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Tag Archives: China

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China

Is the Abbott Government playing a major part in inflaming and destabilising the security of the Asia-Pacific Region? Dr Strobe Driver reports.

Prime Minister Abbott’s quest for the attention of right-wing nationalists’ that are seeking to contain China has swung from the United States of America (US), to Japan and is now making its way further West into the Indian Ocean. This time to increase a military attachment to another forgotten ‘ally’: India. This is a circle of madness and it will be to Australia’s detriment that this government has continued the cycle started by the Rudd-Gillard governments with the deployment – and then ongoing rotation – of US marines through the Northern Territory. There is a reason for this ongoing madness which needs to be addressed in light of history in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region.

With the knowledge that Australia has punched far above its weight in the region since the end of World War Two, consecutive governments have sought to keep this modus operandi alive; and as a continuum in their foreign policy objectives. As a result of this, Australia has regularly invested itself in military collisions either directly in the region or external to the A-P in order to bring about enhanced ‘security’ and ‘stability.’ The eventual aim of these incursions has been, and no doubt will continue to be, that countries which Australia decides to intervene into should convert to the Western liberal-democratic model of government; and governance.

Australia has entered the fray of regional collisions in places such as Central Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle East (the Persian Gulf), Southeast Asia (Vietnam), East Timor/Timor Leste and of course numerous other regional locations that have ‘needed’ Australia’s presence – the Butterworth Air Force Base in Malaysia and Australia’s use of it as a forward-defence locale is an example of involvement without an actual collision of forces taking place. Whether or not Australia’s involvement in the aforementioned has been beneficial to those that have experienced Australia’s direct (read: military) assistance and whether Australia entered these places voluntarily or was coerced by other state actors – the US in particular – are moot points and beyond the scope of this essay, suffice to say Australia has made its presence known and continues to believe that actual force and/or the threat-of-force remain apparatuses that ensure stability.

As with many a country that has experienced the thrill of exercising extramural power due to either location or military transport capabilities, the days of Australia utilizing forward-defence and/or embarking upon actual incursions should be disbanded, as it encourages continual usage of a governance mechanism that is backed by force, and this model generates backlashes. More to the point, the world has changed from the days of Western Eurocentric and European-models of government and governance being passively accepted by other nation-states.

Regardless of the heart-warming feelings the Western/Eurocentric world may have toward the model that has been successfully executed since 1648 through mercantilism, trade, suzerainty, protectorates, colonialism, forced alliances, post-colonialism state-making – Kuwait, Israel, and the dividing up of the spoils of Africa amongst Europe is to mention only several examples of deliberate state-making – with the addendum of brute force, will not alter the coming inevitable and unpalatable truth. The time is fast approaching to acknowledge the overarching and heretofore unquestioned influence of the West is in decline, and hence the rise of China is taking place. The era pax-Sino is the new reality.

Extrapolating on the abovementioned, the new problematics for the West, and for Australia in particular, is that the Abbott government, by actively seeking out these new alliances is also indulging in the suppression of this reality. Raging against the military, economic, geo-political and geo-strategic rise of China signals a fear of disengagement from the superlative-version of Western history which was one of having control of the high seas and (in later years) the airspace above for centuries.

This will not remain the case into the future and holding onto history signals an unwillingness to admit to the reality of the situation-at-hand: the era of pax-Sino is not only the new reality, it is fast-arriving. Therefore, no amount of foreign policy enmity shown to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) through scrambling around trying to find new Asia-Pacific allies will change this and moreover, it is sending a supercilious message to a country that will exercise the most control over the A-P region regardless of whether there are policies of containment directed toward it or not.

Overt messages toward India by the Abbott government is foolhardy and is disavowing China’s place in the region, which in turn will encourage China to ignore Australian input into regional machinations. The dismissal of China’s input into regional ministrations by Australia in recent times has succeeded in infuriating China. This has been reflected in newspaper headlines such as, ‘Australia and India to strengthen military ties’[1] with regard to India, and ‘Defence alliance to anger China’[2] with regard to Japan.

These references are evidence that there is a renewed commitment to the containment of China by Australia in all spheres and is signalling to the Chinese government that the only role that Australia accepts of China is it being a compliant (and growing) trading partner. The pressure the Abbott government is feeling and its desire to not upset America is also dangerous as the Americans are also not happy with Australia. This should encourage the Abbott government to be more respectful of China and not antagonise it further. If China reacts militarily, the possibility that America would come to Australia’s aid becomes even more remote. The veiled threats of ‘president-in-waiting’ Hillary Clinton that Australia should not ‘two-time’[3] America in negotiations should be taken as a clear signal that America will judge any escalation at the time of it happening and it will not necessarily default to its historic alliances.

This as a stand-alone issue should be enough to alert the Abbott government to understanding that any moves to contain China in the region will be to the detriment of Australia. Perhaps the most frightening undertone to Clinton’s statement is that it mimics the George W. Bush mantra of a country being either ‘with us or against us,’[4] or in simpler terms, Australia must choose between America and China. From the aforementioned, and with regard to China, the evidence suggests Australia is actively moving toward the containment of China even though there is no evidence America will support this position; Japan has been newly-befriended and embraced with a military/information exchange deal; and India’s status has been upgraded. This is a combination of events that is fraught with danger for Australia; and is tantamount to an invitation to disaster.

What however, does India have to offer Australia and the region that may dissipate what could be defined as a ‘coming storm.’ Perhaps it will balance the region by the Abbott government adopting a newfound friend and ally? A perspective is needed here. Unfortunately, the answer to the above is the elevation of India will do nothing for stability in the region, as has the exchanges with Japan. These sudden ‘recognitions’ will only inflame Australia-China relations beyond the required modicums of civility that trading partners have to indulge. China will be furious at Australia’s new-found alliances. Moreover, the PRC will observe it as a direct insult and another geo-strategic move which further destabilizes an already fractious region.

The new dynamics that Australia is attempting to set in place, beyond the trading commodities such as iron ore and gold – about 40% of Australia’s exports to India are of gold[5] – are however misguided at best and flagrantly antagonistic to China at worst. If Australia is counting on India to exercise a naval military presence in order to be yet another bulwark to China, Australia is being profoundly imprudent as India simply does not have the military-stretch to extend beyond South Asia. India is also beset with regional political issues such as poisonous border issues with China; ongoing political and geo-strategic issues with Pakistan; and ongoing difficulties with China-Pakistan relations. Domestically, India also has enormous problems.

Chronic poverty being the most overt- India’s Economic Advisory Council deemed 363 million people to be living in poverty in 2014[6] – and according to the Asian Development Bank it also has ‘rampant corruption and [is an] ineffective and corrupt state.’[7] Perhaps the least acknowledged issue however, and one that drains vast amounts of India’s time and energy is ‘a guerrilla war in twenty states covering 40 per cent of the country’s land mass.’[8] The nationalistic fervour shown by the people of India in their electing of Narendra Modi will not change these endemic problems that have (and are) facing India in the short term. Therefore, and regardless of India’s resentment of China’s growing influence, India’s sway in the region therefore, will remain ‘rhetorical and potential rather than actual.’[9]

The inclusion of India as an incremental-increase in the containment of China in an A-P ‘triangle of defence’ is yet another simplistic foreign policy alternative to actually engaging with China on deeper more meaningful geo-political and geo-strategic levels. Australia will come to deeply regret recent moves to elevate India beyond that of a valued trading partner. Furthermore it actually signals Australia – in the current government and in the previous one – is fundamentally incapable of looking beyond trade for its meaningful geo-strategic and political relationships, and is weak-willed when trying to negotiate its way through the regional (and ever-increasing) maize of potential conflict-probabilities – that is, unless the US demands it, and Australia should dispense with this historical cloak which consecutive Australian governments in particular, have been unable to throw off.

The military move toward India when it has in fact been ignored by Australia for decades, the cut backs in Australia’s foreign aid which must impact on India notwithstanding, also signals a panic on behalf of India in its desire to offset China’s influence in the region. This has become a lightning rod with which Australia – as poorly constructed as the foreign policy has been – has been able to capitalize on. The Abbott government is expanding on the Gillard governments’ approach to the A-P belonging to America, and in doing so is seeking to default to the containment of China at the behest of America. A significant part of this driving force and reasoning is because the Abbott Conservative government is unable and/or unwilling to unshackle Australia from its British-colonial ruler-of-Asia mentality. The fusing together of these elements will incrementally and then dramatically increase the chances of an exchange of fire between military forces happening.

The irresponsible attitude and opportunistic intent Australia is exhibiting by embracing Japan and now India, is another stepping-stone into a war breaking out and of Australia having to concede that it played a major part in inflaming and destabilising the region: it may take a decade from 2014, but the signs of war are already on the horizon. Whether the mechanisms of previous Australia’s foreign policy continue to be employed, and if they remain mired in their colonial past in the new ‘age of pax-Sino,’ they will be given, in the first instance short shrift by the PRC; and in the second will heighten the chances of a military response from China.

The well-trodden historical colonialist-path that Australia is attempting to engage with by allying with India directly impacts on the chances of there being peaceful outcomes in the A-P region. If the PRC adopts the British model of rule in the region, that of using force to reinforce their superiority – as Great Britain did throughout the 1800s – a war will come sooner rather than later and India, like Japan and America, will put its interests first and once again, due to the foolhardy military-driven foreign policies being adopted by the Abbott government, Australia will be found wanting. India is simply not capable of being a bulwark against China regardless of the elevated status Australia offers it in the region. Essentially, all the additional recognition is achieving is the inflaming China’s sense of humiliation; and China’s tolerance of this will not be indefinite. A war with China is ever-closer due to the Abbott government’s ill-thought through and shambolic foreign policy.

[1] John Garnaut. ‘Australia and India to strengthen military ties.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, July 1, 2014.

[2] Mark Kenny and David Wroe ‘Defence alliance to anger China.’ The Age. Melbourne: The Age Company,July 9, 2014, 7.

[3] Paul McGeough. ‘Hillary Clinton criticises Australia for two-timing America with China.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, June 27, 2014.

[4] ‘You are either with us or against us.’ November 6, 2001.

[5] Michael Wesley. ‘The Elephant in the Room. Australia India Relations. The Monthly. February, 2012.

[6] Manu Joseph. ‘Setting a High Bar for Poverty in India.’ The New York Times. July 9, 2014.

[7] James Lamont and James Fontanell-Khan. ‘India: Writing on the wall.’ Financial Times. March 21, 2011.

[8] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. The end of the Western World and the birth of a new global order. England: Penguin Books, 2012, 448.


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


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Greater Australia-Japan Military Ties: another dangerous step for Australia in the coming age of pax-Sino

The upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties by the Abbott Government sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to China, writes Dr Strobe Driver.

Bishop, Johnston and what the West helped teach China

The recent trip of Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston to Japan in order to build greater ties via the articulation of defence needs, and talk intellectual/product/intelligence interchanges is a very dangerous stance for Australia to adopt. The level of this type of political intimacy would be okay if times were different, but they are not. What should be understood is that China is rising at an astonishing rate and whilst this process is taking place it is utilizing the pathway of postulation via threat-of-force. This is manifesting in what it believes to be a ‘reclaiming’ of its territories. To be sure, China is only following the pathway that the United States (US) and the Soviet Union taught the world in the Cold War; and more recently what the US and its allies have consistently shown the world in the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (including ongoing US drone-strikes in the sovereign state of Pakistan) and with regard to the Soviets, Chechnya, the Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Georgia. France and its meddling in Indo-China and Algeria, Britain in Malaya and the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands have also succeeded in sending clear messages to China that invasion cum occupation are vibrant post-preponderance mechanisms. From these examples there is no historical reason for China not to pursue its ambitions using preponderance through the prism of threat-of-force with an understanding that there will be a follow-up application of actual military force if need be—this in current circumstances would happen most likely by the geo-strategic stretch of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and has been recently displayed in their recent intrusions further into the Pacific Ocean.

Australia – Japan and ‘defence’

The political movement of significantly closer Australia-Japan relations at this friction-filled time in the region is dangerous in the extreme for Australia. Why? First and foremost it sends a message to China that Australia will show allegiance to Japan militarily if there is a China-Japan ocean clash. One must ask if this were to occur what Australia could do about this in order to defend show its allegiance to Japan. The answer is ‘very little,’ beyond voicing its concerns in the United Nations (UN). The unpalatable truth of the matter is Australia simply does not have the capabilities to facilitate a military response even if it wanted to, and with this in mind, what could Japan do if there was an Australia-China ocean clash in the region? Before an answer to this question is offered, it is timely to observe that as recently as the 11th June, 2014, a reference to the continuing frictions—which have a serious potential to drag Australia into a regional conflict—was brought up in a recent senate hearing. Australian Defence Department head Dennis Richardson in an assessment of the instability in the region and the possibility of a unilateral action (read: China) destabilising the region, he stated in part “…there is always the risk of an accident or a miscalculation … ”.[1] What then would be the outcome and what could Japan do if a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship sustained damage, or was sunk in an exchange of fire? Japan could also do nothing, as it does not have ‘blue-water’ or ‘ocean-going’ navy capabilities to exercise any form of significant control beyond its littoral boundaries. In simpler terms, Japan possesses a ‘green water’ navy only. Moreover, and contributing to the non-interventionist strategies that would come to the fore is Japan’s neighbours have deep-rooted animosities toward it, and therefore to act in such a way would signify a resurfacing of its historical expansionist tendencies; and create a storm of protest from its near-neighbours. Hence, Japan would be very hesitant to act on behalf of another country, whether Australia or the US, due to its severe regional history. Moreover, the sensitivity of its neighbours and the fact that such an action might trigger and then encourage China and Russia to act in a more definitive way on their territorial claims is the opening of a Pandora’s box that Japan simply does not want. Whether the territorial claims of China and Russia are valid is a moot point and beyond the scope of this essay, however the socio-psychological and geo-strategic intentions of Japan’s neighbours should not be underestimated as they play a significant role in Japan’ geo-political environment.

History and fear

To be sure, Japan’s other enormous fear, which one could suggest outstrips any other in terms of engaging in a conflict is its complete and absolute reliance on imported oil and this too, should not be underestimated. For instance, a concerted effort by China to limit and/or cut off supplies to Japan would place the Japanese economy in a parlous condition. Bearing in mind this is exactly what the US did in gaining the unconditional surrender of Japan in the Pacific phase of World War Two (WWII) is to acknowledge the issue remains alive in the island nation. More to the point and an important part of the scenario of geo-strategies is to realise, in more contemporary times, the aspect of Japan’s reliance on imported oil can be observed in that, part of the reason the US invaded Iraq the second time in 2003 was to exercise a level of control over oil supply exports from the country. This had, and has, the ongoing residual of contributing to an ‘understanding’ by Japan that it is somewhat ‘tied’ to the US geo-strategically; discourages the questioning of the ongoing post-WWII positioning of US forces in Okinawa; and extrapolating on Jacques argument, encourages Japan to ‘think of itself as an Asia-Pacific power rather than [an] East Asian power’[2] and further highlights Japan’s post-Meiji stance of respect for the West and contempt for Asia.[3]

Nevertheless, where does this leave Australia if an ‘accident or a miscalculation’ were to take place and if these closer Australia-Japan military ties resulted in an RAN ship being damaged/sunk in an engagement? The default position of the Abbott government is that the US would immediately step in and come to the ‘defence’ of Australia—the ANZUS treaty notwithstanding. Relying on an assumption as the region becomes more friction-filled is dangerous in the extreme; and has the potential of placing Australia in a perilous position. Essentially, Australia’s position is one of being involved in the region to the extent of overtly demonstrating an alliance with a distant neighbour that has no military response capabilities in terms of coming to Australia’s aid; and of assuming the US will respond immediately and precisely with a corresponding show of force is fragile. If Australia must take sides the Abbott Coalition and conservative government needs to seriously assess whether the US, in the next two decades, will exercise any form of robust response to Australia’s ‘needs’ in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region. Moreover, it is an already acknowledged fact that America is a war-weary and “foreign policy fatigue[d]”[4] nation, whose people are perplexed by the lack of appreciation shown for its endeavours in saving and/or rescuing other nations (such as Afghanistan and Iraq), have the will to interdict in the A-P region, regardless of what their president states. To believe this stance would change if Australian forces were threatened/destroyed is a fantasy.

To assume the US would intervene, if there were a force-on-force collision on the high seas, is a belief that has its roots in a time long gone. America will do what is best for America, and to assume otherwise befits an historic underpinning that is now superseded. Moreover this attitude displays in the Coalition a genuine lack of awareness of the coming state-of-affairs; and what the coming storm—consisting of a deliberate containment of China—will bring. The historical situation remains transfixed in the minds-eye of this Coalition government (as it was the previous Labor government), by what the US accomplished in the ‘saving’ of Australia as the Japanese advanced through the A-P region in the (early) phase of the Pacific theatre in WWII. The US did come to Australia’s aid at this time and to be fair, after the bombing of Darwin Australian policy-makers had been caught completely off-guard by Japanese advances; and were in a state of disarray.

The here and now: how times have changed

The above-mentioned scenario, of Australia being caught by surprise and needing to have acute intervention is, in contemporary times, not applicable. In the late twentieth and the early twenty-first century the dissemination of information is much greater and the awareness, information and debate is robust in political, military and academic realms. There is a vast amount of information with regard to China’s rise and the possible trajectories, the threat it may pose, and the potential collisions that may occur—there are none of the ‘surprise factors’ that were present in 1941-42. Therefore, to not understand or to blithely ignore the enmeshment of history and the severe implications it could have for Australia—or to continue on an ‘as normal’ pathway when dealing with Japan in the current state-of-affairs—borders on a wilfull denial of Japan’s history in the region; a the impact the rise of China will have on Australia from a military perspective; and harnesses a misguided belief that the regional power-stakes will not undergo seismic change in the near-future. Ministers Bishop and Johnston’s behaviour on behalf of the Abbott government signal a retreat to the sanctuary of the past in which the US—as it did in the early 1940s—will come to the aid of Australia immediately and completely; and that Japan will remain steadfast in its military allegiance to Australia as the pressures from China grow. These are the gravest of mistakes and the positioning of Australia by Bishop and Johnston’s actions send a clear and overt signal to an up and coming regional strength that previous relationships matter at the expense of creating new and vibrant ones. Thus, the upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties (even if the end result is one of only symbolism) sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to a burgeoning China—a land of a sixth of the world’s population, and a country that has over a million-plus military personnel—and makes the coming era of pax-Sino for Australia an increasingly dangerous place, within a progressively fragile environment overall. Australia’s default should be one of striving for inclusiveness in all the A-P region, and not be one of sending exclusive signals to one country which might antagonise another.

It is timely here to consider the actual worth of US’ assurances, and reflect on the history of such ‘assurances’ in the ‘cold light of day.’ There were assurances given to the Southern Iraqi (Marsh) people during the latter stages of the First Persian Gulf War, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnamese Army) were also given assurances during the latter stages of the Vietnam War, the Hmong people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam were also given promises by the US government during the Vietnam War in their fight against the North Vietnamese. In recent times Iraq was told the US would stay the course, and Afghanistan was told it would be helped until complete independence: all in one way or another were rescinded upon. For Australians’ to think they are of greater importance than any of the aforementioned is irrational; and unsupported by reality. Lastly, a perspective on the Americans’ coming to Australia’s rescue in the Pacific phase of WWII should also be given its place, if only to observe what could happen if the above-mentioned Australia-China collision comes to pass and the region explodes into a kinetic-phase of military action. American policy with regard to Australia at the time of WWII is able to be seen in its true light when Wurth’s recent book, 1942 Australia’s greatest Peril, is examined. Wurth states:

The security of Australia had just been listed very low on a secret US Army list of strategic priorities – in fact, behind seven other priorities -beginning with maintaining Britain, keeping Russia in the war as an enemy of Germany, and maintaining the status quo in India, the Middle East and China.[5]

Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston should ask the US where Australia actually is placed in its current list of priorities, as one could (and should) based on history, doubt that it is at number one. Regardless of where Australia is on any foreign powers’ list, a more measured and articulate approach needs to be taken toward China in the A-P region. A more coherent and sensible approach to China is sorely needed, if only because China is now on a pathway to exercising preponderance with the addendum of force; that we are in no way assured of America’s response if a ‘miscalculation’ leads to conflict, regardless of our joint histories; and that Australia wishes to show China it is an independent, critical thinking nation, one capable of making its own way in the region free of American influence. To go in the Bishop-Johnston direction on behalf of the Abbott government is tempting a future military fate; and Australians’ should further understand, time is running short to have a positive input in balancing the region before a war breaks out.


[1] Mike Head. ‘Australian Senate committee discusses threat of US-China war.’

[2] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. London: Penguin Books, 2009, 400.

[3] When China Rules the World, 394

[4] Tom Switzer. ABC Lateline ‘Friday Forum.’ Presenter/Reporter: Emma Alberici 13, June 2014.

[5] Bob Wurth. 1942 Australia’s greatest peril. Sydney: Macmillan Australia, 2008, 19. Italics and highlight mine.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and had been reproduced with permission.

More articles by Dr Strobe Driver:

What a State demands, what a citizen gives, and what Abbott and Hockey simply don’t understand

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism


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War games

From the very beginning, Tony Abbott has been even worse on the world stage than we could have possibly imagined.

Everyone is our bestest friend ever.

Stick to the economy saying how bad the previous government was but avoid discussing any action with anyone other than the Murdoch press.

Small talk is excruciating. Body language is just wrong.

Trying so hard to take a stand then quickly changing as he looks over at what the other guy is doing, unless it’s about climate change, in which case we can’t see you.

And my personal favourite, though it was hard to choose what with climbing mountains and scaring French children, only agreeing to talk about climate change if it’s called “energy efficiency” instead.

But as he barrels around the world having his photo taken with his “best friends”, what is Tony actually doing, other than scoping out new casino sites for James Packer, since he doesn’t bother taking any expert advisers with him?

In the latest news, it appears we are going to become arms dealers for Stephen Harper.

Reading an ABC article I came across this line

“Canada wants Australia to help it engage in security issues in Asia.”

In trying to find out more about this I came across this article from 2011.

“Finally the government released its latest deeply-flawed report on Canada’s military exports between 2007 and 2009.

According to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) — a government-funded lobby group representing 860 member companies — Canada now exports $5 Billion to $7.5 Billion in military and so-called “security” products per year.

Despite massive loopholes in the government’s report, their data does reveal that almost all of Canada’s military exports went straight into the arsenals of about 40 belligerent nations fighting in the Iraq and/or Afghan wars, which have killed over 1.5 million people.

Few know that in 2009, Canada was virtually tied in a three-way race for sixth place among the world’s top arms exporters, right behind the U.S., Russia, Germany, the UK and China.

Nowadays, with $4 billion a year in military products streaming stateside, Canada is America’s top military supplier, and their hardware is deeply embedded in U.S. weapons fighting on three important war fronts: North Africa (Libya), the Middle East (Iraq and Israel) and Central Asia (Afghanistan). Such U.S.-led invasions, occupations, proxy wars and regime changes have long enforced unjust structures of economic control over resources in the Third World. Canadian complicity in manufacturing, exporting and deploying the instruments of war, has helped maintain their high-rank among the world’s most prosperous nations.”

Perhaps we are going to pay Canadian security firms to house refugees on an island in the Arctic Ocean. Who knows?

Reporting about Tony’s trip to China in April, the Australian said:

“Earlier, the Prime Minister declared Australia’s “trust in China” as he outlined plans for greater defence links including joint military exercises, days after tightening alliances with Japan and South Korea.

Countering the “strategic pessimism” about security in Asia, Mr Abbott assured 1800 government and business officials in Shanghai that the rise of China could bring prosperity for all, including an Australian economy that already receives $60 billion in annual Chinese ­investment.

But in an apparent warning on China’s territorial claims, Mr Abbott said it would be “unthinkable” to put everything at risk by failing to settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

Abbott declared at the East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting last year that Japan was Australia’s “best friend in Asia”. Abe’s cabinet has already increased defence spending and eased restrictions on arms exports. An expert review panel is expected to recommend that Japan can exercise its right to participate in collective self-defence with its allies.

While this constitutional change is generally assumed to be referring to the US – Japan’s key ally – it could also involve Australia. Since 2002, Australia, Japan and the US have occasionally held the Trilateral Security Dialogue meetings between their defence and foreign ministers. The ADF and the JSDF could therefore conceivably conduct combined combat operations with the US in future.

So we are forming defence links and having military exercises with China, who are in a dispute with Japan, whose side we have openly defended, even castigating the Chinese Ambassador, whilst brokering arms deals for Harper, presumably to both sides since we are ON both sides, but we are warning them to be peaceful. But what of the US?

Just to make sure that everyone is being peaceful, we are going to send $12 billion into the US economy to keep their armament industry thriving in the hope that ten years down the track they will have worked out how to make those 72 planes fly.

In the meantime we’ll spend $4 billion buying eight highly-sophisticated P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. The US-built aircraft will be delivered in 2017 to replace the Cold War-era P3 Orion aircraft. The Poseidon will come equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles to destroy submarines and warships.

And just to make sure American arms manufacturers have enough of our money, a report in February said seven US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion ($2.7 billion), but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalized.

And why should South Korea be left out. After admonishing Tony about a Gillard decision to cancel a gun order, he appears to have promised the South Koreans that we will buy guns from them too because Lord knows, we need more guns.

The Navy’s two supply ships, HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success need replacing, so the Government is buying two new ships but only two firms, one Spanish, and one South Korean, will get the chance to tender for the job.

I think that Tony is getting a tad too much of his advice from the military who seem to have an endless budget in these days of belt-tightening. The other smarter leaders are taking advantage of Tony’s enthusiasm to make friends, sign free trade agreements, and play with army stuff. That’s not fair, guys, picking on the dumb new kid.


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Julie Bishop’s SNAFU moments

On February 2, Insiders began their commentary for 2014. As usual, they included a right wing voice for “balance”. This time it was Niki Savva from the Murdoch propaganda sheet, the Australian. Whilst she may be preferable to the vile Piers Ackerman, Ms Savva adds very little to critical analysis of our political scene as she regurgitates the Murdoch script – Labor bad, Tony good.

At the end of the show the guests are invited to make a final comment. Niki chose to sing the praises of Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop saying

“Apart from a few verbal snafus, I think Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job. After a few turbulent years, finally Foreign Affairs have got someone who is polite, professional, hard-working and can make decisions, so they are very happy.”

So let’s have a look at a few of those “Situation Normal: All F*cked Up” moments.

Before the election, Ms Bishop and others infuriated Indonesia by insisting that we did not need their permission to drag asylum seekers back to their shores. The situation has deteriorated ever since with our Navy infringing on Indonesian territorial waters, and our refusal to apologise for spying on the Indonesian President, his wife, and several members of his cabinet.

We have also had to apologise to Malaysia for comments Tony Abbott made in June 2011 at a press conference with Scott Morrison suggesting asylum seekers would face human rights abuses if sent to Malaysia.

“Imagine taking boat people from Australia to Malaysia where they will be exposed almost inevitably to the prospect of caning and other very harsh treatment”

At his first major international conference as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott offered “an act of contrition” to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, apologising for the way Malaysia got caught up in “what was a very intense and at times somewhat rancorous debate in Australia.”

“He knows we play our politics pretty hard in our country and I think he understood.”

“I made it very clear to the prime minister that our opposition was never to Malaysia, it was to the former government,” he said.

And then we have Papua New Guinea.

“PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has launched a scathing attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of spreading ”nonsense” and ”completely untrue” claims over foreign aid linked to the asylum seeker deal.

”I don’t particularly appreciate being misrepresented by others for their own political interests,” he said.

”I am disappointed with some of the debates put forward by some of the leaders in the opposition in Australia, in particular statements that I am alleged to have made to them which are completely untrue.”

We have also upset them by refusing to issue visas on arrival for PNG citizens coming to Australia, a move they have reciprocated.

“Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has expressed disappointment over Australia’s stand on the no visa on arrival for Papua New Guineans traveling to Australia.

He said the government cannot tell Australia what to do but would reciprocate and stand by its decision to terminate visa on arrival for Australia visitors to PNG.”

Not content with alienating our nearest neighbours, Ms Bishop, in her haste to ingratiate herself with her American counterpart, has infuriated China by siding with Japan in the escalating conflict over ownership of a few islands in the East China Sea.

And let’s not stop there. In a move that even America condemned, Ms Bishop has defended the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, even though they have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Palestine is justifiably upset at this sudden turnaround.

“AUSTRALIA has recalibrated its position on Israel and Palestine to ensure only “balanced” UN resolutions receive its support, says Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

Australia this month abstained from two UN General Assembly resolutions; one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolution to end “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories” was supported by 158 nations. Australia was one of only eight nations to abstain.

Australia was one of only five countries to abstain from calling for Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Convention. The resolution was supported by 160 nations.

Ms Bishop said the shift “reflected the government’s concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced”.

We have also alienated the global community by reversing action on climate change and reneging on our commitments to renewable energy and our promised contribution to the Green Energy fund.

So aside from pissing off Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, Palestine and the world, minor snafus according to Ms Savva, I guess you could say “Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job.” At what I’m not sure. It appears Armani suits, pearl drop earrings and politeness are all it takes to make DFAT “very happy”.

PS: Thank you to Fed Up for reminding me about Timor-Leste on whom we also spied and then raided their lawyer just before they took us to court for bugging trade negotiations. I also neglected to mention our active support for human rights abuses both there and in Sri Lanka.


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