The US Lobby and
Australian Defence Policy
Monash University Publishing 2019
Paperback 156pp RRP $39.95
Reviewer: Bruce Brown, September 2019
The importance of Australia’s alliance with the United States has for decades dominated discussion of Australian Defence Policy. The ANZUS Treaty was signed in 1951 and Harold Holt’s famous quote of ‘All the Way with LBJ’ at the White House in 1966 symbolised the unquestioning attachment to the US which underpinned Australian strategic planning at that time.
But the Cold War environment in which the Treaty was signed has long gone and the national interests of the three signatories, Australia, New Zealand and the US, have become far more complex. Indeed, as early as 2000 former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser challenged the relevance of ANZUS in the modern geo-political and security environment. Yet the attachment by Australia to the US alliance has endured. The alliance, it is argued, delivers privileged access to leaders in Washington, intelligence, military hardware and ultimately the defence of Australia. Why then has this been the case?
In a well-documented and most engaging volume, Professor Vince Scappatura explores the assumptions which underpinned the original treaty, the reinterpretation of national interests in more recent times and in an intriguing section examines the development and role of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue (AALD) to which Scappatura attributes significant influence in sustaining the original orthodoxy of the alliance.
Scappatura identifies Australian businessman Phillip Scanlan ‘As the driving force behind the AALD …. steadfast in his belief that “alliances with depth are driven by common and shared values”, and it is those “values which today are the glue that binds the US and Australia as strongly as ever.’
Scanlan had met President George HW Bush in 1991 and proposed what became the AALD in 1993. As a private lobby group its role was to create better relations between Australia and the US, supporting peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region as well as international trade management. The AALD is bipartisan and includes members drawn from business, government, media and academia. The group has an annual forum over two or three days in Washington and Australian cities. He points to the influence which AALD appears to have had on the attitude to the US alliance of former prime minister Julia Gillard.
Scappatura argues that the American objective is to ensure that Australia’s national security elite and corporate leaders will seek to maintain an international global economic environment favourable to Western economic interests. He concludes that because the AALD ‘exists solely to sustain the alliance orthodoxy’ and is a watchdog for compliance it has not served Australian interests well.
At a time when there is discussion about the use of ‘soft power’ by China to increase its influence in the Asia-Pacific region, Scappatura has provided a valuable and accessible insight into the way a pro-US lobby group has sought to influence Australian defence and foreign policy development. It will appeal to both an academic and general readership.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this book available for review.