Saturday salon 20/6: late edition

1. Paying people smugglers

The story of the week was perhaps The Abbott Government’s paying people smugglers to turn back a boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry says it believes the payments were made. It seems pretty obvious that they were.

Labor was on the warpath on the matter in Question Time on Monday. On Tuesday it was schtum.


There were suggestions that Labor in government also paid people smugglers. Almost certainly they did, as part of efforts to break up people smuggling operations in Indonesia, for information and the like. There is a world of difference. Labor was co-operating with the Indonesians, not offending them. Labor’s payments were legal, the Abbott government’s only so if ASIS was co-opted to make the payments.

2. Shorten becomes story of the week

Arguably Labor’s about turn and Bill Shorten’s inability to cut through with the difference in the two cases turned him into the story of the week. Along with his no show in The Killing Season, although he was clearly very active in the machinations, and matters pertaining to his time as a union officer. Fairfax alleges that there was

    more than $1 million of largely unexplained employer cash flowing into the AWU’s Victorian branch between January 2004 and late 2007, when Mr Shorten was either state or federal secretary.

These deals may have been kosher and even good industrial relations practice. Tony Shepherd backed Shorten on the Eastlink case, saying it was one of the best projects he had ever been involved in.

    Mr Shepherd, a former Business Council of Australia president and chairman of the Abbott government’s audit commission, was at the time the chairman of Connect East which subcontracted Thiess John Holland.

Unfortunately for Shorten his legal advisers have told him to say nothing before his inquiry appearance. His shadow cabinet colleagues have been supportive and have said plenty, but it’s not a good look for Bill.

An editorial in the SMH has suggested that his position as opposition leader is becoming untenable.

3. China trade deal

In an intelligent and informed piece at The Drum, Jeffrey Wilson says of the China-Australia trade deal:

    The unpleasant – but unavoidable – reality is that the type of free trade agreement Australia has struck with China is not about “free trade”, but about picking winners.

It’s a “positive-list” trade agreement. Only the sectors specified are included. In “negative-list” agreements everything is included except what is specifically excluded.

The winners will be agriculture, except for sugar and wheat, services, including tourism, and mining.

Wilson says that for many of the included industries the effect will be transformative.

I understand that China will be able to bring its own workforce to investment projects worth $150 million and more without testing the Australian labour market.

4. Obama gets a black eye on trade authority

The United States is endeavouring to negotiate a massive trade pact with 11 other Pacific nations including Australia known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In order to do this effectively he needs a Trade Promotion Authority from Congress, With such an authority Congress can only vote yes or no to any deal struck, it can’t argue over the details. Effectively dealing Congres into the detail would make it impossible for the US to negotiate with the other 11 parties.

The story is complicated, but on first go only 40 Democrats voted in favour of the bill, which had other elements. Hillary Clinton backed the rebels. Obama is likely to get his authority, courtesy of the Republicans, and Obama and top Democrat Nancy Pelosi kissed and made up.

5. Grexit may not be necessary

It looks as though Greece is going to default on a loan repayment. Most of the media, and the Bank of Greece, assume that Greece will have to leave the eurozone and possibly the EU itself.

Such a departure would lead to huge inflation in Greece and threaten, it is said, the entire eurozone, if not the world financial system.

Oliver Pahnecke points out that there are no provisions for leaving or expulsion in the Maastricht Treaty and default would be a first step followed by presumably fruitful discussions of the many options available.

6. Gatton mission accomplished

Well mostly. We completed two big jobs, but the sun set on the third. I learnt that Gatton is one place in Australia where the supply of housing exceeds demand. It’s a pleasant enough town and only half an hour’s drive from Toowoomba.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

3 thoughts on “Saturday salon 20/6: late edition”

  1. FTA?
    Born, 26th January, 1788.
    Colony of New South Wales.

    Died by own hand, 17th June, 2015,
    Colony of Aodaliya.

    Yes, FTA and re-colonialization were avoidable.
    And yes, we may have absolutely brilliant technical-level people here in Australia – but such is the poor top leadership we have in business, political, economic, social, military and scientific fields here in Australia that for the Chinese, this conquest was hardly a challenge.

    Too late now. Just kowtow three times to your new Masters and don’t get yourself into trouble by saying anything nasty to their collaborators and servants. A good guide to behaviour that will help you survive your coming poverty and fall in status may be found in the memoirs of Africans and Pacific Islanders who lived through the European colonial land-grabs of the eighteen-eighties.

    Pity. A little bit of astuteness, cunning, vision, knowledge of how the other fellows thought and what they wanted, a touch of patience, a lot less stupid greed and some open-mindedness and everything could have been so much different: both China and Australia could have had reliable, enduring and mutually-beneficial trade and other arrangements.

    Naturally, the culprits will be awarded a Tony knighthood or damehood each for their services …. to China.

  2. Others may with regret complain
    That ’tis not fair Astrea’s reign,
    That the famed golden age is o’er
    That Saturn, Rhea rule no more:
    Or, to speak in another style,
    That Eden’s groves no longer smile.
    For my part, I thank Nature sage,
    That she has placed me in this age:
    Religionists may rail in vain;
    I own, I like this age profane;
    I love the pleasures of a court;
    I love the arts of every sort;
    Magnificence, fine buildings, strike me;
    In this, each man of sense is like me.
    I have, I own, a worldly mind,
    That’s pleased abundance here to find;
    Abundance, mother of all arts,
    Which with new wants new joys imparts
    The treasures of the earth and main,
    With all the creatures they contain:
    These, luxury and pleasures raise;
    This iron age brings happy days.
    Needful superfluous things appear;
    They have joined together either sphere.
    See how that fleet, with canvas wings,
    From Texel, Bordeaux, London brings,
    By happy commerce to our shores,
    All Indus, and all Ganges stores;
    Whilst France, that pierced the Turkish lines,
    Sultans make drunk with rich French wines.


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