September 1st 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Stock market turmoil: consequences for Australia

2007 FEDERAL ELECTION: A green energy, green car policy

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY: US debt crisis threatens world financial system

CANBERRA OBSERVED: How Kevin Rudd confounds his critics

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Rudd and Howard woo the Christian vote

LABOR PARTY: Emily's List - who and what are they?

WATER: A three-year moratorium on irrigation water-trading

QUEENSLAND: Revolt grows over forced council amalgamations

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The rat race in our region / India's shame / India's political limitations / Brumby's curse

DEFENCE: Australia in biggest Indian Ocean exercise

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Amnesty International ditches its pro-life allies

UNITED STATES: US presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney



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The rat race in our region / India's shame / India's political limitations / Brumby's curse

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, September 1, 2007
The rat race in our region

I caught some shots on telly of the Chinese and Russians - their armies and their air forces - conducting full-scale joint manoeuvres, and being very public about it.

The accompanying commentary said that this was a "first". This is untrue, for they have been doing it quietly for a long time. But certainly it is now public: these two states have a close military alliance. And hence a political alliance - and selective intelligence exchanges.

Against whom could this alliance be directed? Quite obviously, the West, and those of similar democratic mind, viz., Japan and India. The pretext? Someone might attack them. Really?

We have been conducting joint manoeuvres with Japan for some time, for very good reasons; but many people on our political left here have queried this new relationship.

I am now waiting for their reaction to the Russo-Chinese military chest thumping. But don't hold your breath. Russia and China remain the long-term preferences for such people, as against Japan and India. Just as the Muslim extremists are given the benefit of every doubt, and the American and Australian governments and their soldiers … none.

More and more observers are also noting the close cooperation between Russia and China in the Middle East and Central Asia over oil; but also in Africa, where China is making great inroads.

Both Japan and India feel hemmed in; Japan by three neighbouring nuclear powers, China, North Korea, and (at present) Russia, which is only a hundred miles away. The fact is, were Japan to feel she could not count on her allies, she most likely would go nuclear herself, given the revival of Japanese nationalism.

Then there is India, which has for long had to confront an alliance between China and Pakistan, directed at her, and is now having to accept a weakening relationship with Russia - so much so that she is moving closer to the United States, and to Australia, for she does not enjoy the experience of dangerous isolation.

Furthermore, India has no desire to be dependent upon Russian or Middle Eastern oil, so, is taking up the nuclear power generation option in a big way. We are in a perfect position to help her, for we must not watch her fall behind in this economic/political race going on in our region.


India's shame

Since India moved closer to Australia and the United States, and the familiar comparisons between her and China started being made - for example, their growth rates, pollution rates and the fact that one is a democracy while the other is not, and has never been one in a Western sense - Sinophiles have been looking for ways to cast doubts on India's human rights practices, as a part of cutting them back to size.

These critics have a host of easy targets, for India is replete with abuses. The English got rid of a number, but more and more gave up on social reform, because of the strength of resistance.

India's Minister of Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury, wants a registry of every pregnancy in India to be recorded to contain "the nationwide killing of baby girls", both foeticide and infant mortality would thereby be checked.

The ratio of girl babies to boys has fallen in 80 per cent of India's administrative districts to a figure of 922 girls to 1,000 boys. But, in wealthier provinces and cities, where people are better educated and well paid, "unwanted girls are killed by parents who see boys as better financial prospects". Notice the word "killed". Yes, it is what is done to foetuses who are not allowed to live their normal course. I am getting this from excellent articles by Bruce Loudon, The Australian's south-east Asian correspondent.

But in the Punjab, girls have dropped from 875 to 798 girls per thousand boys, and so on.

Ms Chowdhury says she will clamp down on abortions being carried out "without a valid and acceptable reason". Where would we be if we followed such a policy, for we kill 100,000 foetuses a year - a figure which would translate into five millions per year in India. And that is only their quoted figure.

And that "valid and acceptable reason"? What would we say it is or must be? One reason the more affluent in India are killing more babies than other classes is that they are now getting access to ultra-sound, as they are in China. The peasant has to practise infanticide, which is illegal, although widely ignored. It would be interesting to know the sex of the children aborted in Australia. For if it emerged that there was a pronounced gender bias, this may be of interest to our gender lobby, even if nothing else is.

This is a sordid and tragic spectacle, here and everywhere. But that is by no means all.

A recent documentary reminded me of how many Indian widows - a figure of millions was mentioned - are homeless, rejected by the family upon the death of the husband. They could be cast out, and so live in the streets, the alley-ways - anywhere they could find shelter. They become, as you would expect, sick, suffering from malnutrition and despair.

I imagine an organisation such as Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity picks up some of them.

If one recalls the old Indian custom of suttee - of widows throwing themselves on their husband's funeral pyre, supposedly out of overwhelming love for the departed - one can see the courage the British showed in banning this practice; but they couldn't stop families rejecting widows.

Indian governments, federal or state, never seem to want to address this inhumanity.

This land, India, is as far from Bollywood as Camelot was from the real world of the Kennedys, with their rat-pack and mafia friends.


India's political limitations

The Australian has been especially active and informative on the situation in India, and has been telling us much about our new relationship with Delhi. Thus two articles appeared on August 20, with Greg Sheridan and Bruce Loudon tackling the same subject, only very differently.

Sheridan, taking the big-picture approach, is very optimistic about the Indian-American nuclear pact, and the new political intimacy, just as he is about our bourgeoning relationship with Delhi.

Thus, this year India will become our fourth largest export market, while our exports to that country have been growing 30 per cent a year right through this decade. It is now our fastest growing export market.

While agreeing with all this, Loudon draws our attention to the Indian political realities, which, on many occasions in the past, have frustrated the government of the day.

For example, the Indian Communist Party is implacably opposed to any nuclear pacts, and to moving closer to the United States. Their hearts have always been in Moscow, and then Beijing, and this is where the Indian Communist Party allegiances remain. The party, which has been a partner in the government coalition, has 61 out of the 400-odd places in the Lok Sabha, India's parliamentary lower house.

More serious is the fact that the major opposition party is the Hindu nationalist Janata party, which was fairly recently itself the government. Janata is opposed to the nuclear deal and is more than happy to fan anti-American sentiments and hopes to slip back into office in the general confusion.

Now this structural disunity has made India a difficult society with which to deal at all levels, and explains how it enters periods of isolation and experiences uneven economic development. It all depends upon who is in charge and who is calling the shots.

The Indian Communist Party, which is semi-Maoist, is not going to go away, for it represents some of the wretched of the earth, along with some radical unionists. The success of the Maoists in nearby Nepal is a sobering fact. While the Indian Hindu fundamentalists have touched a chord and they won't be going away any time soon.

So it has always been difficult for a government in Delhi to pursue a consistent and long-sustained programme, be it social, economic or diplomatic. Then there are the problems of their states! Trade and cultural exchanges are the easy bits, but after that it gets difficult. We should not pitch our hopes too high.


Brumby's curse

Victoria's Brumby Labor Government is prepared to use the new, tough anti-strike parts of the Work Choices laws, so as to interdict stoppages by the state's police, teachers and nurses, according to a report by Rick Wallace and Melanko Rout (The Australian, August 14, 2007).

Instead of being able to play with one-day stoppages, work bans and so on, they would be forced to make it a full strike.

We may be seeing a coordinated attack by a number of strategically placed unions, as we did after World War II in states like Victoria on and off until the Jeff Kennett era. And there were the communist and left-wing unions who by their perversity helped Robert Menzies to win in 1949, comprising as they did an alliance of seamen, wharfies, coal-miners, iron-workers and the Australian Engineers' Union.

This dangerous and arrogant repetitive interference with our economy and political system led to the anti-communist Industrial Groups. Furthermore, this whole left-wing industrial "state within a state" was cheered on by the journalists' and entertainment unions. Does anybody still remember Dick Diamond and Hal Lashwood and co? I do.

In Victoria, we suffered from a cabal of wharfies, railwaymen, trammies, power-workers and builders for many years - with, needless to say, overt or covert support by the public media and the "artists". The labour movement seemed unable to do anything about this bullying subculture, and then Kennett arrived. He made a dent, but no more.

Now we have their successors: teachers, nurses, public servants, about to hold us to ransom, with scant regard for other unionists or the Labor Party. The teachers' union are demanding 30 per cent salary increases, i.e., 10 per cent a year for three years.

Of course, school budgets would be blown apart, as would the state government, and Brumby's plans to moderate public spending would be shattered. Private school teachers would naturally press for that same 30 per cent, so fees would have to be pushed up, and many parents become unable to keep their children in private schools.

This, I suspect, is one of the objectives of the teachers' union blackmail - the only way they could stop the desertion of students from state schools.

This, in a way, is the same problem that unions in general have. Unfortunately they appear to spend their days thinking how to force people to return to their domination, not how they might reform themselves, and change their attitudes.

And to continue the effect of similar rises in nurses' pay will be extremely damaging to hospitals, nursing-homes and private funds. I could go on with this, but this is the way I think things may be developing.

- Max Teichmann

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