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Tag Archives: Foreign Affairs

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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You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

As Tony Abbott once said, “politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say”, (May 2010), and goodness knows, Tony has said some rather controversial things in the past. We are told that many of his more outrageous statements were those of a callow youth in different times, that he has learned a great deal, and changed his views on many things (some of them several times).

Now it’s not as if I expect Tony to be an expert in all fields. After all, “No one, however smart, however well-educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom,” (August 2013), and I realise that “sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark”, but Tony is rapidly clocking up an impressive list of recent quotes that makes one question whether a sow’s ear can be made into a silk purse.

To be fair to the new Tony, I have only included a selection since he took over the leadership of the Liberal Party thus becoming a prospective Prime Minister. The first quote below is an exception to this in that is was made a few months before Tony became leader but I have included it as being relevant to today’s “toxic tax” chorus.

Here are some of Tony’s pearls of wisdom on a range of topics – I call it my cringe list:

Action on climate change

“If you want to put a price on carbon, why not do it with a simple tax?” – July 2009

“The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.” – December 2009

“”The carbon tax is socialism masquerading as environmentalism…” – May 2012

“It’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one,” – July 2013

”Well I think the official in question (head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres) is talking through her hat, if I may say so,” – October 2013

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest….When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists” – March 2014

Women

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…” – February 2010

“If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well, we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so” – May 2013

“They’re young, they’re feisty and, I think I can probably say, have a bit of sex appeal,” – August 2013

”A bit of body contact never hurt anyone,” he told the teens, sounding less daggy dad than dodgy uncle. ”Nothing wrong with a bit of modest sweat” – August 2013

‘If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters” – September 2013

“Ok, let’s have a bloke’s question.” – March 2014 to students from Newtown High

‘Where are the ladies, by the way?’ he asks. ‘There are some ladies in this delegation.’ – April 2014 in China

Foreign Affairs

“It’s not goodies versus baddies – it’s baddies versus baddies,” – September 2013 re Syria

“He knows that we play our politics very hard in our country. And I think he understood.” – October 2013 re apology to Malaysia

“People seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please, don’t look to do it in Australia, you are not welcome. The second point is the situation in West Papua is getting better, not worse” – October 2013

“sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”. – November 2013 re human rights abuses and torture in Sri Lanka

Indonesia is in many respects Australia’s most important overall relationship.” – September 2013

“As far as I’m concerned, Japan is Australia’s best friend in Asia and we want to keep it a very strong friendship,” – October 2013

“New Zealand is Australia’s closest friend” – December 2013

“Australia and Papua New Guinea are more than friends – we are family” – March 2014

“Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend,” – April 2014

Economy and finance

“Mates help each other, they do not tax each other.” – Tony Abbott, February 23, 2011.

“We have always as a Coalition been against compulsory superannuation increases.” Press Conference, 23 March, 2012.

“Well, um, climbing mountains is a marvellous thing” – January 2014

“We do not want to clutter up the G20 agenda with every worthy and important cause, because if we do, we will squander the opportunity to make a difference in the vital area of economic growth,” – February 2014

“to get rich is indeed glorious” – April 2014

Unemployment

“Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives” – December 2013

Marriage equality

“I’m not someone who wants to see radical change based on the fashion of the moment” – August 2013

First people

“The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England” – January 2013

Forced adoptions

”We honour the birth parents, including fathers, who have always loved their children.” – March 2013

 

Part of being a Head of State is to be able to think on your feet. Tony often does that by inserting his foot into his mouth. No wonder Credlin always sits within pinching distance.

Update: I forgot to include

“I was an opposition leader myself for four years; I know that that position has some exhilarations and some frustrations,”- November 2013 to Myanmar’s opposition leader, who spent 15 years under house arrest before she was freed in 2010

 

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Julie Bishop’s SNAFU moments

image

 

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 l’Este 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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