Some of these items started in a draft Weekly salon. They got too big, so I’ve made a separate post, and installed Chairman Xi as a featured image.
- Nuanced, subtle, far-sighted, strategic, wise, prudent, considered, clever – all words associated with successful diplomacy, and all words I’ve never heard associated with Peter Dutton.
Despite that, the Home Affairs Minister is free to weigh into Australia’s most important diplomatic relationship from time to time and does so with all the subtlety of a Bjelke-Petersen-era Queensland copper at a student demo.
It might make Mr Dutton feel braver and more righteous than the next talking head. It doesn’t help Australia or anyone else.
Mr Dutton’s Friday sprays on a morning infotainment show symbolise the disintegration of rational Australian foreign policy
That was Michael Pascoe Back on 6 June. He thinks there has been a “China-bashing bandwagon for domestic political reasons with no concern for our national interest” and:
- In short order Australia’s mainstream media has embraced Sinophobia as an article of editorial faith, while the federal government either intentionally sabotages our economic interests for no strategic benefit or simply blunders its way from one diplomatic failure to the next.
That’s Paul Bongiorno, also questioning the wisdom of Morrison’s China strategy in the light of Australia targeted in massive ‘state-based’ cyber attack.
The Government is said to be worried about:
- China launching a major cyber attack, that can disrupt electricity grids, food security, transport logistics and spread misinformation and disinformation undermining confidence in government communications.
Except that no-one in the Government will name China, because these attacks can be made to look like they come from some-one else.
Apparently the main state players are China, Russia, and Iran, then there is North Korea and Israel, plus a horde of non-state actors, all of which have increased their activity of late.
Nevertheless the problem is this:
- Diplomatic sources in Canberra have no doubt the increased cyber activity is China’s reaction to what it sees as Australia playing the role of a “US henchman” in the United Nations.
The Global Times, published under the auspices of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China, warned on Sunday that being a “US proxy” only “jeopardised relations with China”.
Morrison’s first act on becoming PM was to axe the position of minister for cyber security and fold the function into Peter Dutton’s mega Home Affairs portfolio. Dutton still hasn’t come up with a cyber strategy. Now we’ve hired former US secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen, who led the global campaign against Huawei.
The notion here is that we should get our own act together rather than taking public stances which put us more firmly in the US camp in the eyes of China. However, part of Morrison’s dilemma is that entities in Australia outside government control are lax and vulnerable, basically asleep at the wheel, so the warning was in part a call to be alert and alarmed internally.
Malcolm Turnbull’s view
I’m fascinated by the body language in this 2016 image:
Going back to April, when the Morrison government called for an inquiry, Malcolm Turnbull urged Australia NOT to anger China after Beijing’s threat to ruin our economy as revenge for COVID-19 inquiry demand. His analysis as to how the Chinese approach has changed, is outlined and cited in this ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) article, Turnbull memoir lays out Australia’s shift on China:
- In the six years between my speech at the LSE in 2011 and my Shangri-La address in 2017, China’s capabilities, in every respect, had continued to grow; but what had really changed was its intent. Under Xi, it became more assertive, more confident and more prepared to not just reach out to the world, as Deng [Xiaoping] had done, or to command respect as a responsible international actor, as Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had done, but to demand compliance.
See also the recent interview China wants a compliant Australia.
Turnbull says we have to deal with China as a friend and as an enemy (frenemy), but have to stay onside with both the US and China.
However, when matters become public, we have no choice but to stand our ground.
In this case matters are now very public indeed. Morrison’s position has been made more difficult by Trump’s invitation to attend the G7 later this year (see Scott Morrison’s G7 tightrope). It seems Trump will use the meeting to rubbish China, and may float ideas of making a break economically with China. Merkel and Macron will have nothing of this nonsense, but Morrison will be implicated.
No doubt there are back channel communications going on. In a media Q&A Morrison recently mentioned that we are currently working with China to recast the notoriously dysfunctional WTO dispute resolution processes. Also, we have more co-operative research with China than we do with the US.
Meanwhile China has stopped buying our wool and according to the AFR is seeking to diversify its sources of iron ore, where China is 80% dependent on Australia. Most of the rest comes from Brazil, so they are developing sources in Africa, which will take years.
Opinions have changed
- Only 23 per cent of Australians trust China to act responsibly in the world, a dramatic fall from 52 per cent just two years ago.
I did hear of a survey which showed that Chinese people still ranked Australia in the top two as a place to visit or study, but I can’t find a link.
ABC RN’s Background Briefing recently took a look at Why Australia’s spies think the far right could find a foothold during coronavirus, and found the activities of the far right much increased and quite disturbing.
Now we find that:
- NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane is being questioned in his parliamentary office after the Australian Federal Police and ASIO raided his home and office in Sydney on Friday.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay confirmed she was aware of the raids, and that the party would suspend Mr Moselmane’s membership.
Ms McKay says there are limits to what she can say, but it’s “terrible”, so I guess we have to believe her. We are in a context where if guilty someone could go to jail.
Now we hear that Shaoquett Moselmane says it’s actually not him who the coppers are looking for.
Seems the ABC has previously been told that national security organisations have been “chomping at the bit” to get “a few scalps”.
So, he says, the lynching has begun.
- Mr Moselmane, who has made at least 15 trips to China, said he always footed the bill himself and that most of his visits were to deliver wheelchairs to disabled children.
The former Mayor of Rockdale arrived in Australia from Lebanon in 1977 and has been a passionate anti-racism campaigner and regular attendee at Chinese cultural events.
In a 2017 speech to Parliament, Mr Moselmane said he had a “great fascination” with China, which he described as a “great nation with a great history and great people”.
“My views on China are, in my opinion, views that any Australian is entitled to, to have or to refute,” he said on Monday.
Looking forward, if he’s right he should be able to sue for damages and retire on the proceeds.
Alan Behm calls for calm and commonsense
Elsewhere, Alan Behm at the Australia Institute says a more considered and deliberate approach to the relationship with China is needed:
- “The stridency that distinguishes contemporary government pronouncements on China is alarmist and alarming,” said Allan Behm, head of the International & Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute.
“China is here to stay, and no amount of Australian stridency changes that fact. This requires a return to the deliberate, measured diplomacy that is the key to progressing our national interests in a highly contested regional and global environment.
“To alienate China, or for China to alienate Australia is not a sound strategy, and so Australia should work to understand the difference between accommodation and appeasement. Alienation never results in accommodation, but when backed by economic power and armed force, it may force appeasement. That’s the risk.”
Amen to that.
Most alarming of all
Our fourth largest export industry and 80% of our manufacturing has been put at risk as China Threatens To Boycott Kangaroo Scrotum Coin Purses, according to The Betoota Advocate:
Complete balls up, by all accounts.