Thursday, August 22, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Turnback time
Australia is following the US towards unnecessary conflict with Iran and China

Source: ABC

Economically and strategically, President Donald Trump is proving to be a disaster for Australia, and yesterday’s commitment of Australian troops to a US-led coalition to protect freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz is just the latest proof. Australia supported the Iran nuclear deal struck by former president Barack Obama, and apparently still does, although at least one top Iranian security official now regards it as a mistake. Mission accomplished for Trump, who withdrew the US from the deal unilaterally and tightened sanctions against Iran. It’s a straight line from there to the recent seizure of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the heightened possibility of war.

Last night, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds repeatedly told ABC TV’s 7.30 what the mission was and was not “designed” to do: that it was designed to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf, and that it was not designed against any particular state or non-state actor. But those designs will be completely irrelevant if there is any actual military confrontation, as we have seen over and again in the Middle East. Labor supports the mission, leaving the Greens once again to make the case for peace and diplomacy. For Australia, the signs are increasingly clear: wrong way, go back.

The Conversation today describes the Strait of Hormuz as “the most important oil choke point in the world”. Australia will contribute a warship, surveillance aircraft and about 200 troops to the US-led convoy with a very tight mission to protect shipping. It hardly inspires confidence that the government apparently tried to sneak the announcement out under cover of the Pell verdict yesterday – as columnist Niki Savva observed [$] this morning, the commitment of troops deserves “clear air”.

In an op-ed, former Department of Defence secretary Paul Barratt writes: “Let’s be clear: the destabilising behaviour was in fact initiated by our ally, the US, and sending additional troops, planes and ships into an increasingly tense situation is not a move likely to de-escalate tensions.” Greens leader Richard Di Natale told RN Breakfast this morning that the Trump administration was provoking the Iranian regime: “We’re now being told, on the basis of no evidence, that Australian troops are required somehow to keep the peace in the Middle East.” Di Natale acknowledged that Australia had to protect its oil supplies, but argued that the way forward was to bring Iran back into the tent through diplomacy. Let’s face it, the US does not actually need our military assistance in the Gulf and will act to protect its own oil supplies anyway.

It’s not just Iran. The US is going the wrong way on just about everything, it seems, and under the weak Morrison government Australia is getting carried along with it. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is seriously concerned that Australia is being drawn into Trump’s trade war and the ridiculous call for “Team West to muscle up against China”. Given our increasing reliance on exports to China, this risks tipping Australia into recession, as Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho outlines. Two visiting US generals, one posing with thumbs up for The Australian, enthused about using bases in northern Australia to stay ahead of their adversary, and there was no mistaking that they were talking about China. “Whether it starts out commercial and transitions to military – those are the things I pay attention to, what are the potential things that might occur,” said Pacific Air Forces commander General Charles Brown. Unbelievably, in under three short years since Trump was elected, Australia is being softened up for a war with our largest trading partner.

The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan – who strongly supported the invasion of Iraq – tried to argue [$] that there is a quid pro quo here, and if we want the support of the US against China, we have to support their beef with Iran. But we don’t have a fight with China – the US does. If we could chart our own course in the Middle East, and in the Indo-Pacific, we’d have no fights anywhere.

“[Fischer] was an all-in conviction politician. This integrity and resolve were underlined when he stood firm with Prime Minister Howard on tough new gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. They are Tim Fischer’s gun laws too. Gun laws were not popular in regional Australia in 1996 and Tim Fischer took to the highways and byways to persuade and convince regional Australians about the need for change. I believe this was his finest moment. Australia will always be in his debt.”

The prime minister pays tribute to former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Tim Fischer, who died today.

“I believe in what [Pell] said to me on many occasions, that he’s innocent, and I continue to be really quite shocked with how things have developed.”

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, on radio station 3AW, stands by convicted child sex abuser Cardinal George Pell, whose appeal failed in the Victorian Court of Appeal yesterday.

Drugs in swimming
The furore over Australian swimmer Mack Horton’s stand against long-time rival Sun Yang underscores confusion about how drug testing in sport actually works.

The number of strip searches by police in New South Wales in the year to June 30, 2018 – a twenty-fold increase since 2006 – according to a new report from Redfern Legal Centre.

“Due to the ageing and deteriorating reliability of conventional generators, the lack of sufficient transmission interconnection to allow us to access existing and new resources, increasing temperatures during the summer months, and a reliability standard that is not sufficiently focused on assuring resource adequacy on hot days, we as an industry are imposing unnecessary and costly reliability risk on consumers.”

Audrey Zibelman, chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator, explains why power load shedding may become increasingly necessary, in an op-ed to mark release of the 2019 Electricity Statement of Opportunities.

The list

“It’s telling that Goodes was criticised for performing an Indigenous dance in 2015’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round: in the fixture that celebrates Aboriginality, you’re only allowed to celebrate Anglo-approved Aboriginality ... Put differently, when Andrew Bolt described Goodes’ war dance as a threat to reconciliation, he really meant that it was a threat to assimilation. That’s the key.”

“War, politics, history and railways might be Tim Fischer’s specialties, but he gives most topics a shot. Moments earlier, as the Ghan pulled out of Adelaide, he had a small audience of musicians, a publicist and a photographer, and he canvassed The Beatles’ 1964 visit to Adelaide and the recent searching of Justin Bieber’s private plane.”

“‘Talk about strange bedfellows,’ Clive Hamilton says. “I never thought, for example, that I would appear on Andrew Bolt’s show, but I did – a couple of times.’ ... All across the political landscape, people are suddenly crossing the lines of ideology and party solidarity on the question of China. Namely, how Australia should approach its relationship with the rising superpower under the leadership of President Xi.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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