Menu lock


Dec 15, 2017

Rundle: Chinese influence is hardly the biggest threat to our democracy

Foreign capital is not the problem; the structure of our politics is, a semi-democratic system at best, cloaked by a detached parliamentary system.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


All of them, as well as my good self, spent every waking moment of those days trying to think of a way of saving Sam.

Thus speaketh Richo in the Oz, on the occasion of Dasher’s demise — a reminder, once again, that you don’t always want the Sage of the Inn of Celestial Happiness BYO coming to your public defence. Richo reels off a list of the New South Wales Labor Right great and good rushing to Sam’s side during these fraught days, reminding us afresh the degree to which Dastyari was a beneficiary of the very process he denounced years ago: the control of the ALP by tight cabals, often family-interconnected. In Dastyari’s corner, Richardson reminds us, was “Peter Barron” his father-in-law and a player in the Wran and Hawke governments.

Well, that truly is heartwarming. Sorry, heartworm. It’s a reminder afresh of the contempt in which such powerbrokers hold the wider party, and the people who trudge along to vote for it, year on year — that the operation of such groups can be cheerfully attested to. Supreme irony of ironies: for decades, the NSW Right has been plotting in Chinese restaurants, simply because their Sussex Street offices are in Sydney Chinatown. In those days, the faction was so aligned to America that its members were on a drawstring attached to the US embassy, to be yoinked in every time the Left got a critical motion through conference, or a big strike threatened US corporate interests. Now, the whole party, and large sections of our politics, appear to have become Richo’s Chinese Restaurant.

The full nature of Dastyari’s entanglements remain a mystery, and one is not really convinced by the explanation of that, good ol’ Dasher, he loves to plot, etc, etc. Doubtless true, but a lot of it feels like an extension of the charm offensive Dastyari embarked upon when he was first pinged for having his travel bills paid, and he became Shanghai Sam, the grinning, mugging, HSP-loving, fun-loving good son. Dastyari shamelessly channeled a certain type of “wog” stereotype then, all the way out of the ’70s — the same schtick that colourfully dressed Al Grassby played in that period while he ran interference for Italian-descended organised crime: “what’s-a-matter? Us? We’re just a fun-loving people, we’re harmless, donna you worry ’bout it!”

The meeja, including the ABC, was happy to lap this up. Meanwhile, Dastyari’s willingness to attend to quite minor matters of Chinese government policy, which has undone him, is remarkable. This is a measure of someone’s paranoia. Not necessarily Beijing’s — but stunts like trying to stop a fellow Labor figure talking to a dissident certainly reflect Beijing’s commitment to a return to more totalitarian politics, and the absolute evisceration of any dissident discourse at an international level.

With Dastyari, there was was so much petty finagling and influence-peddling that there was no chance to get an old Cold War theme in (despite the Manchurian candidate labels): that the son of Iranian-Marxist revolutionaries had been under deep cover in the NSW Right for years, ready to serve the bidding of Communist global command, by using parliament to discredit US-based corporations on tax, and Australian banks tied to Anglo-American capital. For the record, I am not making this accusation. It’s absurd. I’m just surprised that no one has made it in parliament, under privilege. A measure of the new political illiteracy, I guess.

With regards to political interference in Australia, it should be possible to walk and chow mein at the same time. Yes, organised Chinese influence should be a concern, as state and corporations are so integrated. But it can’t be allowed to obscure the boring and unremarkable continuing influence of US capital, through donations and the web of influence-peddling think tanks that surround them. And, of course, the distorting influence of Australian capital on Australian politics — something that is being deliberately obscured by the fear of foreign influence, relying on the idea that there is a single national interest (a fiction, outside of times of crisis, which we are not in).

Foreign capital is not the problem; the structure of our politics is, a semi-democratic system at best, cloaked by a parliamentary system whose progressive features allow us to turn a blind eye to its near-total separation from daily life, scrutiny, and responsiveness. The section 44 fiasco and Dastyari’s fall have together made that visible. But it seem even these portents from heaven will not get us out of Richo’s Chinese Restaurant.


Leave a comment

17 thoughts on “Rundle: Chinese influence is hardly the biggest threat to our democracy

  1. Aussie4real

    It truly bothers me that there is so much politicking going on within the major parties, between the different factions and the power brokers that democracy is basically forgotten about and the general public sit in the stalls confused and misinformed. We need a breath of fresh air throughout and an inspirational ( don’t laugh) leader on both sides that can press the refresh button and bring the Australian people back into the discussions!!

    1. GF50

      Thanks Guy, I am with you, shine a light on the sorry state of the remnants of Australian Democracy. ” Richo,s Chinese Restaurant”!! If any one has deserved removal from the Labor Party he is THE one! For all the disservice to ALP and the Australian public at large, for self- aggrandisement and enrichment.
      The public/ ALP(generally) think Eddie Obeid, the cross party corrupter, was/is a grub! A little history lesson is in order.
      Richo is still touted as a spokesperson for Labor by the MSM. Not now not, ever in my ledger. Not surprising Dasty came undone and became such an easy mark for the LNPCoalition MSM, when under Richo influence/tuition This of course does not explain the lack of cognitive function within the ALP, although it is almost impossible to get cut-through in our appalling ABC/MSM and the allowance by lack of reporting for the LNP to use Australian Govt Agencies as their personal dirt file collectors/compilers/look over there distractions.

  2. AR

    The still zinging in my eyes “it should be possible to walk and chow mein at the same time” – I guess that’s why grundle gets the big buck$.
    British capital once exerted its baleful influence on our politics for generations and then the Hegemon ..err, hegemonised, as hegemons are wont to do.
    As long as world trade is denoted in U$ dollars, when China will soon be the largest economy in the world, that won’t create any friction.

  3. zut alors

    The media aura & gravitas afforded to Richo has always been a mystery to me, I often feel like the only person on the continent who fails to grasp it.

    The party infighting (in all political camps) is now beyond tiresome, no wonder the public rate MPs as either semi-useless or as grubs.

    1. Lee Tinson

      You aren’t the only one.

  4. klewso

    Our body politick is too much like that of a faded addicted harlot – too easily bought/sold.

  5. rhwombat

    You can get anything you want, at Richardson’s Restaurant…(with apologies to Arlo and the Huntingdon’s Association).

    1. AR

      Dirty Deeds done Dirt Cheap.

      1. zut alors

        The song could’ve been dedicated to him but the timing is off.

  6. (the other) HR Nicholls

    Richo: a more deserving candidate to be ravaged by cancer you will not find, considering he’s had the same effect on the body politic in this country for years.

    1. GF50

      Thanks for voicing my thoughts in that regard. I would just like to suggest the time frame of his malignancy on the body politic is closer to 5 decades than years.

  7. Woopwoop

    No fan of Richo, no fan of grovelling to the US.
    But at last they (in theory anyway) uphold the principle of free speech, and don’t try to shut down opposition the way the Chinese do.

  8. Moving to Paraguay

    Yes Guy. Scandals we don’t hear. MP overheard promoting closer ties with the US. Australian University takes money to establish centre promoting US culture? ALP leaders are obsessed in the US Civil War. A nation binges on US fantasies. All the way…

  9. Richard

    Again, all this talk about China and the implications that the Yellow Peril Is raising its head again and again, no mention of that lobby that takes pretty much every one of our public servants to see how easy it is to warehouse people out of sight, if all you have to do is get them to accept that it is for the (imagined) global good. I speak of course of the lobby of gods only from the ME that we are moderated for mentioning … Ssshhhhhhh..

  10. Richard

    I see comments about Israel and Zionist influence are being edited out.
    So much for alt media.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.