BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST AND JAPANOLOGIST;
BETWEEN FOUR LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE
DEADLOCKED IN CANBERRA
1. Trying to Deal with the Canberra Hawks
2. Australian Rightwing Mentality
3. Arguing Vietnam: The China Factor
4. East Timor: My Canberra Swansong
Family and Friends
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 was 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.
I imagine the Japanese thought I was planted in the house next door to spy on them.
Long, lazy, late summer afternoons lying around on the back lawn of my large unkempt garden drinking wine with old friends – a good way to be reintroduced to Canberra life. A few old mates, Gerry Gutman especially - were helping me feel back at home.
I also 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.
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.).
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 favored 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 live 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 - in particular Mike Codd's bureaucratic delaying of the revision in Commonwealth-State relations that Whitlam had wanted (see the 1975 article).
As mentioned earlier, 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.
1. Dealing with the Canberra Hawks
I had returned to Canberra with one special hope , that I would finally see the down-grading of the military and bureaucracy hawks who had made life so miserable for us anti-Vietnam War people during the early days of the war.
Then, they had looked at us 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 US might lose?
Only communists and small children could believe that kind of nonsense.
Now with the US humiliated, with Saigon's armies in retreat, and with an ALP government in power, surely they would be busily covering their former hawkish tracks?.
I was about as wrong as it is possible to be.
If anything, the hawks were even stronger than before.
They were riding high and roughshod over anyone who tried to oppose them.
And this was under an allegedly progressive Whitlam administration.
In the background foreign policy briefing papers they churned out for the government they were still happily using their immaturely belligerent anti-communist clichés.
They still saw the Asia in Cold War terms
It was as if the mere fact of fighting a war in Vietnam had added to, not reduced, their power, no matter how wrong they had been all along.
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. Then he had been reasonably moderate.
But by the early 1970's he was the complete hawk. He had just returned from Washington and was clearly switched into the Pentagon grapevine.
Once in an argument over Vietnam his punch line had been: ‘ Well Greg I am here 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.'
'They (the North Vietnamese) will be on their knees in a week or two. The war will be over in another month or so.'
A few days later the Hanoi bombings did begin, though the war did not end the way the US or Campbell had imagined.
But he along with many other policy hawks were all rising stars in the military/intelligence/foreign affairs network under Whitlam and his allegedly progressive administration.
(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. )
Information as Power
The hawks have a magic weapon on their side - information monoply.
They have a lock on the information that administrations like to hear - details of plots, bombings, scandals, wars etc . This kinds of information do not normally come from progressive sources such as Unesco or Amnesty, for example.
It comes from the depths of the military/intelligence machine.
These people have their exclusive sources of information– wire taps, insider rumors, interrogations, dirty tricks being run by themselves, CIA, MI5, MI6 etc.
In particular they have had a complete lock on the extremely valuable information gained from the massive decoding operations that have been continuing ever since the war end.
Only now are some beginning to realize the scope of this exercise.
I saw it up close back in the fifties and early sixties when I was still regarded as a safe conservative External Affairs employee.
In secret rooms walls would be covered from roof to floor by scrols of decodings.
One assumes that today the technologies allow much more to be on display.
If the hawks are going to pass all this on to anyone it will be to birds of their own feather – fellow hawks in the bureaucracy.
Almost by definition, doves will be excluded from the information loop.
Soon the hawks have strong control over the policy making machine.
This I am sure is what happened under Whitlam. The people around him – Wilenski, Spiegleman, Mant etc – were genuine progressives.
I am sure that at first they would have wanted to want to hold their noses in any dealings with the hawks. But eventually they had no choice.
Secret information about Japanese plots over NARA?
US plans for Vietnam?
Activities at secret US bases in Australia?
Introductions to the rich and the powerful?
Who else but the hawks could answer such questions or provide the information?
Little wonder that most of the progressives I had known before had fallen by the wayside or shifted to positions of irrelevancy.
Ignore the Hawks?
During the Vietnam War years my stomach would turn whenever I had to drive past the large Russell Hill military complex, with its flag tower and buildings dominating Parliament House and the bureaucracy below on the other side of the Canberra lake.
It symbolized the crudity and arrogance of Australia’s nascent militarism.
The soldiers trying to destroy a small Asian country far to the north were rewarded with their prime location and buildings. The bureaucrats trying to run Australia were scattered in semi-shack conditions elsewhere.
But even with the war almost over, that militaristic blot still polluted the Canberra landscape. Its inhabitants were still making policies.
Even Menadue, for all his anti-war sentiments, had decided not to fight them.
Ignore them. Humor them. Let them play their militaristic 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 take the war-end chaos in Vietnam - refugees, orphans, boat people etc – and use it to score points against the Whitlam regime, as if it was the progressives, not the hawks, who had caused the chaos.
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.
The fact of the Whitlamites being forced to scurry around did not worry me as much as it should have.
With the fall of Saigon, Freudenberg - Whitlam'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 mentioned earlier, had shown no interest in solutions to the Vietnam War back in the sixties, who had gone along with the ‘aggressive China’ scenarios etc.. )
(His only argument against Australian intervention in Vietnam was a bizarre belief back in 1968 that the US had already won the war there and help from Australia was not needed.)
From PMC I had tried in April 1975 to put forward a humbler and more constructive draft – what Australia could do to help Vietnam get back on its feet.
But no one around Whitlam was interested. All they wanted to do was score points against the opposition.
The hawks were then able to put an end to any point-scoring with the wretched Vietnam Cables affair.
Overnight the gloaters and the boosters disappeared. I was left to carry defend Whitlam, alone.
Even in victory I had to suffer the bitterness of defeat.
2. Australian Rightwing Mentality
I have had to spend a lot of my life dealing with Australian hawks, hardliners and rightists.
It always puzzled me as to how and why they got to think the way they did?
They were not stupid people. Nor were they inherently evil. One could do normal business with most of them. Some were even quite likeable.
But when it came to Vietnam, and approaching other leftwing insurgencies, they were as criminally wrong and evil as the Nazi’s with their scorched earth policies in Russia.
What was it that sent them off in these cruel, irrational, and often self-defeating, directions? And why in the face of clear evidence contradicting their hawkish beliefs - in the case of Vietnam, the fact that it was a civil war rather than Chinese aggression; that most Vietnamese clearly favored the pro-communist side in that civil war and were prepared to fight for their cause with incredible skill and bravery - could they stay with those beliefs?
Puzzling about this one day in 1968 while wandering around Tokyo as a fairly penniless research scholar, I hit on the pachinko theory of international affairs.
Just as the balls entering the face of the pachinko machine hit a pin that pushes them to one side of the machine or the other, so we humans at some early stage of our existence hit something that pushes us to one side , to the Left or Right.
It is all quite arbitrary, as with that pachinko ball.
But like that pachinko ball, once we have bounced to one side, we stay with that side. Even when we hit pins further down we are not deflected to the other side. Our ideological future is decided.
With most Australians, Queenslanders especially, the conservative bias is fixed early in life. Most just stay that way, regardless of evidence or influences to the contrary.
Another factor common to most Australians is the inability to project, to want to understand what is happening on the ground in foreign conflicts thousands of miles away, to appreciate the views and the sufferings of the other side.
It is the flip side of the very attractive in-group (mateship) ethic, which also has strong parallels with what we see in Japan.
The more you concentrate on in-group relations the less you are aware or want to be aware of what is happening outside.
Morality tends to become very blunted and tattered in this situation.
It was Pascal who said that the test of true morality was the man who when presented with a button which if pressed would send large numbers of nameless Chinese to death, but he himself would prosper.
Few Australians seemed to worry about the nameless Vietnamese sent to their deaths in their name.
Over Vietnam they were quite unmoved by the cruelties - the B 52 and napalm bombings, the free fire zones, the so-called strategic hamlets, the defoliation sprayings etc .
They were quite unable to expand their thinking to realise that the people on the other side were also humans with sincerely felt views and motives.
The crass raucousness of the pro-Vietnam War faction in Australia and its contempt for the ‘bleeding hearts’ who tried to point out the cruelty, if not the immorality, of that war is something I will not forget easily.
It were reflected a deep moral and intellectual weakness in the Australian mentality.
True, even in those turbulent days hawks and rightists were still very much a minority in Australia.
The vast majority of opinion qualified as mid-road, neither excessively to the left or the right.
But even here Australia was unusual. In most countries when a conflict like Vietnam arises the mid-roaders begin to study the issues and take positions, for or against.
Not so in Australia. Most were bored or distracted by the issue. Few seemed keen to take a position.
And as with the hawks, the fact that the fighting was taking place in a dark, small, unknown country like Vietnam made them want to push it even further from their minds.
Few were even aware of the Geneva agreements of 1954 promising reunification elections, and the way those agreements had been flouted.
A key factor pushing Australia into Vietnam had been precisely these wishy-washy attitudes.
The hawks could not have done it alone.
IN an article I wrote for the February 1974 issue of Meanjin, one of the very few journals of progressive intellectual opinion in those days, I tried hard to look at this issue (see website – Between Two Worlds:The Radicalisation of a Conservative):
‘As our best and brightest (in Foreign Affairs in 1965 which in those days was still far from being hawkish) saw things, only a fool would want to doubt US aims in Vietnam. The closest I got to sympathy was in a farewell talk with the then head of thee department’s administration.’
‘ He was far enough to the left to have identified with the dozen or so EA men who had opposed Australian support for the British over Suez, but he could not understand why anyone would want to resign over Vietnam.’
‘As he put it to me tactfully: ‘Greg, some of us thought of resigning in 1956 over Suez. But surely you agree that would have been a mistake, and that we have been far more effective working to change things from the inside.’’
In the article I go on to say that the analogy was not very good.
‘The concerned Western liberal who could understand and oppose the immorality of the Suez intervention had not even begun to understand the far greater immorality of Vietnam.’
‘Working from the inside..had for me meant watching helplessly while intelligent men wallowed in the anti-China hysterias that had already led directly to Vietnam.’
4. Larrikin Irresponsibility
On top of all this we have yet another Australian quirk: the seeming inability to feel any guilt or sense of responsibility even when the ignorance, the brutality and the mistakes over Vietnam have been exposed.
It is also yet another parallel between Japanese and Australian attitudes.
Elsewhere in the West, those who saw their dogmatic anti-communist arguments proved wrong in Vietnam sometimes later had the honesty or conscience to admit it. Robert McNamara is the name that comes first to mind.
There had been at least some semblance of a principled debate.
But not in Australia.
The one mild exception was South Australia with I visited several times during the Vietnam War years.
There the anti-war movement seemed to have genuine intellectual foundations.
Anti-war sentiment existed elsewhere in Australia, of course. But much of it was for leftwing politicial, anti-US, anti-Canberra reasons.
In Adelaide one could find people who studied the facts of the war and tried to reach considered opinions. Opposition to the war was not purely a political statement.
Even those who favored the war gave reasoned arguments.
That may have had something to do with South Australia's non-convict origins.
The convict heritage in the rest of Australia, NSW especially, may have helped create the mateship, the distrust of authority and the many other attractive aspects of the Australian personality. But it also created a very unattractive larrikin-like lack of moral responsibility.
‘To hell with Vietnam. It’s all history now. W have more important things to worry about – football, beer, shielas etc.’
Even little isolated New Zealand did better than big Australia when it came to showing some sense of conscience over Vietnam and some attempt at a principled debate.
In Australia the war-end was met largely with silence, broken only by the static from the rightwing ideologues seeking to rationalize the impossible.
3. Vietnam and the China Analogy
True, I myself had had little direct experience with Vietnam, apart from being in the last bus to cross the Mekong Delta back in 1959.
So how could I get it right in 1965 when our ‘best and brightest’ were not only wrong but completely confident in their wrongness?
Helping me greatly was the close analogy with what I had seen in China just two decades earlier.
Give the Asian people –Confucian Asian people especially since they have a strong sense of morality and fairness - a choice between a revolutionary force willing to fight and die for its ideals, and an inefficient, corrupt government dependent on blind, unthinking US support, and automatically you create a situation where even the moderates have little choice but to support the anti-government side.
The best and the bravest end up on their side, not ours .
Meanwhile our best and brightest were approving the killing of these people, having no idea who they were and why they thought what they thought.
All they knew was that they were fighting a sinister enemy up there in the Vietnamese jungles, supported by an evil empire called China.
Perhaps my worst and loneliest moment was the 1967 Australian Institute of Political Science conference in Canberra devoted to the topic of ‘Communism in Asia – A Threat to Australia?’
There, standing in front of an audience of close to one thousand of Canberra's best and brightest I was made to realize that not one of my arguments against the Vietnam war and the myth of Chinese aggressiveness had made any impression whasoever.
It was I alone versus the confident, highly-placed, ‘we know best,’ (but in the result totally wrong) brains of the Australian international affairs elite
(That peripatetic, anti-communist US academic and darling of the US State Department, Scalapino, was also there, as a special guest).
No one on the left or progressive camp was willing to try to stand up to these alleged intellectual heavyweights.
I often wonder what goes on in the minds of these people today if and when they think about Vietnam. How do they rationalise their support for the former brutal intervention, and the lies that were used to justify it?
Cast back a memory to the nonsense written those days about Hanoi ‘aggression’ and Beijing’s allegedly evil ambitions to take over Southeast Asia. Today, it all reads like medieval tracts proving the sun goes around the earth.
The only difference, of course, is that this dogmatic nonsense was written only a few decades ago, and by people fully able to inform themselves, if they had wanted to.
4. East Timor: My Canberra Swansong
The last half of 1975 saw the slow collapse of the Whitlam regime.
My Canberra career was headed the same way.
I had been badly defeated over NARA. The Vietnam Cables affair had left me with my legs cut off. I had got nowhere in efforts to open a door to Hanoi.
On economic policy I had been equally unsuccessful
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 heavily 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.
(For all its faults, planned protectionism, World War Two and the blessing of distance from the largescale manufacturing complexes of the West had allowed Australia to build a remarkably efficient manufacturing base by the 1960’s.)
(It was even able to make heavy equipment in competition with Britain and the US.)
(Even without tariff protection, much could have survived. But little could survive the double blow from an over-valued currency plus tariff reduction.)
(The Gruen, Hawke and Keating policies were a monument to yet another of Australia’s liking for simplistic dogma, this time in economics. More on that 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 power, by calling for never-ending conferences with State officials to discuss the subject.
I tried to warn Menadue of this stratagem. But he was too busy, or not very interested, or something.
Codd ended up in Menadue's job a few years later.
Then just as I felt things could not get worse, along came the East Timor atrocity.
The Australian newspaper back in its attractively progressive days used to carry much of the work of Bruce Petty, a brilliant cartoonist with a political conscience.
One of his best cartoons was a late 1975 effort showing Jim Cairns being carried away in an ambulance from a plane crash in the middle of the desert. The crash was supposed to represent the chaos of the Morosi affair, as I recall.
As the ambulance moves across the empty desert landscape it runs into the only obstacle in sight, a stray camel supposed to represent the Khemlani affair.
The already injured and clearly accident-prone Cairns falls out of the back of the ambulance.
I had to feel some empathy. For having been badly injured in the Vietnam Cables disaster, I was soon to run into a totally unrelated affair - East Timor.
I too was accident prone.
And I did not even have an ambulance to carry me.
Whitlam had decided that his enthusiasm for breaking up Portugal's colonial empire, which had begun in Africa, should extend to East Timor.
But rather than allow the Timorese to decide their own fate, he decided Australia should go along with Indonesia’s hungry demands for the territory.
That way we would hit the colonial villains in Lisbon while improving relations with Jakarta.
Two birds with one deadly stone.
This, despite the fact that East Timor already had an active independence movement - Fretelin. And the aim of decolonisation was supposed to be moves to independence, not the handing over territory for someone else to re-colonize.
A key factor in this horribly mistaken decision was Canberra’s military hawks deciding they could not tolerate the mildly leftwing Fretelin taking power in East Timor.
They saw these people as the thin edge of a dangerous 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 repeat of what we had seen in so many other decolonisation situations earlier. Faced with a rightwing colonial regime, the best and more intelligent of the nationalists were invariably attracted to leftwing positions.
The big powers, including the colonisers, then used this leftwing bias as an excuse to prevent those opposed to the colonial regimes from gaining the power they so richly deserved and for which they had often struggled for decades.
Intervention, with tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions, killed or tortured to death, was the usual answer.
It had been that way time and time again, all the way from Vietnam and Indonesia to the Congo and Algeria. And it was clearly going to happen again in East Timor.
Even more culpably suspicious was the enthusiasm for the Indonesian takeover coming out of Washington, Kissinger especially, was
The US earlier, in 1965, had been mainly responsible for inciting and orchestrating the slaughter of 500,000 leftwing and pro-communist Indonesians, not to mention the killing that followed the orchestrated overthrow of the Allende regime in Chile, the slaughter in Indochina and the dreadful chaos and killing in the several African and Latin American nations where the US had chosen to intervene.
Now they wanted to condemn the East Timorese to the same fate.
Indeed, on a per head basis what was to happen in East Timor was far worse than what happened in Indonesia in 1965, or even in Vietnam.
There have been few worse atrocities in human history. And it was all highly predictable.
But in Canberra, unlike Washington, there had at least been some debate.
Whitlam's ambassador to Jakarta, Dick Woolcott, was in favor of an Indonesian takeover. He saw it as sensible real politik.
With Foreign Affairs urging, Whiltam had agreed.
But Menadue was not entirely happy about the Woolcott/Whitlam position. He asked me to prepare a paper, which I did, urging that Canberra do nothing to encourage Jakarta even if it could not directly prevent an Indonesian takeover.
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 in fact he went along with the Woolcott line. The only strong voice against the handover to Indonesia 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.
From a previous posting to Jakarta, 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 in world politics.
In a fateful meeting with Suharto in Townsville in February 1975, he had indicated strongly that Australia would not oppose the takeover.
The rest is history, very ugly history.
Apologists for Whitlam have since claimed he gave no green light to Indonesia, that he simply accepted the inevitable.
Oh yes? Well, in that case why did Canberra have to go out of its way later to try to help Jakarta side-track Portuguese and Latin American resolutions in the UN condemning the takeover and Indonesian brutality?
(The idea that even the Latins were more aware and conscience stricken over East Timor than us Australians clearly has yet to impinge greatly on the Australian conscience, even today.)
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 weakness of ALP attempts at foreign policy.
That the 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 more than Vietnam deja vu; the decisions were actually being taken in front of my own 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 do something, and quickly, while there was still some chance of policy change.
My efforts within the bureaucracy had got nowhere. Perhaps I could do something outside.
I had been invited in late 1975 to give a talk to Canberra University College students. I used the talk to criticise the government policy over East Timor.
I was able to refer to a cable Woolcott had sent to Canberra urging compliance with Jakarta and which had already been leaked to the media by some voice of conscience in Foreign Affairs.
It proved, better than anything I could say, the grubby real-politik that dominated so much Foreign Affairs thinking at the time.
The Canberra Times ran a 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 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 did far more to reveal his ugly complicity in the Timor atrocity than anything anyone could have said about him being in Townsville.
(Woolcott was, and remains, a bipolar personality.)
(I had known him quite well in Canberra. Like many others I had appreciated his outgoing personality and had got on quite well with him. We shared a common interest in Soviet affairs and the Russian language.)
(Over Vietnam he lent ears to what I had to say. But when it came to yes or no, he began pushing the insurance-policy argument, popular at the time.)
(This said that while it was possible to argue the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War, China remained the great unknown. We could not afford to take that risk of it using a Hanoi victory to become even more aggressive . Therefore we had no choice but to join with the US and intervene in Vietnam as a form of insurance policy.)
The Renouf Factor
Renouf’s position was crucial. With Menadue and Pritchett having doubts, he clearly held the balance of power so to speak with Whitlam.
He may have pretended to be neutral on the issue. But the violence of his reaction to my Canberra speech showed what he really felt.
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 bad 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 ﾔ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 articles praising the former ALP leader, Dr Evatt. The Whitlamites were impressed.
The Whitlamites also claimed to be impressed by his handling of recognition approaches to the Chinese in Paris in 1972-3. But there he was simply doing his bland job as ambassador. He did nothing to improve or hasten terms of recognition.
That Whitlam could be taken in by all this to want to see him as a progressive, and to appoint him as head of Foreign Affairs says a lot about the shallowness of Whitlam's judgments, at least in foreign affairs.
I knew Renouf in his younger days, back in the fifties, when I had just joined EA. Then he had had a reputation as one of the Young Turks opposed to the Suez expedition, West New Guinea policy and to the excessive conservatism of the Menzies era in general.
But to move from that 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, and then to promote hawkish policies as Foreign Affairs head…. that takes some beating.
It also says a lot about the way Australian values do not seem to worry too much about ideological inconsistency.
I was also to be a victim of his two-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 in November of that year.
He took me aside to say 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 got back to Canberra.
Back in Canberra myself a little more than a year later 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 did not think that I would be staying on in PMC for ever, and I was not sure if I would be going back to Japan.
In particular, I wanted to get back to using the Chinese and Russian I had learned with such pain.
But by this time Renouf was already well-established. My approaches got nowhere.
Indeed, 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 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 make sure that I could not get back into Foreign Affairs. And Fitzgerald was to complain of his own policy initiatives over China being constantly derailed.
How devious can you get.
Out of Canberra
But by late 1975 none of this worried me too much.
I was already 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 too. He had got himself a nice contract as adviser to the Japanese embassy in Canberra.
He also had a lucrative commission the C.Itoh company, via some C.Itoh people I had known in Tokyo, largely as a result of my knowing Don Stewart and therefore about the possible export of uranium from Ranger, in which C.Itoh was desperately interested.
(As mentioned earlier I had got to know and respect Stewart when he was running Hamersley Iron and I was with The Australian. He had flown with me to the Pilbara so I could get some idea of what was happening there.)
(He had ended up organising the Ranger project for Peko Wallsend.)
Walsh had helped me a lot in the past. It was my turn to help him with the C.Itoh deal. Menadue 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.
More wheels within wheels, all within Canberra’s rightly constricted circles.