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Tag Archives: Frank Bainimarama

Golan Heights – Questions on Australia’s role still unanswered

By Hungry Charley  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent statement on a new role for Australian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, where they would join an existing Fijian force already deployed by the UN was painted largely as boosting Australian – Fijian relations by the Government, while the scope of the Australian mission is still unclear.

The Prime Minister stated that Australians would be part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights which has been operating since 1974 following escalation of Israeli-Syrian hostilities.

He indicated that Australian troops would be sent to ‘train and support’ the Fijian contingent deployed to Syria. The Fijians (194 in number) are already present in the Golan Heights, contributing significant numbers of peacekeepers since its first deployment in 2013.

Fiji has maintained its commitment in the Golan Heights despite around 50 deaths in the UNDOF over its mission history and an incident in which 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held hostage by militia in 2014.

UN documents released in September show the current positions of forces within the UNDOF deployment, including Fijian forces.

The announcement by the Prime Minister was given within the context of the Fiji–Australia Vuvale Partnership, signed by Morrison and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in September this year and the increasing interest in joint military cooperation since the announcement of Australia’s role in redeveloping the Black Rock training facility in Nandi.

Fijians embarking for Golan Heights mission (image from aspistrategist.org.au)

But despite the statements made by the Prime Minister, the size of the Australian force and its function remains unclear. There have been no media statements on this deployment by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force or any other information available from UN Information sources in Australia, despite being contacted a week ago. Similarly, there is no information forthcoming from the Australian Defence Force on the scope of the engagement, which itself is unusual, peacekeeping forces are not meant to be secret, the success of operations depends to a large extent on a high profile being maintained. Assertions that the increased Australian role will be supportive is also evidenced by the presence of an ADF officer who has been deployed since March this year with the UNDOF, presumably as an advisor, but again this is an assumption.

While deploying peacekeeping missions provides nations credit as being good international actors, the timing of the Australian participation is not consistent with Morrison’s critique of the UN in his speech earlier this month at the Lowy Institute and comments regarding ‘negative globalism’ he has recently given. Australia has been winding back its peacekeeping commitments over the years of the Coalition Government and in this sense, the mission announcement came as somewhat of a surprise.

Also, the Prime Minister’s words regarding the suitability of the mission due to a low level of risk to Australian forces does not reflect what has been happening on the ground over the last year. A UNDOF report from September this year shows that UN forces have been witness to substantial military actions between combatant forces, on both the Syrian and Israeli sides, as reported in the UNDOF September 2019 report:

“I am particularly concerned about the firing on 12 June of missiles across the ceasefire line by the Israel Defense Forces. Furthermore, I remain concerned by the continued presence of the Syrian armed forces in the area of separation. There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF. The Israel Defense Forces should refrain from firing across the ceasefire line and crossing the ceasefire line. The continued presence of unauthorized weapons and equipment in the area of limitation on both the Alpha and Bravo sides is also of concern. These developments have the potential to jeopardize the Agreement.”

The area of ‘limitation’ is the area where military actions are forbidden under the UN mandate, though currently the UN only has access to 50% of the area of this area, according to the UN report. In fact the political situation in the Golan sites is much more unstable than it was a year ago, thanks in large part by Israel’s action to annex the Golan Heights in 1981 and ongoing Israeli occupation that was ratified by Trump in March this year. This is despite the area being claimed by the Syrian Government due to its location in relation to the 1967 truce line. So Israeli occupiers are technically in breach of UN resolutions on this matter.

The UN responded by declaring in March that its mission would not hindered by these political developments and that, “A majority of Security Council members on Wednesday stressed the importance of upholding international law regarding the occupied Golan , in the face of the unilateral move by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over them.” But according to UN reports Israeli forces have also been erecting barriers to movement in area of the ‘Qunaytirah crossing’, subjecting UN personnel to security checks and restricting access to the areas of ‘separation’ and ‘limitation’ in the north of the zone.

What is the Israeli/US interest in the Golans that has prompted Israeli occupation and such strong support from the US (and Australia) in violation of UN resolutions? The answer is partly settlement opportunities for Israel, but the other is oil. According to the Israeli operated Afek Oil and Gas there is ‘billions of barrels of Israeli oil’ under the ground. Except it is Syrian ground.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Afek has a permit to explore for conventional oil at up to 10 sites in a 39,500-hectare zone south of Katzrin (Qatsrin). This area lies within the Israeli area of control to the west of the de-militarised zone administered by UNDOF. The other key point here is that Afek is a wholly owned subsidiary of Genie Energy, a company with some by some powerful people on their strategic advisory board, Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Bush Secretary of State, Dick Cheney. Genie in turn is part of the larger parent company and many of the same owners IDT Corporation, an American tele-communications company and in their words, “… IDT’s Wholesale Carrier Services business is the largest independent carrier of voice traffic globally.”

Step in Newark lawyer and Genie Energy Acting President, Ira Greenstein. Greenstein was an official in the presidential transition team member for the incoming Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was also a member of this team and later became Trump’s “Middle East Envoy’. Greenstein was still Genie Energy’s acting President and according to the Millenium Report published in April this year, a breach of the conflict of interest rules for government employees in the US. Nonetheless Greenstein’s position on the transition team meant he had influence on government and UN appointments for the emerging Trump Administration and seems to have had influence over military actions Trump took against the Syrians following his election.

To give you an idea on the power of this conglomerate, Ira Greenstein has several corporate connections with Jared Kushner as well as within the pro-settlement organisation in Israel, Mosaic United, being the President and Treasurer of American Friends of Mosaic United in the US. Both Greenstein and Kushner have been involved with Israeli development of illegally settled areas on the West Bank, it seems now the Golan Heights is the next settlement front. Genie Energy is populated by strong pro-Israeli nationalists, such as the current President of Genie Oil And Gas, another subsidiary of Genie Energy, Efraim Eitam, who seems to be the one spearheading exploitation of resources in the Golan Heights and has strong relationships the within Israeli administration. He was a Brigadier General in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Reserves and has previously called all Arabs in Israel a “cancer.”

Jared and Rupert – good friends

Rupert Murdoch is another key Genie Energy connection to the Trump administration, sharing a long-time and close friendship with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, as well as seemingly gaslighting Trump’s military actions against Syria. In fact Murdoch is on the record saying that Genie would help spur a “global, geopolitical paradigm shift.”

Genie Energy suspended exploratory drilling just prior to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in March. As UN reports show there has been an increase in Israeli military activity in the Golan Heights perimeter, particularly after an Iranian drone allegedly entered “Israeli airspace.” Trump has also been to the Golan himself raising feelings of Israeli nationalism amongst settlers and politicians alike, declaring a new “Trump Heights’ settlement along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all contrary to UN resolutions.

Given the tensions in the Golan Heights, Scott Morrison’s claims of the peacekeeping deployment being a low risk operation seems to be playing down the risks. In fact, given the recent politicking, it seems it has the potential to be a powder keg waiting to go off. A belligerent Israel with US support and an agitated Assad in Syria with increasing levels of Russian involvement due to Turkey’s recent intervention, do not add up to a stable situation for this part of the world.

Another key matter of interest is Morrison’s relationship with Trump and the Israeli administration, helped here in no short measure by ex-ambassador David Sharma. Morrison’s stance on Israel has generally been to follow the US position, herein lies the tension with the UN mission and why questions regarding our future involvement in the UNDOF need to be clarified.

It’s a shame Australia couldn’t show the same commitment to ensure the safety of Australian children and their mothers in northern Syria, not a priority it seems, but according to Morrison, neither is the peacekeeping mission.

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Glad all over?

Is “One Million Dollar Woman” Liberal Party “gun” fund-raiser, Gladys Liu, a catspaw of the Chinese Communist Party’s 2005 huaren canzheng, a policy of “ethnic Chinese participation in politics overseas” which has seen Beijing support ethnic Chinese politicians in gaining office in Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Australia?

Or is Ms Liu just another reactionary, evangelical, Coalition homophobe to whom LGBT issues, Safe Schools and marriage equality are “ridiculous rubbish”; a former fifteen-year Victorian Liberal apparatchik, who leads the Liberals’ ruse to legalise discrimination under the pretext of “protecting” an already constitutionally protected religious freedom?

In 2016, Liu attracted national attention, if not notoriety, with her social media campaign against Safe Schools, an anti-bullying programme designed to ensure schools are safe places for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students, and are free of discrimination. It was her way of getting attention.

Safe Schools originates from school communities, parents and teachers who identify a need for greater support for LGBTI students – students at higher risks of bullying and suicide, and to ensure that schools create safe and inclusive environments. It’s been the subject of much disinformation and misrepresentation from our reactionaries, such as Cory Bernardi or George Christensen who proclaim themselves conservatives. But to campaign against it is damning.

In her orchestrated attack on Safe Schools, Liu aligns herself with ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and injustice and her PM, Scott Morrison. His children go to private school, he tells The Guardian Australia to avoid what he wilfully misrepresents as “skin-curling” sexuality discussions. But not all Glad’s agenda is reactionary. She’s progressive on foreign investment.

Liu calls for Australia to water down its foreign investment limits? China’s just announced it will do the same.  Her vote against treating government action on climate change as a matter of urgency? She’s just toeing the party line.

A whiz on WeChat, Liu’s 2016 social media campaign helped Julia Banks get elected only, in the end, to be bullied out of the Liberal Party. Liu’s pitch on Chinese social media is to claim Chinese Australians worry that future generations will be “destroyed” by “ridiculous rubbish” such as “concepts of same-sex, transgender, intergender, cross-gender”.

Liu continued her attack in an article in The Age Liu in 2016. Above all, subversive Safe Schools undermined conservative Chinese values and “we are concerned it will change society and the moral standard [of] the culture”.

WeChat also ran other fake news including the scare that immigration under Labor would rise to 320,000 in ten years; “surpassing the entire Chinese immigrant population.” Liu’s mentor, Morrison’s legacy as Immigration Minister, 2013-4, incidentally was a program of 190,000, a figure he bizarrely locked in by tying the size to budget calculations.

The nation plays Chinese whispers this week with the Liu debacle. We’re Glad all over. MSM is abuzz with scuttlebutt about the MP for the Victorian seat of Chisholm, a marginal seat where 23,000 residents were born in mainland China.

As Niki Savva says on ABC Insiders Sunday, we need to know more about her miracle fund-raising, which Sam Dastyari happily inflates to $3 million. Where does the money come from? How does she suddenly get her precocious skill in political organising? It was this skill which finally won her pre-selection after nine years of knock-backs and failure.

But Gladys is in good hands. Her senior adviser is the arch-conservative, Graham Watt, former Liberal MP for Burwood, who in eight years in state politics, is remembered as the only MP who refused to stand for Rosie Batty’s standing ovation when the Domestic Violence Campaigner and Australian of the Year, visited Victoria’s Parliament in 2015.

Watt is not in Canberra, Tuesday when all hell breaks loose, after Gladys strays into Andrew Bolt’s lair; his Sky Studio. As a Liberal, never did she expect to be held to account. And certainly not by Bolt. A similar perspective appears to have been behind her interpretation of AEC rules regarding polling booth signage.

A case before the High Court challenges Liu’s Chinese-language posters’ how-to-vote advice which effectively directed unwary voters to vote Liberal. Oliver Yates, the unsuccessful independent candidate for Kooyong, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg’s seat, has teamed up with a voter in Chisholm to have the election result ruled invalid. Yet the current crisis, capably boosted by MSM’s Sinophobia, is self-inflicted, like so much of ScoMo & Co’s political franchise.

The latest buzz stems from Ms Liu unplugged. Un-minded. In sensational disclaimers to an incredulous Andrew Bolt on Sky, Tuesday, Liu fails to recall her twelve-year membership of key agencies of China’s bid to influence local politics; organisations linked to the CCP’s United Front Work Department. Add in failing to disclose a $39,675 donation to the Victorian Liberals, three years ago. Liu’s s also three years late in declaring a second donation of $25,000.

Victorian Liberals quickly claim the $39,675 is not in fact a donation after all. “As these payments were for attending events, Ms Liu did not have an obligation to submit a return to the AEC,” the party says. That clears that up then.

The member for Chisholm evades questions critical of China’s foreign policy. Her name might well have been added to the organisations without her knowledge, she conjectures, a fanciful narrative she abandons next day.

The media pack is baying. The Victorian Liberal Party was warned, by “men in grey suits”, against pre-selecting Ms Liu, trumpets The Herald Sun, while The ABC reports this week, that in 2018, then PM Turnbull was advised by ASIO not to attend Ms Liu’s “meet and greet” function whose guest list contained “thirty names from the Chinese Community”.

Is ScoMo spooked? It’s just another day at the spin machine for our PM who opts for a ludicrous downplay – as he did recently with his presence at Nine’s fund-raiser – which Jennifer Duke and David Crowe report in The Sydney Morning Herald, a Nine newspaper, netted the Libs $700,000. All that happened was Nine gave a function and he was there.

It’s part of his government’s Trumpist gaslit-nation strategy. Fraser Anning uses it too. There were no fascists at a Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson organised rally, he attended, despite images clearly showing protesters exchanging Nazi salutes.

“I think the problem here is Gladys Liu has given a clumsy interview,” Morrison says. “That is all that’s happened here.”

“Everyone has a bad day in the office and that was one,” Barnaby “bad-day” Joyce throws his own, huge, personal, authority into the mix on Patricia Karvelas’ RN drive. Nothing to see here. But how good is Mick-Mack’s melt-down!

Look over there: Deputy PM, vacuous Michael McCormack, stages a meltdown in question time, Wednesday, in case Liu sabotages ScoMo & Co’s smooth roll-out of Labor-bashing bastardry and wedging. Attacks on Labor fill its policy vacuum.  It also presses on with Ensuring Integrity, another zombie bill. ACTU’s Sally McManus says it’s some of the most draconian anti-union legislation in the world. ScoMo & Co’s war on workers must proceed until every union is crushed.

The nation is suffering the economic consequences of Coalition governments’ – and some of Labor’s – long-term strategy of de-unionisation. Labor may claim to represent working class interests. But in office, both federally and at the state level, it has consistently implemented neoliberal, anti-working class policies over the last three decades.

Take a bow, John Setka. Setka is a gift in ScoMo & Co’s demonisation of organised labour and their attack on Labor’s credibility and Albo’s authority. Yet it’s not about Setka. Our average unionist is a thirty-nine-year-old female nurse.

Wages remain frozen at 2013 levels, according to ABS data published in April. Workers and their families are suffering while others prosper.  Our top 20 per cent of households’ average net worth is over 93 times that of the lowest 20 per cent — some $3.2 million compared to just $35,200.

Yet workers are never valorised by this government the way it makes saints of farmers and small business owners, both groups prominent in recent wage theft cases.

“I don’t know why you’re yelling. The Member for Hunter. It’s time you came to the table and just behaved yourself occasionally,” Mick-Mack yells at shadow agriculture minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. There are country people doing it tough. You won’t ever stop yelling out. You should behave yourself. You are a disgrace. You know you are!”

Yet what Fitzgibbon has to say encapsulates the Coalition crisis and its dire need to seek diversion in the Gladys Liu soap opera and the up and coming return of the living dead drug tests for welfare cheats and useless, cashless credit cards.

“We’ve had the drought coordinator, the drought envoy, the drought task force, the drought summit. Now we have a drought minister …. (but) what hope does the Australian community have when their drought minister denies the connection between our activity and what is happening in our natural environment and with our climate?”

So much to evade; so little time. ScoMo & Co have economised on parliamentary sittings to save face.

Peak stupidity is reached when the Nationals’ leader Mick-Mack claims new dams would improve things for farmers. It’s a response to a typically tedious “Dorothy Dixer” which elicits the climate change denier’s default evasion.

“That is Australia – a land of droughts and flooding rains,” the Deputy PM says. Profound. Literary. Urbane. Or so he believes.

Fitzgibbon interjects to ask what the government is doing to help country people. ScoMo doesn’t blink.  But things go bad for the PM when Andrew Bolt gives him an earful in his Thursday morning sermon from Sky’s moral high ground.

Morrison is forced to pause his crusade to wedge Labor by legislation or “wedgislation” as Albanese wittily puts it, abusing parliament with a series of bull-shit bills such as reviving yet another trial of the cashless debit card, the war on vegan terror, which would outlaw on-farm protests by animal liberationists, drug-testing dole bludgers and the populists’ perennial -mandatory sentencing of child sex offenders  – all designed solely to give Labor an atomic wedgie.

No chance of ScoMo & Co tackling real issues; our “existential environmental crisis” or our incipient economic downturn. New Matilda’s Ben Eltham notes, “if the climate is heating the economy is cooling; the jobless are obviously to blame.”

Digging deep into his shallow but well-exercised desperate tactical response lobe, Trumpista ScoMo chooses to impugn Labor’s motives in holding Gladys Liu to account. ScoMo’s dud political judgement rivals that of his predecessor.

Morrison denies the allegations. Calls Labor racists. His mentor, Trump, whose latest claim to victimhood, is to claim his fake orange tan, is due to low-energy lightbulbs- deployed by Greens’ traitors everywhere, would be proud of him.

ScoMo! There’s flies in the buttermilk. What will you do? Liu, Liu, skip to Ms Liu. Skip to Ms Liu my darling.

ScoMo barely has time to take visiting Fijian PM pal Frank Bainimarama, another big fan of guided democracy, for a happy-clap and a singalong at Horizon. Horizon, which, oddly, shares its name with an Imperial Tobacco cigarette brand.

Horizon must be rapt when a PM deploys his prosperity gospel church; his religiosity, as a multipurpose political tool. But no sign so far of rapture from fellow evangelical Bainimarama. In fact, Frank seems to be inwardly seething.

Climate change advocate Frank’s no fan of Australia’s coal baron government. He sees our PM’s Pacific Island Forum refusal to agree to phase out coal-fired power as “insulting and condescending.” Yet a puff piece from the ABC’s Michael Walsh, helps us all to forgot human rights’ abuse in Fiji. Frank is a noble reformer who is restoring Fiji to democracy.

Big Frank’s glad to get out of Suva after being captured on camera assaulting Opposition leader Pio Tikoduadua in what is loosely known as the Fijian parliament’s car park; breaking Pio’s spectacles. Incredibly, local police make no inquiries. Pio, on the other hand, gets suspended from parliament for bad-mouthing his Prime Minister. ScoMo is inspired.

Bronte’s brontosaurus, (thunder lizard) the small-headed, whip-tailed, political dinosaur, Morrison goes in low. Our nation’s top grub, owes his own 2009 pre-selection, solely to a smear campaign. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph published four stories about the successfully pre-selected Liberal candidate for Cook, Michael Towke which defamed him, destroyed his political career, caused untold stress to his family and led to his dis-endorsement and ScoMo’s free walk.

”These stories sent my mother to hospital. They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court,” Towke explains.

ScoMo’s smear’s a silencing tactic; the very tactic used by The Chinese Embassy, notes Charles Sturt’s Clive Hamilton.

Critics of the Hong Kong-born MP are guilty of filthy racist slurs, ScoMo howls. It’s an outrage. Morrison follows his parliamentary gutter politics – (“disgusting”, Mark Dreyfus dubs them), with Standing Up for All Chinese Australians, a video he releases on Chinese social media, WeChat, now a Coalition propaganda, go-to. It’s a sequel to his April love-in, when after years of failed attempts, but vast increases in donations, Liu was finally pre-selected for Chisholm in Victoria.

“How good is Gladys Liu? Gladys Liu is a force of nature.” ScoMo crowed in April at her pre-selection. And he’s right. And she may have a right to be a bigot provided she doesn’t harm children who need safe schools. Or if she stays away from promulgating lurid lies and fantasies on social media which impede the voters’ right to make up their own mind.

But it’s fair to ask who her political mates are. Her connections. What are her links to United Front Work Department’s Guangdong provincial branch of the China Overseas Exchange Association, an overseas propaganda and influence outfit headed by high-ranking party officials? Documents show that Liu has been a council member of this outfit.

Liu also confirms she was honorary president of the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia. All done and dusted? Not yet. There’s a torrent of abuse from what is mysteriously called the other side of politics. Bolt’s side.

Bolt goes nuts. “The way that the Prime Minister played that race card five times this morning, well I can only say the Chinese regime should be sending him a thank you card,” he says in his opening harangue on Thursday. Classy irony.

“Prime Minister why was it racist to question Gladys Liu’s connections to China but it wasn’t racist to call Sam Dastyari ‘Shanghai Sam’?” asks a Ten Reporter. Liar from the Shire, ScoMo denies using the phrase but social media lights up with evidence to the contrary. Hansard also records Morrison stooping to racist taunting of Dastyari on several occasions.

So who is being racist? “Questioning by Labor and the crossbench members of Parliament on this is legitimate and reasonable,” Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, tells The Sydney Morning Herald; Nine Newspaper’s Peter Hartcher. Hartcher dismisses suggestions ASIO warned his paper’s Liberal Party pals ScoMo or Fizza Turnbull. So neither PM or their departments could join the guest list warning dots? We are in trouble.

In trouble also are Chinese communities, here and in other nations. Already under-represented in parliaments, they must now suffer being represented by MPs of dubious loyalty, observes Clive Hamilton.

And how fares our democracy where pre-selection is determined, at least in the Liberal Party, by how much money you can raise? Your ability to chat up rich-listers – and not by the calibre of your thinking, your humanity, or dare it be said, your capacity to contribute honest, constructive, socially cohesive ideas to policy or your demonstration of good faith.

A bit of concern for the planet doesn’t go astray either. Does our nation really needs another climate change sceptic?

The Liu case is far from closed. Word is that Gladys will be minded by the PMC – reduced to another bot from head office. The well-oiled, back-biting, faction-riven fossils in the Victorian Liberal Party will fall over themselves to help.

Micro-managed, scripted, she will win more time to be a WeChat warrior. But there are still few wild cards to be played. Her bully-PM has the diplomatic skills of a demented warthog and a hide to match. No patience for high maintenance.

If, on the other hand, it turns out that Gladys is of no further use to the United Front Work Department they may cut her loose. Beat ScoMo to it. Recall her. Some irregularity with her residency. Before even Morrison’s office works out that she’s more a political liability than an asset. A conga-line of suitable replacements will already be putting itself forward.

Or the High Court may be pleased to find her election invalid. But don’t hold your breath.

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