Donald Trump is yet to appoint a top representative to Australia, and won’t be making that proposed visit in November, but perhaps we’re getting the next best thing: the US President’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Rumours that Bannon may visit Australia began in July this year, shortly after the rumours that Trump was planning an official visit. Last night on 4 Corners, Bannon went a step further, promising not only to come to Australia, but bring his brand of cutthroat “populist nationalist revolt” with him.
“I absolutely see Australia is going to be a hotbed of populism just knowing the cussedness and grit of the Australian people,” Bannon told Sarah Ferguson. “Remember, one thing about populism it’s about getting decision making away from a set of kind of global elites. The Goldman Sachs of the world, the party at Davos,and get it back to working-class people.”
Think Brexit, which was aided not just by a complacent civil service, but Cambridge Analytica and Bannon’s Breitbart outlet. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls, he says — it’s those strategies that has also seen him barred from the New Yorker.
“They’re inextricably linked,” Bannon says of Brexit and Trump populist movements that he wants to bring to Australia. “And what links ’em … people didn’t, I think, put together that that’s what we started covering and setting up an operation in England many years ago, because we saw… really, it was China.
“I think what you saw is the de-industrialisation of Western Europe and the de-industrialisation of the United States, and you could see what drove Brexit, what surprised all the pundits, the geniuses, was the Labour vote. It was the Midlands Labour vote that voted for Brexit.
“You know, Boris Johnson and those guys kind of ran… They were the official Leave party and they ran that, ‘Hey, Brussels has too much control. They control our courts.’
“A very intellectual argument I agree with, but it wasn’t the emotional argument of the immigration argument that Nigel Farage:
“Nigel Farage said, ‘Hey, because of the immigration policies we have, jobs…your jobs are going to be replaced by lower-cost labour that can come into the country, and we’ve exported all the high value-added manufacturing jobs out of here.’ Kind of the same argument. On the same… Different in degree but not in kind of the argument we made several months later in the United States and won on that. I think it’s a winning argument. That’s what you’re seeing in Europe right now.”
The movement isn’t racist, and does include progressive-leaning people, Bannon insists. “There’s a lot of anger out there that can be harnessed.”
Why the focus on China?
Bannon is fond of describing Australia as the canary in the mineshaft. And China, he says,
e send very few finished manufacturing goods, right? and no high value-added. We essentially send natural resources, agricultural products, you know, copper and tin which is extracted from the earth. And all Donald Trump is saying is that that’s not the natural law of physics. That was human action, human agency that did that. Wall Street in our country were the guys that shipped those jobs over there. And what Donald Trump is saying is to have a vibrant, robust economy you have to make things, you have to make high value-added things.”
Shouldn’t Australia take advantage of deals available through Belt and Road, poses Ferguson? Not if we value our sovereignty, according to Bannon.
“Look, I’m a hawk. I’m a hawk on China because, eventually, I believe that this regime is not confronted… If this regime is not confronted, bad things are going to happen. And I think they have to be confronted now. I think they absolutely have to be confronted now. I think Turnbull has been way too much of an appeaser. And I think that’s not going to turn out well.”
Australia and the US both advocate for a rules-based global order, but China doesn’t play by the rules. Bannon says that’ll be our downfall.
“You have a much more robust debate in Australia than we’re having here in the United States. In the United States, we’re just starting that. And that’s why I keep pointing to Australia. I say, ‘Look, these guys played by the rules. Look at the situation they are in today.’
“And many of the people who were comfortable with that are not comfortable today. And here’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t really deal with political ideology.
“You have many progressives down there who are saying, ‘Hey, we’re quite upset about this.’ So I think it’s going to…it’s going to play out very interestingly. And I think Australia is at the tip of the spear of this.”