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Is Trump the Disaster we had to have?

By James Moylan

Since WWII the American government has been taken over by big business. Much of the American population does not vote, simply because they do not believe that their vote will count. And until recently, it was hard to disagree with this assessment.

When you think about the sort of country that the US has become, it is not hard to label it as a ‘rogue state’. It has 5% of the world’s population, consumes more than 50% of the worlds spending on armaments, it owns more than 82% of the world’s wealth and is directly responsible for 72% of the ‘two-state’ conflicts since WWII.

There has not been a single second since the end of WWII, in which the US has not been officially engaged in at least one war. And even in the wars where it is not ‘officially’ involved, it is usually deeply implicated.

The US currently has troops stationed in 118 of the 196 countries in the world. In these ‘official’ conflicts the US has killed more than 20 million people in 37 “Victim Nations” since the end of WWII. This estimate of causalities is dwarfed when the casualties inflicted in wars that were backed by American interests and undertaken using American armaments, are also taken into account.

In the Middle East alone, another 20 million souls have lost their lives when the ‘unofficial’ conflicts are added to the tally.

Why this huge army and armed presence? It simply reflects the reality that the US is now the home for the vast majority of the world’s wealth. The total value of all the assets on the face of the globe is a difficult sum to work out but, by all estimates, the US, or US corporations, control the vast bulk of all the assets that exist: anywhere.

The US government alone spends more than 7 million dollars a minute. All this in a country that tells its people that it cannot afford to provide a social safety net, a universal pension plan, or medical or hospital benefits, for its citizenry.

Aussies, like all of the western world, have been conned by our press into believing that the American alliance is essential for our safety. We are constantly told we need to be allied with this greatest of empires, if we want to remain safe.

However, few people bother to sit back and consider that the reason we need to be allied with the US is because we need to be protected from the conflicts that the US starts and controls. An alliance with the US is more akin to a protection racket than it is any sort of an open handed agreement.

America offers it’s ‘protection’ with a nod and a wink and a sly comment that: ‘It would be terrible to see something happen to your nice little country; wouldn’t it?’

Don’t get me wrong: I detest Mr Trump and virtually everything he stands for.

However, he is not a puppet of the establishment forces in the US, nor is he beholden to either of the corporately controlled political parties that have a stranglehold on the US political scene. So while he is a loose cannon, perhaps he is the loose cannon we need to have?

Trump is the face of corporate America when it steps out of its democratic drag. He is ugly, unhinged, greedy, and entirely self-centred. However, the damage he will inflict will be primarily restricted to the US economy and society. His lunatic actions are unlikely to unravel the social protections that are enjoyed by residents within many other countries.

So perhaps it is good to have a ‘leader of the free world’ who is openly, rather than surreptitiously, horrific? Perhaps it might cause the population of the globe to rethink the idea of ‘American exceptionalism’.

Is Trump really all that uglier than the last few incumbents in the White House? His ambitions are certainly disgusting and offensive, but Obama was happy to kill many thousands of people with unmanned drones, continue George Bush’s monetary policies, punish any country that dared step out of line with American financial interests, deport record numbers of poor and disaffected workers, increase military expenditure from obscene levels to even more obscene levels and expand and extend US military adventurism.

Perhaps Trump is just the raw face of American power where Bush and Obama and all the rest, were simply much the same thing, but wearing makeup and a fancy dress.

If the arrival of Trump causes the other 195 countries on earth to rethink their relationship with the U. S., can that be a bad thing? Maybe his arrival might even shake loose a little of the dead hand of control that the corporations exert on the American government and economy?

After all, it seems to have mattered little who was in the White House during the last fifty years: the corporatocracy was still in charge of the country.

Consider that even under Obama the banks got bailed out even after they had stolen trillions of dollars from the working public across the globe and had almost wrecked the global ‘economy’. Even after it was obvious that their actions were not only criminal but despicably unethical and greedy, not a single Wall Street banker was gaoled for their complicity in theft.

While the US continues to lock up a greater percentage of its population than any other country in the world, very few if any, of these inmates are guilty of corporate crimes.

The US corporate sector continues to cause massive destruction and murder across the globe, yet right now, as you read this, America has in its prisons and gaols more than one in every one hundred of its own citizens. However, these are mostly the poor, the disaffected, and members of minority groups.

In parts of the American continent a black man between the ages of 18 and 24 has a one in three chance of being in gaol right now. But not black businessmen. Or white businessmen. Or any businessmen.

If you steal to eat in the US then you will be gaoled; if you destroy the poor and disaffected population of an entire third world country, you will likely retire in comfort and be praised for your efforts. Perhaps one of the reasons they lock up such a huge percentage of their population, is because the inmates can never vote?

Perhaps another reason is because it provides for a workforce of millions who will work for the corporations for as little as 37c a day? The Russian Gulag system was never as populous, nor as efficient. Gaoling so many people must have some sort of a rationale: after all – it certainly does not seem to be doing anything to make America a safer place to live.

While Obama may have been black; he was nothing if not a part of the ruling class. The US gaol population continued to increase while he was in power. The disparity between the rich and the poor continued to grow. US corporations continued to plunder the world’s resources without check nor hindrance.

So while the change to a lunatic and ugly American President may be of significance for the American public, and while Trump might accentuate and worsen the hellish conditions for poor Americans within America, it is difficult to see how his presence can worsen the effects of the American empire outside of America.

The American Corporate Empire already has full control of the globe. It is hard to see how it can be made any worse.

So perhaps the reality that the American government is now being run by a monster who actually looks, sounds, and acts like a monster, may actually be a benefit?

Perhaps it might cause the population of the globe to question the nature of the propaganda that the American empire has been pumping out so skilfully over these many years.

Maybe we might even see a backlash within America? Maybe Trump is the disaster that we all have to have?

What is Plan B, Malcolm?

By Bob Rafto

Imagine that you have consulted 100 doctors, 97 of them have diagnosed you with cancer and the other 3 said there’s nothing wrong with you.

You decide to side with the 3 doctors who told you nothing is wrong and refuse treatment although 97 of the doctors diagnosed the cancer as malignant and spreading. Your main rationale for this decision is that the treatment will be too costly.

This is a very simple analogy for climate change deniers. 97% of scientists agree with climate change, 3% say nothing is wrong.

This is the approach our leaders are using in the parliament to play down the cause of this cancer, on the grounds that it will be too costly to address it. And it is only because they have the numbers in parliament that coal will continue to be forced down our throats.

Trump and Turnbull are touted as successful business men who have accumulated millions and billions of the folding stuff and are best placed as leaders to ensure our economies maintain their prosperity, with coal leading the way.

Can anyone imagine a business owner not having contingency plans for the successful running of a business?

That is the case with these two master businessmen, Trump and Turnbull. They have no contingency plan should they be proved wrong on climate change. They have no Plan B, on a business venture that is considered by 97% of the world’s experts, to fail. Let’s not even consider Plan C or Plan D.

It’s time to call out Trump and Turnbull and ask, very loudly, “WHAT IS YOUR PLAN B, if and when the planet starts to fry?” What is your renewable energy policy?

We need to know what Plan B is if we continue down the coal path, because what is the point of saving a few dollars if we all end up frying?

The Case for a National Service Peace Corps

By Robert Wood

At present, the Australian Defence Force has 58,000 personnel. Presently, the Defence Force budget is projected to spend $32bn in 2016/17.

By comparison, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an operating budget of $1.6bn and there are approximately one million Australians who no longer call Australia home.

When taken together, we have a significant number of resources at our disposal to employ for the greater good. How we use them, will determine what impact we make on the world.

In the eyes of the international, diplomatic community, which leans overwhelmingly transatlantic, Africa is the problem continent. There is an industry that regards Africa as something to be saved, fixed or sorted out. There is, of course, an inviting parallel that has been made between it and Aboriginal communities in Australia.

Although this could be important in terms of the natural resources versus living standards paradox, it fails to apprehend the historical specificity of each and as such does a disservice to what is possible in both places. Africa is complex, diverse and rich, just like Aboriginal Australia.

We must, of course, recognise the endogenous forms of economic activity and the styles of life that exist in ‘slums’ or ‘the developing world’. One might wave a flag of cultural relativism as some sort of excuse not to intervene, but we can also see that everyone wants a basic level of decency and often some type of improvement.

In philosopher Raymond Geuss’ terms of reference, they want their needs met. Needs are above and beyond simple rights. They are the most basic fundamentals.

In a globalised world, first wave social movements to protect people’s needs, labour movements to safeguard workers’ pay and schemes promoting fair livelihoods, need to be front and centre.

To understand and improve the lives of the two billion who live on less than $2 per day, means leveraging the state to become an active participant in rules and regulations that counteract exploitation as well as encouraging programs that directly improve livelihoods.

How we change the specific situations of the most vulnerable depends on where we put ourselves. But central to this must be, addressing how women, young girls and those who don’t identify in a gender binary way, are treated. This includes thinking about maternal health, infanticide, work opportunities, wage equality and social expectations.

The burden still falls heavily on the shoulders of the poor and women in particular. To attend to these problems we must ask: what has worked in the past? What will work tomorrow? The answer to that will depend on one’s source base and the lens of interpretation.

In a very basic sense though, what makes our world safer and better to live in, is the combined efforts of people around the world to provide certainty, lawfulness and opportunity.

That is the role of the government.

In this regard, it is a great advantage to acknowledge that Australia is a middling power with people who have come from all over the world. We would do well to remember that. We would do well to be true to ourselves when we look at our nation from outside of it.

We can choose to be caught in the middle, betwixt and between; or, we can choose to become a respected broker and find a new path through the centre. We can choose to invite people to our common ground to discuss ideas, policy and plans for working together; or, we can choose to remain isolated and hawkish.

To be a world leader, we must jettison once and for all our image as the poor white man of Asia. We must not tolerate the racism that continues to define us. We must continue to make ours a rainbow nation that leads in health, education, the environment, equity, defence, foreign affairs, trade, lifestyle and happiness.

And we need to be active. We need to intervene in the best possible way in the affairs of the world. That means re-defining our defence force, our diplomatic corps and getting our diaspora working together.

Our Armed Services need to be redefined and redeployed as a force for community development in a way that is essentially pacifist. Although I do not favour the complete elimination of armed services, I do think we need to ensure our military is active in building infrastructure and human capital rather than simply fighting other nations. There is a civilian, unarmed, non-combatant service in Austria, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Mexico.

The national service I favour, is a one year stint that has three months of basic military training and a nine-month posting in places that need support and development. This is similar to the Peace Corps program that the United States government runs, and could be read as an expansion of AusAid’s Youth Ambassadors for Development Program (AYAD).

The United States Peace Corps is one of their gifts to the world. Established in 1961 by John F Kennedy, the aim of the Peace Corps is:

“To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”

To be certain, one could read it as being a soft power play during the midst of the Cold War and to deny that would be naïve. However, that does not stop it from doing absolutely necessary and vital work while also being a great character building exercise for its volunteers.

As present The US Peace Corps has programs that include malaria prevention, environmental engagement and crisis response. Their environmental engagement includes protected area management, education and awareness, and forestry programs, all of which aim at cultivating a more sustainable use of natural resources.

National service in Australia would enable the creation of citizens who care about the problems of the world, and solving them in a collaborative, active and meaningful way.

It would give exposure to life styles that are unlike those of the suburbs; it would connect with people of different cultures and experiences.

It would provide direction to young people and create a cohesive national identity through good work.

Surely that is something we can all get behind.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

The Australia-US Alliance in the Trump Era

By Denis Bright

The arrival of President Trump must surely justify a complete reappraisal of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. While acknowledging the vital importance of both China and the US in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region until 2035, the White Paper comes down with the following dogmatic conclusion:

A strong and deep alliance is at the core of Australia’s security and defence planning. The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power and will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner. Through this Defence White Paper, Australia will seek to broaden and deepen our alliance with the United States, including by supporting its critical role in underpinning security in our region through the continued rebalance of United States military forces.

The stability of the rules-based global order is essential for Australia’s security and prosperity. A rules-based global order means a shared commitment by all countries to conduct their activities in accordance with agreed rules which evolve over time, such as international law and regional security arrangements. This shared commitment has become even more important with growing interconnectivity, which means that events across the world have the potential to affect Australia’s security and prosperity. The Government is committed to making practical and effective military contributions to global security operations to maintain the rules-based order and address shared security challenges where it is in our interest to do so.

Department of Defence Online 2016:15

The architects of the ANZUS Treaty (1951) had no inkling of the possibility that a US presidential demagogue with a majority in both houses of congress might return to the America First Strategies of bygone eras when the US was involved in its own territorial consolidation and industrialization.

After the New Deal Era and the successful conclusion of the Second World War, America First Strategies were no longer needed. The US had become the undisputed global superpower. Softer international diplomacy could prevail at least before the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

In 1951, the UN Charter was still a binding commitment for like minded representative democracies in negotiations about future military commitments. Democratic consultation was still the buzz word.

The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific (Article III Australian Treaty Series 1951-52).

However, since the Vietnam War Era, the federal LNP conveniently generated the belief in the value of ongoing strategic loyalty to the prevailing US administration. The old caveat of consultation was replaced by the brash All the Way with the USA misinterpretation of the Australia-US Alliance.  

These reservations about consultation have largely been forgotten by most national opinion leaders on both sides of politics.

1 The Value of Transparent Consultative Mechanisms

In 1984, Prime Minister Bob Hawke responded to concerns from within the Labor Caucus on the lack of transparent consultation within the ANZUS Treaty.

Former Prime Minister Fraser had made a commitment to President Reagan about the need for involvement by the RAAF to test the accuracy of test firings of Trans Pacific MX Missiles to impact on targets in the Tasman Sea. Did such missile tests foreshadow the recent North Korean efforts at national aggrandisement?

A consultative body known as the Australia United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) first met in Canberra in 1985 to overcome the lack of any transparency in this strategic relationship.

New Zealand had already left the formal ANZUS Alliance over its opposition to visits by nuclear armed ships to its ports.

Former Defence Minister Kim Beazley who attended the first meeting of AUSMIN in 1985 still seeks to continue the old strategic certainties from the 1980s.

The challenge now is how we use that connection to influence American policy in our region where all our friends and allies are deeply disturbed by what they heard from the GOP nominee. Trump’s campaign positions translated into administration policy would result in the suspension of America’s leadership of the post-World War II liberal international project. Originally, the project focused on global free trade, a rules-based system for the global commons, and a comprehensive Western alliance under a system of American extended deterrence. More recently, those priorities have been joined by an effort on nuclear disarmament and a coordinated response to climate change (Kim Beazley in The Strategist Online 18 November 2016).

The Trump style in international relations with its Shakespearean overtones of divine right principles really has no place in the ANZUS Treaty. It has become a political appendage over almost seventy years of mutual commitment.

As the Cold War intensified, Prime Minster Menzies assured Australians that the dangers of a resurgent Japan had now been replaced by the threat of communism at home and in countries like Japan and the Philippines where US troops were stationed (Adelaide Advertiser 3 September 1951 on Trove Online).

2 When Presidential Tweets Replace AUSMIN Communiqués

President Trump’s style of diplomacy overturns the conclusions from the last joint AUSMIN Communiqué.

Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.

The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region (AUSMIN Online from Boston 13 October 2016)

Australia’s commitment to China’s alternative Indo-Pacific Free Trade Zone simply offers a better and fairer commitment to the AUSMIN Communiqué.

Financial relationships between China and Taiwan are good and there is no reason to prevent Taiwan from becoming a participant.

The architects of ANZUS in 1951 had no inkling that the US would become a threat to Australia’s economic development and financial security.

3 Imposing Presidential Arbitrary Barriers to Australian Trade

In contrast to our commercial relationships with the US, trade with the current ASEAN-10 Bloc generates a hefty surplus on both commodity trade and exchange of services.

The benefits of Asian trade also extend to profitable relationships with China and Hong Kong. These benefits are summarised by Dr James Laurenceson for the SMH Online:

In fact, trade with China generates our largest trade surplus, worth $21.8 billion.

And there’s more, because our third largest surplus is with Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, which is worth another $7.2 billion (SMH Online 30 November 2016).

Dr James Laurenceson adds that the combined trade surpluses with China and Hong Kong for 2015-16 compensate for our trading deficit of $25.4 billion with the US.

Threats of hurting China by new US tariff barriers and the remilitarization of Taiwan are only going to upset the current stability of Australia’s excellent trading performance for December 2016:

Record surplus: Australia posted a record trade surplus of $3,511 million in December, up from the $2,040 million surplus in November.

China trade: Australia’s annual exports to China lifted from $76.2 billion to US$80.2 billion in the year to December- 23-month high and up 6.6 per cent on a year ago.

Economic growth: Commonwealth Bank group economists expect net exports (exports less imports) to contribute 0.8 percentage points to overall economic growth in the December quarter (The Bull.Com.Au 2 February 2016).

The losses from US imposed mercantilism are compounded by President Trump’s threats of a return to militarism in Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific Region.

It is unlikely that President Trump himself is even aware that ANZUS was negotiated as an extension of the UN Charter with a commitment to peace in the broader Pacific Region rather than an America First Strategic Exercise.

4 The Costs of the New Militarization to Australia

 

Long before the election of President Trump most major US Allies in the Indo-Pacific Region were potentially breaching the ideals of ANZUS by ignoring the consequences of increased military spending.

Saudi Arabia’s use of newly imported military technology to take sides in the civil war in Yemen is hardly an extension of the UN Charter.

Australia had become the world’s equal fourth arms importer according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Yet this financial burden of defence spending is enthusiastically endorsed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) with the support of its corporate donors, some with the credentials of membership of the global military industrial complexes.

Journalist Paul Dibb endorses this commitment from the ASPI:

The Turnbull government’s defence white paper is more financially robust than any of its predecessors.

For the first time, we have a 10-year financial commitment of almost $450 billion that, if it is followed through, will deliver an Australian Defence Force that’s potent for its size.

(Paul Dibb in The Australian 11 March 2016)

Labor veteran Kim Beazley now favours appeasement with the new US Administration. This is a recipe for more costly commitments to global military industrial complexes which could precipitate a new century of international tensions across the Indo-Pacific Region.

There are more sustainable alternatives which are embedded in commitment to the UN Charter First and military action as a very last resort.

Do North Korea’s recent missile tests invite a military response and commitment to regime change?

5 The Challenges Posed by North Korea’s Missile Tests

Previous underground nuclear tests and a recent missile launches in North Korea pose a real challenge to the countries of the Indo-Pacific Region along with the nuclear threats to peace from India, Pakistan and Israel.

The new US Administration has already responded with urgent consultations with North Korea through the Security Council to prepare for more sanctions with the support of Russia and China.

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula are not just from North Korea.

According to NTI, South Korea tested a longer-range ballistic missile in mid-2015 which can hit all parts of North Korea.

South Korea has made progress towards the development of its own weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea first became interested in nuclear technology in the 1950s, but did not begin construction of its first power reactor until 1970. South Korea currently has 24 civilian nuclear power reactors in use and four under construction. Changes in the international security environment influenced South Korea’s decision to begin a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. Under significant pressure from the United States, however, Seoul abandoned this program and signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April 1975 before it had produced any fissile material. Seoul is a state party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee (Nuclear Threat Initiative [NTI] Online 2017).

Diplomatic progress has been made in the past to bring the Korean Peninsula back from the brink of continuing conflict:

In November 1991, President Roh Tae-woo declared that South Korea would not “manufacture, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.” Two months later, North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In this agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed not “to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons,” and not to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” However, both sides failed to implement the agreement’s provisions relating to a bilateral inspection regime.

Although North Korea has clearly violated the Joint Declaration, particularly in light of its three nuclear weapons tests (in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2016), South Korea never officially renounced its obligations under the declaration, and has called on the North to abide by the agreement. Seoul has been a participant in the Six-Party Talks since their inception in 2003, which are aimed at ending the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula (NTI Online 2017).

In the short-term, the US is proceeding with the installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems in South Korea which would be operated by US forces to complement shorter range Patriot missiles.

Australia supports both Security Council and US strategic responses to the North Korean provocations. The Russian foreign ministry described the launch as a “another defiant disregard” for UN security council resolutions, and a cause for “regret and concern” (The Guardian Online 13 February 2017).

These strategic responses still falls short of measures to seek a more permanent and peaceful resolution of the political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

China is particularly willing to become part of the solution.

Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: “All sides should exercise restraint and jointly maintain regional peace and security.” He told reporters in Beijing that China would take part in UN security talks expected later on Monday with a “responsible and constructive attitude”.

But the Chinese Communist party newspaper said US demands for Beijing to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes were pointless, unless Washington examined its own role in fomenting current tensions.

The Global Times said North Korea had been angered by the “very real” military threat from the US and its allies, and the imposition of tough UN sanctions. The editorial, published on Monday, said by insisting that China take action, the US and other countries were ignoring the “root cause” of Pyongyang’s provocative behaviour (The Guardian Online 14 February 2017).

Signs of instability in President Trump’s accountability were being played out when Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau visited the White House. President Trump’s national security Michael Flynn just tendered his resignation (ABC News Online 14 February 2016).

Details of the resignation of Michael Flynn were apparently deferred so that favourable media coverage of Canadian leader’s visit to Washington would not be interrupted. Emphasis in some media coverage focused on speculation about the significance of the differing handshaking styles rather than matters of real substance (CNBC 14 February 2017).

In the real world of geopolitics, both Australia and Canada have the capacity to assist in generating some real solutions to seventy years of strategic road blocks on the Korean Peninsula.

Inviting Russia and China as key trading and strategic partners with North Korea should be a crucial alternative to any return to Cold War Diplomacy in this sensitive region. Michael Flynn had breached diplomatic protocols by being too enthusiastic about phone calls to the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak during the period prior to inauguration day (Sputnik Online 14 February 2017).

Threats to global peace by selective remilitarization of both Japan and South Korea should also be a stackable offence irrespective of whether it is before or after 20 January 2017.

This is letting down the spirit of the ANZUS Treaty which attracted bipartisan support from Dr Evatt as Opposition Leader in 1951.

 

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.

Trump, the Media and the Underclass. A Lesson for Australia

By James Moylan

To understand this lesson, first we must put aside all of the bullshit journalistic clichés and begin to talk about the Trump phenomena in a realistic manner. This is essential if we do not want to see the same thing occurring in Australia, because our press is failing us in exactly the same way as the American press have failed the American public.

Trump won the election because he engaged in class-warfare. Period. This is not to say that Trump had, or has, any affinity whatsoever for the working class, but rather that he tapped into the zeitgeist of the American public. He identified the fractures in American society and exploited them in a manner that simply could not be combated by either the press or the political establishment.

There are two mythologies that are prevalent in both America and Australia. Firstly, there is no such a thing as ‘class’ – and secondly, the press should never appear to be talking about ‘class distinction’.

During the final stages of his campaign, the press in America turned on Trump. However it did not work. His alt-right handlers managed the onslaught with aplomb. They typified these attacks as proof that Trump was actually hated and despised by the ‘political élite’ – which just reinforced his support amongst the dispossessed, the angry, and the disaffected working class.

At the same time, to ensure that these same voters would not turn on him, he also began talking about the ‘plight of the American black’ and other similar topics. Whilst it was an ignorant white man, talking about matters he had no knowledge of, to mainly ignorant white voters, it did not matter.

While it was obvious to those on the other side of the class divide that Trump’s empathy was a smokescreen, this was not how his audience received it. Working class voters saw this phony empathy as a sign that if Trump was elected, he would be on the side of the poor and disaffected – not on the side of the rich bankers and the urbane ‘elites’.

When the banks refused, publicly, to allow their directors to support his campaign, Trump’s handlers immediately had him disavow ‘Wall Street’ and promise to ‘drain the swamp’. More class based dog-whistles. It reinforced, in the minds of his largely illiterate, ‘low-information’ voters, that he really was in a battle against the elite.

The alt-right and hard right bigots who heard these dog whistles also heard what he wanted them to hear and saw in Trump, a man who would protect their right to be politically incorrect and bigoted.

Trump’s campaign was all about proving that he hated the same people his audience hated. Nothing about ideals or ideas. Trump directed and targeted hatred. Trump was against all the elements of society his voters detested – whether they existed or not. Whether the descriptions he was advancing were fantasy or reality, simply did not matter.

Trump’s deliberate lack of political correctness, and his triumphant failure to be informed and correct, were received by his audience as proof that he was on the side of the disaffected worker. While, to the educated consumer of the mainstream media, it sometimes looked positively insane, to the audience he was cultivating, it made him ‘one of us’.

All this time, the American press simply refused to even acknowledge, let alone adequately cover, this reality. When Trump got up on the stump and talked about ‘us’ and ‘them’ he wasn’t talking about democrats and republicans. He was never referring to the traditional schisms that the American press commonly discuss. He was invoking a battle between the educated middle-class and everyone else.

Trump was evoking and utilising class war rhetoric, in a country where discussion about class, within the media, is considered taboo. This is why he managed to get away with it.

Consider those whom Trump eternally vilified. The banks (who were ripping ‘us’ off). The immigrants (who were taking ‘our’ jobs). The effete liberal press (who look down on ‘us’). The educated urban dweller (who all think they  know everything). The University student (who has never worked a day in his/her life). The rich donors (who buy all the politicians). The politicians (who don’t give a damn about ‘us’). The political system (which is rigged on behalf of the rich elites). Washington and New York (where the snobbish know-it-all’s, live).

In other words; Trump targeted all the groups that the proletarian side of the class divide hate with a passion. Yes it was all stage managed lies; but they were brilliant lies. It was all about class warfare.

And there was nothing the press could do to fight back. For years the mainstream media talked about a country where everyone had an equal chance. Where everyone could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Where it didn’t matter where you were born, what colour you were, or whether your parents were rich or poor.

In this way the press laid the groundwork for Trump’s election by continually propagating the lie that the US was a classless society – so when Trump did declare a class war; there was nothing they could do.

Trump was another ‘low-information’ conspiracy theory believer, who was a watcher of FOX, a reader of Breitbart, and the World Today. He was accepted by the working class simply because he spoke the right language and shared the same bigotries. The disaffected lumpen-proletariat, and the proletariat, immediately saw in Trump, a person who spoke their language and who (apparently) hated all the same people they hated.

Many did not like Trump all that much, but he hated the right people. The same people who had been ignoring them and their concerns for all their lives. The same people who had ‘everything’,  left them to rot, then pretended that they didn’t even exist. The working class voted for Trump simply because he seemed to hate the same people they hated.

So now the press in America, as well as the middle-class, are still in shock. Most of the middle class simply cannot understand how Trump managed to gain power. The press they had been consuming all their lives, had been propagating the lie, and continue to propagate the lie, that there was no underclass in America. That everyone in the US lived on the same level-playing field.

And they had been consuming this lie for so long that it seemed to them inconceivable that anyone like Trump could ever be liked by so many of their fellow Americans. The middle-class still fail to see that a vast number of their compatriots live in dire poverty and see no hope for the future.

They have become inured to the pain of the working class to the point where the poor have become invisible. Now they reap the whirlwind they have sown.

The very same phenomena is stoking the fires of bigotry here in Australia. One Nation is engaged in exactly the same sort of class warfare and the Australian press is similarly inclined to continue to ignore the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged, or even acknowledge the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

This is at the heart of the rise of the populist right-wing parties in our country. In much the same way as Trump does not believe half of the things that he said on the campaign trail, the politicians running the small right-wing parties in Australia also lie to the voter to feather their own nests.

They are trading on the disaffection of the working and underclass and the refusal of our politicians and the media to acknowledge their pain. Or even their existence. So why not vote for someone who hates all the same people that they hate, shares the same bigotries, and at least acknowledges that life is not so easy at the bottom of the heap?

The only real difference between America and Australia is that their Trump has already been elected. Here in Australia, our bigoted, right-wing, populist demagogue is still waiting in the wings. But his/her time is fast approaching.

James Moylan BA (Culture) LLB (Hon.), is a doctoral research fellow studying ‘Economic Analysis in Law’ at the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice.

Bernardi, Trump and ‘religious freedom’

By Brian Morris

Religious institutions will feel a pressing need to regain the initiative following damning revelations from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. With renewed calls for a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage equality — and foreshadowed legislation on voluntary euthanasia in three states — one may assume the churches will resume their demands for greater ‘Religious Freedom’ to speak out on these ‘moral issues’.

Christian lobbyists might understandably see a glimmer of salvation in Cory Bernardi’s new Australian Conservative Party. Bernardi is a Donald Trump devotee and it is likely that the South Australian senator will embrace the US President’s program  to outlaw abortion, repeal marriage equality laws and provide greater Religious Liberty for Christian organisations.

Clerics here can be expected to embrace similar “family values”, if and when they are adopted as policy by Bernadi’s new Party. Historically, Australia has tended to follow America in adopting a raft of ideas  and social trends — including the importation of US Christian evangelism — so Donald Trump’s radical plans for sweeping changed to ‘Religious Liberty’ will likely find fertile ground here too.

The Nation has published a leaked draft Executive Order for President Trump to give new religious rights across education, health, social services, job seeking, and commerce. The draft determines marriage to be only between a man and woman, that “life” begins a conception, and it will effectively legalise discrimination by any person or organisation against gays, trans identity, premarital sex and all women seeking an abortion.

While it’s easy to dismiss such draconian provisions as more aberrant policy from a ‘popularist’ US president, the implications are far-reaching. Australia has a strongly Christianised government and there’s no shortage of religious and conservative MPs — across all parties — who would embrace Donald Trump’s policy.  Remember that 66% of Tony Abbott’s party room voted down the LNP conscience vote on marriage equality in 2015. It remains dormant under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

The track record of Christian lobbyists and MPs blocking progressive social policy is extensive. Issues that are consistently opposed include; voluntary euthanasia, improved funding for public education, replacing religious instruction in schools with ethics classes, cutting the Chaplaincy program, halting prayers in all parliaments, reducing the annual $12b subsidy to private religious schools, and of course marriage equality.

Secular principles embedded in Section 116 of the Constitution have been actively undermined by politicised religion over many decades — despite 78% of Australians who want religion to be kept out of politics. And ‘Freedom of Religion‘ has become distorted — it was never intended to create a Christian theocracy.

Under Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — to which Australia is signatory — the correct term has always been “Freedom of Religion and Belief“, which includes equal protection for the non-religious and secular who cite material evidence that expose the fabrications and myths of religion.

In 2017 we still pretend the supernatural origins of all three Abrahamic faiths are “true” — and we teach schoolchildren across the nation that science is subservient to the bible, based on mythical stories from Genesis.  It’s little wonder that science, maths, and general education standards are failing our kids.

While ICCPR gives the right of all people to believe whatever they wish it is counterproductive to impose on society outdated religious dogma, behind the facade of ‘Religious Freedom’. Australia is now a society that predominantly religion neutral — while many of our parliaments are not — and we have far more in common with the progressive secular countries of Europe and Scandinavia than we do with Christianised America.

We need more science and less religion in schools — to counter religious fables and the flawed provenance of Christianity. We live in an evidence-based globalised world and the last thing we need is the fundamentalist rhetoric from Donald Trump and Cory Bernadi to drag us back into the dark ages.

Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.

1964 – Pauline’s “Lucky Country”

Redcuchulain takes a look at the growing number of voters attracted to Pauline Hanson and puts forth suggestions for progressive leaders to combat this.

To quote an old Arabic saying , “If people are thirsty enough they will drink the sand”. I do not believe that 23% of Queenslanders are turning to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation because they are racist. It is more that they feel that they are not being listened to by anyone else. They will no longer put up with it.

The Lucky Country

There is no doubt that social inequality is increasing. The poor feel vilified and disenfranchised. All while we hear stories like we did last week about the six executives from Australia post taking home half the profits. Jobs disappear and it is the less educated who are suffering. Jobs are outsourced to countries where labour is cheaper. We are being replaced by machines everywhere from the coal mine to the supermarket checkout.

Back in 1964 Donald Horne coined the phrase , “The Lucky Country”. While this phrase is generally now accepted as a positive reference and has been repeated everywhere from cigarette adverts to patriotic Aussie songs, Horne’s original meaning of the phrase was somewhat different. He noticed that the structure of our economy was more like a developing nation. We export lots of raw material and then we buy back finished product.

We also do not have a great record on the management of our environment. Australia is essentially an Anglo-Saxon culture country in the middle of Asia. However, we haven’t really worked out our place in it. Australia was seen as ‘The Lucky Country,’ as it enjoys a very good standard of living despite all this.

Quite simply there are a lot of natural resources compared to the size of the population. Fifty years on from Horne’s book our luck is running out.

Hanson is the Opposite to What We Need

I believe the future of Australia requires us to structurally change our economy. It requires us to increase our educational standards. Our educational standards aren’t all that great compared with other countries. We need to invest more in science and innovation and actually start exporting knowledge and products. We need world standard infrastructure, like the original NBN.

Hanson is openly anti-science. She supports a dumbing down of educational standards for professionals. Hanson does not seem to have any original ideas other than to collect vastly less tax than even a conservative government would support.

Of course her followers do not seem to be able to deduct that this type of conservatism would flow to vastly less expenditure on everything from defence to education. Perhaps she thinks that everything in the new world will be priced in 1964 dollars as well.

Deny Change. Blame Islam. Easy.

It is perhaps ironic that that Hanson and her party are prepared to sit and deny that the world is changing and are in fear of Islam. They sit like the Byzantines who denied science and clung to their old religious beliefs right up until Mehmet was at their gates with his superior technology and took their city from them.

Except the Hansonites are chasing the wrong foe. It is not the Muslims who will destroy our way of life but our own failure to innovate.

Protectionist policies do nothing to lift productivity. They give a country the economic prowess of the South African rugby team when they first waddled around the pitch at the end of the apartheid era after being isolated for 25 years.

There is a difference between governments creating infrastructure and investing in research to give your industry a fighting chance and putting up trade barriers.

Populist politicians are tapping into the very valid emotion people are feeling that things felt better in the past.

One Nation’s idea seems to be to go back to 1964 when Australia felt lucky. I do not believe that rolling back social attitudes back to 1964, denying climate change or rolling back education to what was required in the 60’s is going to make us lucky again. It isn’t going to bring the jobs back.

Policies Should Be Front and Centre

It is my sincere hope that the next elections are fought over policy issues. I hope our debates move to positive ideas on how we don’t leave sections of our community behind in terms of rising living standards.

The first thing that progressive politicians need to do is acknowledge the lack of hope that sections of the community are feeling at the moment.

In 1964 a person could move from job to job, they had more in life than their parents had (their parents lived through a war but people often forget that) and the idea that growth could not go on forever without destroying our planet was the domain of a few academics.

The more narrow religion dominated social narrative, while abhorrent for progressives may have been easier for many people to understand. There is a large cohort of mainly white, 50 and over Australians who perhaps miss that country that they perceived lucky.

They make up a large portion of the electorate. They have less of their life in front of them than what is behind them.

The ‘serious’ consequences of climate change are always talked about occurring in 2050 and it is human nature to think of something beyond our expected lifetime as abstract and unreal.

They see things harder for their children and grandchildren and if we could just dial back the clock on a few things it would be better. Wouldn’t it? These people don’t care much for celebrating our progressive victories such as improved university participation, women’s rights or social justice. These are things that affect other people. The ‘elites’.

Drinking Pauline’s Sand Will Not Quench Your Thirst

Progressives need to find a way to reconnect with these people if we are to bring them on our journey forward. Part of this will involve acknowledging that there are bits of the old world that had value and that we have lost as well as gained.

These people have not enough hope to drink. They are thirsty.

Drinking Pauline’s sand will not quench thirst. It will make you even thirstier and your guts will end up… well…full of it. It is up to us to provide a different bottle.

The Trump Administration – American Id(iot)

Tim Jones analyses the Trump Administration through the lens of the ‘id’. Will the super-ego keep them in check? Will Americans accept rule by kleptocrats and oligarchs?

HBO’s Bill Maher once described Donald Trump as ‘id’. That is, Latin for ‘it’. In Freudian terms, the unfiltered, raw and animalistic side to the human being. This is usually kept in check by the super ego. That is, the rules, prohibitions and inhibitions which prevent id based action – the conscience if you will.

This post refers not to Mr Trump’s personality, but to his administration as a whole. They have come to represent, in microcosm, many of the problems present within the American political system today. The Trump Administration represents the id of the hypocritical, corrupt, self-interested oligarchy that America has become.

Networks Don’t Rock the Boat

We start with the media. There has always been a tacit understanding between politicians and the media. The networks don’t rock the boat (read don’t do journalism) and in exchange they get access to the politicians. Were they to do real journalism, as Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski did to Debbie Wasserman Schultz during the campaign, threats could be made, as Schultz did, to talk to their boss if they didn’t tow the line. Trump has taken this tacit understanding one step further, with Kellyanne Conway, or, if you prefer her official title, Propaganda Barbie. Conway said that Trump surrogates would not appear on networks that did not ‘promote’ his agenda. Schultz may have threatened the media with blowback if they did not tow the line, but Propaganda Barbie threatened access to representatives of the Trump Administration.

This was a tacit understanding, the networks don’t rock the boat and they get access. But the Trump Administration, in its id, lacks the subtlety to keep it that way. In their brazenness, they have, intentionally or otherwise, exposed the corruption and the symbiotic relationship that exists between politicians and the media.

With a Little Help To My Friends

We now turn to policy, legislation and advisors. At a recent press conference about the undermining and eventual destruction of the weak and ineffectual Dodd-Frank Financial Reform bill, the President let two gems slip.  This was, again intentionally or not, lay the game bare on the corruption, self-interest and symbiosis that exists between the US government and big business.

To quote the President, from CNBC

We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine that had nice businesses, they can’t borrow money.

There has long been a suspicion that US politicians have governed in both their own and their friends’/donors interests. But not one of them, even the often derided Mr. Bush, would ever have said it. President Trump just openly admitted that he was undertaking policy in the interests of his friends. Here, again, we see it – id – no filter at all. Policy (admittedly weak) that benefited the majority, is to be done away with to benefit a tiny fraction of the population. If America were not an oligarchy before, it certainly is now.

In that same press conference, Trump said that he had been advised on financial regulation and related matters by Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Indeed the President said there was ‘nobody better’ to advise him on such issues. Foxes guarding the hen-house, anyone? We see it here yet again: the public acknowledgement of the power and influence of special interests. No filter – the fox is advising me on how to protect the hens.

Trump’s Cabinet

Finally, consider some of Mr. Trump’s Cabinet appointees: from Mr. Perry at Energy, to Mrs. DeVos at Education (who, through ‘campaign contributions’ – read bribes – quite literally bought her position), to Mr. Pruitt at the EPA. These people are actively opposed to the very agencies they have been appointed to lead.

That Republicans have been anti-government for at least a generation is well known. As well as their hostility to public education and environmental protection. But they have always worked covertly, behind the scenes to achieve their agenda. At least, they have couched it in rhetoric designed to sell it to the rubes.

But Mr. Trump, with his id mentality, lacks the subtlety to do that. He has no filter, and the hypocrisy, corruption and self-serving nature of his administration is on display for all to see.

There are two possible responses to this. Either the oligarchy is so well entrenched that, as Betsy DeVos did, they can literally buy and sell the government and are to be able to do as they please unimpeded, or this is seen as a signal moment in American history.

Trump’s lack of subtlety, as I said above, lays bare the corruption, hypocrisy and symbiosis that is the operating principle of American governance. America, do you take this opportunity, or do you accept rule by kleptocrats and oligarchs?

This is your moment – I am not holding my breath

The Need for Diversity in Higher Education

By Robert Wood

There is space for diversity in the university context in Australia. I do not say this in the way Christopher Pyne has, or even of people all the way back to John Dawkins. When I say diversity I do not mean it as a sneak attack argument for de-regulation. We need far greater public investment in higher education even as we need to sharpen the differences between specific institutions.

This is so they do not congregate around some mediocre average of teaching and research. The vast majority of universities in Australia have student populations between 25,000 and 50,000 students. Charles Darwin University is the smallest with 11,000 and Monash tops the scale with 64,000. Although this is simply one measure, it means that we do not have an adequately diverse landscape at a very basic level. The social conditions in which people can produce research and most importantly teach students, means that there is a tendency to homogeneity.

The Australian National University has similar student numbers to Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge and there was a self-conscious attempt to make this Australia’s finest university when it was first established. But in precious contrast to the elite universities overseas, it has little land and a very small endowment. This is where Australian higher education simply cannot compete as it presently stands, which is why we continue to languish in ranking systems worldwide. One might want to interrogate those systems in the first place, but one might also want to ask: what is the language of our shared inheritance that means we can offer the best education in this place?

In answering that question, we might not need to create new things, but we might need to retrofit that which already exists. This might mean the conscious recalibration of student populations so to create universities that offer different experiences, precisely because young people desire that. Using the United States as an example, Williams College has 2000 students as does Amherst and Swarthmore. Wesleyan has a mere 600. Each of these places offer some of the best undergraduate educations in the liberal arts anywhere in the world. Students in Australia want those experiences on native soil. And the government needs to lead the way to make that happen. We need then a handful of elite liberal arts and sciences colleges that have a small selective enrolment and focus on Australian subjects.

This is only one possibility of diversification in the higher education sector. As the ALP suggested in the previous election, there is the possibility of higher education institutes. University of Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker suggests, these would ‘bridge vocational education and training (VET) and higher education. These bodies would provide highly practical, industry-connected courses taught by staff whose focus does not include research per se.’

Undoubtedly the appeal of these institutes is because of the monotonous uniformity of university education coupled with the appeal of reaching out to students who do not want to engage with the academic rigors of a bachelor degree. It is more difficult to ascertain what the practical realities of this are and what demographic they would serve. Perhaps a more likely outcome, and a simple one at that, is to retrofit and contain the existing institutions, allowing them to service a greater population through diversification. This would be a genuine attempt at making TAFE and university have a wider appeal precisely because they can individually become far more specialized.

What that might engender is a distinct national culture, where one may indeed think little of traveling to the University of Sydney for history rather than assuming that the homogenous uniformity of any Group of Eight university could stand in for any other, which means very few students leave their capital cities. In other words, Australian higher education conceives of itself as being a states’ based market rather than a national one precisely because of the lack of student movement and the geographic distribution of excellence.

What that means is the sector is smaller than we think and the dream that Australia has a truly elite university, when measured against ‘world’ expectations, will inevitably fall short. Learning to evaluate our own institutions, and from the evaluation learning to respond to our local circumstances including the problems that are already here, is part of being a republic in a full and meaningful way.

Being an activist state means we must intervene, particularly in the educational opportunities that are offered to the disadvantaged.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Things are a little scary right now

By Bob Rafto

The US Defense Department’s $680 billion budget pays for over 3.1 million employees, both military and civilian. Another 3 million people are employed by the defense industry both directly, making things like weapons, and indirectly, such as working in local businesses supported by a contractor’s location in a town, according to various sources. It’s these big money and job figures that make lawmakers fight for defense contracts in their districts and defense contractors lobby for their contracts.

Then you have similar activities in Russia, China, UK and other nations.

Now if we cut this down to the bare bone, millions of people are employed to make weapons that have a sole purpose of killing millions of other people. We might have advanced technologically but primarily we are still savages in as much that when we can’t resolve our differences we resort to killing to get an outcome.

Corporate entities rely on growth, so that means more and more arms are manufactured every year and more wars have to be manufactured and hundreds of thousands of people have to die just to keep the arms industry in business and to deliver windfall profits year in year out.

The US have been up to their necks in regime change and have been involved in 100 armed conflict since the American revolution (Wiki). Has any any other country in history been involved in so many armed conflicts?

Now the arms industry is mainstream, they now have fairs, just like the auto industry where generals and dictators flock to and to be wined and dined over idle chatter of how many people can be exterminated from a $600,000 bomb and that’s the cost of the bombs we are supposedly dropping on the Syrians.

A little more research revealed an ad for a book ‘The Merchants of Death’ here’s the ad:

“Here is the archetype of all post–World War I revisionism of a particular variety: the hunt for the people who made the big bucks off the killing machine. The Merchants of Death was, in many ways, the manifesto of a generation of people who swore there would not be and could not be another such war.

But here is the kicker: it was co-authored by the founder of Human Events, the conservative weekly. So this is no left-wing screed against profiteering. It is a careful and subtle, but still passionate, attack on those who would use government to profit themselves at the expense of other people’s lives and property.

Here is a sample of the ideological orientation: “The arms industry did not create the war system. On the contrary, the war system created the arms industry … All constitutions in the world vest the war-making power in the government or in the representatives of the people. The root of the trouble, therefore, goes far deeper than the arms industry. It lies in the prevailing temper of peoples toward nationalism, militarism, and war, in the civilization which forms this temper and prevents any drastic and radical change. Only when this underlying basis of the war system is altered, will war and its concomitant, the arms industry, pass out of existence.

This book is a wonderful example of what Rothbard called the “Old Right” in its best form. The book not only makes the case against the war machine; it provides a scintillating history of war profiteering, one authoritative enough for citation and academic study. One can see how this book had such a powerful effect.

Why re-release this book now? The war profiteers are making money as never before. They are benefiting from conflict as never before. Everything in this book has not only come to pass but as been made worse by a million times. So this treatise is more necessary than ever.

This is the real heritage of the American Right.”

Should be a good read and reinforces what I wrote above.

The US military spend budget is more than the 7 highest spending countries (and that includes Russia and China) combined and now Trump is going to increase the budget by a few more hundred billions to probably a trillion dollars all up. The arms industry will live on forever thriving on death as long as there are neo-cons in this world.

The Donald

My take on Trump is from cursory observation on Social Media and some online rags.

The Donald is scary as is the future he is leading us to and Abbott was the same but a minnow compared to Trump.

The Donald is thinking and acting in big business mode and he won’t hesitate to destroy anyone who gets in his way. He has stacked his team with billionaires so it will be a business-run government looking after business interests.

He will have no hesitation in starting wars, he is not increasing the military budget without reason.

He is devoid of any compassion and empathy, it’s all about Donald and no one else.

The Donald is being consumed by a headiness of being the most powerful man on earth and here is the similarity with Abbott, who was also consumed by the power headiness. Abbott terrorised the Muslim community with 800 cops, helicopters and militarised swat teams, Donald bars Muslims from entering the US.

The Donald is 70 and obese and he won’t cope with the stress of office, and that can’t be good for his health.

The Donald will keep on alarming the horses – just like Abbott – but he won’t be around forever, but long enough to leave a great swathe of scar tissue on the planet.

 

The Rise of the Far Right

By Christian Marx

Australia and indeed the world is under threat from the dangerous eugenics of the far right. Their sick Neoliberal policies of extreme attacks on the poor, pensioners, social services and their theft of public services, via privatization will bring our society to its knees.

The only way they are able to get followers is via racial hatred and bigotry. Many people would never vote away their rights and working conditions…but those that are afraid of other nationalities, religions and different demographics will support a party that taps into their own hatred for the other, even if the consequences for their own wellbeing are catastrophic.

Neoliberalism has decimated society since it first reared its ugly head in the mainstream political arena in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The legacy of both Thatcher in the U.K and Reagan in the United States has pushed tens of millions into poverty. Hospitals are being starved of taxpayer money, as are schools, and much of the money is being funnelled into subsidizing the likes of Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch.

Tax payers` money is being syphoned and given to these parasites, but so long as the ignorant and fearful have someone to hate, all rational thought goes out the window. In the words of George Carlin, “The rich don`t give a fuck about you…they want it all and they are gonna get it!”

Our media is rotten to the core, but some are worse than others. Murdoch is lower than festering faeces in the sewer, but many other so called “centrist” media are also guilty of shooting themselves in the foot.

Yes Trump has lied and is just another big shot Neoliberal businessman who has already filled his cabinet with Goldman Sachs puppets. No different from Clinton in that respect…but media never called out her disgusting war crimes such as the assassination of Gadaffi, nor did they ever expose the lies of Obama and his drone wars. The hypocrisy of the media has been one of the causes of the rise of the far right.

The other main cause is the disaffection of the capitalist system itself. It is a FAILING system and is at its end stage and the elites know this. So many hard working people are suffering, and millions are being pushed into unemployment and underemployment. Meanwhile the 1% gorge themselves on the carcass of the state and its social services. They privatize our health, smash the pensioners, privatize job agencies (which are anti employment) and just suck huge money from government coffers. Much of our infrastructure, real estate and farmland is being sold to rich foreign investors. This IS treason!

Unfortunately many battlers who have been smashed by capitalism believe the lies that Islam is going to implement Sharia Law or that climate change is a communist plot to take over the world!  No, people have got to start doing some research and asking hard questions of this government. ALL our problems stem from corporate greed and the complete corruption of both sides of government. (Two right wing parties) designed to protect the vested interests of big mining magnates and multinational corporations.

The language of print has also been hijacked by the far right. This is very reminiscent of George Orwell`s, 1984. The meaning of language is being twisted. This is known as doublespeak. Some classic examples of modern day twisting are phrases such as “regressive left” and “left wing Fascists”. Both slogans are a contradiction in terms and are an oxymoron.

The creeping of religion into government is also very disturbing. The Australian populace are being conditioned to fear Islam, but the real danger is hard line Catholicism infecting our democracy. The U.S have this via the nefarious Tea Party, a group of free market zealots financed by the evil Koch brothers, who cloak their ideology behind Christian fundamentalism. In Australia we have hardline senators in the LNP party hiding behind the Christian religion to enact their destructive Neoliberal, free market fundamentalism.

Thugs such as Cory Bernardi are only interested in one thing, protecting big business at the expense of the majority of Australian citizens. They can get away with this by dividing the populace and trying to instil their medieval religious extremism into the mainstream.

Beware the far right. They use hate and division to seek your submission and continue their rampant theft of tax payers` money and the destruction of social services.

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in Sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”

Turnbull, a right wing caricature. It’s the Beginning of the End

 

By James Moylan

After the self-obsessed years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd period, the habitual habit of unadorned self-aggrandizement that was being indulged by Labor politicians seems to have faded away.

The primary reason that Shorten has managed to keep the Labor Party reasonably well united is because he has tried to lead the party back to the traditional practices of consultation and has largely refused to engage in the same abusive and histrionic rhetoric utilised by Abbott and Rudd.  Shorten has generally decided to play the ball and not the man.

This is why the recent outburst by PM Turnbull has been so jarring to the sensibilities. Suddenly Australians have been provided a glimpse of the man behind the scenes. That our PM looked so elated and comfortable whilst flinging his stinging abuse across the Parliamentary chamber made everyone watching sit up and take notice.

Shorten was described as a ‘parasite’, ‘a hypocrite’, ‘swanning it with Solly Lew and Richard Pratt and flying round in their jets’. Suddenly Australians were witness to a new sort of Turnbull. A PM obviously bitter and angry. A politician dressed in a five thousand dollar suit accusing a Labor leader of being ‘out of touch’. Yet while the sight was less than edifying for the majority, it certainly hit home to the audience it was crafted to please: his own party.

The emergence of this newer, more vicious, more partisan PM, was provoked by the need for Turnbull to play to his backbench and abandon any pretence of impartiality. He had run out of any other options. The strategy he had been employing had failed. The rulebook he had been using was simply not working. He was stuck in the middle between the partisan corporatists within his own party and the apparent needs and inclinations of the wider community. And Turnbull is no fool.

The reason he managed to stab Abbott in the back was because it was obvious to the party room that they were about to lose the upcoming election if they continued to present their unadorned ambitions to the public. Turnbull’s ascendance was entirely predicated on the knowledge by the majority of the LNP that Aussies like the idea of a kinder and gentler Australia but were wary of a Labor party that had lost its way.

So upon coming to power, Turnbull continued to present a façade to the public of a genteel statesman with the best interests of the everyday battler in mind. Promoting the idea that he was a bulwark between the worst excesses of his own party and the interests of the average worker.

However this act had at last become unsupportable. It was a pretence that had become impossible to maintain. The actions of his own government and the apparent enthusiasm of the PM to support the right wing of his own party in gutting the welfare state and handing out largesse to the top end of town has now forced Turnbull to shed his outer skin and change tack.

Faced with the choice between losing quickly or losing slowly Turnbull decided on the latter. Cory Bernadi forced his hand. Tony Abbott’s cheer squad has at last forced him to begin to act like a Liberal Party PM instead of maintaining the pretence of being a statesman.

I think Turnbull knows that the next election will see the LNP lose government. He has been engaged in a failing enterprise to try and drag his party back towards the centre of the political debate. All the while hoping beyond hope that the opposition will fall apart and become a rabble once again. That they will lose their nerve and begin to play the man and not the ball, again. However it is apparent that Shorten is engaged in playing the long game.

He has kept his nerve and presented to the public an image of a man who is boring but adequate and reasonably dependable. During all of the ups and downs of the last four years he has been reliably dull. He has refused to take the bait dangled before him. And Australia is starting to believe that Shorten might not be cut from the same cloth as his immediate predecessors. The public are beginning to realise that a boring Shorten is likely to be far more comfortable than an exciting Turnbull.

Even so, if Bernadi had not jumped ship then it is doubtful that the transformation would have been so abrupt. Turnbull has suddenly transformed into a Liberal Party PM because he could see the writing on the wall. His job was to get the LNP through the last election, to provide them with enough time to implement their policies and pay back their corporate supporters, and that has been accomplished. Many in the Party room held on to the faint hope that they might be able to play both sides of the road for the next few years by allowing Turnbull to play the statesman for a while longer. But the polls have once again turned and the writing is on the wall.

So suddenly we are presented with a vehement and emotional PM spitting vitriol across the dispatch box. It is the beginning of the end for Turnbull. Turnbull likely understands this himself but believes that he can buy a few more months by now playing to the party room instead of the public. Yet, of course, the truth is that the party room are more likely to elect a genuine right winger rather than a pretend one now that they are beginning to see that their time is short. The party room are likely to make the judgement that Turnbull does not have enough spine to try and transform the country from a welfare state to a mini-America – which is what all of the LNP members dream of – so he will likely be dragged down with their poll numbers. The only thing that will prolong the fall is the apparent lack of any potential replacement.

Abbott is damaged goods. Dutton and his ilk are palpably unlikeable. All of the potential female contenders have disappeared due to their personal failings. So now we will likely see a PM, increasingly desperate to prove that he can be as big a bastard as the rest of the party room, trying to cling on to power but with only two cards left in his deck; the history of the Labor Party and the lack of any viable contenders.

This is what Shorten has been banking on for the last six months. The chrysalis has split and the new emergent PM is an obvious product of the Liberal party. The new, emergent PM is not a bulwark against disparity but rather a champion of inequality.  Mr Harbourside Mansion incarnate.

Bill ShortenThat Shorten has now got the measure of Turnbull was made abundantly clear in his appearance on the 7.30 Report on Tuesday night. Mr Shorten brushed off the personal attacks and even expressed sympathy for Turnbull. He simply stated out loud what was becoming increasingly apparent to everyone else; that Turnbull is stuck between the hard rock of his partyroom and the obvious distaste and alarm of the voting public.

This is why the obviously horrific Centrelink debacle continues unabated. This is why the LNP cannot abandon its promise of a gift of our future to the corporations that fund the party. This is why the LNP continue to drift towards the far right like a rudderless boat in stormy seas. It is not that Turnbull cannot see that these policies will surely mean the end of the current term for the government but rather precisely because Turnbull knows this to be an unfortunate but inescapable fact.

For the next six months we can expect the right-wing bastardry to intensify, not diminish. Turnbull has decided to become a right wing caricature so he can hang on to power just long enough to ensure his good graces with a corporate sector that he knows he will be re-joining sooner, rather than later. During the first week of parliament we have seen the beginning of the end. However it will be a long slow political death that will be painful for both Australia as a whole and for Turnbull in particular. All the while the Labor party, and Shorten, will curl up into a relatively small target and sit like a Cheshire Cat on a high branch with the only thing visible being a risible smile and a faint, smug, outline.

We Need Electoral Reform

By Steve Laing

   

If you don’t get the reference to the title, it concerns the latest defection, and the reasoning behind it, because Cory Bernardi has finally gone and done it?

My belief (based on reason and logic,), that making such a move would never happen, has been found to be totally wrong.  After years of threatening to branch off on his own, he has finally plucked up the courage. He has spent the last three months at the UN in New York and watching first-hand the enthronement of the populist Trump.

And clearly the experience has finally given him the impetus to let go of the Coalition coat-tails and venture out into the real world.  Well, at least he has shown he has some cojones.

Will it make any difference?  Other than some slight embarrassment to the government, probably not.  He will undoubtedly vote like Pauline, in line step with the government.  But being on the outside, the stranger of his views can largely be ignored. He is just another cross-bench senator, his political power somewhat diminished, though I am sure he will continue to be a paid up member of sideshow alley.

So why the article?

Because this defection highlights another absurdity within our electoral system, revealing that political party opportunists can manipulate the system so that the electorate gets what the politicians want rather than the other way around.

Bernardi’s senate seat came almost entirely from votes above the line, where electors voted for the Party, not the candidate. Those votes cast for a Liberal have now ended up with whatever Cory calls his new party.  And ‘there ain’t diddly squat’ anyone can do about this rather duplicitous sleight of hand.  Moreover, it was no secret, with Cory buying the URLs for party names well before the last election. Yet he was still given second place on the Liberal SA senate ticket.

So again, the electorate have been conned, and there is nothing that can be done about it.  We now have a new party for those who despair for how the political system is abused by politicians who don’t do what is right by the electorate; which might include politicians campaigning for one party, then jumping ship once elected.

There is no mention of political parties in the rules of our government, so why do they appear in elections?  If people are only supposed to vote for candidates, then how is it that we vote for parties in the senate?

Given the recent below the line voting changes, making it much quicker and simpler, is it now time to get rid of above the line voting?  Should not the voter pick the order of senate candidates? The current mechanism only encourages the lazy.

And if there is a significant section of the electorate that doesn’t care and just donkey votes, can’t we give them some voting options. What about, “Don’t know”, “Don’t care”, “They are all a bunch of crooks” and “I would rather disembowel myself with a spoon than vote for any of these cretins”.

At least then our politicians would get an idea how the disillusioned and disenfranchised really feel, rather than pretending that they understand their frustration.

We should abandon preferential voting too.  I personally don’t want any part of my vote going beyond the candidate I’d actually voted for. I’d like that to be numerically recognized so that the winning candidate can’t necessarily claim a majority mandate from a 2 party preferred vote.  I want to vote for the one I’m prepared to support and no other.

Voting should not be stupidly simple, but should have voting options for people who don’t want to vote. But I do believe there is merit in making electors get down to the polling station and record what they want (or not).  I want the electoral truth out there, rather than have candidates falsely claim mandates.

We need electoral reform if voters are to reengage with our democracy. We don’t need another populist party offering hollow promises.  People do want their voice heard.  Getting rid of above-the-line voting in the senate would be a good start.

Australia-Israeli Relationships (Part 2): Some Barriers to a Progressive Accord

By Denis Bright

Both countries now face a political impasse to the development of progressive policies under prevailing political regimes.

In the latest Australian Newspoll, the federal LNP is reduced to a primary vote of 35 per cent with a diverse bloc of 19 per cent from minority right wing parties. The federal LNP’s reliance on preferences from the religious and secular right in marginal seats and in the senate is likely to be a game-changing in Australian politics.

The ruling Lukid Party of “Bibi” Netanyahu in Israel had a primary vote of just 23.4 per cent at the last legislative election in 2015. It is even  more controlled by right-wing religious and secular parties.

The Likud Government is also currently being rocked by the involvement of Australian billionaire James Packer in a circle of influence of wealthy backers of the Israeli Prime Minister.

With the arrival of President Trump, it is much easier for Likud to crank up its xenophobic approaches to regional problems to regain its old support base:

Headlines out of Washington D.C. over the weekend indicated that newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump was considering his foreign policy stance towards Israel, which could entail relocating the U.S. embassy in the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It is also understood that Trump spoke on the telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend. News reports say that the president reiterated his “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security” and invited Netanyahu to visit Washington D.C. in early February.

Hugh Lovatt, Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC via telephone that Trump’s potential to move the U.S. embassy was “altogether a worrying phenomenon,” as it signified a “broader U.S. drive which risks severely undermining not just stability (in the region) but also the two state solution.”

Such xenophobia overlooks the long-standing antagonism between displaced Arabs in Palestine and the Israel.

Land under the control of Palestinian Arabs has been decimated since the days of Britain’s Palestine Mandate in 1947 (The Economist 14 May 2010).

Despite all the concerns about Iran’s potential nuclear weapons, Israel is the only local player in the Middle East Region with access to nuclear weapons.

Recent tweets from the White House also support the expansion of Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.

Provocatively, President Trump also wants the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Federal LNP’s Support for the Netanyahu Government

The Netanyahu Government is well supported by the federal LNP in Canberra. This drags Australia into support for xenophobic policy changes initiated by a faltering Likud Government:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has signalled that Australia likely would have broken with the US and New Zealand by ­opposing a UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Her revelation came as former foreign minister Bob Carr declared Donald Trump’s election could empower Israel to seize the West Bank, comments that will stir a growing debate within Labor about its ­position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Australia’s affinity with Israel as a model democracy extends to close business, cultural and defence ties.

Israeli Heron drones first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009 on lease from Israel Aerospace Industries, a wholly government owned business venture.

Israel has moved on to consolidate its leadership in military drone technology:

A hint of this can be found in the Defense Minister’s site, boasting that Israel is a superpower in the drone industry.

“In recent years the UAV industry has grown rapidly, following the increased number of missions and their complex character – reconnaissance, surveillance, assisting infantry forces, attack, defense, etc.,” the site says.

It also says that drones “are capable of staying a long time in the air, carrying hundreds of kilograms and have an extended range.”

The American administration, which frequently uses UAVs to attack targets throughout the world, has been blasted for using them as means of extrajudicial execution.

At an editorial level, The Australian talks up the political, commercial and strategic value of relationships with Israel:

Australia should ­upgrade military and diplomatic relations with ­Israel to tap into its expertise in counter-terrorism and hi-tech weapons systems, according to a major ­report to be released today.

Australia could benefit from ­Israel’s expertise in unmanned aerial systems, ship-borne missile defence, cyber-warfare, armoured vehicle protection, smart sensors and a range of other capabilities.

Both nations are intimate US allies and operate a great deal of common US defence equipment, including soon the F-35A version of the Joint Strike Fighter.

The report, The Wattle and The Olive by Anthon­y Bergin of the Australian Strat­egic Policy Institute and Efrai­m Inbar from Israel’s Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, suggests Australia and Israel eventually would have enough common strategic and political interests to sustain a two-plus-two dialogue of foreign and defence ministers.

It also suggests Canberra could help Israel ­enhance the diplomatic progress it already has made in Asia. Israel has a longstanding ­defence relationship with Singapore, and has built something similar with India. It has a big and growing trade relationship with China, including high-level military exchang­es, and a long relationship with Japan.

The report said although Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, is not as hostile to Israel as many Muslim nations, Jakarta does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israeli Weapons of Mass Destruction

This positive glow towards Israel overlooks the Netanyahu Government’s commitment to a nuclear weapons programme in breach of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Agreement of 1970. India, Pakistan, North Korea and South Sudan are other current states outside the agreement.

In relation to chemical weapons, Egypt, North Korea and South Soudan are the aberrant states but Israel has not ratified its agreement which became operational in 1997. Israel is also a non-signatory of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions (BTWC) of 1972.

A recent US Congressional Research Service Report makes the following assessment of Israeli’s nuclear weapons programmes:

In addition to its highly developed conventional equipment and capabilities, including a number of missile defense platforms, Israel is widely presumed to have an unacknowledged nuclear weapons arsenal that might be deployable via aircraft, submarine, and ground-based missiles. Additionally, Israel reportedly has sophisticated cyber defense and warfare capabilities. Its overall annual defense budget is approximately $13.8 billion, constituting about 4.7% of Israel’s total gross domestic product (GDP).

Congressional Research Service Online Israel: Background and U.S. Relations  28 October 2016

This defence programme in Israel is supported by significant financial U.S. Assistance and goodwill from NATO countries in supplying new strategic items.

Israel’s fifth new generation submarine

After delivery of the submarines from Germany, they were fitted with nuclear missiles. These missiles have an intermediate range according to the assessment of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 2016.

Operating from either Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean, Israel’s nuclear armed submarine fleet is supported by ground to air and air-borne missiles.

Former US secretary of state and four-star general Colin Powell alleged that Israel possesses some 200 nuclear weapons, in an email apparently leaked by Russian hackers this week.

Discussing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress about the dangers posed by the Iranian nuclear deal, in an email he sent to

US Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds, Powell wrote that he doubted the Iranian regime would use an atomic bomb even if it could get one, since “the boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands”. (The Times of Israel Online 15 September 2016 showing Israeli B61 nuclear bombs at the ready).

The Israeli Business Lobby and Its Links to Centre-Right Politics  

More significant than Israel’s nuclear strike force is the Netanyahu Government’s sponsorship of its business sector internationally with active support from its intelligence gathering networks. The option of becoming the Israel of the Asia-Pacific Region is highly appealing to the pro-republican segments of the federal LNP:

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke with much of the international community on Friday, attacking last week’s United Nations Security Council Resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling.”

Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” The Australian Jewish News reported.

Turnbull’s comments come after his foreign minister said Thursday Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.

Writing for AlterNet, Robert Jensen in The Occupation of the American Mind, explains how strategies are applied to place a pro-Israeli spin on the 24 hour news cycle. Simplistic and repetitive phrases with a high emotional content all promote the big picture of Israel as the Middle East’s only true democracy that is taking the difficult choices to ensure its survival. Full versions of this documentary are available on YouTube.

Focusing on the nuclear threat from Iran is at the expense of critical analysis of Israel’s own WMD programmes in defiance of UN Conventions or the supportive roles of Saudi Arabia and other western countries in military actions against Yemen and Syria.

On a business front, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) uses its Gold Membership to foster networking at corporate executive level in technology, retail, people & culture, property & infrastructure, banking & finance, innovation and sustainability. Its panel/ballroom lunches attract hundreds of participants.

Cultural connections with Israel are not required. The AICC attracts the nation’s highest corporate giants.

One of the many corporate sponsors of the AICC is Israel’s Elbit Systems with its aeronautics, security and defence commitments. Elbit Systems is earning valuable defence contracts in Australia and other countries in the US Global Alliance countries.

Like all slick advertising, Elbit Systems talks up the most benign outcomes from its defence products as shown by the display of its military hardware at a Tasmanian fair in 2015.

The Electronic Intifada from Palestine notes the dire consequences of Elbit products:

Like most Israeli military contractors, Elbit benefits from Israel’s decades-long brutal occupation of Palestine, which serves as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning “homeland security” industry to test and perfect methods of domination and control, with Palestinians as their involuntary lab rats.

Israel’s suppression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized, like the United States, where Elbit was recently granted a lucrative $145 million contract to provide surveillance technology at the Arizona-Mexico border.

This is the same Elbit surveillance technology used to construct and maintain Israel’s apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, which the International Court of Justice has deemed illegal under international law.

Foreshadowing Australia’s Republican Future with the Federal LNP

In the best traditions of The Occupation of the American Mind, the Prime Minister of Australia offered an outstanding presentation to the National Press Club on 1 February 2017. This event was indeed sponsored by Westpac Australia, a key AICC sponsor for NSW.

Despite high levels of underemployment, recently announced job losses in car assembly, falling real wages and extraordinary housing and rental prices, Malcolm Turnbull continued with his commitment to visionary political spin through his address:

Last week, we celebrated Australia Day and around the country 16,000 people from 150 nations chose to become one of us.

Like us holders of the highest office in a democracy – citizen.

Partners in the most successful multicultural society in the world. A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.

Enterprising, optimistic and resilient. Compassionate and egalitarian.

In the great race of life, there is no better place to get ahead, realise your dream than here. And nowhere, if you stumble and fall behind, you are more likely to get a hand up (The Prime Minister of Australia Online 2 February 2017 and http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2017/s4612801.htm).

The fate of the refugee agreement negotiated in the last days of the Obama Administration makes it difficult for Malcolm Turnbull to speak out on the excesses of President Trump.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is right in there with Donald Trump as the most imperial of US republican leaders in recent times.

There are costs if Australian leaders decide to choose this Israeli path to influence global events by becoming The Israel of the Pacific in international relations.

Hopefully, the Labor Movement will resist gunboat diplomacy against China and opportunist attempts at regime change in China with the support of Taiwan and President Trump.

Both sides of global politics can learn from The Occupation of the American Mind.

The prospects for challengers to both Malcolm Turnbull and “Bibi” Netanyahu are on the ascendency in 2017 as both are adept at the art of enthusiastic bluster rather than convincing leadership. Both are clinging tenaciously to President Trump for their survival.

Perhaps internal intelligence in the US is preparing the world for regime change in Australia as well as China:

Last week the White House was telling the world about “alternative facts”. Now it seems they might be steering us into believing in an alternative prime minister.

Yesterday White House press secretary Sean Spicer was mocked for mispronouncing Malcolm Turnbull’s name as “Trumble”.

But at a briefing overnight Spicer repeated the error, which may well mean that the Trump Administration is trying to rebrand the prime minister.

Spicer has shown that he is somewhat iffy on Turnbull’s name, but moments before repeating his blunder he may well have mixed up the prime minister’s identity.

There is no identity confusion with high profile visitors from Israel:

President-elect Donald Trump’s team met with the head of Israel’s intelligence service, according to a report in Ynetnews.

Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad, secretly traveled to the United States for the meeting to discuss security issues ranging from the Iran nuclear agreement to the civil war in Syria, the news outlet reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly organized the visit and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was also part of the meetings.

In this new world of insiders and outsiders in the Trump Era, Australian leaders should keep their distance from too much affinity with both the US Global Alliance and the Netanyahu Government. Being dragged into future military conflicts in the Middle East and Asia are the lame-duck prizes for too much gullible loyalty.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.

 

Australia-Israeli Relationships (Part 1): Looking for the Positives

By Denis Bright

Although no formal alliance exists between Australia and Israel, bilateral relations are strong at a national political level. The accord extends to both sides of politics. Each year Israel hosts visits by state and federal politicians as well as numerous study tours. Members of the Left faction of the Labor Movement are not afraid to take advantage of the hospitality offered.

At home, Israel attracts considerable sympathy from eyewitness news media coverage of isolated terrorist incidents in Israeli cities.

Long before the arrival of the 24 Hour News Cycle, folklore was generated by the involvement of the Australian and British light horse regiments in the occupation of Palestine in the First World War. A mandate to administer Palestine for the League of Nations and the UN Trusteeship Council continued until 1948.

As Foreign Minister and President of the Security Council during 1948-49, Dr. Evatt welcomed the partitioning of Palestine and the formation of the State of Israel. To its credit, Australia favoured the internationalization of the City of Jerusalem to respect the spiritual traditions of the holy city.

Australia has been described as the midwife at the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. In the early 1940s, a group of Australian Jewish businessmen lobbied Australia’s then-foreign minister, Doc Evatt. Their quest was to champion the Zionist cause – the creation of an independent Jewish nation-state.

Evatt eventually became deeply sympathetic to the group’s vision. As a leading figure in the United Nations some years later, he actively pursued the state’s establishment.

In the 1940s, Australia accepted an influx of post-war European Jewish migration. Most new arrivals were refugees, escaping the ravages of the Holocaust. They translated their loss into a financial and moral commitment to Israel. This connection has continued into the 21st century, ensuring Israel has encompassed all aspects of Jewish life in Australia from synagogues to schools and sports groups.

Nostalgia for Israel is embedded in publication of The Wattle and the Olive by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

This nostalgia for Israel as a revered model of a dynamic multicultural state is a strong part of the conservative tradition in both Australia and the US.

The Special Report comes with a record of the photo opportunity between strategic leaders of Australia and Israel.

Sponsorship from the Australian and international business sector for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute contributed to the preparation of The Olive and the Wattle and its ongoing calendar of local events.

The mainstream Israeli media meticulously acknowledges support from Australian political leaders:

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke with much of the international community on Friday, attacking last week’s United Nations Security Council Resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling”.

Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” The Australian Jewish News reported.

Turnbull’s comments come after his foreign minister said Thursday Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.

Summing up the positives in Australian Israeli Relationships

Israel: Adaptive State and Successful Political Model

From its fragile socialist Zionist origins in 1948, the new state of Israel has survived against all odds.

The increased profile of the military in Israeli political life followed major regional conflicts in 1967 and 1973 and the Palestinian Intifadas.

By 2009, Likud was able to form a coalition under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu with the support of right-wing religious and secular parties. This continued in 2013 and 2015.

The unexpected victory of President Trump is music to the ears of Benjamin Netanyahu. Support for Likud was sagging in opinion polls due to the rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party. This new centre party which favours consensus-building in domestic and foreign policies and would have thrived under a Hillary Clinton Administration.

US opposition to Iran from sanctions and threats of military action is likely to swing public opinion back to the right.

Reports of Russian influences during the presidential election campaign have distracted from the rapport between Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump:

Director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, clandestinely visited the United States to meet with President-elect Donald Trump’s staff and brief them on pressing security matters including the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the Palestinian issue.

The security delegation was organized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was led by National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel. The Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was also present during meetings.

The two sides also discussed a regional conference to be hosted by Egypt and other initiatives on the agenda including a UN initiative put forth by the Palestinians and New Zealand.

Additionally, Israeli officials have also reached out to the President-elect to ask him to come out against President Obama and veto a Palestinian bid submitted to the Security Council.

The proposal is expected to be up for a vote before Obama leaves office on January 20. The proposal seeks to label settlements as illegal and implicitly calls on the international community to boycott Israel.

In far-off Australia, the federal LNP is clearly in tune with the trends in global geopolitics in the Middle East after the election of Donald Trump. The federal LNP would welcome the degree of influence with the new US administration which has been accorded to Mossad.

The Israel’s Successful Social Market Economy

With a population approaching 8.75 million in 2017, Israel is the strongest economy in the Middle East Region on the UN Development Index. It is only 30.4 per cent the size of Tasmania in area. However, the Israeli economy is about one fifth the size of Australia in GDP. It has an impressive economic growth rate of over 3.5 per cent in 2016 with a modest public debt level.

Its combination of arid and Mediterranean ecosystems is comparable to dry zones in Southern Australia. Irrigated farming has made Israel largely self-sufficient in most food items and a successful exporter of specialist products.

As in the Netherlands, the diversification of the economy has been extended to an extraordinary degree with a balance between strategic defence industries and high technology manufacturing and service sectors.

Admiration of Israel’s economic success by Australian conservatives ignores the high levels of government internevention in a strongly mercantilist economy.

Mainstream Australian political leaders on both sides of politics clearly identify with the proactive role of Israel in international affairs including close economic ties with Taiwan and some Pacific Island states. The relationship is so close that current and future LNP leaders might cherish the role of Australia as The Israel of the Pacific with an enhanced defence profile in a revamped US Global Alliance.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.