After a stoush with Jonathan Holmes on Twitter last night after Media Watch accused Fairfax of hoarding diplomatic cables for commercial purposes, WikiLeaks promised overnight to make public all available Australian cables. And just after 11.30am AEST, after an abortive released of all the Viennese cables, it released the remaining Australian cables. Here are some highlights so far, which will be updated as we go through them:

  • In 2005, Australian diplomats, in particular Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office (ASNO) Director General John Carlson, discussed with US officials ways to prevent Mohamed ElBaradei’s re-election at the International Atomic Energy Agency, complaining about ElBaradei’s management style and handling of Iran.
  • In 2005, then-foreign minister Alexander Downer joked with US General Leon LaPorte, Commander of the UN Command in Korea ,about “letting North Korea go to shit”, the problems with New Zealand’s “bleeding hearts” and talked about a pre-emptive strike against North Korea’s artillery positions threatening Seoul.
  • At the launch of WorkChoices, Howard government ministers privately worried that the benefits of WorkChoices wouldn’t become obvious to voters before 2007 election.
  • In a bizarre cable, US diplomats were convinced that even moderate Australian Muslims were inclined to engage in terrorism, in the aftermath of the London bombings.
  • In a 2006 meeting with Federal Liberal Director Brian Loughnane, US diplomats were told John Howard was well-placed to win the 2007 election if the Australian economy stayed strong. In a significant revelation of Loughnane’s partisan mindset, he “noted that the close ties between President Bush and Howard where reflected in the similarly strong ties between the Australian Liberal and US Republican parties”.
  • Then-opposition leader Kim Beazley told US diplomats on returning the leadership: “David Hicks was a ratbag who had almost certainly been up to nefarious things, and should probably spend a long time in jail, Beazley said. Still, he predicted most Australians would never accept his conviction by a military commission, even if the Administration manages to structure one acceptable to the Supreme Court. Unless he can be tried by a civil court or by a fully constituted court marshal, it would be better, Beazley argued, to let him go.”
  • ANU academic Professor John Wanna correctly predicted to diplomats late in 2007, after Kevin Rudd had become Prime Minister, that Rudd “will retain his centralist, workaholic tendencies, operating through a few chosen advisors.”
  • Head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Major General Maurie McNarn, and Deputy Michael Shoebridge met with diplomats in 2008 and noted in relation to cybersecurity, “that the Australian intelligence community was “hard pressed” to understand the full extent of the threat, let alone serve in a position to lead the coordination of any interagency mitigation efforts. McNarn said the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) had “the lead” for Australia in tackling the issue but was more focused on traditional intelligence collection/counterintelligence themes, and that Australian intelligence would need to stay engaged with its US counterparts to share lessons learned in the cyber arena.”
  • The US State Department hoped that successful litigation against iiNet by major Hollywood studios over filesharing would “would have established an international precedent that could have forced ISPs to tightly police the activities of their customers” (and, incidentally, they thought the NBN would encourage filesharing.
  • In November 2009, diplomats predicted the strong Australian dollar would “support a restructuring of the Australian economy, resulting in a substantially smaller traditional manufacturing sector and an expanded resources and energy sector. This may put political pressure on Prime Minister Rudd, who pledged the day he became ALP leader: “I don’t want to be Prime Minister of a country that doesn’t make things anymore.”
  • US businesses operating in Australia expressed mixed views about the CPRS, with concerns focusing on uncertainty.

More to come … See also Luke Miller’s Crikey piece on the Bill Shorten cable

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey