independent national interest is to have good relations with our biggest trading partner. China is not a threat to us. We should beware politicians who are trying to incite fear of China to convince us to sacrifice our national interest instead of acting independently.

Robert Barwick has been the research director of the Australian Citizens Party (ACP) for more than 20 years, focusing on economic and foreign policy and Australian history; is an authority on the history of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia; is an editor of the weekly Australian Alert Service magazine; and is the ACP’s national spokesman, advocating for Australia to pursue an independent foreign policy in our sovereign national interest.

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