Does the ASPI have a place in progressive spaces? No.

Sunday, 21 June 2020 - 9:15am to 9:30am
Ranking of foreign investment in Australia by country. 1: USA, 2: UK, 3: Belgium, 4: Japan, 5: Hong Kong, 6: Singapore, 7: Netherlands, 8: Luxemborg, 9: China


Presenters: Zachary Doney and Bri Aldersea

Today we’re talking about the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
What is it? Where does it come from? Does ASPI have a place in progressive spaces?
We’ve spoken about ASPI before but the problem hasn’t gone away. For some context, here’s Bri:

Recent events
On the 11th of June Twitter suspended 170,000 accounts from Twitter with the help of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which we will now refer to as ASPI. Accounts that, according to Twitter, spread “geopolitical narratives favourable to the Communist Party of China”. This includes so-called “deceptive narratives” around Hong Kong protests and COVID-19.

What are these deceptive narratives? Is any criticism of the Hong Kong protests as violent or right-wing a “deceptive narrative”? It seems as though “deceptive narratives” are simply narratives that stray from the Western mainstream.

It seems strange that a US company, Twitter, would pair with a “non-partisan, independent think tank” based in Australia to control who is allowed to use the social media platform. We’ll get into the funding relationship between ASPI and Twitter later the program.

Twitter frequently expresses its inability to control fascists on its site yet it can delete 170,000 accounts in one swoop? Perhaps it is because fascists have a more acceptable narrative to the US government compared to pro-Chinese nationals.

ASPI’s collaboration with Twitter is an example of why we must be critical of the think tank. It has yet to assess whether the US military, currently the greatest imperialist force, is a threat to national security or world peace.
ASPI's past
Us at Alternative News are becomingly increasingly frustrated with the public’s blind acceptance of ASPI’s work. Today’s episode will be about ASPI’s history, funding, and goals to assess whether the organisation should be accepted in progressive spaces.

ASPI was founded in 2001 by the Department of Defence as an independent body to advise on defence, strategy, and national security. It was initially fully funded by the Department of Defence. As Deputy Sheriff of the Asia-Pacific, our national interests extend to beyond our peace and safety. To us at Alternative News, ASPI is simply the think tank that operates to excuse militarisation, war and imperialism. 

An example of this is ASPI’s report from June 2003 titled “OUR FAILING NEIGHBOUR - AUSTRALIA AND THE FUTURE OF SOLOMON ISLANDS”. The report explored how Solomon Islands is under threat and is unstable because of nationalist groups that were attempting to reclaim the islands with the goal of eradicating poverty.

 ASPI positions the conflict in the Solomon Islands as a part of Australia’s national interests. In the report they say “The consequences for Australia are serious. A failing state on our doorstep engages Australia's interests at many levels, from short-term economic, consular and humanitarian concerns to our most enduring strategic imperatives.”

 A month after ASPI’s report the Australian government launched the interventionist "Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands". This mission lasted for 14 years where thousands from the Australian Defence Force and Federal Police were stationed at Solomon Islands to quell unrest.

This is an example of how ASPI justifies neocolonialism in the Asia-pacific.

Is an organisation that justifies national oppression, war, neocolonialism and militarisation something that progressives should associate with? No.

From ASPI's charter:

"Independence and Participation in Public Debate

"...the Government places high priority on the development of ASPI as a centre of excellence in strategic thinking which both is, and is seen to be, independent of Government. At the same time, the Government will want to ensure that its significant investment in the establishment of ASPI is being used effectively [...] The Government will therefore seek [...] to have a regular input into the setting of ASPI's research agenda."

Independent or of the government?

If this were the Chinese Strategic Policy Institute statements like the above would be rightly subject to the most intense scrutiny and ridicule by the mainstream and the progressive left. Instead we're inviting ASPI members into our spaces to talk about how bad and scary is China! Pathetic.

ASPI is a part of the imperialist agenda. If you are part of an anti-colonial group and platform or promote ASPI writers or contributors you are shooting yourself in the foot.
ASPI now

What does ASPI get up to now? 

They are funded by weapons manufacturers, WEstern states and tech companies such as:
Naval group the Australian subsidiary of the French company building the $50bn (or is it $80bn) submarines which will be obsolete long before they are dumped into our waters
Northrop Grumman, who deal with airforce-type technologies, including autonomous aircraft and cyber security
 Jacobs, who deal with cybersecurity, weapons systems and nuclear technology
Lockheed Martin, who build missiles and military aircraft
MBDA missile systems; 
Raytheon Australia, who deal with electronic warfare technology and submarines;
 Austal, a maritime defence contractor;
 Thales (pronounced: Tahl), a defence systems, products and services provider part-owned by the French govt;
SAAB; Various parts of the Australian government, including the DoD
Amazon; Twitter; Facebook and; Google.

Twitter funds ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. ASPI’s international cyber policy centre helps twitter to police its platform in the interests of western imperialism by excluding voices who disagree with US narratives.

What ASPI is currently producing is a large amount of articles and reports bashing China. ASPI is spreading bad-faith interpretations of Chinese policy and domestic law to inform a legion of media and government bodies who are very bad at foreign policy.

ASPI is interested in Australia's strategic interests. China, as a rising power, is the subject of ASPI's investigations because ASPI sees China as a threat. 

On the 8th of June in The Australian, ASPI  Executive Director Peter Jennings penned an article congratulating Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on tightening Australia's foreign investment laws: 

"The new laws will apply to investment from any country, but make no mistake about it, by far the biggest source of concern is China."
 If the question is about sovereignty and not selling up the country to foreign ownership then the CICD is in favour of this position! Selling our resources and assets to private companies and foreign governments does not help the Australian people.

Jennings agrees, but only when it comes to China: The Morrison govt has a problem i.e. " to unpick the consequences of poor decisions over many years that led to much of our electricity grid, gas pipelines and ports being sold into Chinese hands."
As of 2019 the largest investors in Australia are: 1: USA, 2: UK, 3: Belgium, 4: Japan, 5: Hong Kong, 6: Singapore, 7: Netherlands, 8: Luxemborg, 9: China

Jennings is not worried about that, saying that investment from "like-minded democracies" is good becuase these countries won't "economically threaten or spy on us and treat our political leaders with contempt."

China is the threat - not because they invest so much in Australia but because they don’t have a Western-style democracy. This position is simplified through the media apparatus to: China is a threat because they invest in Australia.

The CICD stands for an independent and non-aligned foreign policy. This is not the foreign policy for which the Australian Strategic Policy Institute stands. ASPI stands with the imperialist agenda, firmly placing us at the feet of the US as deputy sheriff in the Asia-Pacific region.

ASPI wrote multiple reports and articles applauding the 1.6 billion dollar expansion of the Tindal base in NT. Why were they so happy about further militarising stolen land? Because China! China is the threat! As Deputy Sheriff, Australia MUST militarize the Asia-Pacific before China.

As we mentioned previously, part of ASPI’s program is to protect Australia's national interests, which, as we have discussed, more often than not extend abroad to protect our economic interests in the Asia-Pacific and our alliance with the US.
 They run a fortnightly podcast aptly called ‘Policy, guns and money’ [gunshot and cash register chime sound effects]. 

Are there arguments for the research which ASPI produces, despite the points we have raised? Is it worthwhile to separate the content ASPI produce from the sources of funding? After all, the people who work at ASPI have their own views and the ASPI self-declares as independent.

Our objection to this position is the ASPI will not produce a truly independent piece of research because the ASPI, despite their own claims, is not an independent think tank. Their entire existence depends on the discretionary spending of warmongers. This is also why ASPI will never support peace.

It is true that ASPI is non-partisan  - it doesn’t not have any explicit affiliation with this or that political party. However, it does receive funding directly from the government of Australia and this government is run by a political party. Be it Labor or Liberal it’s all imperial.

Some further points

It is essential to examine the funding sources of organisations to discover the character of their output. Who is paying them to say what?
As a member of Chinese diaspora, someone is entitled to their dissenting opinion about mainland China and it is appropriate to grant them a place on a progressive platform to voice their opinion. However, as an employee of an imperialist think tank this same place on a progressive platform should not be granted. These people are paid to spread the ideas which contribute to the ASPI’s charter i.e. the interests of the government of Australia.

These people have accepted salaries and commissions from weapons manufacturers and on that basis have accepted blood money. CICD demands that we keep blood money out of progressive spaces.

Based on what we have discussed today, does ASPI have a place in progressive spaces? No. if you are going to introduce ASPI research or people into a progressive space you must maintain your ability to critically analyse where these experts come from and who is putting money in their pockets. 

ASPI’s infiltration into progressive spaces is an example of how identity politics fail. ASPI is able to get away with its agenda by tokenizing members of the Asian diaspora in Australia. Behind these individuals are white imperialists like Peter Jennings and the weapons manufacturers who they represent. 

[presenters sign off]

Up next, Concrete Gang!


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