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Tag Archives: United States

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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Joe Hockey and the Coalition’s Legacy

In the highly technical and confusing world of money, a balanced budget means incoming dollars (revenue) should be the same as outgoing dollars (spending). If spending exceeds revenue then either an increase in taxes, or borrowing, or drawing down on cash reserves to cover the difference, or all of the above, is needed. It’s the same as running your own household. It’s that simple or at least it should be.

So, having viewed the recent US government shutdown from a safe distance, can our Federal government see any parallels in the way they are about to approach the problem of balancing our budget? If one listens to the far right Tea Party members of the Republican Party (TEA stands for ‘Taxed Enough Already’) you will hear them constantly resurrecting their hero Ronald Reagan and preaching Reaganomics with such fervour, it’s surprising the former president is not already the Patron Saint of America. Would they be right about Reagan’s economic credentials? No. Can anyone explain why to them? No, they won’t listen. So, should we be surprised to see that in Australia, there are already signs that we are just as stupid; that we won’t learn from history either, and that our new government is foolishly travelling down the same mad road as this ultra right wing extremist body?

Tea Party members support the principle of a balanced budget. But they go a lot further than that. They don’t think spending should ever exceed revenue. Reaganomics as interpreted by the Tea Party, or the American Taliban, as ‘Will McEvoy’ of ‘The Newsroom’ called them, means less taxes and less spending. That means the government gets less of their citizens’ money and spends less on social services and infrastructure. Technically, that makes sense. The problem with that philosophy however, is twofold. Firstly, it doesn’t work and secondly, it isn’t what President Reagan did.

Like so many events throughout history, the re telling of Reagan’s economic credentials, of what he did, generates an exponential growth in embellishment, distortion and deliberate misrepresentation as one side or the other quotes what they think they know when trying to win a few points. Reagan did reduce taxes in 1981 the first year of his presidency, but over the next seven years he raised taxes, particularly on incomes below $50000. He did this no fewer than eleven times, either directly or by closing tax loopholes and limiting allowable tax deductions. During this same period he reduced corporate taxes but did not reduce spending, rather he increased it, particularly in the area of defence. His administration was thus forced to borrow heavily both domestically and abroad to cover ongoing budget deficits. His management of the economy was helped somewhat by a period of relative peace; America was not at war. But even allowing for that, his economics made America the world’s largest debtor nation owing nearly $3 trillion dollars by 1987. Because he was highly selective with the various revenue streams where he applied his increases and cuts, the chief economic indicators for growth, unemployment, poverty, tax revenues and deficits for that period varied wildly across a spectrum of highs and lows. This meant anyone who came after him (i.e. Republican presidential hopefuls) could cherry pick figures and quote percentages for any given period of his presidency and use them to emphasise their own economic plans. In reality, however, their claims were meaningless and could not seriously be applied to present day economic rationalism. In the main, Reagan’s economic reforms favoured big business and the wealthy at the expense of middle and low income workers.

And that brings us to the Tea Party of today. They want less regulation, lower taxes and froth at the mouth whenever the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is mentioned. They want policies that essentially place the burden of revenue raising on the less well off, while rewarding the wealthy for being, just that. Sound familiar?

So, how does Reaganomics impact on Australia? Essentially, while not saying it, the Coalition’s approach to economics is a broad version of Reaganomics; not what Reagan did, but the myth of what he did, i.e. lower taxes, having less government regulation, reducing waste and where possible, reducing welfare payments. Our Treasurer, Joe Hockey has made it clear that the age of entitlement is over, that we must learn to live within our means. No argument there. The problem is that Joe Hockey had us thinking originally that he could do this and return a surplus budget. He can’t and he knows it. He knows that our current net debt of $284 billion will increase to almost $400 billion by 2016 when we next go to the polls. That is unavoidable. That is why he is now flagging an increase in our debt ceiling to a staggering $500 billion. This he claims is Labor’s legacy. Really?

Hockey made a lot of noise about the state of the economy before and during the election suggesting that we were facing a national emergency. He has now had time to appreciate the truth of the matter and his rhetoric has noticeably subsided. Prime Minister, Tony Abbott also made a great deal of noise about reducing debt and deficit. The recently announced Commission of Audit is the process by which the new government will determine what stays and what goes. Declining revenues will play a big part in determining the choices available, and the dismantling of the carbon tax will only add to Hockey’s woes. This could hardly be called Labor’s legacy, certainly not in the way Hockey was referring. Dismantling the carbon price will reduce revenue making all of the coalition’s promises that much harder to keep. Those promises include a paid parental leave scheme and a ‘Direct Action’ policy to tackle climate change, the Coalition’s replacement policy for the carbon tax, which will involve paying big polluters to reduce their carbon emissions. Yet, Hockey insists those promises will be met. We can expect the Treasurer to be talking a lot about Labor’s legacy in the coming months. But in reality, the program he is laying the groundwork for, will be very much the Coalition’s legacy. The Commission of Audit report to be completed by March 2014 will show that forward projections of revenues will not accommodate their promises even with their intended budget cuts. Hockey’s options will be a hard pill to swallow and involve raising taxes, borrowing and, heaven forbid, possibly even raiding the future fund. Either way, raising the debt ceiling will be essential. Better to do it now while nobody’s looking. But given the Prime Minister’s attitude to climate change, the greatest temptation for Hockey and Abbott will be to simply dump ‘Direct Action’. It will most likely be delayed, like, forever! The next three years are not going to be pretty for the coalition or the country and the end result will give Labor plenty of ammunition come 2016 when the government will have to explain why the national debt jumped from the present $284 billion to probably in excess of $400 billion in just three years with no plans to combat climate change. Funny how the theory of Reaganomics looks so good on paper, but when applied in practice, will work the same way here as it did in the US.

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So you think Tony Abbott’s going to lead you to the promised land? Think again!

There are some opinions of we ordinary folk that just don’t find their way onto the pages of the mainstream media. Need I tell you what these are? Probably not, for we all know that if our opinions run counter to the media agenda then our opinions are promptly suppressed. Try and say something on Andrew Bolt’s blog, for example. The only arena where Cuppa could express his opinion freely was in the social media.

Cuppa, like us, is one of those good folk who don’t believe for one bit that Tony Abbott is poised to lead us to the promised land. Readers of mainstream media are led to believe that he will. Those people need to hear what others are saying. Such as Anomander who commented here the other day and like Cuppa’s earlier comment, is worthy of a post by itself. Here’s what Anomander had to say:

Just because a series of polls and a biased (manipulated) media say one thing, doesn’t make it true. Look how good the MSM’s predictions were in the US election?

This is a war being waged over the very fabric of our society.

Do we want to live as a serfdom for ultra-rich extremists or do we want our country back again?

Do we want to multi-national overseas companies to rape and pillage the land and strip it of all resources, or do we want to protect the environment for us and future generations?

Do we want a society where you are denied an education because you’re born in a lower socio-economic suburb or your parents don’t earn enough, or should all children deserve the right to the same educational standard and a chance at a worthwhile future?

Do we want a society where the aged, poor and infirm are thrown on the scrap heap when they’ve passed their use-by-date, or do we want a society where those in need are cared-for and supported to get back on their feet?

Do we want a country willing to invest in infrastructure that benefits all Australians or do we want to generate surpluses that are squandered on $3 per week tax cuts and hand-outs to the already wealthy?

Do we want a country where our assets are sold-off at bargain basement prices into private hands and we are forced to pay a premium to gain access to them again, or do we want fundamental services, local employment and control over our own future?

Do we want a future where food and asset prices fluctuate wildly based on the whim of an algorithm running on some supercomputer, or do we want regulation to ensure accountability, responsibility and governance?

Do we want real democracy where we all have an equal voice in how the country is run, or do we want powerful psychopaths dictating what we should see, hear, read and say?

Do we want basic rights, protections, a safe working environment and a wage that allows us to work, live and raise a family without having to forego food, shelter and warmth, or do we want an underclass working for $2 a day, unable to feed themselves, let alone consider raising a family?

Do we want a world where a bunch of fundamentalist zealots restrict your activities based on the words of some sky-god and the writings in a 2000 year old fictional book, or do we want a country where two people who love each other are not demonised and discriminated against?

You sit back and passively accept it, if you wish. For me, I know what kind of country I want to live in, and I’m prepared to fight to make it happen.

All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

Now, just try and find gutsy words like that on the MSM.


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