December 1974. I leave Japan and head back to Canberra.
I am due to take up an Assistant Secretary level appointment to the Policy Coordination Unit (PCU) in the Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (PMC).
In addition to proposing policies itself to the government, PMC was supposed to coordinate policy advice from other departments, and to supervise the implementation of government decisions.
But by 1975 its efforts were devoted mainly to propping up the faltering 1972-75 administration of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
For just one year and two months I would be as close to the center of power and influence in an administration as I would ever be.
It was a disillusioning and chaotic experience, and I have recounted much of it in my Quadrant article entitled ‘1975’.
True, administrations have daily to face an array of issues, many of them new and important. The people at the center trying to cover them all are few, and often very far between.
It is an impossible burden. On an average day a man like John Menadue, then the head of PMC, would have had to turn his mind to dozens, if not hundreds, of different questions.
I had to admire his ability to handle the issues and paperwork that crossed his desk, not to mention the endless phone-calls.
But I was less impressed by the time and effort given to trivial matters seen as crucial to the image of the Whitlam government, while more important matters crucial to the future of that government were left to languish.
In its final years, the Whitlam administration had become a gigantic PR exercise. One proof was the role given to Brian Johns, recruited, like me, by Menadue and put in charge of making sure the Whitlam regime got its media image right.
Johns would sit in on the daily briefings for the prime minister. Few others, and certainly not myself, were given that privilege.
(One of my less savory experiences was having to go with Johns on a tour of ad agencies seeking a fat government contract for an ad campaign to boost the government’s economic policies.)
(Governments using official monies to boost their electoral image is one of the grubbier sides of our democracies.)
Meanwhile the rest of us were left to grapple, often alone and in vain, with policy issues that in the long run were much more important to the government’s future than any amount of clever press relations.
Several incidents still rankle.
The "NARA" Debacle
Top of the list was Menadue’s refusal to accept my advice about the way Whitlam’s plan for the so-called NARA treaty with Japan was being sabotaged by the spies and the anti-Whitlam hawks (for the fuller details see my article ‘1975’).
My former colleague, the highly conservative Michael Cook - the Foreign Affairs official I was supposed to have replaced on the Disarmament Commission in New York back in 1965 - was mainly responsible
Crucial to the sabotage operation was a piece of phony information from an incompetent ASIS spy in Tokyo desperate to impress superiors with allegedly secret information about Japan’s sinister intentions over the proposed treaty.
In fact, the draft treaty proposed by Japan clearly did not include anything that could in any way harm Australian interests, or be twisted in ways that could do harm.
Its rejection was an insult to Japan, to the Whitlam administration that had originally proposed the treaty, and to commonsense.
It was a classic example of the ease with which the FA conservatives and the spies were able to undermine Whitlam’s policies.
And there was Menadue, who was supposed to be pro-Japan, and who had been specifically appointed to his PMC job to ensure that this kind of sabotage did not occur, ignoring my advice and accepting the bogus advice from people keen to see the Whitlam agenda derailed.
What made it worse was I had a good idea of just how the spies had got at Menadue and Whitlam.
Spies at Work
The election of a Labor government in 1972 had cast a shadow over Australia’s entire spy apparatus.
Before 1972 the spies had worked long and hard to sabotage and isolate the ALP. ALP reprisals were in order, and seemingly imminent.
The spies also feared a serious retraction of their hitherto close links with the US intelligence machine, which has an instinctive dislike of any regime that even smells of progressive or leftwing tendencies
Our spies had to move quickly to prove they had the Whitlam government on side. Otherwise the US spies would begin to turn off the information spigots.
Remember Chile’s Allende?. For a while there were less than charming hints that the US hawks saw Whitlam in a similar light.
(The subsequent Hawke and Keating administrations had no such fears since from the start it was clear they were in the US pocket).
The problem for our spies was how to get at Whitlam. They had no direct links into his entourage, at least as far as I know.
But they had an idea, and it was a good one.
For years the Defense Signals (DSD) operation in Melbourne had been decoding Japanese cable traffic as part of Australia’s cooperation in the worldwide Echelon (US, Britain, Canada, NZ and Australia) network.
It was not hard for the spies to select some of the bits of this decoded material and show it to the Whitlam people as proof both of their lyalty and dedication. (One or two journalists close to the Whitlam camp also got to see the material, or to at least hear about it. One of them was my source of information).
The idea that the Melbourne spies were out there keeping tabs on those devious Japanese played directly into ALP, and Whitlam, prejudices against Japan.
True, there can be some debate over the level of the cable traffic DSD was decoding. As a result of Brian Toohey raising the issue in 1975, and my raising it again in 1978 (details later), Tokyo was to insist that if there was any decoding it was restricted to business and low grade Embassy material.
Tokyo was to claim that this low-grade material was put into simple codes for convenience, and that while the Australians may have found some way to decypher the low-grade stuff, serious Embassy traffic went into codes that could not have been touched.
Maybe. But maybe too Tokyo simply did not want to believe that we foreigners could possibly penetrate their security.
The Japanese had never really shaken off the myths that had led directly to their defeat in the Pacific War, namely that we foreigners could not even read Japanese properly, let alone coded Japanese.
(A good example of this ethno-inwardness had come to me earlier in Tokyo when I discovered and reported on a book by the then Japanese ambassador to Canberra, Saito Shizuo, called ‘Australia Tsushin’ (Dispatches from Australia).
(In it he hinted at Australians retaining White Australian attitudes to Japan.)
(My report had caused a stir in Canberra since ambassadors are not supposed publicly to criticise the policies of the nation to which they are accredited.)
(Saito was called in by Foreign Affairs for a formal rebuke, and the Australian media feasted on the story for several weeks, particularly the bit where Saito had noted how uneducated Turks could enter Australia freely but educated Japanese were excluded.)
(It is very likely that the incident put an end to what should have been a brilliant career for Saito — he had been slated for the United Nations and Gaimusho vice-minister.)
(Saito and some of his friends were later to complain to me about the wrongness of my reporting on a book written for a Japanese audience. Their attitude seemed to be that the fact something was published in Japanese for Japanese meant automatically it was not intended for non-Japanese eyes.)
( I had to remind them that even we gaijin are allowed to read things written in Japanese.)
But whatever decoded material it was that the spies put before the eyes of the Whitlam people it seems to have done the trick.
From there it was only a short step to establishing a firm pipeline by which other information tidbits could be passed up to and accepted by the Whitlamites, including the bogus information that was to scupper the NARA treaty.
As Menadue admits in his memoirs:
“They (the spies) are, however, adept in doling out juicy bits of information that are often untested but draw one into the inner circle of people with privileged information, a twilight world of secrets and gossip. Perhaps we all read too many spy thrillers and vicariously want to be part of the action. Few are immune.”
Among the non-immune we have to include Menadue, and even Whitlam himself, at least over NARA.
I Struggle In Vain
In the inter-departmental committee debating the Japanese draft for a NARA treaty I soon found myself in a very small minority. I tried hard to counter the majority urging rejection.
But I was bound to lose. My opponents were within the ‘inner circle’ Menadue had spoken about. I most definitely was not.
As one of those in the inner circle tried to put it to me at the time. ‘ We just happen to know things that you don’t about Japanese intentions. And if you knew what we know, you would have to agree with us.”
I should add that this inner circle personage was a young, junior, wet-behind-the-ears official who just happened to have been put on the PMC foreign affairs desk, and who by virtue of this position was cleared for access to spy materials.
Meanwhile I myself, despite being a foreign affairs veteran and having got it right over Vietnam (or perhaps because I DID get it right), was not cleared for access.
The Japanese side to the negotiations was led by the Gaimusho’s Hideo Kagami, a friend from Moscow days (and the husband of the lady who in Moscow and later in Tokyo had given me a charming introduction to things Japanese).
He had had tried valiantly for weeks to battle the brick wall imposed by Cook, only to be sent away with a flea in its ear. Canberra had rejected the Japanese draft point blank (See my ‘1975’ article for the finer details).
It was one of my lower moments during that unhappy year in Canberra.
A China Connection
There was a curious sidebar to the abortive NARA negotiations.
Whitlam had gone out of his way in Beijing and elsewhere to tell people that his proposed NARA Treaty was important since it would do much to ease Chinese fears of revived Japanese militarism. It would guarantee Australia as a stable source of raw materials to Japan.
No longer would the Chinese have to fear that Japan would go on the war path again to secure sources of materials and fuel.
To anyone who knew Japan it was an unlikely scenario. Apart from anything else, by 1975 Japan had quite a few other sources of raw materials imports — Canada, Brazil, Siberia, Southeast Asia.
And Australia was unlikely to cease supplying materials simply because it did not have a NARA Treaty. Apart from anything else, Japan had a raft of long-term contracts and investments guaranteeing Australian supplies until well into the 21st century.
I have reason to believe the unlikely war path scenario was fed to Whitlam by a Japan-ignorant Fitzgerald in Beijing, though it is also possible he also got something along these lines from Zhou Enlai whose view of Japan was also rather dated.
This strange China connection gives some idea of the extent of Canberra’s extraordinary self-congratulatory over-estimation of its resources importance to Japan at the time.
It had convinced itself that Australian promises or otherwise of resource supplies could change the face of global politics.
Then it assumed that the Japanese, in their desperate determination to get a hold on Australia’s resources, were up to every kind of devious trick to lure Australia into a disadvantageous treaty.
Then it told itself that there was no problem in dismissing the Japanese draft treaty since Tokyo would soon be back on its hands and knees, willing to make every concession so it could get guaranteed access to our priceless resource supplies.
How absurdly wrong can you get, though Tokyo deserves some of the blame too. Its over-reactive ‘shigen gaiko’ (resources diplomacy) slogans in the wake of the 1973 oil shock had fed directly into Canberra’s resource delusions.
The NARA Flipflop
Curiously, as soon as Whitlam was replaced by Fraser in 1976, the bureaucracy decided that the treaty, renamed the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, was quite feasible after all.
Two of my former colleagues — Gary Woodard and Ashton Calvert — were sent to Japan to renegotiate it. In a matter of weeks all problems were resolved.
(Both were later to fill me in on the inside details, some of which are recounted in the ‘1975’ article.)
The wording of the agreed treaty was almost identical with that of the treaty draft that the spies, Foreign Affairs and just about everyone else had only a few months earlier declared not only to be totally unacceptable, but also so unacceptable as to be not even worth negotiating over.
In the years since, none of the Japanese plots darkly warned of by the spies and hawks, Cook especially, have even pretended to emerge.
But Cook kept his job. He was to become a confidant not only of the Fraser regime but also of later Labor regimes. Hawke even made him ambassador to the US – a move that must have made a lot of shady people in Washington very happy.
I do not subscribe to theories that the CIA and others plotted Whitlam’s November 1975 dismissal. Whitlam brought that on himself, by his poor handling of the economy and other matters, and his foolish trust in Kerr, the man he had appointed as his governor-general.
But I am quite sure that the US hawks and spies were very happy to see Whitlam’s foreign policies sabotaged as much as possible.
One does not have to be totally paranoiac to assume that making sure Whitlam did not get his treaty with Japan would have been one of their larger objectives.
But the Whitlam hagiographers, Graham Freudenberg and Fitzgerald especially, had no trouble telling us how Whitlam deserved the credit for this major breakthrough in relations with Japan, ie the Basic Treaty reached under Fraser and which Whitlam had rejected.
Such are the ways the fables are made.
In year 2001 our Tokyo Embassy was to hold a splendid function to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Basic Treaty. Academics and others were flown in from Australia, including even an American at an Australian university who could not conceivably have had anything to do with the Treaty.
Curiously, the list of invitees did not include this writer. This, despite the fact he was already in Japan and that he had long been involved with the treaty, first as a journalist in Tokyo urging an end to Canberra’s obscurantist opposition to a treaty, and then in Canberra.
And this, despite the fact that for the best part of a year in Canberra he had fought a lonely battle to get a treaty signed.
But by then he was getting fairly used to this kind of behavior. Understanding and remembering the details of things past is not a strong Canberra quality.
The NARA anniversary was not the only such example.
The Australia-Japan Foundation
While in Canberra I had, with Menadue, worked hard to get the government approval for the establishment of an Australia-Japan Foundation.
The idea had originally been mine. Together with Shann in Tokyo, when I was still with The Australian, we had sold it to Menadue on one of his Japan visits.
At the time there was no mechanism by which young Australians interested in Japan could get involved readily with Japan.
I had remembered my own experience, and the difficulties I had had in the late sixties in getting to Japan and getting established there.
The Australian universities were still being criminally negligent in their bad teaching of Japanese, not to mention their refusal to provide any followup whereby graduates could get to Japan.
A Foundation would help overcome these problems, we hoped.
Menadue was able to push the Foundation idea through Cabinet. But he had foolishly let Crawford get involved in the preparation paperwork
Needless to say, the proposal, once approved, was quickly hijacked by Crawford, who saw it as yet another source of funds for those non-Japanese speaking ANU academics.
My idea of setting up a center or centers where adults whose careers were taking them to Japan could study Japanese intensively was implemented. But it only lasted a year or so.
Later the government, possibly at Menadue’s initiative, was to set up a committee to make proposals for Asian language study in Australia.
It grabbed headlines by pushing foolishly for Asian languages to be taught, possibly compulsorily, in every school in Australia.
True, young children do learn languages quickly. But given the conditions in most Australian schools, and with the possible exception of Indonesian, it should have been obvious from the start that it would be impossible to teach difficult Asian languages properly.
If just a fraction of the resources needed for the school language project had been concentrated in language centers set up for intensive education to mature students and adults determined to make careers in Asia, the results would have been far greater.
I had hoped that an intensive Japanese language course run by the Foundation would serve as a pilot project for efficient Asian language teaching elsewhere in Australia.
But Crawford and the ANU soon put an end to that hope.
(Earlier I related the hideous experience I had suffered in 1966 when I had set out to try to learn Japanese at the ANU.)
(When I wrote to Crawford from Tokyo in 1969, setting out my reasons for not meeting his six month deadline to submit a thesis, I made a strong appeal for the ANU to do something about Japanese language and related education, along the lines that I had recommended for the University of Western Australia.)
(I wrote that this would be a lot more useful than any number of dry academic theses by non-Japanese speakers. I never got a reply. But I guess I should have expected that. When it came to Asian languages, the ANU in those days was the epitome of white Anglosaxon racial superiority complexes. With its self-congratulatory ideas about being a center of academic excellence, the idea that its excellent academics should have to spend a year or two grubbing around learning some miserable Asian language was probably too humiliating even to think about.)
After a few more sea changes, the Foundation ended up as a fairly impotent outfit devoted mainly to running weak publicity campaigns for Australia in Japan, and to sending Australian potters, poets etc for brief visits to Japan.
It also helped a few second-rate Japanese academics and the occasional Japanese artist to visit Australia.
In all the years I have been in Japan, I have not once been contacted by the Foundation, or invited to any of its many functions, even when it was headed by Menadue.
This, despite my 30 year close involvement with university education in Japan – one of the main areas of the Foundation’s alleged involvement with Japan.
I once mentioned my concerns about the Foundation to an old acquaintance, Gareth Evans, when he was foreign affairs minister. He commissioned me informally to set out my own ideas on how to reform the organisation.
In particular, I wanted to push the idea of having a full time official - ideally an old-Japan Hand with academic background - in Tokyo to help young people who had studied Japan and Japanese in Australia and wanted to find work or study slots in Japan (rather like the Stanford Center which had done just that so well for so many young Americans).
I sent off my report. But I never got a response.
Needless to say, once again I was left off the lavish guest list when that organization also had its 25th anniversary celebrations in Japan.
Part of the reason could have been due to the problems I have had constantly with the Embassy in Tokyo (of which more later).
But even so, there is something very ephemeral about Australian attitudes. History is yesterday’s newspaper headline.
I compare it with Japan.
Like Australia, the Japanese too can suffer severe amnesia when it comes to remembering unpleasant things like war atrocities.
But when it comes to remembering the people involved in helping an organization, the feelings of obligation run deep, sometimes too deep. Write just once for a Japanese publication, and they will faithfully mail you copies of each edition for years after.
Would an Australian outfit go to that sort of trouble?
Help set up a Japanese organisation and they will beat a path to your door for decades after.
The "Vietnam Cables" Debacle
NARA was bad enough. But an even lower 1975 moment came from my efforts to rescue Whitlam from the Vietnam Cables trap into which he had been led, foolishly and probably deliberately by the Foreign Affairs conservatives who had wrecked his NARA initiative.
Michael Cook in particular, as head of the Asia division, has to bear the major responsibility for this particular piece of idiocy — sending cables to Saigon and Hanoi on the eve of Saigon’s fall, calling for both sides to desist from hostilities.
It was typical Canberra. The facts that it knew nothing about Vietnam (it did not have a single Vietnamese speaker in any position of responsibility) , that in the past it had been consistently wrong over Vietnam, or that it had worked closely with the US to encourage the destructin of that country, were irrelevant.
With one brilliant master-stroke it would put itself in the center of the global diplomatic stage, seeking single-handedly to put an end to the Vietnam War.
There were of course a few difficulties. One was the fact that Saigon was collapsing. Its government never even got cable.
As for Hanoi, its reaction to this piece of impertinence, from a government that used to label it as a Peking puppet and had sent troops to kill and maim many hundreds of its compatriots, can be imagined.
A former colleague in Tokyo and mission head in Hanoi, Graeme Lewis, had to deliver the cabled message. He reported back lamely that for some reason Hanoi was not very interested in Canberra’s brilliant proposal.
Enter The Peacock
The Vietnam Cables affair itself began with the then opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Andrew Peacock, somehow getting hold of a copy of the abortive cable to Saigon.
Peacock then announced loudly that he had firm documentary evidence of how Whitlam had tried to force a gravely-weakened Saigon into having to surrender to its North Vietnamese enemy.
A stab in the back for our brave Saigon ally in its moment of travail. Final proof of Whitlam’s malicious, pro-communist evil, acting as Hanoi’s hand-maiden to force Saigon’s capitulation.
Peacock handled the leak well, with only gradual hints of the cable’s existence at first and then revelations of parts of the cable’s text. He was helped by Whitlam’s initial ignorance and denial of the cable’s existence (that Whitlam was ignorant of the cable is good proof that it had been composed and sent out in Whitlam’s name by Foreign Affairs.)
The result was a typical media frenzy, with the Fairfax media calling almost daily for Whitlam’s resignation.
“Whitlam has lied to the House.” “Whitlam must go” were just some of the headlines.
At the time, Foreign Affairs needed only to reveal the existence of the Hanoi cable to put an end to the hubbub. The anti-Whitlam fuss would have been killed overnight.
But Renouf, who owed his job entirely to Whitlam, refused to do anything. He was quite happy to see Whitlam sink deeper and deeper into the mess that his, Renouf’s, own ministry had created with those fat-headed cables, and through the treachery of the Foreign Affairs official who had fed the Saigon cable to Peacock.
At this point I decided it was part of my brief to try to do something to help rescue Whitlam, even if I had never met the man during my year in Canberra.
No one else in the large bureaucracy that was supposed to looking after him was interested in doing anything. I would do it myself, single-handedly if necessary.
Using my very limited contacts in Foreign Affairs, I was able to confirm the existence of the Hanoi cable.
I then got Menadue’s permission to release it to the media (he was abroad at the time).
Crisis defused, overnight. Even the blinkered, rightwing media had to admit that if a similar cable had gone to Hanoi, then the exercise could hardly have been labeled as anti-Saigon.
But all I got for these efforts was Whitlam in Parliament in effect denouncing me for improper behavior. (For details, see my ‘1975’ story.)
In front of the PMC assembled ranks, Menadue then went through the motions of transmitting the Whitlam condemnation of the ‘senior official’ who was said to have leaked the Hanoi cable that had in fact saved Whitlam’s bacon.
All eyes looked in my direction.
From that moment on I had lost all effectiveness within PMC.
Far worse than loss of effectiveness was the injustice of it all.
As with NARA, I done everything I could to rescue Whitlam from the stupidity or even treachery of his underlings. And all I got in return was a slap in the face.
That injustice was to gnaw at me for a long time to come, maybe too long.
In retrospect, some of that agony could have been avoided if Brian Johns, whose job it was to represent Whitlam to the media, had not run away when the heat was on. It was he, not me, who should have briefed the journalists about the existence of the Hanoi cable.
If he had done what he was supposed to do, I would not have suffered the bitchy attack by the one journalist who had missed out on the story.
But like the rest of them, Johns was not prepared to take any risks to rescue his prime minister. So it was left to me to do everything.
Again in retrospect, I should have just leaked the cable information to one person, to someone like Creighton Burns of The Age. He had taken the lead in the lambasting of Whitlam over the Saigon cable which Peacock was busily publicising.
He would have had enough scoop hunger to run with the Hanoi cable, even if it did completely contradict his earlier anti-Whitlam posturing.
Instead, I decided to do everything openly, passing on the information to any and every journalist interested.
Inevitably someone was going to get the story late or wrong, and that someone happened to be Gay Davidson of the Canberra Times (former wife of Ken Davidson).
She tried to make up for her mistake by turning in a story about Foreign Affairs (ie Renouf) being seriously concerned over a senior PMC official leaking secret information.
Secret? When it had already been in the hands of a communist government for some months? When the Saigon cable had earlier been leaked to Peacock by an unpunished Foreign Affairs official in a bid to stab Whitlam in the back?
Never in a long life involved with politics and bureaucracy have I seen such a blatant example of white turned into black and black into white.
Japan and the NPT
My 1975 Quadrant story omits a few other policy events in which I was involved. One concerns Japan and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
I had long had a special interest in the treaty. I had been in Moscow in 1963 when Averill Harriman (died 1986) arrived in a strong bid to have the USSR sign it.
That was shortly after the Cuban missile crisis. Western conventional wisdom said that Khruschev’s Moscow would oppose the treaty.
While walking in Gorky Park I had overheard a speaker sent by a Moscow current affairs institute, Znaniye, telling a crowd that the USSR favored the treaty. I was able to pass on the news and score a minor diplomatic scoop since at the time the Soviet position had not formally been announced.
It was yet another move by Khruschev to develop détente with the West — moves which if acted on by the West would have changed the entire course of the Cold War.
(Incidentally, the Znaniye talks were regular features of Moscow life, and good examples of the efforts the regime made to keep people reasonably informed of its policies. The same was true in China where bulletins giving reasonably impartial news of the West and China’s policies were in regular circulation.)
(Meanwhile our hawks were telling the world about the news blackouts imposed on the victims of communist regimes.)
By 1975 Canberra had developed a strong interest in having Japan ratify the treaty. Tokyo had signed the treaty. But the Japanese hard-liners, led by Nakasone Yasuhiro, strongly opposed ratification.
They wanted Japan to retain a nuclear option.
Fortunately, the then prime minister, the dovish Takeo Miki, favored ratification. Unfortunately, in Japan’s consensus society, prime ministers do not have the power to impose policies.
A typical Japanese policy deadlock had ensued.
To break the deadlock, I had proposed from my PCU cell that Canberra should make a statement calling on Japan to ratify.
I knew from previous experience in Tokyo how the Japanese can welcome foreign intervention to break these kinds of policy deadlocks.
The Japanese call it gaiatsu, or outside pressure.
It is a neat way of allowing the consensus to be swung in the direction of one side or another in a deadlocked debate.
(The Japanese were, and still are to some extent, very sensitive to how we foreigners see them - there is the famous statement by the Japanese military calling on Japanese soldiers in the battle of Guadacanal to fight bravely or else the world would be laughing at them….. )
The side favored by a gaiatsu foreign intervention is then able to tell domestic opponents how they are harming Japan’s external image by their opposition to some proposed policy.
I put all this to Menadue. But he felt we should first seek the opinion of our Tokyo Embassy, still being run by Shann.
Shann came back immediately advising strongly against any statement. He repeated the conventional wisdom about how it would be seen as unjustified intervention in Japan’s domestic policies.
Ironically, a day or two later Shann had to send us another message. This time he had to admit, sheepishly, that he had just been approached at a reception by someone in the Miki faction begging Australia to make a statement.
Canberra obliged. The Miki people then asked for a further statement.
Soon after, Tokyo ratified the NPT treaty.
Mission accomplished, neatly, and at very long range.
It was a classic example of gaiatsu in action.
At the time, Japan’s susceptibility to gaiatsu was not very well known in the outside world.
Like Shann, most retained an image of Japan and the Japanese as an inherently nationalistic people. It was assumed automatically that they would be bound to resent foreigners trying to influence their domestic debates.
If I knew differently, that was mainly due to having as a journalist covered closely CSR’s handling of its 1974 sugar dispute with Japan.
The company had faced a messy price dispute with Japan, with Tokyo declaring arbitrarily that it would take no more of the sugar it had contracted to buy from CSR. (Typically, the panicky Japanese had in 1973 contracted at the absurdly high sugar prices caused by the oil shock, and were trying wriggle out once prices had collapsed.)
But CSR insisted it had an obligation to honor its contract with Japan and would continue to send the sugar to Japan in the Soviet-owned sugar vessels it had already contracted for making deliveries.
If they were refused entry to Japan, the ships would lower anchor in Yokohama harbor and wait till the ban on CSR sugar was lifted.
AS the dispute moved into its second month, CSR then began to circulate stories about how the Russian crews were growing homesick and boats filled with sugar might explode in the summer heat of the harbor.
The final shove was CSR warning how it would take Japan to something called the World Sugar Court, an entity that in fact did not really exist.
Faced by these and other psychological pressures, Tokyo backed down.
Soon after the NPT affair I became involved in Australia’s meat dispute with Japan – another gaiatsu occasion.
Some background is needed.
One of the first moves under Tanaka’s 1973 shigen gaiko (resources diplomacy) had been a request to Canberra to increase exports of beef to Japan.
(That controversial sugar contract with CSR was another result.)
Mean prices in Japan were sky-rocketing. Cheap imports would help curb inflation.
As well, beef, along with oil, coal, aluminium etc , had come to be seen by panicky Japan as yet another rare resource product subject to perpetual future shortages. Guarantees of longterm supplies had to be secured.
Canberra had responded, even though Australia too was being hit by large beef price increases. It saw a rare chance to penetrate longterm the previously closed Japanese market.
But two years later as imports flooded into Japan and meat prices collapsed, Japan’s domestic beef producers decided they were threatened. They began to make a media fuss.
Tokyo then imposed an immediate ban on all meat imports, threatening bankruptcy for those Australian farmers who had expanded production to fill Japan’s demand for increased supplies.
Queensland responded angrily, with a threatened ban on coal exports to Japan. Canberra, which had the last word on coal export policy, was dithering.
It accepted that Japan had behaved atrociously. But it did not want to antagonise an important customer.
Instead, Canberra had preferred writing letters to the Japanese prime minister and foreign minister begging a withdrawal of the beef import ban — letters that predictably were ignored since few Japanese officials take letters seriously (personal contacts are far more important).
In any case, neither the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister had any power over meat import policy anyway.
That power belonged to the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
From my cell in PMC, I was able to predict that the letters would have no effect. I was also able to predict that a ban on coal exports to Japan would also be fairly useless since coal imports were handled by MITI, i.e. they were not handled by the people handling meat imports.
(Few in Canberra at the time realised the highly cellular nature of the Japanese bureaucracy, with each ministry demanding complete control over its own turf and able easily to ignore the demands of others, even when the demands came from the Cabinet or the prime minister.)
(In Canberra’s eyes, Japan then was not only as nationalistic, but also was seen as a monolithic whole with firm control from the top).
Realising that a ban on coal exports was a non-starter, I suggested a ban on Japanese fishing, mainly tuna fishing, boats entering our ports. That was less traumatic than banning coal exports.
More importantly, fishing was also handled by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry (it was later to add Fisheries to its name).
What’s more, the electorate of the ministry’s political master, Suzuki Zenko, included the very fishing port –Miyako - that was sending the tuna ships to Australian waters.
My superiors agreed. A plan to impose a ban on the tuna ships was announced. Japan’s meat import ban was quickly lifted. Problem solved.
After it was all over, we were quietly thanked by the Japanese Foreign Ministry for our skillful action against the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry protectionists.
Any further proof of Japan’s cellular bureaucracy needed?
Years later, the US and the Europeans in their trade wars with Japan were also to begin to see how easily Tokyo could be pressured by trade threats that threatened embarrassment to one or other of Tokyo’s protectionist factions.
We began to hear a lot about this great new discovery — gaiatsu.
In fact we Australians had discovered it quite a few years earlier.
The world was also to discover China’s total invulnerability to gaiatsu – its immediate threats of counter-retaliation when subjected to what it saw an improper pressure from outside.
That, and the many other differences between the Japanese and the Chinese, were to be the topic, and inspiration, for a book that would change my life. But more on that later.
Living in Canberra
Meanwhile I was also trying to get my personal life into order.
I had returned to Canberra in a hurry, leaving Yasuko in Tokyo with son Dan, then all of seven months old.
With luck I had found an ideal rental house in an old, traditional area of Yarralumla. It had one of those large, deliberately unkempt gardens that went with old Canberra houses in those days.
By chance, the garden backed onto the rear of the Japanese Embassy, something I only discovered weeks later when I finally got round to exploring it, and peering though the surrounding hedge.
On the other side I saw an Oriental man digging a vegetable patch. He looked like one of those Chinese market gardeners one found scattered around Australia in the immediate postwar years.
But what would a Chinese gardener be doing growing vegetables for sale in the middle of Canberra? Looking more closely I realised that in fact it was the Japanese ambassador, Yoshida, whom I had known quite well in Tokyo.
I introduced myself. He was surprised, but friendly.
But to this day I imagine he assumes I was planted in the house next door to spy on him.
It was late summer, with long, lazy afternoons spent lying around on the back lawn of my unkempt Canberra garden.
I began to see something of Patti Warn, whom I had known from earlier trips to Canberra. She helped introduce me to some of the realities of ALP politics at the time — who hated whom, and so on.
A few other old mates — Gerry Gutman especially - were also helping me feel back at home.
Meanwhile visas for Yasuko and Dan were being held up by one of those anti-Japanese immigration officials that Canberra liked to send to Japan. (He was also anti-Clark over Vietnam, which did not help. And probably homosexual to boot).
Sorting out that problem — Peter Wilenski had to intervene – involved direct confrontation with the Tokyo Embassy. It ended any relationship I still had with Shann, who liked the immigration man, for some reason.
With the family finally in Canberra I could resume normal life. Yasuko ended up with a good job in the ANU library. Dan ended up in the ANU creche.
We began to see a lot of the Menadues. They had a genuine liking for Yasuko’s gentleness and integrity — one that is shared by many others.
They also saw us as a nostalgic link to the Japan they had enjoyed earlier.
Over the Easter holiday the news of Saigon’s fall reached us during a barbecue trip with the Menadues to the South Coast. We celebrated, quietly but deeply.
Menadue had long shared my views about the war. His brusque, businesslike manner could never quite hide a strong streak of morality.
As for myself, it was as if at last I could begin to enjoy life again. For years on end I had woken up daily to yet another sickening news report of more bombings and body counts.
For more than ten years I had had to live with anguish over my inability to do something, anything, to put an end to the atrocity.
Finally those days were over. The long-suffering Vietnamese people would begin to know some peace. And so would I.
That Menadue shared some of my relief on that day meant a lot to me.
The Turning Point
Professionally, though, we were moving away from each other.
I had already had run-ins with him over several policy questions , and not just NARA.
Worse, Menadue had come to realise that he did not need our mini-PCU secretariat to watch over obstinate bureaucrats after all, that the bureaucrats were as frightened of him as he had been of them. He was able to do deals with them, directly.
If anything, we were an obstacle. The bureaucrats were suspicious of our existence.
My work load began to decrease greatly. My golf began to improve noticeably.
One task I was allowed get my teeth into was the planned Australianisation of CRA — one of Whitlam’s signature policies. Together with Harvey Jacka of PMC we drew up various plans for reducing UK equity in the company and its subsidiaries down to below the 50 percent mark.
Rod Carnegie, the ever-affable Australian head of the company, made approving noises. But deep down he was still beholden to his UK masters.
He was able to string things out till Whitlam’s demise. Today CRA does not even pretend to be Australian, even in name.
Another bone Menadue threw my way was membership of the Cabinet Resources Committee, set up to rein in some of Rex Connor’s wilder ambitions.
We did something to put an end to his mad scheme to prohibit Northwest Shelf gas exports in favor of piping everything to Perth and the east coast.
Connor did not realise that with these big projects, first you have to get them off the ground and create a cash flow. After that you can do whatever you like to satisfy nationalistic ambitions.
Maybe he was still wedded to the crazy idea that Khemlani money would solve the problem.
I had returned to Canberra with one special hope — that I would finally see the humiliation of the bureaucracy hawks who had made life so miserable for me and others during the early days of the war.
Then, they had looked at people like me with the scorn usually reserved for the infantile or the demented. The idea that the US intervention was immoral? That the West was opposed by legitimate forces of Vietnamese nationalism? That Vietnam was a genuine civil war? That the anti-Saigon Vietnamese might even win that civil war, despite massive foreign intervention?
Or to put it more bluntly, that the all-powerful and all-wise USA might fail in its intervention against a bunch of bandits in black pajamas? .
Only communists and small children could believe that kind of nonsense, was their attitude.
Now with the US humiliated, with Saigon’s armies in retreat, and with an ALP government in power, surely they, the hawks, would be busily covering their former hawkish tracks. Either that, or they would be in disgrace.
I was about as wrong as it is possible to be. If anything, the hawks had even more power than before. The military/intelligence establishment was still happily churning out its belligerent anti-Asian communist poison.
In Foreign Affairs, doves had become virtually extinct. Almost all the top positions were held by hardliners.
One of them, Duncan Campbell, I had remembered from the early days of the Vietnam War. At the time he had just returned from Washington and was clearly switched into the Pentagon grapevine.
In an argument over Vietnam his punch line had been: ‘Well I have to tell you that you are about to be proved very wrong. I happen to know that the US will start massive bombing of Hanoi in a few days time.’
‘The war will be over in another month or so.’
A few days later the Hanoi bombings did begin. But the war did not end with a US victory, either in a month or a year or ever.
But he too, like the rest of the policy hawks I had know, were all rising stars in the military/intelligence/foreign affairs network under Whitlam and his allegedly progressive administration.
(I had been a near contemporary of Campbell. In the old days he had been quite moderate in his views.)
(Something happens to Australian officials posted to Washington. Many return to key positions in Canberra. Almost all seem to be completely in the US pocket.)
(I see the same thing with Japanese or South Korean officials also sent to Washington. But for the moment I would prefer not to speculate as to what that something is.)
Hawks rampant were not my only problem.
Daily I still had to drive past their large Russell Hill fortress, with its flag tower and buildings arrogantly dominating Parliament House and bureaucrats below.
They were still calling the shots in Canberra. Even Menadue, for all his anti-war sentiments, had decided not to bother with them.
Ignore them was the attitude. Let them play their hypothetical war games on the other side of the lake. Meanwhile we will get on with the serious business of government..
It was an unwise attitude — one that was to undermine even more Whitlam initiatives, especially the attempt to get Australia involved with Hanoi immediately after the fall of Saigon. (Details in my 1975 article).
Somehow the hawks in the bureaucracy and the media were able to use the fact of chaos in Vietnam — refugees, orphans, boat people etc — to justify their previous pro-Saigon policies, and to score points against the Whitlam regime. The fact that it was they, not Whitlam or the progressives, who had caused the chaos, did not matter.
Once again the Whitlamites were left on the defensive, scurrying round for media word-bites and ad-lib policies to answer the hawks and their media friends.
They deserved being forced to scurry around.
With the fall of Saigon, Freudenberg, Whiltam’s speech writer, had prepared a gloating speech attributing full prescience and wisdom over Vietnam to the great Gough.
This incidentally was the great Gough who, as I mention in an earlier piece, had in 1968 argued that Australia’s military intervention in Vietnam was unnecessary since the US had already won the war there, and who in 1966 did not even bother to look at my compromise proposal for ending the war.
From PMC I had tried to put forward a humbler and more constructive draft. But no one around Whitlam was interested.
The hawks then got their revenge with the wretched Vietnam Cables affair.
Even in victory I had to suffer the bitterness of defeat.
Some may wonder why I let myself get so worked up over Vietnam – a country I had only visited once, and with which I have never had any personal connection.
Reason Number One was the atrocity of it all – the world’s strongest power using its full armed might to pulverise one of those small weak nations that were supposed to be the targets of our paternalistic aid, not vicious bombs
There was the ugliness of it all – village burnings, prisoner torture, napalm etc.
Then there was the deliberate flouting of an international agreement - the 1954 Geneva Agreements – something that ‘communists’ were supposed to do but not us democracies.
But most of all was my China experience.
I had seen there the way in which good people there had felt they had had no choice but to support the only movement willing to oppose foreign intervention and to promise an end to dreadful corruption of a regime whose only claim to legitimacy was virulent anti-communism.
Now we were in there killing and torturing the same kind of people in Vietnam, simply because they had the guts and conscience to fight for what they saw as right.
In short, I was able to extrapolate. I could see the alleged enemy in Vietnam in much the same light as I had seen the pro-Beijing Chinese I had known and liked in Hongkong.
It was this inability to extrapolate that underlay the brutal, harsh, unthinking anti-communism of so many of my Australian colleagues. They could only relate to the people who were supposed to be on our side.
They could not even begin to understand the people on the other side.
In 1965 I had written the article that The Australian published for me “Australia and the Lost War.”
To be honest, at the time I was far from sure that it would be a lost war.
Unlike in China with its vast reserves of people and territory, in Vietnam it seemed very likely that the US with its vastly superior firepower would be able to kill enough people and devastate enough territory to gain some kind of victory.
It was the duty of people like myself to do all that we could to try to stop this tragedy before it got too far underway.
As it turned out, it was the bravery of the Vietnamese people that stopped the tragedy. People like myself were powerless.
If anything we were a minus factor. We encouraged the policy-makers to persevere longer than they might have, simply to prove us wrong.
But even during my worst moments over Vietnam, it never occurred to me that the people in Australia who had been so raucously anti-communist over Vietnam would continue to have voice after humiliating defeat in Vietnam.
Here I was truly wrong. They quickly found their rationalisations – stab in the back by our impotent anti-Vietnam War movement, communist plots, etc
That people like Knopfelmacher, the Quadrant crowd, and so on, or Denis Warner with his predictions of communist bloodbath after Saigon’s downfall – predictions that did so much to sustain support for Saigon even when its hopelessness and corruption were evident – that all these people should retain influence and prestige in Australia even after being proven so totally wrong was sickening.
It was as if one cross had been taken from my shoulders and replaced by another.
What is it in the Australian makeup that explains this lack of integrity?
The US, for all its inherent hawkishness, was able to produce its Robert MacNamara and others willing to admit they were wrong. Even little New Zealand could run its Vietnam debate with more dignity than Australia.
In Australia, even the leftwing seemed unable to grasp the true horror and immorality of what was happening in Vietnam. For many on the Left, Vietnam was simply a blunt instrument to attack the Right.
Only South Australia did I find any hint of principle and intellectual honesty over the Vietnam issue.
SA’s non-convict legacy seems to me to be the only explanation for this, and for SA’s lead in quite a few other moral issues.
The convict legacy elsewhere in Australia may have had even greater influence on the non-SA Australian personality than most of us realise.
The Slippery Slope
The last half of 1975 saw the slow collapse of the Whitlam regime. It also saw my Canberra career beginning to implode.
I had been badly defeated over NARA. The Vietnam Cables affair had left me seething. And I had been helpless in trying to counter the military and other hawks determined to embarrass Whitlam over Vietnam, even after the fall of Saigon.
Elsewhere the record had not been much better. My coal export tax proposal had been cruelly distorted by Treasury economic dogmatists (see the 1975 article). I could only watch on as Whitlam fell for badly mistaken advice from the ANU economic rationalist, Fred Gruen.
Gruen was calling for a 25 percent cut in all tariffs at a time when the Australian dollar was already grossly over-valued and manufacturers were already in deep trouble as a result.
Whitlam, never known for his grasp of economic affairs, took that advice. As a result, large slices of Australian manufacturing were to be wiped out. More were to be destroyed later as the rationalists took complete control of economic policy under Hawke and Keating.
Then when the economy was to be rescued by the collapse of the Australian dollar providing an across-the-board protectionism far worse than anything proposed by the anti-rationalists, the rationalists were to turn round and claim victory for their policies.
In many years watching the Australian inability to think and argue logically, to be swayed by the conventional wisdoms of the moment, I have yet to see a worse (better) example, with the possible exception of Vietnam.
Only later in Japan was I to see something comparable, and for much the same cultural reasons (more later).
A brief spell with the group handling Commonwealth-State relations and headed by Mike Codd, then also a PCU member, had also left me sidelined.
Codd had effectively derailed Whitlam’s ideas for stronger Commonwealth control over the States, by calling for never-ending conferences with State officials to discuss the subject.
I tried to warn Menadue of this delaying stratagem. But he was too busy, or not very interested, or something.
Codd ended up in Menadue’s job a few years later, thank largely to the contacts, prestige and experience he gained from those never-ending conferences.
East Timor – The Nail in the Coffin
There is a wonderful Petty cartoon of the accident-prone Jim Cairns, injured after plane crash in the middle of a deserted desert, being carried off in an ambulance, which then manages to crash into the only camel in sight.
Much the same happened to me at the end of 1975.
Just as I was recovering from the NARA, Vietnam Cables and other disasters, and thought things could not get worse, along came the East Timor issue. It was the final nail in my Canberra coffin.
Whitlam, had decided in his enthusiasm for Portugal’s decolonisation policies leading to independence for African nations, that something should also be done about East Timor. Even better, by handing the colony over to Indonesia he would also be gaining friends in Jakarta.
Two birds with one deadly stone.
This, despite the fact that East Timor already had an active independence movement. And a key aim of decolonisation was supposed to be moves to independence, not handing over territory for someone else to colonize.
But in East Timor the leading pro-independence group was the left-leaning Fretelin group.
Our hawks had decided they could not tolerate these people, that they were the thin edge of a communist wedge only a few miles to the north of Australia.
The Indonesian generals were very happy to agree with them.
In fact, Fretelin was no more than a photo-copy of what we had seen in so many other decolonisation situations. Faced with dyed-in-the-wool anti-decolonisation conservatives, the best and more intelligent of the independence-minded nationalists were invariably attracted to leftwing positions.
The big powers, including the colonisers, then used this leftwing bias as an excuse to prevent these people from gaining the independence they so deeply deserved and had fought for for so long.
Intervention, with tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions, killed or tortured to death, was the usual answer.
It was a story that had been repeated time and time again, all the way from Vietnam and Indonesia to the Congo, Angola, Algeria you name it. I had seen it at close range in Sarawak. And it was clearly going to happen again in East Timor.
The handover to Indonesia was also being strongly favored by the Washington hawks, including Kissinger.
These were the nice people who earlier, in 1965, had applauded the slaughter of 500,000 leftwing and pro-communist Indonesians.
They were happy to condemn the East Timorese progressives to the same fate.
Indeed, on a per head basis what happened in East Timor was far worse than what happened in 1965, or even in Vietnam.
There have been few worse atrocities in human history. That Australia should have been an active agent is more than disgusting.
Whitlam’s ambassador to Jakarta, Dick Woolcott, was also in favor of an Indonesian takeover. He saw it as sensible real politik.
Back in Canberra there was some debate. Menadue - as ever, the man of principle - was not entirely happy about the Woolcott/Whitlam position. He asked me to prepare a paper, which I did.
It urged that even if we could not prevent an Indonesian takeover, Canberra should do nothing to encourage it.
I heard nothing more, so I assume the paper was ignored. But in preparing it I had to check out the position of other departments.
Renouf in Foreign Affairs claimed to be neutral, but he did nothing to come out against the Whitlam/Woolcott position. The only strong voice against came from Bill Pritchett, then in charge of Defense.
Pritchett had come from Foreign Affairs and I had known him quite well in the late fifties. It was he who, when in charge of EA administration, had sent me to Point Cook to learn Chinese, and had later gone out of his way to help me in my move to Hongkong.
He believed strongly that Australia had to do something quickly to get some China expertise.
And while he could not be called a dove, he was very much a person of principle. This had led him to oppose even his own Defense hawks over East Timor.
He also knew quite a lot about Indonesia, including the propensity of its military hawks for murderous behavior.
But as it turned out, the hawks, and Woolcott, were to have their way. And Whitlam was to have his day as an arbiter of world events.
In a fateful meeting with Suharto in Townsville, he indicated strongly that Australia would not oppose the takeover.
The rest is history.
Apologists for Whitlam have since claimed he gave no green light to Indonesia, that he simply accepted the inevitable.
Well, in that case why did Canberra have to go out of its way later to try to help Jakarta side-track Latin American resolutions in the UN condemning the takeover and subsequent Indonesian brutality?
Why did Canberra do everything it could to muzzle refugees from East Timor arriving in Darwin?
The full record of these and other efforts by our hawks to help crush or weaken the incredibly brave East Timorese resistance to Indonesian occupation — guerrillas living underground for years on end, as in Vietnam — will probably never be told.
But the little I knew at the time was disgusting enough.
The Whitlam policy over East Timor ranks along with the support for the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia and rejection of Whitlam’s own NARA Treaty as crowning tributes to the stupidity of ALP attempts at foreign policy.
Allegedly leftwing governments seem to have some insatiable desire to prove to the world that deep down they can be just as tough and hard-boiled in foreign policy as their hawkish opponents.
The strange behaviors in recent years of allegedly progressive UK and German governments over the former Yugoslavia, and the UK government over Iraq, are testimony.
Would-be doves trying to pretend to be would-be hawks. Not a pretty picture.
That Whitlam’s mistaken East Timor policies had to be reversed by a rightwing LCP government with some twinges of conscience and commonsense says it all.
The Timor decision upset me badly. For me it was not just Vietnam happening all over again.
This time the actual decisions were being taken in front of my eyes.
And as with Vietnam, there was no point waiting till thousands had been killed before beginning to wring one’s hands in impotent indignation. One had to move early on, while there was still some chance of policy change.
I had been invited in late 1975 to give a public talk to Canberra University College students. I used the talk to criticise the government policy over East Timor.
I referred to a cable Woolcott had sent to Canberra urging compliance with Jakarta and which had already been leaked to the media.
It proved, better than anything else, the grubby real-politik that dominated so much Foreign Affairs thinking at the time.
The Canberra Times ran a large report of my talk to the students.
Renouf was furious and demanded that Menadue formally rebuke me for breaking the ban on public servants criticising government policy.
This, incidentally, was the same Renouf who earlier had gone public with the claim that he welcomed criticism of Australia’s foreign policies by concerned citizens, and who later slapped a defamation writ on the one journalist, Jonathan Gaul, who took him seriously and criticised him by name for his policies.
Renouf’s perverse excuse for the defamation suit was that his policy attitudes were dictated by the government of the day, not by himself. But in that case, why go public saying you welcome criticism?
Woolcott was infected with the same legalism. After the talk to the students, he sent me a letter threatening legal action because the Canberra Times had quoted me as saying he had attended the Townsville meeting where Whitlam had given the green light to Suharto.
He withdrew the threat only after I proved that the Times had misquoted me on this point. But his leaked cable had been far more indicative of his ugly complicity in the Timor atrocity than anything anyone could have said about him being in Townsville.
The Renouf Factor
Of all the mistakes made by Whitlam, and they were many, hiring Renouf to run his foreign policies was one of the worst. Whitlam’s vanity made him a horrible judge of human beings.
Renouf had been among the guiltiest of them all when, as number two in Washington earlier, he had gone out of his way to pressure the Americans into upgrading their Vietnam commitment.
He and the other hawks in Canberra had been terrified that the US might go soft on Asian Communism, and leave Australia exposed defenceless and naked to the China ‘threat.’
(We learned all this later with the mass leaking of FA documents of that period — Canberra’s belated equivalent to the Pentagon Papers.)
Then when Whitlam looked like becoming PM, Renouf about-faced and began writing smarmy articles praising the foreign policies of the former ALP leader, Dr Evatt.
That Whitlam could be taken in by this guile, and by Renouf’s bland, routine handling of recognition approaches to the Chinese in Paris in 1972-3, enough to want to see him as a progressive, and to appoint him as head of EA, says a lot about the shallowness of Whitlam’s judgments.
There was a strong similarity with Jimmy Carter’s appointment of that rabid anti-Soviet hawk, Zbignew Brzezinski, as National Security adviser.
Brzezinski had befriended Carter in his early days as Georgia governor, and had played up to his naivete and foreign affairs ignorance by having him made a member of Trilateral Commission.
Carter, who had never previously walked in high foreign policy places, was so impressed that when he came to power he felt he had to give Brzezinski a job.
The result was the almost complete destruction of the progressive foreign policies that Carter has worked to realise since he ceased being president.
It culminated in the pro-Shah Brzezinski persuading Carter to approve the foolish raid into Iran that put an end to Carter’s chances in the 1982 presidential election.
Renouf’s advice also put paid in much the same way to Whitlam having any chance to establish a sensible foreign policy.
I knew Renouf in his younger days when I had just joined EA. Then he had had a reputation as one of the Young Turks opposed to the excessive conservatism of the Menzies era.
But for three-faced duplicity – for him to move from Young Turkishness, to being to the right of Washington over Vietnam, and then to move back and pretend to have been a great fan of the ALP all along - well that takes some beating.
I was also a victim of his multi-faced attitudes.
Part of his efforts to curry favor with the Whitlamites back in 1973 was a promise to me during the Whitlam visit to Beijing that year, that he very much wanted people like me and Fitzgerald back in Canberra to help set Foreign Affairs on a new and more progressive policy track.
Needless to say, I never heard anything more from him once he was secure in his Canberra post.
Back in Canberra in 1974-5 I made a few tentative moves to open a relationship with my old Foreign Affairs alma mater, and even possibly to organise an eventual shift back to FA.
I still had a lingering emotion for my former alma mater. I did not want to be a journalist all my life. More importantly, it was only in FA that I could get to use the languages I had tried so hard to learn, and my foreign policy experience.
But by this early 1975 Renouf was already well-established. Soon after my arrival in Canberra he made it clear to Menadue that he regarded my appointment as a hostile move, and that he would not tolerate any contrary foreign affairs advice from me to the PM, or to the people around Whitlam.
Later Renouf was to justify FA’s notorious reluctance to train language speakers by pointing to the way the department had already lost the two Chinese speakers it had trained at great expense, Clark and Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile he was doing everything he could to neutralise both of us. He was making sure not only that I could not get back into Foreign Affairs, but also that I could not even be a source of foreign policy advice from PMC.
And Fitzgerald was to complain of his own policy initiatives to China being constantly derailed, and of Renouf making it clear that he would not be welcome back in FA once his Beijing appointment was over.
How devious can you get.
Out of Canberra
But by late 1975 none of this worried me too much.
I was sick of Canberra and was looking forward to getting back to Japan, even though I had few job prospects there.
Whitlam had been dismissed, and replaced by Malcolm Fraser. Menadue had made it clear that I would not have my one year policy advisor’s contract renewed.
I could stay on for an extra month or so, and that was it.
Menadue too realised he would not last long under an LCP regime. He too wanted to go to Japan, but as ambassador. He was making moves to get himself sent there as replacement for Shann.
I was recruited to help him establish his image as a Japan hand. This included having to rewrite some of his rather amateurish speeches on Japan’s role in world affairs.
Yasuko was also brought in, to teach Japanese to his eldest daughter, Susan, and to organise Japan-style dinner parties where Menadue would be the leading guest.
Eric Walsh was involved. He had got himself a nice contract as adviser to the Japanese embassy in Canberra. He also had a lucrative commission from the C.Itoh company, largely as a result of my personal involvement with Don Stewart and the Ranger uranium export project, in which C.Itoh was desperately interested.
(I had got to know and respect Stewart when I was with The Australian and he was running Hamersley Iron and. He had flown with me to the Pilbara so I could get some idea of what was happening there.)
(The experience was to help me greatly in understanding the scale and possibilities in Australia’s resource dealings with Japan.)
(Needless to say, CRA and Carnegie could not handle a man of his drive and independence, and he ended up organising Ranger for Peko Wallsend instead.)
Walsh had helped me a lot in the past. It was my turn to help him with the C.Itoh deal. He had also helped Menadue, who had probably helped him with the Japanese embassy deal.
Later Walsh was to get an urgent warning from Menadue not to use his name when passing on confidential information to the Japanese embassy.
It appears that in the DSD decyphering operation on coded messages from the Japanese embassy in Canberra, Menadue’s name was appearing much too often for comfort, often alongside Walsh’s name.
One little Canberra wheel had turned full circle.