April 26th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Too terrible to contemplate

EDITORIAL: Torch relay highlights Beijing's human rights record

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Could Costello unite demoralised Liberals?

MANUFACTURING: Car-making could be our flagship industry

NEW ZEALAND: NZ Kiwibank now has 600,000 customers

WATER: Federal water policy will add to world food shortage

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Reaping the whirlwind of financial deregulation

PROFILE: Other side of Australia's next Governor-General

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Life is a cabaret / Nepal / Bitter fruits / Russia and China / Swan song? / The skaters' waltz / Rice / Ingrid Betancourt

ASIA: Middle power status for Australia: mind over rhetoric

AFRICA: World stands by as Mugabe inflicts terror in Zimbabwe

FAMILY LAW: Paternity fraud punishes the blameless

SCHOOLS: What must be done to lift standards?

INTERNET FILTERING: Porn industry opposes Conroy's ISP-filter plan

OPINION: Economic policy should serve national interest

BOOKS: LIBERAL FASCISM: The secret history of the American left, from Mussolini to the politics of meaning

BOOKS: EMBRYO: A Defense of Human Life by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen

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Life is a cabaret / Nepal / Bitter fruits / Russia and China / Swan song? / The skaters' waltz / Rice / Ingrid Betancourt

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, April 26, 2008
Life is a cabaret

I've been having conversations with a young relative who has been working in that strange world of finance, consultancy, public relations and so on. Naturally we talked of the recession in the US, and what it could portend for us.

He is more optimistic than I — naturally — and, quite possibly, rightly thinks that the Americans' problems are not mortal, and that we shouldn't worry too much. Thankfully, he doesn't rely on the China cargo-cult as the necessary factor in our progression. After all, we have many more shots in the locker, and are in fact neglecting many opportunities in a near-hysterical rush to embrace Beijing... in toto. This may suit our Maoist loyalists in the New Class, but not too many other Australians.

In discussing the possible recession, I pointed to pre-Federation Australia's 1890s economic meltdown — see Michael Cannon's The Land Boomers (MUP, 1995) — as the more likely way whereby our economic and financial systems could suffer serious damage in the months, even years, to come, viz., reckless and inadequately monitored corporate and financial behaviour; a compliant or complicit political class; a Pollyanna media; and a judiciary rather similar to that functioning in Victoria during the 1980s. But I think that, if our remarkable economic performances were to somehow be aborted at this point, we would have to admit to contributory negligence, such as occurred under the state Labor governments of WA's Brian Burke, SA's John Bannon, and Victoria's John Cain and Joan Kirner. In other words, things would not go like 1929-31, which is not to say they would not go.



My worst fears concerning Nepal are being realised. The Maoist revolutionary army, operating for many years — until recently mainly in the countryside, and linked to the great parent of them all, Beijing — gradually wore down and divided the rest of Nepal. The stupidity of the last king is likely to have added to the political chaos.

Anyway, the Maoists have come in out of the cold, and have just won a crushing electoral victory. Nepal is now passing into the Chinese sphere of influence.

There are 20,000 Tibetan exiles in Nepal, hitherto given asylum and the chance of a new life. They now fear that their days of freedom are numbered.

Nepal had recently been the scene of large and angry demonstrations directed against Beijing for its treatment of fellow Tibetans in Llasa. But, as of now, the Nepalese government, through its police, has been attacking the protesting émigrés with considerable brutality. Anything to avoid offending China.

So what will the fate of the Tibetan exiles be under a Maoist government? Incidentally, any Maoist takeover of Nepal will be conducted step-by-step, for the Maoists are not in a hurry.


Bitter fruits

Another bitter fruit of multiculturalism/ multinationalism has just landed on our plate. Pro-China demonstrations, mainly with Chinese students organised by — whom? — have been taking place, especially in Sydney.

These people appear to be demanding that the Tibetan demonstrators be "switched off", so to speak. They also complain that the Australian media is anti-Chinese, and express a fear that Australians may become anti-Chinese in general.

I don't think being anti-the-Chinese-government means that you have to be anti-Chinese, any more than being anti-the-Communist-system of Russia is in any way a judgement about the people of Russia.

Of course, one can be anti-the-Chinese-Government and anti-Chinese. I won't say any more about that.


Russia and China

Very little has changed with our two Communist giants. When under pressure they revert to their core political style, viz., force and fraud, manipulation and deception.

Few China-watchers were surprised when Beijing discovered a terrorist plot — Western Chinese Muslims who were going to "destroy the Olympic Games", kidnap athletes, blow up toilet blocks, you name it.

In fact, some of the so-called plotters have been in custody since last November, according to the Chinese. If you compare Beijing's reaction with Putin's setting up the Chechens, you might recall Marx's dictum on how history repeats itself — the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

The KGB should charge China royalties, because there's too much intellectual piracy going on.


Swan song?

Budget time waits for no man, and neither does Wall Street. One can't help feeling sorry for new federal Treasurer Wayne Swan when, with his very first budget, he could be running into an economic gale.

Labor can't blame the Libs, though of course they will. Costello left a very sound economy, and if "the foundations are secure", as Frank Sinatra's "hookers" say, who laid these foundations? Oh... I forgot, it was the manic recession we had to have — Captain Wacky!

But, in fear and trepidation at the possible budget reception and the gathering economic storm, our media is going frantic. Day after day, federal Opposition leader Dr Brendan Nelson is virtually ordered to step down; the Liberals are advised to split; Malcolm Turnbull is produced to say or do... what?

Meantime, the corruption, mismanagement and waste which now define our states run unchecked. No matter how prudent or sensible whoever is in power in Canberra behaves, our overall national performance is still being undermined quite seriously by the misdemeanours of the states.

Other than that, when not announcing the death of the conservatives, the media is giving us pre-fabricated sport, seven days a week. No time to think; not even any time to talk. It reminds me of the 1930s.

The silly season has spared no one. For example, I'm still waiting for that in-depth ABC Four Corners inquiry, "Was the Pyjama Girl really a gay male?" It's global yawning time.


The skaters' waltz

Kevin Rudd went on a 17-day publicity crusade with an entourage of 11 staffers and 21 journalists, to impress upon the world that there is a New Order in Australia; a different kind of leader; different policies.

He succeeded... returning Australia, in one fell swoop, to the 1930s, before Chifley and Evatt — and most definitely before Sir Robert Menzies. It is how Dave and Mabel come to town, leaving a rather similar impression on the part of the locals. Amusement, incredulity, and then amnesia.

I think Rudd and his troupe of press-ganged public servants — for many didn't want to go — and media propagandists are already forgotten. Of course, the British and the Americans do remember us, for we are still part of an alliance-type situation; but I'd be surprised if they were enjoying the experience. Nevertheless, Rudd has some achievements which we can now discuss.

He has greatly complicated the China relationship. If anything could make it more difficult, he has. It is a lot edgier than it was before. Pressured from back home to talk about human rights, the Dalai Lama and global-warming, he could only cause offence. It is like giving Stalin a lecture on the Katyn Forest massacre. Don't expect a favourable response.

Our impact upon the Europeans and NATO is hardly worth talking about. Having spurned Europe, and having said over and over again that we are now a part of Asia, a mantra starting from Whitlam's time, Labor is finding that that is the way Europe regards us. Our presence in the Middle East, and our appearance at the NATO deliberations which have just passed, are being explained as a projection of our Anglo-American alliance ambitions. And little more. And would Europe be wrong?

Britain, and the Queen, were visibly underwhelmed by their ambivalent guests and this undignified risotto of Labor politicians and dreary Oz-journalists. The whole crowd were swiftly passed through the system, like loaded dogs. No different from a hundred other undistinguished visitors who come to London seeking an audience.

Memories of Menzies and Howard had left London unprepared for inner-city Australian slickers. Possibly stung at the Palace's indifference, Rudd has returned home vowing to fast-forward the Republic! I'll show them!

Another Rudd achievement is to almost mortally offend Japan. I don't see how he can ever make that good. He's suddenly blown a most important relationship.

As for the UN, there again, he and his people appeared to sink, almost without trace. The climate-change debate is deadlocked, and totally confused, and in any case, Australia has few interesting or original proposals to put up. The Greens must have been very disappointed at our nation's performance. The signing of Kyoto got us nowhere. The action has moved on — some distance — so it was like signing Magna Carta. And so on. It would have been far better to stay home and save the money.

But the journos love this stuff. You fill a plane with freeloaders, you feed them copious lashings of food, etc., and freebies from diverse sources, while your staffers write their copy for them. And such copy!

You could throw hyenas pieces of grub all day, and they're still ungrateful and hungry at the end of the day. But the two-legged variety will usually be properly grateful. And let us remember, they've been looking for a lion. Have they found one? Or the first Dalek? Something tells me that none of this is very important, so perhaps I should return to the economy in the end...



Like most of us, I have been made aware of the desirability — no, the necessity — of closing down agricultural activities which use far more water than do some others. For example, rice and cotton. Rice, which uses a lot of water, seems booked for semi-extinction in Australia.

Yet the world price of rice has doubled within a very short time. Many rice-growers are no longer performing well, and there is in fact a scandalous shortage of rice for the poor of the world. Should — should — we really be looking to shut down what is a profitable, and who knows, a necessary, activity?


Ingrid Betancourt

The kidnapping of political hostages by the long-running Communist insurgency army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is dedicated to the overthrow of the Colombian government and, operating deep in the jungle, seems about to produce a deed of utter cruelty and cynicism.

The French-Colombian politician, Ms Ingrid Betancourt, held for over five years, may die soon from hepatitis B, her death hastened by deliberate medical neglect.

FARC has the backing of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and of the newly-elected left-wing government of Ecuador. Chávez helps with money as part of his role as the new-left saviour of South America, now that the Castros have reached their use-by date.

The Western press has virtually refused to attack Chávez's backing of FARC, because they are anti-American, and the Americans don't like Chávez. These particular Latino politicians of Ecuador and Venezuela are deeply involved in the politics of the drug-trade in South America.

It may just be that the death of this tragic and blameless woman hostage would produce a revulsion among Latinos generally, with respect to dealing in the future with the Chávezs and Castros of this world, as it did in dealing with Batista, Trujillo, Galtieri and Pinochet, and the CIA's butcher-friends in central America.

But if Betancourt's death — assuming it were to occur — did not affect public sentiment in South America, or at least induce a questioning of the legitimacy of some of their great men, I for one would regard South America as a moral basket case.

— Max Teichmann

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