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Why did Australia refuse to send a single ship to the Red Sea?

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 8 January 2024

News the U.S. Navy killed 10 Houthi pirates in the Bab el-Mandeb underlines the embarrassment in the Albanese Labor government only sending 11 military personnel rather than the requested warship to assist the American operation in the area.

The stated reason was that our priority is the Pacific, and surely it should be.

Story continues below advertisement AD But you can't ignore the route through which 20 percent of your seaborne trade travels (pdf). Nor can you ignore your defence insurance policy-the United States.


As the recent non-release of cabinet documents relating to our decision to join the United States in Iraq reminds us, no Australian government has ever ignored serious requests from Uncle Sam since World War II.

Australia has never been capable of defending itself alone and has always relied on the patronage of a large ally.

Originally this was the British Empire, and then after WWII, it was the United States. We always paid our "insurance premiums" as they became "due."

Our latest premium became due when President Joe Biden's surrogates asked for just one ship-not an unprecedented request as we've sent more than one in the past to the same area of the world.

Why did we refuse?

There are three possible explanations and the answer is probably a mixture of all three.


1. Showing 'independence' from our major ally

There's international politics.

The Albanese government prides itself on being more independent from the United States than its predecessor. So this could be signalling to Beijing, as part of an effort to retain access to Chinese markets for key exporters.

That would be consistent with the subservient tone Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has adopted in his meetings with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping and other CCP officials.

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This article was first published by the Epoch Times.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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