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Tag Archives: China

Scott Morrison’s national security fail

The Morrison Government likes to flap their arms and say they’re strong on national security, but the evidence actually proves otherwise.

It has been reported today in The Guardian the American Government is privately saying that Australia has dropped the ball when it comes to the Solomon Islands. Indeed, the foreign minister hasn’t visited the Solomon Islands to discuss the situation with China, nor has Mr Morrison for that matter, and this national security failure in our backyard has disappointed the Americans.

This situation regarding the Solomon Islands only proves the Morrison Government is incompetent on national security, for many reasons.

I kindly ask you take your minds back to 11 September 2015, when The Guardian published footage of Mr Dutton, Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison indulging in Mr Dutton’s recorded comments of; “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re, you know, about to have water lapping at your door.” Mr Abbott laughed at the remark, and Mr Morrison nodded his head before realising the boom Mike and cameras were on. This insensitive, or may I even say incendiary, remark by Mr Dutton enraged our Pacific neighbours. It was a huge diplomatic blunder that enraged our Pacific island neighbours, and despite as reported in The Guardian on 13 September 2015 an apology was made by Mr Dutton he still managed to further outrage our Pacific neighbours by saying, “it was a light-hearted moment with the Prime Minister.” What could possibly be light-hearted about island nations going under water because of climate change? Neither Mr Abbott nor Mr Morrison made any form of apology to our Pacific neighbours, nor did they admonish Mr Dutton.

As reported in the Australian Financial Review on 21 August 2020, short-term thinking by the Morrison Government towards foreign policy had become by then the political norm. The Morrison Government placed 1,000 potential coal jobs ahead of the Turnbull Government’s ‘Pacific Step Up’, announced in 2017 to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific. Once again, this failure in foreign policy and national security by the Morrison Government enraged our Pacific neighbours who were having to address climate change driven rising sea levels.

To add insult to injury Mr Morrison further insulted our Pacific neighbours at the Pacific Islands Forum in October 2019. The Guardian reported on 23 October 2019, the former prime minister of Tuvalu said he was “stunned” by Scott Morrison’s behaviour at the Pacific Islands Forum, which he thought communicated the view that Pacific leaders should; “take the money … then shut up about climate change.” Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, described Australia as “very insulting and condescending” in climate talks. The Pacific leaders also said the funding was repackaged from the existing ODA [official development assistance] to the Pacific and other sectors. That is a familiar story when it comes to the Morrison Government.

In an open letter dated 1 December 2020 all the leaders of our Pacific neighbours criticised Australia’s response to climate change (reported in The Guardian on 1 December 2020). Rather than being conciliatory and seeking to come to a mutually agreeable position, Mr Morrison maintained his rambunctious attitude towards the Pacific leaders by saying; “Australia is successfully meeting our commitments and our targets and in fact we are exceeding them,” a claim which was substantially untrue.

On 2 November 2021 it was reported in the PNG Attitude Mr Morrison was still not listening to the Pacific leaders about climate change, a matter of major international embarrassment for Australia regarding our ongoing failure with our foreign affairs and national security policies in the Pacific. Mr Morrison announced at Glasgow in November 2021 an extra $100 million a year for the next five years to cover all Pacific Island and South-East Asian countries which left his audience cold. Pacific leaders had told Mr Morrison they would rather he made sharper cuts to Australia’s emissions. Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said he told Morrison to slash Australia’s emissions by 2030. Mr Morrison has of course remained obstinate even up to today with an ineffectual 2030 target of a 28% reduction in emissions by 2030.

So, this national security and foreign policy failure is not a recent phenomenon, it has been 7 years in the making of successive Liberal governments insulting our Pacific neighbours, including how the Liberals have treated our Pacific neighbours’ concerns about climate change. What is most concerning is that after it was reported a number of weeks ago the Solomon Islands was entering into a closer relationship with China, not one single member of the Morrison Government travelled to the Solomon Islands to address the relationship with China, until last night after Mr Albanese called out the government for this national security disaster.

Of course, the majority of the Fourth Estate have ignored the Morrison Government’s massive national security failure, but the Americans aren’t happy with Australia for dropping the ball, and of course, the Port of Darwin has been previously leased to China.

This is undoubtedly the most embarrassing era for us in foreign affairs policy, and the Morrison Government has compromised our national security in the Pacific.

Vote the Morrison Government out, Australia.

 

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Morrison creating tensions with Asia and New Zealand

By Darrell Egan

Fresh from Scott Morrison’s announcement to go to Washington later this year after Australian Foreign Ministers Asia and Washington visit, he introduces nuclear submarines to Australia as part of AUKUS pact between Australia, Britain and the US to take a assertive military approach to China in the South China Sea.

It is likely this AUKUS (or ORCUS) nuclear submarine deal will see these pod of AUKUS nuclear submarines sent to the South China Sea, creating more heightened tensions between Australia and China from an already rapidly deteriorating relationship.

In a hawkish pivot to Asia with the AUKUS pact, US military aircraft and weapons are looking to be stored in Australia seemingly to support sending forces into the South China Sea.

In a further development the US has pulled out Patriot missiles which appears to be in line with a pivot to Asia military redeployment build up.

From China’s point of view they are surrounded by US military bases in South Korea and Japan, with weapons pointed at them including heavy M1 Howitzer guns with a 23 kilometre range which can hit their city of Xiamen.

 

Fleet of AUKUS Nuclear Submarines likely for use in South China Sea

 

The United States has the view they believe China cannot have primacy in the South China, sea citing freedom of navigation.

However the United States have not ratified on to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1994 freedom of navigation.

In a sign China which appears to have lessened an primacy in the South China Sea, legalities are being finalised this year on a gas joint venture between the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

New Zealand who is not a member of AUKUS and the Quadrilateral Dialogue Group and seems to be taking a more independent stance as a member of ANZUS Australia New Zealand United States co operation treaty.

Whilst New Zealand has a Pacific partnership with Australia, this nuclear submarine deal has created tension in the relationship with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has announced that Australian Nuclear submarines are not welcome in New Zealand.

In a statement reported in yesterday stated Nanaia Mahuta was uncomfortable with expanding the role of the Five Eyes intelligence reach in provoking tensions in the Asia Pacific region with China.

It appears New Zealand’s principals are being put to the test with this development.

In contact with New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s media adviser with some informal discussions on the issue, there has yet to be a any further response from their office, into further formal statements.

In a statement sent to me by the office of the leader of the Australian Greens Adam Bandt MP, he conveyed:

“This move by Scott Morrison will make Australia and the region less safe with inciting a risk of conflict.”

Mirroring Adam Bandt’s comments condemning this move by Scott Morrison, ex Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said this move trades away Australia’s Sovereignty and makes Australia’s defence policy solely dependent on the United States.

 

 

Paul Keating added further concern with Australia’s current strategy in relation to China and military escalation in the South china sea if we have a situation is another reckless style Donald Trump leader is elected in the next US elections.

The tensions in Scott Morrison’s move in the public and political realm in the Pacific is evident, in what appears to be very little discussion or debate with Australia’s most important Pacific partner before making his submarine buying deal which will give fresh indigestion to others.

This article was originally published on Dazza Egan Australia & China Watch Journo.

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More Hopeful Times Ahead with President Joe Biden in a Post-Virus Era?

By Denis Bright

Can the politics of hope replace the normal circus of a US Presidential election in these times of public health and financial crises? Is Joe Biden as the Democratic hopeful up to the task against a well-resourced and canny incumbent?

How are things trending on the Twin Fronts? What unchartered scenarios lie ahead before the scheduled Presidential voting day on 3 November 2020?

Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

The Guardian (9 April 2020) provided useful updates of the COVID-19 Crisis across the USA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site in Atlanta provides daily updates of the trend-lines.

While the North Eastern Metropolitan Areas are virus epicentres, there are clusters of COVID-19 around all major urban hubs across the USA.

Graphs of cases of COVID-19 may follow trends established in South Korea and China in the coming weeks after the peak of the crisis is finally attained.

 

 

Countries with different health systems may be following similar trajectories.

Perhaps the degree of enforcement of social distancing is a key factor.

 

Regrettably, President Trump is uneasy about keeping the US in lockdown. The US was a late starter in issuing lockdown directives. The Trump Administration took its lockdown cues from the key epicentre states.

President Trump’s unease is linked to his concerns about the consequences of an over-extended lockdown for the financial welfare of the nation.

The US Financial Crisis-The Times They Are A-Changing

As the vital COVID-19 case numbers are likely to plateau and then to flatten in a few weeks, it is the financial crisis which is likely to intensify (The Guardian 9 April 2020). Perhaps there is provision to defer the presidential and congressional elections if unemployment trends worsen at a time of public health crisis. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first landslide victory in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression came with a voter participation of 56.9 per cent. This was similar to recent voter participation rates in recent presidential elections.

McKinsey Global Institute in New York offers the possibility of a China-led recovery if the pandemic can be contained in the medium term in 2020:

 

 

Trajectories for the US economy and its global influence are of course unknown quantities at this stage. The McKinsey Institute does not extend its more detailed US projections beyond the current year.

 

 

Unchartered Social Outcomes of Previous Crises

In these times of financial and health crises, it is surprising that the US is turning to veteran leaders on both sides of the congressional aisles.

Old musical folk-heroes are being respected anew even if they maintain some left-leaning agendas as in the 1960s. Perhaps the popular music scene is an ongoing escape from the excesses of centre-right politics now as before.

Like Barry McGuire (Born 1935) of Eve of Destruction fame, Bob Dylan might be still alive to sing out the Trump Era. This is less likely if President Trump gains a second term. The changeover inauguration date in January 2025 is still a very long way off.

From near-retirement, Bob Dylan has just offered a new release on 27 March 2020. Murder Most Foul recalls the social aftermaths of President Kennedy’s (JFK’s) assassination on Friday 22 November 1963 (Full lyrics here).

Writing for MIT Press Reader, literature guru Timothy Hampton of the University of California, Berkley reminds every one of the haunting tragedies that afflict US society over which a cheery popular culture continues to offer band-aid compensations (The MIT Press Reader 3 April 2020).

Social band-aids were needed as high-profile assassinations in the 1960s. Formal politics in the USA tilted to the right while most of society continued its freedom-loving ways in the shadows of a more disciplined corporate society with its enormous and growing military industrial complexes.

The losses of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King within a few weeks of each other in 1968 deepened the wounds against a healthy social recovery from JFK’s assassination. When the Woodstock Festival convened in upstate New York in August 1969, President Nixon had already won by a landslide at the 1968 election. There was no It’s Time Era in formal US Politics as in Australia, Britain and across the expanding European Union.

Writing in The Conversation, Aniko Bodroghkozy, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia summed up the eerie mood across the USA as COVID-19 takes its toll:

Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus has turned the country’s cultural spigot off, with sports suspended, museums closed and movies postponed.

But the virus hasn’t stopped Bob Dylan, who, on the evening of March 26, released “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute long song about the Kennedy assassination.

Many have pondered the timing. So, have I. I’m a Kennedy scholar, writing a book about how television handled coverage of the Kennedy assassination over a traumatic four-day “black weekend,” as it was called. I’ve also explored how Americans responded to the sudden upending of national life with the murder of a popular and uniquely telegenic president.

NBC News anchor David Brinkley, as he signed off that first night, called Kennedy’s death “just too much, too ugly and too fast.”

The coronavirus crisis may also seem too much and too ugly, though it’s unfolded much more slowly. While a global pandemic is certainly different from a political assassination, I wonder if Dylan sensed some resonance between the two events. Inscrutable as always, he’s unlikely to ever explain. And yet it’s hard to ignore the poignant similarities in the ways Americans have responded to each tragedy.

Ana Swanson of the New York Times notes the switch from trade and investment wars with China to increasing dependence on China for vital medical supplies in the current health crisis:

WASHINGTON — A commercial aircraft carrying 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down in New York on Sunday, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April as it battles the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

The plane delivered 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and thousands of thermometers for distribution to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ms. Litzow said that flights would be arriving in Chicago on Monday and in Ohio on Tuesday, and that supplies would be sent from there to other states using private-sector distribution networks.

While the goods that arrived in New York on Sunday will be welcomed by hospitals and health care workers — some of whom have resorted to rationing protective gear or using homemade supplies — they represent just a tiny portion of what American hospitals need. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the United States will require 3.5 billion masks if the pandemic lasts a year.

That overwhelming demand has set off a race among foreign countries, American officials at all levels of government and private individuals to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other much-needed goods from China, where newly built factories are churning out supplies even as China’s own epidemic wanes.

This sharing of medical assistance from China in a time of crisis is particularly significant. Australia has the green light to respond in a likewise manner (ABC News):

A freight flight from the city where the deadly coronavirus first appeared has arrived in Sydney, carrying 90 tonnes of protective masks, gowns and ventilators.

Tough restrictions on travel in and out of Wuhan, China were only lifted in the last 24 hours, and the city’s airport whirred back into action along with many other transport hubs in Hubei province.

The cargo flight, operated by Chinese carrier Suparna Airlines, arrived in Sydney after 9:00pm on Wednesday, and is the first flight from Wuhan to land at Australia’s busiest airport since late January.

“This flight will be carrying up to 90 tonnes of much needed medical supplies,” a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department told the ABC.

Readers who would like to promote discussion on this possible change agenda should add their comments in the interests of citizens’ journalism.

The Atlantic (20 November 2013) has offered some trivia from The Wire to assist in your assessment of Joe Biden from a selective focus on his College Years (The Atlantic 20 November 2013). Select quoting from this article would spoil its punch-lines.

Luck will have to be on Joe Biden’s side again if he is to overcome the challenges posed by the political colours on the 2016 US Presidential Election Map. The 2016 Campaign delivered a 304 to 227 margin for President Trump in the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton gained almost 3 million primary votes over Donald Trump and attained 48.2 per cent of the overall vote.

The campaigning style of Joe Biden has yet to be tested against a canny incumbent with almost limitless campaigning resources to communicate with a nation in lockdown. Joe Biden’s ultimate political trial on 3 November 2020 must surely attract some of the silent majority who are not scared off by the long-odds.

Australia is so entwined in the global soft power network of the USA that our interest is imperative. I can recall the exact ABC radio news bulletin at 6 a.m. on that Saturday morning here which informed me of JFK’s assassination. It took years to understand the long-term even immediate consequences. With the assassin incorrectly portrayed as a communist sympathiser at the time, the electorate was already ready to stay with Robert Menzies on 30 November 1963 with his commitments to new F11 Fighter Jets and negotiations to accept the North West Cape Communication base through negotiations with US Ambassador William Battle. Australia was intimately caught up in the right-wing tendencies in global politics within the US Global Alliance.

The guide to form map from the 2016 Presidential Campaign shows the challenges facing my own outsider wager in favour of Joe Biden knowing that President Trump has a knack of mobilising his own support base in those key Swing States like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania which have the numbers to change our political world through the strange mechanics of the US Electoral College. Building up more progressive majorities in California and New York do help congressional numbers but do not influence the race prize for Joe Biden.

In the Hope of Progressive Change, I choose to Trust in my current assessment of Unchartered Times.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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You will catch it

You are going to catch it.

Not everyone who reads this article will contract COVID-19, the novel coronavirus originating in Hubei province, China. On the current rates of transmission and expected trajectory, however, the chances are better than even that if you are reading these words, in the near future you will catch this virus.

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch believes that the virus has moved beyond any attempts to contain it. Whilst governments around the world, Australia included, continue to talk about containing the virus and preventing its spread, they are also mobilising their plans for responding to a global pandemic. Dr Nancy Messonnier, head of the US government’s Centre for Disease Control, said on Tuesday that COVID-19 could not be stopped and that public policy would have to switch from containment to mitigation.

“Pandemic” has a formal definition. Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, explains: “A pandemic is a label that simply says that there’s sustained community transmission in several countries. We are already preparing for the eventuality that we have further outbreaks in Australia should they happen. So that’s what the preparation is about. So, declaring a pandemic doesn’t change what we do.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced that the government is preparing its full response plan for management of the crisis. Current plans include securing the supply chains for required medical supplies and personnel, and as reported elsewhere, the repurposing of sports stadiums and other infrastructure as temporary medical facilities.

The truth is, it is likely this virus already qualifies for “pandemic” status. Whilst the majority of cases have so far been detected in China, the disease is spreading rapidly and largely uncontrolled throughout Asia. The United States has seen its first case of an apparently disconnected diagnosis – a confirmed case of coronavirus in a patient with no known contact to people from affected areas. There have been reports of people becoming symptomatic up to 28 days after exposure, which is well outside the accepted quarantine measures. In all likelihood, in several countries or many, the disease is spreading unchecked and unseen throughout populations.

They won’t know about it for some time yet. The disease is often mild, or even for some asymptomatic. This virus appears to be more contagious than influenza, and every individual affected may on average infect four others (reducing, as the virus becomes more endemic in the population). In combination, a highly contagious virus with mild effects is likely to be impossible to control. Once it gets out of control in any one place, in practical terms our globalised economic system ensures it will spread everywhere.

The most important direct response anyone can take towards this sobering thought is: Don’t panic!

The moments of greatest disruption from this virus are right now. There is much that is yet unknown, but from the cases we have so far seen, we can draw some conclusions.

COVID-19 is far more virulent than the common cold, it’s true. It’s more severe than normal strains of influenza. Typical influenza hospitalises a small percentage of sufferers, with complications and severe outcomes including death for between 0.1% and 0.5% of all infected. COVID-19 has a mortality rate between 1.5% and 4%. The wide range reflects that the severity of virus outcomes depends largely on the quality of medical care sufferers receive. Untreated, obviously more people die than those in countries with advanced medical systems, such as Australia. COVID-19 appears also to be particularly severe in the elderly and those with co-morbid conditions (pre-existing conditions such as Diabetes or Asthma). This is no different to the regular strains of annual influenza and related cold and flu viruses.

COVID-19 is not a devastating new epidemic to kill vast swathes of Australians. It’s far more akin to a particularly severe flu strain. The more pernicious effect of the virus is measured in how societies are responding to its threat.

Governments have already closed borders, and even after a few short weeks the global economy is shuddering under the strain. Australia’s universities are suffering a loss of international students, many of whom will not return. Global trade markets are at a standstill, as are many major industrial facilities in China. (As a result, China’s CO2 emissions for the quarter are hugely reduced, although if COVID-19 is contained and restrictions are lifted there is an expectation that China’s factories will roar back into life, seeking to make up for lost time.) There have been reports already of panic buying of medical and infection prevention materials in various cities. Japan is terrified about the possibility of the Olympic Games not going ahead, or (worse) being run without an influx of tourists. International art, fashion and music festivals have been postponed or cancelled for fear of spreading the virus amongst attendees. Forget making people sick, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on modern society, in much the same way terror of terrorism used to.

Our modern economy cannot operate if people are reluctant to go out in public, if they avoid sporting events and art galleries, beaches and rock concerts, if they avoid Chinatown and restaurants and shopping centres, the whole edifice that is our carefully constructed and tended economy may crumble.

Already stock markets are tottering, and the worst effects have not yet begun to bite. Investors have been so far reluctant to admit the worst possibilities of this pandemic, assuming that the effects of the virus will be to depress the stock market for a short while – perhaps one fiscal quarter – before the inevitable rebound. It seems hugely optimistic to assume that COVID-19 will be under control in a single quarter. This crisis has, almost certainly, a lot longer yet to run. Some analysts fear that the results of COVID-19 will be worse than the GFC. Compared to the damage this could do to modern societies and nations, the physical effects of this virus seem positively benign.

In reality COVID-19 is not too dissimilar, in many ways, to the existing strains of flu. If it becomes endemic in world populations, to the extent that governments cease attempting to contain and eliminate it, we will treat it much as any other flu-like illness: with symptomatic treatment. It is important to note also that there are vaccines currently being developed for this disease. Contrary to some breathless reporting elsewhere, such efforts will not be providing an immunisation against COVID-19 any time soon. The best-case scenario is for a working, mass-produced vaccine to be available 22-24 months from now. This timeline is unprecedentedly swift: most vaccines take up to a decade to bring to market. Two years from now, COVID-19 will either be eliminated in practical terms, or it will be everywhere, sweeping across the globe in annual waves with the weather.

So what would a world with COVID-19 look like? Largely this depends on a couple of factors, which are currently not known.

One of the most important questions is whether COVID-19 might, like existing influenza strains, be highly mutable, changing form every year such that the touted vaccine for this year will be less effective next year. If this proves the case, COVID-19 might be here to stay. The good news is that the severity of COVID-19 might be due in part to its novelty – it is a new virus not previously found in human populations, so it’s feasible to suppose that this virus is proving harder for the human immune system to beat. Unlike the flu, nobody has immunity to COVID-19 from either immunisation or having experienced an earlier strain. After we’ve all experienced COVID-19 once, the likelihood is that many will resist any future strains, should they come. Once you’ve recovered from this year’s strain, your body might more easily fight off the next iteration.

Our most probable future is one where COVID-19 has swept through most global populations and most, at least in western, advanced societies, are now either immune or vaccinated against it. Perhaps the virus will be mutable, each year seeing a new strain, with the medical fraternity encouraging us all to get our Flu-and-COVID shots as each flu season rolls around. Or it will be a one-and-done. In either case, we will no longer be afraid to step outside our doors, to interact with our fellow humans, to socialise and share company and food and experiences. In truth, we shouldn’t be afraid of these things now. Either the authorities will prevail, against the odds, and COVID-19 will go the way of Polio and Ebola, eliminated in most human populations with only a rare outbreak occurring from time to time. Under this scenario the chances of a typical Australian contracting the virus are slim. We are protected by our strong biosecurity and the tyranny of distance. If any country can retain control of such a disease it is Australia. Or else the virus will slip past our defenses anyway and run amok through our cities. Your chances of avoiding the disease then, due to your own vigilance, become unfeasibly small. You are likely to catch it. And that shouldn’t bother you. Most of us will catch it, and for the vast majority of us the result will be a case of coughs-and-sniffles.

At 2% morbidity, COVID-19 would be a substantial killer of the old, the sick, the vulnerable, but as always this cost will be borne most heavily in third world countries, rural areas or those with undeveloped medical systems. Here in affluent Australia it will be a mere sub-component of the list of diseases which can kill us, and we will give no more thought to it than we do to Measles. So, don’t panic. If COVID-19 becomes a pandemic, the likelihood is we’ll just have to live with it. So we shouldn’t let it stop us living now.

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Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.” (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality. No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail. Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age. “If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

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Free Trade Agreements – economic or electoral?

Since September 2013, the ‘achievements’ of our government could be broadly summarised by ‘knock it down, rip it up, sell it off or shoot it.’

Their one supposedly constructive achievement, apart from promises about roads, is hastily finalising several free trade agreements.

Aside from the co-incidence/concern of agreements that had been negotiated over several years all reaching conclusion at the same time (what did we agree to?), are these actually in Australia’s best interests or are they just political opportunities?

When John Howard signed the Free Trade Agreement with the US in 2004, it was suggested that his motive was electoral rather than economic – to highlight the American alliance and hope that if Labor opposed it it could be cast as anti-American, and hence a security risk.

The Coalition’s reaction to Labor’s attempts to safeguard Australian jobs in the China FTA has used a similar approach, branding Labor as racist.

In the first five years after the signing of the US FTA, Australia’s exports to the US grew by only 2.5 per cent, compared with double-digit growth for exports to all the major Asian trading partners. America slipped from third to fifth among Australian export destinations, overtaken by Korea and India.

By 2009, the value of Australian exports to the US was only about a quarter of those to the two leading customers, China and Japan. The four Asian countries together took more than 10 times the value of exports to the US despite having no such trade agreements.

Moreover, between 2004 and 2009, the bilateral trade gap in America’s favour grew even larger. Australia’s imports from America grew much more quickly than its exports to America. According to US data, the gap in America’s favour grew from $US6.4 billion to $US11.6 billion.

In 2004 Australian exports to America were worth about 54 per cent of the value of imports from that country. By 2009 the figure was down to 41 per cent.

And our current endeavours do not promise any better.

Hockey’s second MYEFO showed a revenue write-down of $1.6 billion due to the FTA with Japan.

Also, the agreements with Japan and Korea effectively sounded the death knell for our car industry and manufacturing more broadly.

The Chinese deal on beef is only for an extra 10% exports before a trigger where tariffs will be charged again, and the proposed tariff reduction will not fully take place for nine years.

Agribusiness lawyer Lea Fua told a Brisbane hearing that China has a safeguard clause which allows it to add customs duties to fresh and frozen beef carcasses and meat when Australian beef imports hit a volume trigger of 170,000 tonnes.

“In 2013-14, Australia exported 161,000 tonnes of beef to China worth $787 million,” Mr Fua told the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Treaties.

“The concern here is that given the growth in Australian beef exports to China, which has been exponential in the last few years, the risk here is that the trigger will be reached fairly quickly and China is able to apply extra customs duty which appears to be against the spirit of chapter two [of the FTA],” he said.

Mr Fua said a similar situation applies to Chinese imports of Australian milk and cream solids.

As Bob Katter has warned, rather than being the food bowl for Asia, on current trajectory, Australia will become a net importer of food, and pretty much everything else other than coal and iron ore. This will have significant implications for domestic prices as farmers can make a greater profit by exporting their produce.

If, as the unions warn, foreign companies are allowed to bring in their own workers, it becomes even more difficult to believe these agreements are in the best interests of our country.

A bilateral meeting with a friendly leader presents many domestic political advantages. It gives the appearance of advancing the national interests and attracts intense and usually uncritical media coverage, but it inevitably favours the biggest countries, such as the US and China. Their power affords them superior bargaining leverage to win concessions favouring their domestic constituencies.

After bilateral meetings, leaders can sing each other’s praises and hail the breakthrough their mutual brilliance has achieved. In practice, the promised benefits often fade just a little more slowly than the TV lights.

 

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Bob Katter nails it: we are being deceived about the FTA with China

Bob Katter is a man I’ve never paid much attention to. He’s on the other side of the country and might as well be on the other side of the planet as far as I’m concerned. But when a friend sent me the link to Katter’s speech in Parliament last week on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement I sat up and took notice. It’s a gem. It sparkled. You need to see it.

Here it is:

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (17:50): I feel sorry for the members of the government, I really do. They get a brief and they have got to get up and tell us how wonderful the free trade deal is and how it is going to save the world. I was in this place and saw the then Prime Minister stand up and lead the clapping for Andrew Robb on the free trade deal with China and I thought, ‘Maybe I know nothing about politics, but if this is getting you votes I am a Martian astronaut!’ Four weeks later he was thrown out a window.

You think you are deceiving the people of Australia. You are not. When they hear ‘free trade deal’, they hate you. Understand that, because I might not be an expert in a number of fields, but after 41 years of straight wins in pretty hostile territory, I can tell you that I know a little tiny bit about politics. I sat at the feet of the great master, Bjelke-Petersen. So if you are not interested in governing the country, if you are not interested in helping your country, maybe you might just think about your survival.

I feel sorry for the LNP. They somehow think that Australia is this big, huge country and that it can produce a magnificent amount of agricultural production. It most certainly can produce a lot more than it is producing. But it is not a big, huge agricultural country at all. There is 53 per cent of Australia that is designated as desert and 23 per cent is designated as Indigenous lands. Since the governments of Australia will not give title deed to those lands, they are sterilised. That is 76 per cent gone. There is seven per cent that is national parks. So, if you take out that 83 per cent, there ain’t a lot left.

The concept that huge areas of land will produce huge areas of food—sorry; that is wrong. There are a few thousand hectares, maybe 30,000 hectares, of land that is producing about a quarter of Australia’s beef production. They are called lot feeders. Basically the cattle do not wander around chewing grass. That is not the way beef is produced anymore in America or in Europe or in Australia. It is done in lot feeders. So you have a different concept altogether, where you do not need huge areas of land. Your competitive advantage is in that lot feeder. That is where the action comes. You have a competitive advantage in that area.

Somehow they think, ‘There are millions of people in South-East Asia, and we’re going to be able to sell all this food to them.’ Mr Deputy Speaker, I would refer you to the statistics. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that we will be importing food from those countries. Let me be very specific. When I stood up in this place 15 years ago and said that this market fundamentalism, this free market rubbish, will destroy your country, I said that Australia could become a net importer of food. Every 10 years, the imports increase at 103 per cent and the exports increase at 21 per cent. You do not have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that the graphs will soon cross.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you must understand that, if every Chinese city had two 20-storey buildings with tanks on each storey, then they could produce all of the protein requirements for China. They do not have to buy any of our beef. They do not have to buy any of our seafood product. In fact, if you look at a graph of the increase in seafood production in China, if you extrapolate that graph on for about 30 or 40 years, in theory all of the world’s protein would be coming out of the prawn and fish farms in China.

I am fascinated by how this is going to help Australia. The last speaker, the member for Lyne, touted the beef industry. I do not know if he knows anything about it. I rather doubt that he does, but he touted the beef industry. Well, let us have a look at what this free trade deal does for the beef industry. We sell our beef at the present moment at $2 a kilogram. If you look at the average price, it is a lot less than that, but I will take $2 a kilogram. Its 10 per cent tariff has been abolished, so that is a 20c advantage we get. The beef sells over there for $32 a kilogram. Those are the figures that have been given to me. But now the Australians are going to have a terrific advantage of 20c, so it is $31.80 now. Jeez, that will lead to a huge increase in the benefits for the beef producers of Australia! A difference between $32 and $31.80, and the member of parliament who sits beside me here, the member for Lyne, seriously touted that as something that is going to help the beef industry? Why doesn’t he do his homework? Why does he just take the drivel that comes from the frontbench? And the drivel that comes from the frontbench is dictated by the giant corporations that bankroll the mainstream parties.

Having dealt with the LNP, we will move on now to the ALP. If ever there was a day on which ‘Red Ted’ Theodore would turn in his grave and the founders of the labour movement would spit upon the people that sit in this House and call themselves Labor members, today is the day. When I walk out of this place, there is a magnificent portrait of a bloke called Charlie McDonald. Charlie McDonald was the first member for Kennedy, and every time I go out I salute Charlie. Six of Charlie’s first seven speeches in this place were railing against the importation of foreign labour. Well, this document opens the door to it. This man went out and helped form the Labor Party, the labour movement, of Australia. They fought and died, literally—there were three shearers shot dead at the strike, where Waltzing Matilda was written a couple of months later—and the entire executive of the AWU were jailed for three years with hard labour for having a strike. These men and their families went hungry. What happened when they got arbitration was that the miners said, ‘We’re bringing the coolies in from China. Ha, ha. Take that, Buster Brown; take that.’ And the cane plantations said, ‘We’re bringing the Kanaks in to be cane cutters, so take that, Buster Brown; take that.’

So the first member for Kennedy stood up in this place and courageously fought to create the Labor Party—and the people who sit here on $200,000 or $300,000 a year, enjoying the benefits from the creation of that labour movement, sit here and betray every principle that was put forward by those people. Charlie McDonald would turn in his grave. But I am proud to say that the people of Kennedy are still represented by people who are not sell-outs, who are not under the control of the big plantation owners or the big mining companies. No. We are under the control of the people of our area. That is who we are under the control of and proud to say it. This opens the door that the Charlie McDonalds died for. The ALP today sold them out—lock, stock and barrel. There is not a trade unionist in Australia who is not looking at the ground and being ashamed of his association with the labour movement.

Let me become very specific. I am fascinated. I am just a poor, humble, simple Cloncurry boy. Clearly, these wunderkind—over here and over there—have decided to have free markets. The honourable member over there, Mr Brough, is making faces; he thinks it’s funny! I will tell you how funny it is, my friend. You have to buy everything from overseas. The last whitegoods factory, which is at Orange, closes this year. So you have to buy all your whitegoods from overseas. About 40 per cent of the steel in your house—the roofing on it, the reinforcing steel for your floor—comes from overseas. About 40 per cent of your cement comes from overseas. All your whitegoods and all the motor cars in your garage will come from overseas, next year. The clothes you wear will all come from overseas. Your footwear will all come from overseas. The petrol you put in your car comes from overseas. Everything we buy comes from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all of these things?

The honourable member there, Mr Brough, laughed at me. People have laughed at me ever since I came into this place and started talking about this. I want it on record that he laughed at me, because the history books will pass judgement upon him. They will say: ‘Who are the people who destroyed this country?’ We have to buy everything from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all our petrol, to buy all our motor cars, to buy everything in our houses and to buy the clothes on our backs?

Let me turn to food—and people in this place laugh at me about this. This country is now a net importer of pork. It is a net importer of seafood. It is a net importer of fruit and vegetables. It is only a matter of time. As I said, it is 103 per cent every 10 years, the last time I looked, and a 21 per cent increase in exports every 10 years. Inevitably—as the sun rises—we will become a net importer of food. You cannot eat live cattle or unprocessed grain, but if you take those two commodities out we are getting pretty close, in fact, to being a net importer of food. People in this place have laughed at me, but the people of Australia are passing judgement upon them, already, as we talk.

Where are we going to get this money from? We have only two things now that we export, and everyone knows that they are iron ore and coal. I am not here to denigrate those industries. In fact, I pray every night of my life to the good Lord that it does not come to pass, the continuation of what we are suffering in the thermal coal industry. But I would not like to be backing myself in, and I will not go into the problems of the thermal coal industry. What you have is what you have, in iron ore.

The country has to buy everything from overseas—and all they have to buy it with is iron ore and coal. A little bit of gold. Of course, aluminium is doomed. Aluminium is electricity. It came to Australia when we had the cheapest electricity in the world, in Queensland. Australia now has the second highest electricity charges in the world. So it will be bye-bye aluminium. It will be bye-bye all mineral processing, because it all depends upon—and I am sick and tired, in this place, of hearing ‘It’s high wages that are killing us!’ Wages look pretty bloody small when compared with the cost of mineral processing, which is the cost of electricity.

It is due to the incompetence of the people in this place and of state governments who have taken electricity charges up 400 per cent in 10 years. That is what your free markets and privatisation have done: 400 per cent increase, in electricity charges, in 10 years. For 10 years before that, in Queensland, there was no increase at all. For 10 years before privatisation and a deregulation of the pricing mechanism we had no movement in price at all. My case rests. It dooms aluminium and it dooms mineral processing, so you are left with iron ore and coal. The income from iron ore and coal—maybe $150,000 million or whatever it is—is not enough to meet our imports. It is nowhere near enough.

You are living in a country that is going broke at 100 miles an hour. You cannot buy everything from overseas when you have nothing to sell overseas. The people in this place with their market fundamentalism, their fanaticism, have imposed upon Australia a regime that no other country on earth has to suffer under. Every other farmer on earth gets 40 per cent of his income from the government. Our poor farmers get six per cent. I conclude on that note. So much for your free trade. (Time expired)

 

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China illustrates the true meaning of Direct Action on climate

By Dr Anthony Horton

With 37 days to go until the Paris Climate Change conference in December, a report released by the Paulson Institute in Beijing on Friday October 23 outlined a plan to accelerate the economic and environmental improvement transition in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in China, which last year was home to 130 million people and accounted for 10% of China’s GDP.

In addition to industrial areas, modern urban centres and districts trying to resist urban sprawl and maintain their rural character, the region is also called home by the largest steel and iron manufacturers in China, and some of the most polluted cities in the world. The steel, coke and cement industries are the largest greenhouse gas emitters in China.

According to a story in the weekend edition of the China Daily newspaper (24/25 October) which discussed the highlights of the report, the region is well placed to transition on the basis of its good infrastructure and relatively easy access to wind and solar power.

Former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stated in an interview on the release of the report that in his opinion the next Five Year Plan (commencing in 2016) will be very ambitious and widely acclaimed. Figuring out how to make the Plan a reality will represent the biggest challenge though, and transitioning from “dirty” to “clean” plants without stifling growth was achievable but will take some time. Paulson also highlighted the huge opportunities that such a transition presents for international companies based on the size of the market for environmental goods and services.

Deputy Director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, Wang Jiahui commented that it was possible to control air pollution, given the emissions reduction campaign conducted during APEC China last year. She also stated that nineteen coal fired power plants in Tianjin will meet the emission standards that gas fired stations are required to meet by the end of this year.

Liu Bozheng, also a Deputy Director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform announced that 1200 high energy consumption and highly polluting companies will be closed by 2017 rather than relocated to other regions. Four significant thermoelectric centres have been closed in Beijing and numerous coal fired boilers have been converted to gas boilers. A number of energy efficiency measures have also been implemented in Beijing as part of revamping more than 40 million square metres of office space.

Rather than simply revitalising industries in decline, the report recommended that City officers should identify opportunities for new growth industries. With respect to Hebei, officers should prioritise policies that promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and have strong growth and job creation potential, according to the Paulson Institute report.

I read the China Daily story on the flight from Beijing to Perth on Sunday, and have to admit that it brought to mind many of the conversations I had over the week I was in China. I was invited to speak on the role of innovation in the environmental protection space at the China Mining Conference and Exhibition 2015 in Tianjin, and in addition to speaking to a range of people in my session, I also spoke to many others over the three days of the conference.

After reflecting on the conference and the few days I spent in Beijing before and after, I left China with four main impressions. Firstly, there is an appreciation of the scale of transition that is required. There is also an understanding that the Green Mining Standard (initially conceived by the Ministry of Land and Resources in 2007) and the Guidance to Implement the National Mineral Resource Program, Develop Green Mining and Construct a Green Mine issued in 2010 (which essentially established a defined Green Mining Standard) is flexible enough to accommodate new knowledge and innovative approaches.

The Green Mining Standard takes into account nine operational aspects-operating legally, good practices, the efficient use of resources, technological innovation, limiting releases of wastes, environmental protection, reclamation, a harmonious relationship with the community and a good culture within the company.

Third, there is a willingness to listen to adopt learnings from international mining settings, and lastly (but by no means least), there is an optimism regarding what can be achieved in the short, medium and long term.

I am also heartened by the singularity of the messages I heard from Governments and Mining companies in China with respect to the need to protect the environments in which mining takes place as well as nearby ecosystems (which are linked in some way to those mined areas) as far as practicable and the importance of clear legislation and policies which facilitate that protection.

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

 

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China Mining Conference & Exhibition 2015

Guess who has been invited to China to launch a white paper on the future of mining in that country? AIMN writer, Dr Anthony Horton. We have just received this press release from the Global Mining Association of China.

I am delighted to introduce Dr Anthony Horton, chairman of The Climate Change Guy Group and an internationally recognised authority on environmental protection.

China Mining Conference & Exhibition 2015

Tuesday 20th – Friday 23rd October

Tianjin, China

en.chinamining-expo.org

Currently in attendance at the 2015 China Mining Conference & Exhibition in Tianjin, Anthony has been invited by the Global Mining Association of China to participate in a panel discussion on green mining and also launch a white paper on the future of mining in China based on his vast knowledge of worlds best practice in environmental protection, compliance and management.

Green Mining Panel – Wednesday 21st October 2015

Presenting strategies and solutions for environmental protection in the Chinese mining industry, Anthony will be asked his opinions on innovations in this sphere – discussing exactly what resource innovation means, what it can look like, and how it can be used to build a cleaner future for China.

This panel also provides the opportunity for Anthony to introduce an alliance of Australian and international companies that can provide technology, counsel and support for the Chinese mining market.

White Paper Launch – Tuesday 20th October 2015

Launching a white paper on the future of mining in China, Anthony will be involved in a discussion of his research and findings as co-author. Addressing the issues and opportunities for both inbound and outbound Chinese mining investment, his aim is to inform and inspire by identifying game changing technology, procedures and policy that can facilitate the continued improvement of environmental protection in the resource sector… with far-reaching social, economic and health benefits across China, Asia and beyond.

A shortlist of Anthony’s credentials in the environmental space is featured below, with his Capability Statement and profile image also attached for your perusal. All media enquiries are welcome.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions and we look forward to the opportunity of engaging with you and the AIM audience.

Yours sincerely,

Jessie Singh

Follow Dr Anthony Horton on Twitter: @dranthonyhorton

View Dr Anthony Horton’s website: www.theclimatechangeguy.com.au

Dr Anthony Horton’s credentials include:

  • PhD in Environmental Science
  • Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours
  • Diploma of Carbon Management
  • Lead Environmental Auditor
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
  • Chartered Chemist of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute
  • Editorial Board of the Journal of Nature Environment & Pollution Technology

 

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Australia’s $234 billion climate gamble

By Dr Anthony Horton

As of last year, China and the US were first and third on the list of Australia’s trading partners. Australian trade with China was worth $152.53 billion-a total that has grown by 12.2% on average over the last 5 years. Australia’s trade with the US was worth $60.43 billion as of 2014, having grown 4% on average over the last 5 years.

In March this year, China raised a number of concerns regarding Australia’s Intended Nationally Determined Commitment (INDC) for greenhouse gas emissions in the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit in December. In particular, they queried whether replacing the planned Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) with the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will yield the reductions that were likely under those two. The US also queried whether the ERF will primarily replace the ETS or whether other Policies and Measures will be considered.

I discussed a number of issues regarding the ERF (the Flagship of the Australian Government Direct Action plan) and the first Auction in April this year in an earlier blog. The second Auction will be held on 4 and 5 November, which is approximately three and a half weeks prior to the Paris Summit. It is possible that news of the second Auction results will spread as widely and quickly as for the first, including to representatives of other nations attending the Summit. The representatives may be keen to quiz the Australian party on the results, particularly if the results are questioned as extensively in social media as the results of the first Auction were. This will be very interesting to watch indeed.

In the time since the first Auction, it is fair to say that a lot has transpired politically in an international and domestic context that highlights and brings into focus Australia’s stance on emissions reductions. In an international context, China and the US have progressed a deal on emissions reductions reached last November with discussions earlier this month, as a result of which many cities including Atlanta, Houston, New York, Beijing, Guangzhou and Zhenjiang have pledged new actions. A number of other nations have announced their INDCs in the lead up to Paris.

Last Friday (US time) Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a nationwide cap and trade emissions program as part of efforts to tackle climate change. Cap and trade programs cap the total emissions and sources including power stations and factories purchase and sell credits. In terms of the US, although plans for a nationwide cap and trade program were defeated in 2009, California and other north-eastern states have implemented emissions trading schemes.

Domestically, the Government has changed leadership resulting in the installation of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister. Last week, in response to the announcement of China’s cap and trade program, Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced that the Government will stay the course regarding the ERF which is reported to be “the best, most effective scheme in the world”.

According to the Government, further reductions could be considered in 2017/18 as part of discussions on Australia’s 2030 target policy framework.

Given that China and the US (amongst others) have raised concerns with Australia’s commitment for Paris and have signed agreements to peak and reduce emissions respectively, I would be very surprised if they (and other nations attending the Paris Summit) would be prepared to give Australia until 2017/18 to consider further emissions reductions. I think it more likely that the US and China lead the charge in maintaining pressure on Australia to do more in the global challenge that is climate change.

Given the recent announcements by the Australian Government with respect to the state of the domestic economy and the discussions as to the exact nature of the problem, I struggle to fathom why they believe they can maintain one particular strategy and direction with respect to emissions reduction when an increasing number of countries are going in another.

If trade with China and the US continues on their current respective trajectories, by 2017, the combined figure is at approximately $233.7 billion (at a minimum)-$170.84 billion from China and $62.85 billion from the US. I don’t know if many Australians would be prepared to allow their Government to gamble such a figure on any matter-least of all emissions reduction specifically but climate change more generally, especially given the global nature of today’s economy. This is effectively what they are doing by continuing to ignore the rising tide of emissions trading.

This article was originally published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

 

 

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More Than a Market Correction: China in Transition

Denis Bright invites responses about the long-term significance of the structural changes in China’s economy and its global financial outreach. Future implementation of such changes can be steered by Chinese leaders themselves or imposed from outside by joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on terms that are not completely acceptable to China. The latter option would require a more corporate-led style of economic development. Evidence of the significance of the forthcoming structural changes in the Chinese economy is far from complete. The author is open to feedback on the issues raised in this article.

Chinese financial market jitters (FT Online 28 August 2015)

Chinese financial market jitters (FT Online 28 August 2015)

As global financial markets stabilise after recent volatility, news services have rushed to offer explanations of the recent downturns in Chinese financial markets.

There is little doubt about the extent of China’s market correction. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and the Chinese government were ready to use up a tiny portion of accrued foreign currency reserves to prevent a free-fall in the market.

News networks around the world tried to explain the significance of China’s market correction.

Germany’s DW News on 29 July 2015 sought clarification from Dr Sandra Heep of the Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies (MERICS) in Berlin on the significance of China’s market corrections for both China and the wider global economy.

The extent of the potential market volatility put Dr Sandra Heep on the spot as the eye of a financial storm was approaching. With her expertise in longer-term economic analysis, Dr Sandra Heep was careful not to join in the guessing game to predict tomorrow’s financial markets.

 

Seeking longer term perspectives for China

Months before in 2014, Dr Sandra Heep in her prior research position at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Freiburg University was able to be more forthright about the structural changes needed to complete China’s successful transition from its current status as a developmental economy.

Dr Sandra Heep’s broad interpretations of China in transition as the world’s second largest economy are readily endorsed by the news releases from China’s leaders themselves and economic data from independent sources.

More high tech future and global financial outreach for China? (Financial Times Online (London) 25 August)

More high tech future and global financial outreach for China? (Financial Times Online (London) 25 August)

Although China is now the world’s second largest economy, it may be reaching the limits of its sustainability as a global workshop for the supply of a full array of goods and services.

China’s current status comes with great social and environmental costs as noted by Dr Sandra Heep in her interpretation of China’s capacity as a developmental state with a considerable degree of state planning in its economy.

As a developmental state, China is still identified with the suppression of the purchasing power of lower paid workers, arrested improvements in environmental quality and the sheer cost of living challenges in congested cities.

Long Island, New York: Property haven for Chinese elites? (FT Online 31 August 2015)

Long Island, New York: Property haven for Chinese elites? (FT Online 31 August 2015)

Ironically, many other developing countries within the TPP network share similar problems which are excused by advocates of the market model as a necessary transitional phase.

Mexico is a prime example despite its long-standing free trade agreement with Canada and the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) since 1994.

China also lacks a fully globalized banking system on the scale of financial operations in the US and some Western European countries.

A section of Chinese economic elites are able to distance themselves from the real life problems of a transitional economy. The situation was similar in the earlier generations of industrialization in Britain, Germany and the US.

Prestige property investments in US or Australia are staked out by these economic elites as appropriate hedge assets.

The challenges of economic diversification and global financial outreach

The leaders of the real world China are probably enthusiastic about steering the economy in new directions. However, questions must remain about the appropriateness of the TPP’s market model.

China’s vast foreign currency reserves can be used to foster more dynamic forms of social market capitalism with an outreach into finance, infrastructure investment, environmental sustainability and development assistance.

Pragmatic neighbours like Russia as well as the countries of Central Asia and the Middle East are usually prepared to take advantage of China’s expanded international outreach.

Official Chinese investment could also bankroll longer-term projects in both the Australian private sector and future government sponsored sovereign wealth infrastructure funds along the lines of Temasek Holdings in Singapore.

To Australia’s credit, our support for China’s diversification is evident in the presence of Treasurer Joe Hockey at the inauguration of the expanded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing on 29 June 2015.

The extent of Australia’s role in the bank will be determined largely by the commitment of the next incoming government. AIIB will not be fully operational until 2016.

Significant for China is the presence of countries from Central Asia and the Middle East along the Silk Road Land Bridge to Europe.

Europe itself is represented by all the key economies, including the UK.

Israel has also joined the AIIB. This country has benefited from the investment of Chinese technology in urban transport.

The positive implications for peace and stability in the Middle East from this investment by Chinese infrastructure firms are immense.

There is no long-term reason for the exclusion of strife-ridden countries like Iraq and Syria from this investment outreach after UN-sanctioned peace initiatives.

Proposed Silk Road infrastructure for Central Asia (World Bulletin 2014)

Proposed Silk Road infrastructure for Central Asia (World Bulletin 2014)

Such positive commercial changes might be thwarted if China was forced to drift back to a pure market oriented financial system. Such infrastructure investment is always a long-term commitment.

This cannot be assured in a financial system which is preoccupied with short-term futures with a trickle-down capacity to benefit legitimate investment.

In this sense, the current negotiations to finalise the TPP present a dilemma for China.

While undoubtedly well informed of the TPP negotiations, China is not one of the core partners of an avowedly market oriented investment and trading network.

The challenges posed by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) for China

It is for the China’s current leadership to decide just how to respond to the current TPP drafts which will greatly empower business corporations by internationalizing competition laws.

TPP drafts contain embedded assumptions about the superiority of the market model of development and of the carrots available from the trickle-down benefits of new corporate investment in each of the participating countries.

The hegemony of rogue elements in global financialization processes is also a temptation for China to take a similar path to economic diversification along the pure market model.

Professor Gerard Epstein of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst explains the mechanisms of these financialization processes which have become the ground rules for successful international finance.

In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the late Professor Peter Gowan of the International Relations School at London Metropolitan University gave a similar but more detailed synopsis of the challenge of rogue capital flows in Crisis in the Heartland. This article is readily available online. (http://newleftreview.org/II/55/peter-gowan-crisis-in-the-heartland).

Changing the protocols for China’s global outreach

The US sponsored Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU impose a fundamentally different style of economic development and global outreach for China.

China’s key financial institutions must operate within the prevailing rules for international finance. The more interventionist approaches of China’s Asian Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS Group of Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and China itself are still minor players on a global scale.

China’s hesitancy to join the TPP negotiations has its parallels across the Pacific Rim where the internationalization of competition laws and intellectual property rights has its own detractor in most countries.

Without the release of the TPP negotiation drafts by Wikileaks in 2013, most political leaders would still remain silent about the implications of the voluminous chapters on intellectual property rights and investment protocols.

Wikileaks Press Release (https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/)

Wikileaks Press Release (https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/)

In the words of WikiLeak’s Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

While China’s leaders might hesitate about the benefits and costs of future participation in the TPP, the proposed internationalization of competition laws in favour of business corporations across the Asia Pacific Rim has also been a divisive issue within the Obama Administration which depends on the support of organized Labor in key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In order to gain approval for current drafts of the TPP Treaty, President Obama needs to rely on the support of conservative Republicans for endorsement of the treaty in the senate.

Writing in The National Interest on 6 July 2015, Sean Mirski with a background at the Harvard Law School made the following observations about the impact of the TPP.

At first glance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looks much like any other trade deal. By increasing trade and investment among its partners, the TPP sets out to stimulate a higher rate of economic growth in the United States and among many of its Pacific friends. As with similar treaties, the TPP has been the subject of controversy in the U.S. Congress, which very nearly killed a key piece of legislation necessary to America’s ratification of the agreement. But while American lawmakers attacked and defended the treaty largely in narrow economic terms, they appeared to disregard its main strategic promise.

Besides creating jobs, the TPP may also alter the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. The treaty will increase the rate of economic growth in the United States and in an array of friendly nations while simultaneously diverting trade flows away from Washington’s greatest competitor, China. More important than any of these absolute changes in economic output, though, is the relative change in national power, itself the product of economic might. Whereas trade is often discussed in absolute terms, relative gains are more important in the often zero-sum world of international politics. If the TPP can change the trajectory of American power relative to China’s, it may be the single most important factor in whether the United States retains its “indispensable” role in the 21st Century.

The National Interest 6 July 2015 available at (http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-trans-pacific-partnership-china-america-the-balance-13264)

These comments from an articulate writer with close links to the US intelligence community provide justification for further discussion about the geopolitical role of the TPP as a vehicle for the return of old balance of power strategies for the containment of China.

With China outside the current TPP draft deals, its business and investment agencies must ultimately compete on the terms of investment protocols decided by the TPP across the entire Pacific Basin.

Taiwan’s potential membership of the TPP provides an additional twist to the current economic diplomacy and has security implications for the stability of the Pacific Rim.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan strongly endorses its unilateral participation in the TPP without reference to China:

The TPP aims to establish a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st century challenges. It currently has 12 members, including the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Mexico, Chile and Peru. Most of the TPP members are Taiwan’s major trading partners, accounting for over 30 percent of our foreign trade. Thus, the significance of joining the TPP cannot be overemphasized. President Ma Ying-jeou has announced our resolution to join the TPP and we have won support from the US and Japan, with both countries publicly welcoming Taiwan’s interest in joining the TPP. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its representative offices overseas have taken bilateral relations as the cornerstone and are making every effort to garner the support of other members pursuant to our accession to the group (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of China (Taiwan) 2014)

Data from the Center for East Asia Policy Studies shows the vast economic capacity within a TPP that included Taiwan. South Korea is likely to be added to the matrix.

Center for East Asia Policy Studies 2014

Center for East Asia Policy Studies 2014

Thwarting the economic diversification of China on its own terms through the formula proposed by the TPP investment in the Pacific Rim would be a triumph of short-term politics over international peace and stability if Chinese leaders continued to be shut out of the negotiation processes.

Added to the challenges of future economic diplomacy are the separate but near identical territorial claims by both China and Taiwan over sections of the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

Under current co-operative arrangements between the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Government in Taiwan and China, the Taiwanese proposal to resolve territorial disputes and fishing rights might gain some traction within China itself.

Such claims would be taken more seriously if both Taiwan and China presented a joint submission as part of a One China Additional Systems Approach as with the resolution of Hong Kong’s closer association with China almost 20 years ago.

The window of opportunity facing the TPP Negotiators and Australia

The window of opportunity is closing on this pragmatic arrangement with Taiwan. Local opinion polls are highly favourable to the opposition right-wing Democratic Party in Taiwan as the presidential elections approach on 16 January 2016.

President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan inspecting US made military hardware

President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan inspecting US made military hardware

President Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest of negotiators if a Win Win Win can be developed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US in September 2015. This trifecta would have to be a deal which is totally acceptable to China, Taiwan and the US.

Meanwhile it is in Australia’s interests as a responsible middle power to maintain an independent voice in the resolution of the problems posed by the TPP and the sensitivities of China towards the resurgence of Taiwan as a nation state.

Prime Minister Abbott’s support for the prevailing texts of the TPP is hardly Whitlamesque.

Opposition to the current draft of the TPP comes from both sides of the political spectrum across the Pacific Rim.

1973 Postcard from Beijing: A precedent for a constructive role for Australia

1973 Postcard from Beijing: A precedent for a constructive role for Australia

Rural lobbies in New Zealand and Japan are delaying the final draft from the political right.

Organized Labor in the US fears job losses in key swing states which must be won by the Democratic Party to keep the Republicans out of office in 2016. In these states, Democratic representatives and senators are cautious about opening up the domestic economy to more overseas competition.

The exclusion of China from the TPP negotiations also hinders its financial outreach across the Pacific Rim as a major economic superpower.

This locks China into its current workshop of the world status. Forcing compliance from China with TPP protocols can contain this economy’s sustainable growth rate and build-in a lower potential threshold for future Australian exports, service agreements and financial ties with a weaker than necessary China.

In this context, Australia can afford to be more proactive in seeking more Whitlamesque amendments that bring China into the TPP on fair terms and conditions. Given the pockets of discontent with the current TPP negotiators, Australia can win goodwill in most countries across the Pacific Rim by becoming a more independent player in both economic diplomacy and the containment of security concerns.

denis bright Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). He has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. His specialist interest is the impact of contemporary globalization on the delivery of progressive public policies.

 

 

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What does ChAFTA really mean for Aussie jobs?

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the Chinese-Australia fair trade agreement will “provide greater flexibilities for companies to respond to unique economic and labour market challenges”. But what does this mean for Australian jobs, asks Mel Mac.

The Chinese-Australia fair trade agreement (ChAFTA) began negotiations in May 2005 with the agreement formally signed on the 17th July 2015, by Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb and the Chinese Commerce Minister, Gao Hucheng. The ceremony was witnessed by Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott who described the signing as a “momentous day” for the Australian-China relationship. “It will change our countries for the better, it will change our region for the better, it will change our world for the better,” Mr Abbott said. He paid tribute to Chinese President, Xi Jinping whom he described as a “shrewd” negotiator and “friend of Australia”. He further toasted the deal saying “I trust that today our Chinese friends will enjoy the fine beef and the good wine that will soon be more readily enjoyed by their countrymen.”

Last year was a busy year for the Abbott government, which also signed off on the Korea-Australia free trade agreement (KAFTA) and the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). According to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) report titled, Economic benefits of Australia’s North Asia free trade agreements, it will create lots of new jobs. It has estimated that between 2016 and 2035 the FTAs will lead to 178,000 jobs, at an average of 9,000 per year. Mr Robb also enthused the three FTAs job creation, saying that “Given what’s going on in the region, the extraordinary explosion of people going into the middle class, this is a landmark set of agreements, and it will see literally billions of dollars, thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and will underpin a lot of our prosperity in the years ahead.”

The report also forecast an additional GDP increase between 2016 and 2035 of $24.4 billion and a boost in real consumption of $46.3 billion, equating to an increase in household consumption of nearly $4,500. This has been questioned by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET). It said the study authors were “consultants which produced wildly optimistic estimates of benefits for the Australia-US FTA (AUSFTA) which did not eventuate.” Ten years on it’s still unclear as to what benefits the American-Australian FTA has had for Australia or even America.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is worried about how the deal will affect local jobs and unemployment levels. There is the ChAFTA and there is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) document, about an Investment and Facilitation Agreement (IFA), that was signed before the formal signing. An IFA is a project to be established between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), or its equivalent, and a project company. A project company is eligible to establish an IFA where:

  1. (a) A single Chinese enterprise owns 50% or more of the project company; or, where no single enterprise owns 50% or more of the project company, a Chinese enterprise holds a substantial interest in the project company;
  2. (b) There is a proposed infrastructure development project (“the project”) by the project company with an expected capital expenditure of $A150 million over the term of the project;
  3. (c) The project is related to infrastructure development within the food and agribusiness; resources and energy; transport; telecommunications; power supply and generation; environment; or tourism sectors;
  4. (d) The project company is registered as a business in Australia;
  5. (e) The project company agrees to comply with all Australian laws and regulations, including applicable Australian workplace law, work safety law and relevant Australian licensing, regulation and certification standards; and
  6. (f) The China International Contractors Association (CHINCA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT) have recommended the project and the project company meet the criteria in paragraphs 2(a) through 2(e).

Section four, covers the areas of negotiation for DIPB and the project company, which includes –

  1. (a) The occupations covered by the IFA project agreement;
  2. (b) English language proficiency requirements;
  3. (c) Qualifications and experience requirements; and
  4. (d) Calculation of the terms and conditions of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT).
  5. The project company may be asked to provide additional information by DIBP in respect of its requests for concessions in the above areas. Other than the areas referred to in paragraphs 4(a) through 4(d), the grant of visas will be subject to meeting all other Australian nomination and visa requirements.

Interestingly the ChAFTA Myths versus realities released by DFAT only mentioned option 2. (b), most likely because it fits in with the infrastructure narrative. The “concessions” also aren’t mentioned but imply that the project company can negotiate a private contract with DIPB, to import Chinese workers on projects in lower skilled occupations. Though workers under the 457 visa scheme are required to be paid above TSMIT and possess a certain amount of English ability, this also looks like it can be negotiated under the IFA.

In paragraph six it states – There will be no requirement for labour market testing to enter into an IFA. The IFA is valid for four years from the date of execution and with the possibility of an extension. In the actual ChAFTA itself, in Article 10.4: Grant of Temporary Entry, it states – In respect of the specific commitments on temporary entry in this Chapter, unless otherwise specified in Annex 10-A, neither Party shall

  1. (a) Impose or maintain any limitations on the total number of visas to be granted to natural persons of the other Party; or
  2. (b) require labour market testing, economic needs testing or other procedures of similar effect as a condition for temporary entry.

Here is the ChAFTA side letter between Mr Robb and Mr Gao after the formal signing of ChAFTA, that provides more detail and states –

Australia will remove the requirement for mandatory skills assessment for the following ten occupations on the date of entry into force of the Agreement. And that the aim is to further reduce occupations or eliminate the requirement within five years.

Automotive Electrician [321111]

Cabinetmaker [394111]

Carpenter [331212]

Carpenter and Joiner [331211]

Diesel Motor Mechanic [321212]

Electrician (General) [341111]

Electrician (Special Class) [341112]

Joiner [331213]

Motor Mechanic (General) [321211]

Motorcycle Mechanic [321213]

Alan Hicks of the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) said that the Government’s decision to remove the mandatory skills assessment for Chinese workers in ten occupations was a disgrace. “For the Federal Government to come out and waive that under a free trade agreement, without any consultation with unions or employers, is an absolute disgrace,” he said. “It’s going to create significant workplace dangers, not only just for electricians, but all those people who use electricity.” Mr Hicks said China’s statistics of workplace deaths was of “genuine concern” to Australians. “Australia leads the way in electrical safety. We’ve got some of the best electrical workers in the world. A lot of countries aspire to have the same level of safety standards that we do,” he said. “We’ve got a licence system right across the country — no matter which state or territory you work in, you’ve got to be licensed to carry out the work — and those sorts of systems aren’t in place in other countries like China. Mr Hick’s also said that “And China has a woeful workplace health and safety record. They have over 70,000 workplace deaths a year, so we are genuinely concerned.”

There is also a ChAFTA DFAT factsheet that says – In order to better facilitate the temporary entry of workers associated with trade and investment, Australia and China will also increase cooperation in the areas of skills recognition and licensing, including through encouraging the streamlining of relevant licensing procedures and improving access to skills assessments.

Besides the Abbott government’s ideologies being against the work of the unions, it’s unclear as to why industries relating to the ten different occupations including employers, weren’t consulted. In the ChAFTA Myths versus realities document, it tackles untrained Chinese electrician worries, but it doesn’t mention doing away with the mandatory skills assessments or mention the total amount of visa’s on offer. The ChAFTA agreement also enables an Executive arm of government power that goes against the parliament’s 457 visa bill in 2013, where employers, are expected to conduct labour market testing.

The Chinese government’s response to ChAFTA through correspondence with Mr Robb is clear – I have the further honour to confirm that my Government shares this understanding and that your letter and this letter in reply shall constitute an integral part of the Agreement. What any of this means in the long term, in regards to state and federal industrial laws remains to be seen. But it does look like an overreach by the Abbott government in regards to executive power, with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, deciding matters without employer input, let alone employees, the opposition or workers. It also has the faint scent of Work Choices, an unpopular set of federal industrial laws brought about by former Prime Minister, John Howard in 2006. Taking the power away from workers, over employers in your own country is one thing but taking on China’s is another. The IFA seems to enable these features, and how this will impact on local employment in Australia, also remains to be seen.

Either which way, training needs to be involved, and concessions made solely by Mr Dutton, is not enough to allay justifiable fears from the Unions and Australian’s looking for jobs in the areas of – Food and Agribusiness; Resources and Energy; Transport; Telecommunications; Power supply and generation; Environment and the Tourism sectors. The other question is, if it’s just a matter of training Chinese workers in Australian regulations etc; who is providing this training and how long does it take? And lastly, is there options for Australian’s who have the skills but don’t speak Mandarin and so on?

This article was originally published on Mel’s blog Political Omniscience.

 

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But will China invade Australia?

Jacqui Lambie warns that a Chinese invasion of Australia is a frightening possibility. But is it? Dr Strobe Driver reports.

These past weeks have seen Clive Palmer MP berate the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government and other (Chinese) that have had business dealings with him. This was followed by a further dictum from his colleague Senator Jacqui Lambie speaking about the potential of a Chinese invasion and what’s more, she has refused to withdraw her comment. The short-tempered outburst by Senator Palmer on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Q&A program, to be sure was just that, an outburst. As insulted as the Chinese community feels toward Palmer, his outburst was attributed to his frustration with the legal system, his dealings with some Chinese business people and when it all imploded, he drew in other societal elements. Nevertheless, being a minister of parliament does demand a level of tact and discretion that was obviously lacking on the night in question and there has been some repercussions, but other than hurt feelings not much more seems to have eventuated—an apology was forthcoming and all appears smooth again.

Returning to Senator Lambie, and her comment about the ‘Chinese invasion of Australia,’[1] it can be safely assumed that what Lambie is actually referring to is contained in a broad military context: an air- and sea-borne attack culminating in a boots-on-the-ground, physical armed presence not dissimilar to the one taking in place in Ukraine by Russian forces in recent times; the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas in the early 1980s; and the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. History, and moreover recent history, is littered with examples of the ‘type’ of military engagement Senator Lambie is identifying. To be sure, this is a step further than the ‘fiscal invasion’ of the Chinese that was hinted at prior to the election of the Abbott government, which directly dealt with the number of Chinese investments in Australia—especially with regard to landholdings/farming—which was driven by the somewhat xenophobic Nationals under the guise and umbrella of ‘who owns what in Australia.’ Free market squabbling aside, and the prejudices inherent within this argument about the marketplace, the issue that needs to be examined is whether there is a modicum of truth in what Lambie has stated. Is Australia really in danger of being invaded?

Acknowledging the obvious generalizations that are present in the political deliberations and in the comments of Senator Lambie, there is a need to examine what is pushing the underlying tone of the debate, and then driving the discussion. One upshot of her comment/s is that the military ‘rise’ of China is now out in the public sphere and the massive impact this will have on Australia is finally beyond the hallways of the Department of Defence in Canberra. The heretofore hidden fears that reside alongside the mercantile arena of profit and the ‘food bowl’ debates within the Asia-Pacific (A-P) have evolved into the public arena. It is also fair to argue the popular press has played its part in the awareness of the ‘fear factors.’ Articles that have appeared in the press recently include ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific,’[2] ‘New vertical Chinese map gives greater emphasis to South China Sea claims,’[3] ‘Return of the samurai: Japan steps away from pacifist constitution as military eyes threat from China,’[4] ‘Long March Out of China’;[5] and one of the most recent which offers an historical, rather than a straight contemporary assessment, is Paul Monk’s ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI [World War One],’[6] which highlights the course of war being the outcome of particular political processes. With all of the above-mentioned commentary, and in particular because Monk has drawn into the mix an historical pivot, there is a need to examine these issues further to highlight where the fear ‘comes from,’ and where it has its roots.

The idea of an invasion being the only pathway to gaining political and geographical advantage is in part due to the popular media being awash with images of war comprising fast moving conflicts that escalate quickly, are both broad-front/symmetrical and asymmetrical, extremely violent and intense and have the ever-present element of ‘collateral damage’ (read: civilian deaths) in the race for armies or militias to establish their strategic footprint/s. However, the relevant issue is invasions gain results which inevitably have to be repelled, defused or accepted. Invasions by the Soviets into Chechnya, the United States of America (US) into Iraq, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) troops and their allies incursion into Afghanistan, the recent Israeli invasion into Gaza, and the Islamic State (a non-state actor) being successful in northern Iraq, all offer and reinforce a broad-based understanding of what invasions can actually accomplish and also offer an insight into why they are embarked upon. There is however, more to all of these events in terms of them being simply categorized as overt acts of violence that have a focused outcome—namely territorial acquisition through force—and it is within this spectrum that Senator Lambie alludes to, that can be given a perspective.

A significant part of the reason the rise of China, and the subsequent actions of the PRC government have become so chilling, and the reason the ‘invasion’ word was used by Senator Lambie, is twofold. In the first instance an Asian nation has never presented such a symbolic threat to Western hegemony; and secondly, never has an Asian nation had the actual potential to follow through in a sustained/long tern way with military force. The shock of this state-of-affairs resides in Western nation-states and Western European-centric nations—Australia and America, and to some extent Japan are included is included in this mix—have been privy to, over the past several centuries is watching the slow but sure rise of Western Europe as a ‘force.’ As Europe became a force it has incrementally been able to dictate its version of what government and governance should ‘comprise of’ to the rest of the world. And moreover, it has used force in the process of making nations adhere to ‘Western’ principles. The way in which this has happened includes both military and political realms: the forcing of democracy on Japan at the end of World War Two (WWII) by the US and Allied powers; winning the Korean War by United Nations forces; and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. All of these instances have had the enduring effect of proving Western liberal-democracy is the most venerable and robust of all governments and governance. Francis Fukuyama would deem the collapse of communism to be the ‘end of history,’[7] which translates in simpler terms, to liberal-democracy as a form of government ‘winning’ against communism. In the process of the West ‘winning’ however, there has also been double-standards along the way which have undermined the faith and confidence in Western governance and the damage this has caused should not be underestimated. Included in demanding of good governance from others there has been an acceptance of appalling behaviours from the West per se in favouring those that have served the needs of the West: Singapore and Saudi Arabia being leading examples of this phenomenon. Other examples of atrocious behaviour are incursions by France into Algeria to stem independence movements and its claims on (French) Indo-China; the US and Allied invasion of Iraq in 1991 in order to gain a ‘New World [American/Western-driven] Order;’[8] the second invasion of Iraq under false pretence in 2003 is to name only a few instances in which Western geo-political and geo-strategic double-standards with regard to ‘good governance’ have reigned supreme. In accomplishing such occupations and political tenets, the West has been able to decree the way in which the world—aside from the Russian Federation and China—must operate. These cursory examples prove the West has made, and remade, the platform upon which ‘good governance’ is judged. The time of this dominance is coming to an end, as China is on the rise.

China will be a vastly different case to what the West has previously encountered and then dominated, as it has adopted the West’s interests in being a regional as well as global controller and therefore the ‘case’ of China is completely different than what has gone before in the power-stakes of the twentieth century. China is a completely different because it has a ‘pax-Sino’ in mind—not unlike the pax-Britannica of the 1800s—and it has embarked upon this in earnest from the mid-1990s—and it has a century’s long plan. China’s dominance is that of being a global geo-political and geo-strategic actor and thus, current preponderance in the A-P is only the first step, and an even stronger global military presence will follow. China has moved in a truly ‘global direction’ and is on a pathway that was triggered, and then further stimulated, by Premier Deng Xiaoping who started the process in the mid-1980s. The Xiaoping era would be the first quantum leap into a globalized world and would signal significant domestic and international changes—this was defined by Xiaoping as ‘socialism with a Chinese character.’[9] China was essentially, thrust into a Western world and it would over time exploit the free market, gain international political astuteness, and in the late-1990s, begin to stamp its geo-strategic authority on the world: the A-P region is its first port-of-call. Over time China is seeking to take its ‘rightful place’ in a globalized world. This ‘time’ has taken two decades and it is now in that ‘place’, or in simpler terms, China is now a major actor on the world stage and moreover, one that is prepared to back its position/s up with military force if need be. It is at this point that the historical element as well as the dangers for other actors—particularly Australia in the A-P region and the invasion scenario to which Lambie alludes—can be introduced.

Part of the danger Australia faces in the future as China moves out ‘into the world,’ is that the world will have to accommodate the PRC’s needs, and by necessity its people. This factor, in the first instance is where there are ongoing and developing difficulties. There is an ‘accommodation’ that will need to be given over to China and a significant point to focus upon is to observe an historical element, and to realize within it lies a chilling and changing demographic. In 1913 Western Europe accounted for 14.6 percent (%) of the world’s population. By 2001 Western Europe comprised 6.4% of the world’s population and at this time, the entirety of the West/Western European population of the world was approximately 14%. America, as a standalone country comprised at this time, 4.6% of the world’s population. As at 2001 China’s population comprised approximately 21% of the world.[10] Herein lies the ‘problem’ that Australia in the first instance and the Western world in the second, will have to face: if China is not offered a more prominent of ‘rightful place’ in the schemata of world strategies/politics a massive disruption will occur as China will react to any moves by other nation-states to retard its progress. Based on history, a war is in the making. It is pertinent to ask what will drive such an outcome. The evidence-base for this ‘outcome’ is also in the history of the West.

The schemata upon which the West has developed its societal modality is one of a thriving and burgeoning middle-class, and this has been encouraged in other societies by the West in order for the West to meet its own needs, and in doing this the West has had other societies contribute to its progress. The ‘progress’ became an ever-upward spiral in which the dictums of modern nation-statehood—that is, economic growth equaling stable investment environments for Western enterprises—were ones that offered ongoing prosperity; and the middle-class continuum. What is happening in China, and has been exponentially expanding in the past decade, is the PRC has set about accomplishing exactly what the West has done for centuries: developing a strong middle-class. The Chinese government has set about actively creating a burgeoning middle-class in part to have a greater tax base, to extract people from grueling, chronic poverty and to in general raise the living standards of citizens. Domestic harmony is also part of the PRC’s aim. Overall, this has been successful as poverty has fallen from 26% in 2007 to 7% in 2012.[11] An historical comparison can be made here which befits the West’s pattern, and in doing so offers the growth of China another perspective and the inherent dangers for the West.

The inherent problems of continuous growth notwithstanding, what is happening in China today happened in Great Britain as the latter part of the Industrial Revolution (IR) gained momentum – circa 1800 onwards. In the process of the IR’s momentum the British government had to meet ever greater demands from its populace. How did it satisfy the demands of its ever-growing middle-classes? Britain robustly expanded beyond its own borders often usurping other nation-states, frequently through violence and colonisation in order to gain what it needed. Nations that acceded to British demands, either as a ‘protectorate’ that was accorded all of the security and safety Britain could muster or, alternately, Britain used force. Nevertheless, Britain still gained what it needed and the British people benefited—the middle-class continued. To be sure the French before Britain used this method, and since post-1945 the US has followed a similar trajectory with its domination of world markets through the Marshall Plan, the Bretton-Woods agreement which allowed America to essentially dominate the world’s free market, are examples of heavy-handed polity.

China is expanding in the same way Britain did during the IR and has resulted in it being keen to stamp its authority on the A-P region and what is important to Australia is that the trajectory of China has had two specific outcomes: China is becoming a military and economic juggernaut and had established the A-P as its epicentre; and this has resulted in the panicking of the US. Recently the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to reassure Australia it is committed to keeping a geo-strategic and political presence in the region with a recent visit by Secretary of State Kerry and a reiteration of wanting to ‘rebalance’ Asia.[12] This illustrates the US is keen to keep one step ahead of China in the region. However, and crucially for Australia, underpinning this is America does not want to modify its approach to the region; and wishes the status quo to remain within the post-WWII and Cold War parameters.

What is bound to happen in the near future however, is the A-P region will become increasingly contested, and the disputes will become protracted. As the middle-classes of China begin to demand their perceived and/or actual rights, the PRC government will have to succumb to their demands, if only for enhanced domestic stability. Hence, China will, like the Spanish, French, British and Americans before it, have to use extramural preponderance to get what it needs for its populace. The question that can now be asked and the one that returns to the core of this article, is will this result in an invasion of Australia? From a geo-strategic perspective it is unlikely that this would happen in the next decade as China does not have the support facilities in the region for a limited invasion as the most vulnerable ‘impact points,’—the west/northwest of Australia—would not be able to be adequately reinforced after an initial foray. China over the next decade will be dealing with its expansion in the A-P region in a much ‘softer’ way, as it has done in the region generally, and in Africa and Oceania. This has been done with unconditional fiscal contributions (loans).

With regard to soft power China is critically aware of the political ramifications of Australia’s poorly thought through foreign policies, and in particular the rage that these have created throughout Indonesia. China has been quick to capitalise on this with gaining deeper connections with Indonesia. If a more solid outcome and strategic footprint—air- and sea-bases in Indonesia—is enabled by the PRC beyond the current military outposts of Pakistan and Myanmar the danger/s for Australia exponentially increase and an invasion would be more likely. The importance of outposts and the enhanced capabilities they offer can be seen through Britain in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, the US in Guam, Diego Garcia and the United Arab Emirates. These are clear examples of preponderance and to believe China is not on a similar pathway modeled on British and American history is to deliberately ignore the evidence. From this point it is obvious that if China were able to establish a greater military presence in Indonesia exercising control over Australia would be more able to be achieved although this would more likely be the strangulation of access to shipping- and air-traffic in the region, regardless of whether it is military or mercantile, as this tactic would essentially render Australia fiscally and militarily decapitated in the region.

Returning to the initial centrepiece of Lambie’s argument and notion of whether Australia is in danger of being invaded in the traditional sense’ of the term. The reason this is not probable is the state-of-affairs regarding invasion are dictated by sheer logistics and materiél requirements for an invasion to succeed and then be sustained. Chinese support- and/or operated-bases are in their infancy and this will be the case for at least another decade and therefore an invasion would not be strategically viable. In the meantime China will continue to ‘invade’ Australia from an economic perspective and this will have a triad attached: to enable China to exert influence on regional strategic partnerships; to establish China and A-P multilateral deals that actively encourage the use of the Renminbi (sometimes called the Yuan), as a source of collateral; and to pro-actively downgrade Australia-US military commitments and partnerships. As happened with Britain and the US the middle-classes of China will demand more from their government—in particular more fiscal and military status in the world—and Australia will be at the forefront of these ructions that both soft power and hard power bring. As the decade toward 2025 grinds on the massive influence China will have will cause the displacement of Australia’s and as such, the Chinese will not automatically accept Australia’s definitions of how the A-P should be controlled: this will cause problems. The coming state-of-affairs for Australia will be one surviving the numerous upcoming protracted and friction-filled escalations and the ever-greater political and military demands China will inevitably make. In parallel with this the other issue for Australia will be whether Australia is also able to fend off America’s increasing desperation to maintain its traditional post-WWII foothold as it too, and in order to fulfill its ‘rebalancing’ claims, must enter the regional quarrels. However, this does not necessarily equate to protecting Australia per se.

For Australia the decisions that will have to be made, in order to totally avoid an outbreak of war—one in which Australia for all intent and purposes will inevitably lose and one that would encourage a ground invasion by Chinese forces—is where to place China as these regional machinations increase? And correspondingly, where to place the US? The point for Australians’ to understand is it is a WWII-based belief to assume that the US will come to Australia’s aid immediately, or as a follow-up to any Chinese show of force. The truth of the matter resides in the history of the US as per WWII being a ‘European war’ until the bombing of Pearl Harbor forced the US to face the realities of the conflict, and the undeniable reality is that an Australia-China military collision would not necessarily be an urgent priority for the US. Once again the making of such a statement can be given credence by observing that America is fiscally bankrupt to China, and owes the PRC trillions of dollars and the US would simply not risk China calling in its debt/s as this would devastate the US domestic economy. And moreover, for the US Australia would not be the only ‘game in town.’ Reflecting on this statement, a significant part of the reason the US lost the Vietnam War is that it was not the ‘only game in town’[13] as it was beset with domestic civil strife, had ongoing issues with the Soviet Union-Cuba alliance, and had European Cold War commitments as well as the ‘space race.’ An Australia-China conflict will also adhere to the ‘not the only game in town’ principle for the US and for Australians’ to believe that the US will see a conflict in the A-P region as important enough to warrant an immediate response is simply wrong. Also, America will be tormented with fiscal and political problems in the next two decades which will continue to render an already war-weary nation to be dubious about entering another war. The problems that will influence the US’ lack of enthusiasm to intervene in the A-P will range from the sheer distance from the US and of it being a China-controlled environment; intractable domestic and regional dealings with Mexico and the South Americas associated with drugs, migration and political trends; the combined economic, geo-political and in some cases geo-strategic influences of what has become colloquially known as the ‘BRICS,’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); the ongoing and increasing demands of, and ties to, Israel in a continuously fractious Middle East; and the immersion of energy, politics, and geo-strategies of the ‘stans’ of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

To be sure, the US essentially having been sidelined to that of an equal rather than a superior player in the next decade is already being put into place by China. The evidence is America’s slow reaction to commenting on and having a greater involvement in the South China Sea tensions in a more immediate manner which is in direct contrast to its role in the Cold War years. Moreover, China has continued to exercise its perceived ‘regional rights’ with relative impunity; and the PRC recently rejected a US proposal to decrease tensions over the ‘disputed territories,’[14] and these are further signs the days of absolute control for the US are over. The issue-at-hand remains that China would not invade Australia in the next decade because pax-Sino has not been on the ascent long enough; and has not been able to establish the required networks for a limited invasion of Australia to succeed. Perhaps of equal importance in the next decade America will have declined to the point of being non-interventionist, at least in the eyes of the PRC. After the next decade for Australia all will not be so secure.

The implications for Australia beyond 2025 onwards are not as assured and this will be due to the fact that as China continues to rise the US will continue to decline and therefore, the US will have become a significantly lesser threat. Furthermore, as the US is forced to shift its focus toward Central Asia, the South Americas and Israel, this will make Australia more vulnerable. There is no reason to think that if Australia continues on its current pathway of antagonism in the region—especially toward Muslim countries—that there would be enough impetus for China to believe a limited invasion would not be successful. There is much China could gain from such an overt act as part of a grand strategy of preponderance; to force Australia to rethink its US ties; to gain greater access to Australia’s resources upon which it depends; as a signal to regional enemies that it is the force to be reckoned with; and to show regional allies it is the most powerful and dynamic actor. In short, Senator Lambie’s outburst is largely accurate, premature perhaps, but based on British and American preponderance, accurate nevertheless.

[1] ‘Jacqui Lambie refuses to apologise for warning of Chinese invasion.’ AAP/The Australian. Sydney: Murdoch Press. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/jacqui-lambie-refuses-to-apologise-for-warning-of-chinese-invasion/story-fn59niix-1227038207396

[2] Hugh White. ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing Ltd, 10 June, 2014, 16.

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-26/an-new-chinese-map-gives-greater-play-to-south-china-sea-claims/5550914 Australia Network News, 26 June, 2014.

[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/japan-expands-their-military-amid-growing-tensions-with-china/5672932 Australia Network News, 19 August,, 2014

[5] Andrew Browne. ‘Long March Out of China.’ The Australian, Melbourne: Murdoch Media, 19 August, 2014, 9.

[6] Paul Monk. ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI.’ The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney: Fairfax Media, 20 August, 2014. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/chinas-parallel-with-germany-before-wwi-20140820-10631j.html

[7] See Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 1992.

[8] Gabriel Kolko. Another Century of War? New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002, 217.

[9] Ezra Vogel. ‘The Transformation of China.’ The Agenda. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674055445

[10] Angus Madisson. The World Economy. Historical Statistics. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris: OECD, 2003, 258.

[11] GALLUPWorld. ‘China’s Per-Capita GDP has Led to a Drastic Reduction in Poverty.’

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166565/one-five-worldwide-living-extreme-poverty.aspx

[12] Jemima Garrett and staff. ‘US secretary of State John Kerry uses Asia-Pacific to ‘redouble’ focus on region.’ Australia Network News, 14 August, 2014 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-14/john-kerry-focuses-on-pivot-to-asia-pacific-at-end-of-region/5671992?section=world

[13] James Lee Ray and Ayse Vural. ‘Power Disparities and Paradoxical Conflict Outcomes.’ International Interactions, Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 1986,12, 315-342.

[14] David Tweed and Sangwon Yoon. ‘China snubs US proposal at ASEAN.’ The Age. Fairfax Media: Melbourne, 11 August, 2011, 13.

This article was first posted on Strobe’s blog Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

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Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

It wasn’t that long ago that Australia was being praised around the world. Remember when we had an intelligent, articulate, diplomatic leader with a vision for the future?

We survived the GFC with Wayne Swan being awarded the world’s best Treasurer by the magazine Euromoney “for his careful stewardship of Australia’s finances and economic performance, both during and since the global financial crisis”.

Julia Gillard led the way in action on climate change by introducing a price on carbon prompting praise from around the world.

“Australia will create tens of thousands of clean jobs in the coming years. You will save billions by eliminating wasteful energy usage, money that can be directed to other pressing social and infrastructure demands.

Australia will be helping lead the world out of this crisis, sending a powerful message that, yes, it can be done. Despite all the barriers, despite all the bitter, misleading opposition, Australia is leading the world toward a brighter, more sustainable future.”

In April last year, Julia Gillard also displayed her diplomatic skills in China.

“TEN foreign leaders visited China this week but only Julia Gillard scored what could turn out to be the deal of the decade. The Prime Minister’s coup in striking a “strategic partnership” and securing annual talks with China’s leaders will be her foreign policy legacy. It guarantees Australia access to the growing superpower at the highest levels and is being hailed by some as one of the most significant breakthroughs since Gough Whitlam’s courageous step 40 years ago to establish diplomatic links with China.

The China deal locks in formal annual talks between Australia’s PM and the Chinese Premier, as well as meetings for Australia’s foreign affairs minister, treasurer and trade minister with their counterparts.”

I could go on listing the previous government’s achievements – introducing our first paid parental leave scheme, environmental protections with water trigger and Murray-Darling buyback and marine parks, the NDIS, the NBN, education funding – the list is long and visionary.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of Australians were convinced that Abbott could do a better job. We could blame the media (and I do) but in reality, it is us who are to blame for our unquestioning acceptance of the lies we were being told. It is our own fault that we have moved from a position of world admiration for a responsible egalitarian society to one where we are being lampooned internationally and well and truly screwed domestically.

The Coalition began by stating we didn’t need Indonesia’s permission for our asylum seeker policy, a statement which infuriated them. We then had the odious Mark Textor suggesting that Indonesia’s foreign minister looked like a 70’s porn star, and the revelation that we spied on the President’s wife – something for which Abbott was incapable of saying sorry. We also violated their sovereign waters because apparently our Navy can’t tell where they are. We have been vilified for setting people adrift in life rafts, and censured for presumptuous plans to collect intelligence in Indonesian villages and to buy their fishing fleet.

We insulted the Prime Minister of PNG by suggesting he had lied, and then confiscated documents from the lawyer representing Timor l’Este in the International Court where we stand accused of bugging their Parliament to gain trade advantages for private firms. Abbott also had to “offer an act of contrition” to Malaysia for his previous comments about their human rights record.

Abbott offended war veterans and their families by praising the “honour” of the Japanese who attacked us, while Julie Bishop infuriated China by calling in their ambassador to berate him for the dispute over islands in the East China Sea prompting this response in the Chinese version of the Global Times:

“China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn’t even have the tools to deal with this kind of ‘complete fool’ of a foreign minister.”

When Tony Abbott rushed to condemn the Russians in the hours after the downing of the plane in the Ukraine, he incurred the wrath of both China and Russia.

The official Xinhua news agency said in an English-language commentary that officials from the United States, Australia and other Western countries had jumped to conclusions in pointing their fingers at the rebels in eastern Ukraine and for blaming Russia for the escalating violence.

“The accusation was apparently rash when the officials acknowledged they did not know for the time being who is responsible for the attack, while condemning Russia’s military intervention,” Xinhua said.

“Without bothering himself about evidence and operating only on speculation, Mr T. Abbott assigned guilt,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “Abbott’s statements are unacceptable” going on to say “Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has gone farther than others in making irresponsible innuendoes against our country even though one would think that her position presupposes building bridges between countries, not destroying them.”

In another inexplicable brain fart that even the US was quick to distance itself from, our Attorney General decided to inflame tensions by deciding that East Jerusalem would no longer be referred to as Occupied Territory. In the process, Australia was hailed by Israel’s government, scolded by a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, and had multibillion-dollar export trades put under threat.

Along with defending the rights of bigots and then linking the backtrack in the repeal of the Racial Discrimination laws to ramped up anti-terrorist laws, Brandis and Abbott have alienated the Australian Muslim community.

And one can only wonder as to why Abbott has chosen to instruct the Scottish people on how they should vote in their upcoming referendum on independence. Their response:

“Mr Abbott’s comments are hypocritical because independence does not seem to have done Australia any harm. They are foolish, actually, because of the way he said it. To say the people of Scotland who supported independence weren’t friends of freedom or justice, I mean, the independence process is about freedom and justice.”

The first minister said Scotland’s referendum on independence was a “model of democratic conduct” and Mr Abbott’s comments were “offensive to the Scottish people”.

Whilst alienating Russia, China, Indonesia, Palestine, Scotland, Malaysia, East Timor, PNG, the Muslim community, and veterans, we have also earned ourselves the title of Colossal Fossil for our refusal to take part in global action on climate change.

Domestically the picture is even more ridiculous. We reinstate knights and dames, we defend the rights of bigots, poor people don’t drive cars, breast cancer is linked to abortion, we are “unprepared for global cooling”, and can someone please explain to Brandis and Abbott what metadata is?

The Australia Institute, in a scathing review of the Commission of Audit, asked the following questions:

As one of the richest countries in the world Australian people have the potential, when working together, to do anything they want. But, we cannot do everything we want. Australia will need to make choices and it is our choice whether we want to:

  • have the world’s best education and health systems or the world’s lowest taxes
  • continue to outspend our neighbours on defence or underspend on tackling climate change
  • increase the incomes of the elderly and the sick or to cut the taxes of our wealthiest residents.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday

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