16 March 2023
The Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon. Mr A Albanese
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing out of a mixture of deep concern, sadness, and disappointment.
I am a Life Member of the Australian Labor Party Victorian Branch (Member #7412) and was also one of the longest-serving Presidents of the Victorian Branch Multicultural Affairs Policy Committee. My parents were founding members (1951) of the Australia-China Friendship Society (ACFS), and I have served as President for the past six years. I am also the Secretary-General of the Pacific-China Friendship Association (PCFA), where I interact weekly with many from 16 Pacific Island nations.
It was with high hopes that I heard of Senator Wong’s appointment as Foreign Minister. As a Chinese, I was heartened that at the highest level, Australia was being represented by an Asian so clear minded and forthright. I had faith that the sabre-rattling and combative language would cease.
With the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment during COVID, the despicable behaviour reminded me of the dark days of the Cold War: threats, public abuse, and almost comical avoidance of me in the street. And now we see a three-day war-fest of China bashing and fear-mongering, in publications considered to be newspapers of record, the Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s “Red Alert” series.
Prime Minister, I am not asking you to tackle members of the Fourth Estate. My request goes to the heart of truth, impartiality, and evidence, not speculation and partisan rhetoric.
Analysing the backgrounds of all who have commented for these articles, they have links to ASPI or similarly-biased think tanks which are far from neutral. That all five come from the same side is disappointing in terms of transparency and range of opinion.
This is a time for de-escalation and rational discussion, not blind allegiance and bombastic declarations of nationalism and overblown perils. In the cacophony of opinion, there are many respected commentators who argue for a more nuanced and sophisticated policy, such as Keating,
Menadue and (Hugh)White. For the sake of our independence and the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region, we cannot afford inflammatory language and a confrontational approach which was the hallmark of the previous Australian Government.
This goes to Labor’s heart. My mentor was Dr Jim Cairns, a contemporary and friend of my parents at Melbourne University. He and another of my mentors, Tom Uren, did not tolerate injustice, hatred, and bigotry. Permitting commentary by those enmeshed in the parochial field of American politics to run unchallenged, shrieks danger and paranoia. This is not the Australia in which I wish to live, and I truly believe it is not the Australia of which you dream.
Labor is different. Labor is thoughtful and Labor has always stood for peaceful coexistence. Now we must show leadership as we have in other areas and flourish alongside nations rather than preparing for some confected war. I and most Chinese in Australia look to you to salve the wounds and begin the national healing by stopping the words of aggression. Yours in friendship
Anthony M Leong.