Australia’s Security Blanket

Will the U.S.-Australia revived economic and security nexus bail the land down under out of its troubles?

Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic shift in Australia’s foreign policy. Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Australia was storming ahead with the EU as its number-one trading partner, accounting for over us$27 billion in two-way trade for 2001. In the wake of the Twin Towers tragedy, war in Afghanistan, the Bali bombing and the recent war in Iraq, Australia has had a geopolitical reality check.

Other than Britain, no nation has so staunchly supported the United States in the Bush administration’s declared war on terror. Australian special forces were among the first troops on the ground in Baghdad. Relations between the two countries are closer than at any time since World War ii.

Following the head-in-the-sand policies of the previous Labor (socialist) government, which tried to convince Australians that they were really destined to become Asians, the current Liberal (conservative) government of Prime Minister John Howard has swung the land down under solidly behind the U.S.

This has not only been in the area of foreign policy. In just two short years, Australia-U.S. two-way trade has been hiked dramatically, now surpassing us$29 billion annually. Today, America is Australia’s leading individual trading partner, ahead of both Europe and Japan. The U.S. is now the prime destination for Australian direct foreign investment; and no other country currently invests more in Australia than the U.S.

Free Trade Prospects

After private meetings in March of this year, President Bush and Prime Minister Howard announced the acceleration of negotiations toward the conclusion of a formal free trade agreement between the two countries.

In July, a week of negotiations took place in Canberra, Australia, at which U.S. officials talked to Australian negotiators with the aim of finalizing a free trade treaty in the first six months of 2004. The estimated benefit to Australia is worth over us$1.3 billion annually.

Over 239 Australian and U.S. companies have committed their support to the coming agreement. Increasingly, U.S. firms have established regional centers in Australia, particularly to the south in Melbourne and the north in Brisbane, Australia’s fastest-growing city. “In many ways, American companies feel quite at home when doing business in Australia. The similarities in language, culture, business practices and customer expectations provide for an atmosphere in which transactions can be made more easily than elsewhere. As one local observer noted, ‘I believe the only other country Americans find as familiar and easy to work in is Canada’” (U.S. Department of Commerce, April 23).

As an outspoken member of the “coalition of the willing,” Australia is clearly being rewarded for its loyalty to the U.S.-led war on terror. In May, the U.S. formally requested moving many of its European-based troops to new bases throughout Australia.

Capitalizing on a friendship of over 50 years as allies, the two countries are making the most of their relationship.

On the one hand, Australia is receiving the economic and national security shoring-up it so desperately needs, being surrounded by a sea of Asian nations that reflect cultures vastly different to that of this predominantly white British Commonwealth dominion.

The U.S., on the other hand—increasingly unpopular in the rest of the world—by reinforcing its trade and security arrangements with Australia, is able to not only retain influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region from the largest island nation on Earth, but to reinforce it at a time when Asia is searching for its new role in the emerging new world order.

Hitching Their Wagon

For decades, Japan was Australia’s most significant post-war trading partner. Then came the EU, seeking a base from which to develop ties in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, following the unification of Germany in 1990. Now, in the post-9/11 world, Australians think that hitching their wagon to America will result in prosperity and preservation of regional identity and security.

But Bible prophecy declares the very opposite.

The Australian economy, so battered by the trade union wars of the 1970s, its dollar significantly bruised through the Asian financial meltdown in the 1990s, is struggling to reinvent itself under the tutelage of America. But it has chosen a mentor with huge structural flaws in its own economy. Australians are seeking a quick fix to past economic woes by aligning with the greatest debtor nation in the world—a country with a staggering national debt headed toward us$7 trillion!

The fall in value of the U.S. dollar, while creating the appearance that the Australian dollar has gained in strength, is making it tough for Australian exports. This country, despite its brave efforts to raise its profile in the high-tech industries, remains at heart a primary producer. It is heavily dependent for income on the export of its rural and mining products. Drought and a “strengthened” Aussie dollar have hurt Australian rural exports significantly. Akin to its brother English-speaking nations, Australia once had a “captive market” as its rich rural resources and mineral wealth were exported throughout the great British Empire. That changed when Britain turned its back on the old empire, which had served it so well, and began to court a trading relationship with Europe. There was a profound reason why Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth and Empire, enjoyed its greatest period of blessings under the British flag.

Australia has faltered in its economic judgment and forgotten the Source of its former prosperity.

As we wrote in our booklet Australia in Prophecy, “The wealth of Australia did not come about by pure chance. It was gifted to her by a beneficent, supreme Creator God, in fulfillment of His promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Australia, the great south land called Sinim in your Bible (Isa. 49:12), was colonized by descendants of Ephraim ….”

Once rich, prosperous and blessed of God, Australia has forgotten its heritage and is walking contrary to God’s Word, relying on its own reasoning (Hos. 5:11).

False Security

Biblical Ephraim is today like a “cake not turned” (Hos. 7:8). These nations look good on the outside, but they are burned out underneath, not yet turned over to reveal their shame.

Australia, as one of these Ephraimite nations, is rapidly losing its former wealth, power and prestige in the wake of Britain’s decline. “Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness” (Hos. 5:12). Ephraim is here likened to a moth-eaten coat that, when you try to put it on, just falls apart.

For all intents and purposes, America is Australia’s security blanket. With a population of less than 20 million, and a landmass almost equivalent to that of the U.S., as an island nation Australia is simply unable to protect its vast coastline. Australia is most vulnerable to incursion by its Asian neighbors to the north, should they choose to breach that vulnerable coastline. For decades, boatloads of Asian refugees have been floating south to this land of promise, often landing undetected to merge with the increasing Asian population within Australia. Even during World War ii, recognizing this great strategic weakness, Australia was prepared to divide its country at the “Brisbane Line” and forfeit its great northern and western inland to the rising sun of land-hungry Japan. If not for the courage and commitment of Allied forces under the control of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Australia could have then easily become the “white trash of Asia.”

The recent entanglement with Indonesia in East Timor and the deadly Bali bombing is just the tip of the Asian iceberg that threatens, one day, to overwhelm “the sunburnt country.” Today, the U.S. has no General Macarthur to offer, and Australia seems blind to its most immediate, deep troubles in terms of its bubble economy and its national security. Playing economic chess with the EU, Japan and the U.S. will bring no respite from the coming punishment of tribulation that God will bring upon rebellious biblical Israel, the offspring of which Australia is an integral component (Lev. 26:18; Hos. 9:7).

Deep national repentance is the only way out of the fear and insecurity that lies ahead for Australia. Will Australia heed the warning before it is too late?