Turnbull in a China shop

We’re halfway through the Rudd Government’s first term, but if rumour becomes reality the next election may be just nine months away, in March 2010.  Then electors will have to decide whether to give Kevin Rudd, his ministers and his parliamentary team another term or, assuming no major changes in the Coalition, to elect a Malcolm Turnbull led ministry and government.  On what basis will electors choose?

The achievements, or otherwise, of the Government will weigh heavily on voters’ minds, as will the promise of the Coalition to do better.  The leaders, as is always the case, will profoundly influence people’s thinking, and this time it will be Rudd versus Turnbull.  The Political Sword has carried assessments of both, as is testified by at least 15 pieces detailed on Sword Watch this year. [more]

The most recent assessments of Turnbull have been in the satirical piece on the OzCar affair: Don't blame me and in a reflection on Annabelle Crabb’s essay: Stop at nothing - Malcolm Turnbull's fatal flaw?.  After the revelation of the fake OzCar email, his personal ratings fell further in two weeks than any other federal leader in the history of polling in this country.  It was anticipated that he would take steps to reverse his position. 

This piece, about the recent detention in China of Rio executive Stern Hu, offers another opportunity to assess the suitability of Malcolm Turnbull for Prime Ministership.

As the facts surrounding this matter are fragmentary and slow to emerge, I will attempt to replicate them only in summary:
-       Stern Hu, a Chinese-born Australian citizen, is head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations in China.
-       He, with three of his Chinese colleagues, were detained by the State Security Bureau accused of stealing state secrets from China via illegal means, including the bribing of internal staff of Chinese steel companies.
-       Whether he’s innocent or not is unknown – but many Australian commentators have taken the view that he must be innocent.
-       There seems to be a blurred line in China between commercial intelligence gathering and what the state labels the illegal ‘stealing’ of state secrets that could damage China.
-       This morning there has been a suggestion that China’s President Hu Jintao may have initiated the moves against Stern Hu and Rio Tinto.
-       Some have linked these moves to the failed commercial deal between Chinalco and Rio Tinto.

In this piece it is not intended to enter into the debate about the actual Hu case – too little is known for anything other than fruitless conjecture, which we can leave to journalists, who thrive on a diet rich in speculation and intrigue.  Just look at Glenn Milne’s piece in this morning’s Australian, Case calls for Kevin Rudd to ring his China plate where his object seems to be mainly to shoot yet another barbed arrow at Rudd.

Instead this piece canvasses the approach taken by the Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, his deputy Julie Bishop, and the leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, and contrasts it with the approach taken by Kevin Rudd, Stephen Smith and other ministers.

From the outset, Turnbull was on the airwaves irritably asserting that the detention of Stern Hu, an Australian citizen, was ‘unacceptable’ and insisting that Rudd ring President Hu Jintao at once and demand that Hu be released immediately.  Echoing this sotto voce, Julie Bishop took the opportunity on yesterday’s Insiders to catalogue in tedious detail everything the Government had not done that it should have, and what she would have done if she had been foreign minister.  Barnaby Joyce, in manner to which we are becoming accustomed, went in full bore insisting that Hu’s detention was ‘pay back’ for Chinalco’s failed bid for a slice of Rio Tinto, reiterating his pejorative mantra that China is  ‘a communist state’.  This morning we have had China guru Greg Hunt on Sky News asserting authoritatively that the Rudd Government’s ‘slowness’ in responding is due to it not wanting to cruel its bid for a Security Council seat, and that Rudd and Smith must pick up the phone and talk to their counterparts.

Kevin Rudd, Stephen Smith and more recently Simon Crean, along with any minister who happens to be on TV, all say they are following the protocol for consular cases negotiated with China in 2000 by the Howard Government.  Talk about this matter has died down just a little today and acknowledgement is being made of the behind-the-scenes work that is being done that never enters the public domain.

Nobody would deny that the episode is embarrassing for Australia and that it is being treated in a demeaning way by the Chinese authorities.  Nor is anyone denying that this episode will be damaging for China’s international relations and business dealings.  And nobody is denying that Australia heavily depends on China to sell its resources and that China just as critically needs Australia’s resources.

So who’s approach is right, Rudd’s or Turnbull’s?

Anyone who has lived in a Chinese culture, as I have for several years, knows how carefully relations need to be handled.  Often underestimated by Western cultures is the importance to Chinese, and indeed many Asians, of ‘face’.  Loosing face is a serious embarrassment, something that is not forgotten.   Anyone causing loss of face, especially public loss of face, is resented, and may be the subject of reprisal.  So anyone who deliberately sets out to humiliate by causing loss of face seriously risks future relationships.  Having live in China for years, Rudd would be acutely aware of this.  So there is no way he would jump on the phone to Hu Jintao to demand the immediate release of a detained Australian citizen, as Turnbull insists he should.  That would be seriously poor diplomacy, and invite retaliation.  Foreign editor Greg Sheridan in a piece in today’s Australian, Beijing ramps up the humiliation begins “If Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu is not released from a Chinese prison soon, the pressure on Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Kevin Rudd to intervene directly with their counterparts will become irresistible.”   But later in his piece he says: “So far, there is nothing to criticise in the Rudd government's response. It is doing everything it can and understands the grotesque injustice done to Hu, the intimidation China is trying to exert on Australia and the high stakes involved.  Prime ministerial and foreign minister calls are cards Canberra will need to play eventually, but it is reasonable to extend some tactical flexibility to the Rudd government.”  He goes onto say “However, there is also nothing wrong in Malcolm Turnbull's energetic prosecution of the issue.”

But is there nothing wrong with Turnbull’s approach?  He is seeking to be Prime Minister and lead a Government that would of necessity have relations with China.  The Howard Government was highly critical of Mark Latham’s disparaging remarks about George W Bush and the affect this might have on Australia-US relations.  Is there a parallel here?  Should Turnbull become PM, would he expect China to relate to him as if he had not uttered his demand for Hu’s immediate release?  If so, that would portray unusual naivety and ignorance of Chinese culture, as well as a reflection of Turnbull’s aggressive style.  Julie Bishop’s protests and Barnaby Joyce’s utterances might be overlooked, but not Turnbull’s, the man who wants to lead the nation.

Has Turnbull considered how it might be if the boot was on the other foot?  A letter to the editor of The Weekend Australian from Harry Manson of Clareville, NSW paints this scenario: “Malcolm Turnbull’s habit of shooting from the hip hasn’t diminished since his ‘Utegate’ fiasco, and he is imitated by his own dissident Barnaby Jones, who immediately knows that the arrest of Rio-Tinto’s Shanghai-based executive Stern Hu is retaliation for the collapse of the Chinalco deal.  I wonder how Turnbull would react in the following scenario: one of the alleged 1500 Chinese spies in Australia is caught stealing state secrets, creating disaster for Australia.  He is arrested and detained.  President Hu Jintao telephones Kevin Rudd personally and ‘orders’ him to release the prisoner.  Rudd obliges.  What would Turnbull then say?  Without any doubt that Labor is soft on China, and fancy an Australian prime minister giving in to an order from a Chinese president?  Turnbull would probably couple this with his habitual demand for immediate resignations, this time of Rudd and his Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.  Cheap grandstanding is just too immature for words.”

Alternatively, would Turnbull, if he were PM, release the prisoner on Hu Jintao’s demand?  Not likely - his usual hairy-chested approach would apply.

On The Piping Shrike in a piece Flashpoint No. 2, ‘fred’, a regular on The Political Sword, made this pointed comment:  From The Age:

“’Mr Turnbull, said the …. should either release Mr …. or charge him. 'Holding somebody in detention without any charge is completely and utterly unacceptable,’ he said. ‘This is absolutely outrageous treatment of an Australian citizen.’

“’This should be the number one priority on Mr. ……’s agenda today. He should be on the phone to the …… leaders demanding that justice be done to this fellow Australian in ………,’ Mr Turnbull said.’

“You can fill in the blanks with these as you feel appropriate: Hu, Hicks, Rudd, Howard, China, America, Gitmo, Chinese, Americans.

“One set comes from Mr Turnbull.  One set comes from what should have been said by Mr Turnbull in the past.  But was not.

All this leads us to the question: “Does Malcolm Turnbull’s behaviour over the Hu incident fit him to be Prime Minister of Australia?  Does it improve his chances from that of two weeks ago?  Or is he behaving, as is usual, like a ‘Turnbull in a China shop’.

Is Kevin Rudd’s approach the one you prefer?

You know what I think.  What about you?

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13/07/2009I had no luck getting up my response to Glenn Milne's piece: [i]Case calls for Kevin Rudd to ring his China plate[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25769691-7583,00.html despite two attempts, and although it was much milder than many. It read: [quote]"You have excelled yourself this time Glenn; I can't recall you making a more arrogant appraisal of a political situation. You set yourself up as an expert on Australia-China relations, how they have been handled by Kevin Rudd, how they should have been handled, and conclude that they have been mismanaged from beginning to end. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, and being a journalist for News Limited, you have plenty of avenues to express it and thereby influence readers' opinions. But do you seriously expect readers to embrace your notion of how to conduct Australia-China relations and specifically the Hu case, about which very little is known, rather than allow Rudd and his ministers to manage this case according to a protocol established in 2000 by the Howard Government. You have attracted the usual anti-Rudd brigade to support your assertions, but thoughtful readers will see your piece for what it is – yet another of your barbed arrows directed at Kevin Rudd."[/quote]


13/07/2009Turnbull is his own worst enemy. The cheap political grandstanding and hypocrisy is astounding. Fred posted his piece her also with the ensuing debate with the RWDB's http://www.ozforums.com.au/viewtopic.php?id=5834&p=1 Cheers Eb.

Just Me

13/07/2009Sheridan is just having a bet each way. Truth is that there is very little that Australia can directly do in this situation. We have no choice but to rely on patient conventional diplomacy and international pressure. To quietly and politely, but clearly point out to the Chinese government where their best long term interests really lie. China may be big and powerful, but they can't do this sort of stuff and expect no consequences from the international community. Their requirement for foreign materials, money and expertise will eventually force them to curtail this approach. Though not much comfort for Mr Hu and his family right now, I suspect. 再見

Bushfire Bill

13/07/2009"I had no luck getting up my response to Glenn Milne's piece." Neither did anyone after 10.36am, and I'm sure there were dozens of them agreeing with you AA. Glen was probably out looking for an early opener when he saw that the commenters, int he majority, couldn't give a toss for his expert opinion. "Glen Milne, Old China Hand" he is not. If this was just about a ute, or a meeting with Brian Burke, or perhaps even a night in a strip joint, then it could be laughed off. But, as is the case in many Chinese "economic espionage" cases, the stakes may involve a man's life. What Turnbull and Bishop are doing is outrageous. They know Rudd can't phone the Chinese President and get the Hu repatriated. How would it be done? On a special RAAF VIP Learjet? Would the SAS go in and bring him out? It's too ridiculous for words. But knowing Rudd can't do anything overt now just emboldens them. The government has a very difficult case in front of them and they can't be seen to be posturing against the Chinese for this will only make our biggest trading partner dig in their heels. Why is it I get a cold chill when these "crises" happen? There's literally one a week lately, for as far back as I can remember, regular as clockwork. The same journalists take the same sides on every issue. The same Coalition talking heads are out there "taking the fight up to the government" (or whatever they call it). Milne is probably one of the worst in the media (with a special place on the podium for Akerman) but there are many others. Turnbull is just a loudmouth pontificator. Bishop, hopeless (how does she keep her job as Shadow Foreign Affairs minister?). Even Bishop's own Premier back in WA is trying to hose her down. He knows what would happen to his state, and then the nation, if the wingnuts had their advice to sever relations with "Communist" China heeded: ruin for us all. Hey, maybe that would make them happy after all. They could accuse Rudd's ineptitude on China of causing the meltdown of the Australian economy. I think I get nervous because I really haven't started to trust the Australian people again just yet. I mean, if the Libs think their tactics have a chance of working, do they know something I don't? But for the moment let's be optimistic and assume that the average punter out there realises that Australia's economic recovery is utterly predicated on continuing trade with China. If that is so then Turnbull and his ilk will be severely judged for taking politics to the brink of potentially harming that trading relationship. Already we are seeing comments that our relationship with China is "in tatters", "a shambles" and so on. I can only hope that it stops, and stops soon so that the cooler heads can get on with the business of resolving Mr. Hu's case, for better or for worse, in as professional and diplomatically satisfactory a manner as possible, for all concerned.


14/07/2009My post didn't make it in Milne's blog either Ad astra. I submitted it about 8am and this time I was a bit more moderate. I said I'd back Rudd's knowledge of China and his diplomatic expertise way above Glenn Milnes' and I suggested that in the interest of our Nation and Mr. Stern Hu, Milne should butt out, shut up and let the Government do what it was elected to do. Like you Bushfire Bill, I feel nervous flutterings in the pit of my stomach every time one of these crises happens and I agree with you that perhaps it is because I don't have complete faith that the Australian people won't go back to being blinkered as they were during the Howard decade. The anti-Labor, anti-Rudd brigade obviously think their dirty tactics will win eventually. While Turnbull et al persist with their negativity and offer no credible alternative policies, I think we can remain optimistic that the majority of voters are astute enough to see through, and discard, the dirt campaign that is being waged so ruthlessly in the media.

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14/07/2009Ebenezer, Thanks for the link to [i]ozforums[/i] and to the [i]Age[/i] article. I thought fred’s comment was very germane. Just Me, I agree. There is no place for the megaphone approach of Turnbull and Bishop – they are harming Hu and Australia, but they either don’t recognize this, or care, so long as they believe they are scoring points. China is damaging itself, as well as Australia, and our mutual relations. So why is China doing this? I think the answer is in the question. China is not a cohesive entity whose parts act in unison. A very simplistic appraisal suggests there are power struggles going on in China between old guard attitudes and approaches and the ambitions of the more progressive ‘capitalist’ group who are into world trade. So we should not assume that everyone in China is happy with this turn of events. Self-harm is an enigma no matter where it occurs. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. How much truth is there in the accusations against Hu and Rio, and maybe BHP Billiton too, which I read today is the subject of investigation in China? Have there been some ‘irregularities’, or is this matter wholly trumped-up to intimidate Rio, iron ore companies, Australia, the Rudd Government and Rudd himself. Of course luminaries such as Glenn Milne and Jennifer Hewett would have us believe Rudd ‘has brought this on himself’. There are too many unknowns, too much obscurity for anyone to really know what going on. We’ll have to wait and see – then everyone can be ever so wise in hindsight. BB, Like you, I suspect Milne was so overwhelmed with comments unsupportive of his views that maybe he felt it best to pull the plug so as not to look too out of touch with blogger opinion. I see janice too was unsuccessful in getting her comment posted. The plethora of crises ought not to surprise us too much – clearly some journalists, and Milne is one, are determined to do all they can to cripple the Government and bring it down. They have a long chronicle of ‘scandals’ they trot out regularly to support the view they are attempting to promote that the Rudd Government is deeply flawed and should be replaced by the natural party to govern, but that party is in such disarray that even Milne can’t bring himself to say outright ‘bring back the Coalition’. So these guys just keep hacking away, hoping eventually to erode Labor’s lead and Rudd’s popularity. I too get nervous with each crisis as we all know that the Coalition will opportunistically exploit each one ruthlessly – to hell with the welfare of the country. But if today’s [i]Newspoll[/i] is any guide they are not getting far. The TPP is virtually unchanged from two weeks ago (within MOE), as is Rudd’s lead as PPM, Rudd’s popularity continues to rise and although Coalition supporters try to extract some solace from Turnbull’s approval/disapproval figures, to be still 24 points negative is cold comfort, and to be so far behind Costello, and even Hockey as preferred leader, is an abysmal position, that even Shanahan accepts. Turnbull is now almost impotent – how many swinging voters are even listening? I guess the nervousness you, janice and I feel is born of long, long years in the political wilderness, and a media that is so often hostile and unfair and intent on restoring the Coalition to its 'rightful' place at the seat of power. Turnbull is an unlikely Labor ally; but while he’s there I suspect Labor is pretty safe. BB, would you consider posting on [i]The Political Sword[/i] your great post on [i]The Poll Bludger[/i] this morning at 9.23, responding to the Hewett piece, which describes so well the catalogue of ‘scandals’ columnists so enjoy repeating like a mesmerizing mantra. janice, We should take your advice and be optimistic. The people out there seem to be sane and sensible, as evidenced by the polls. They know a beat-up when they see one, and they recognize good government when it occurs, as it surely is right now. So let’s keep smiling and trust Rudd and Co to manage well each crisis at it comes along. They’ve done a pretty good job so far.

Bushfire Bill

14/07/2009Reposted from PB, at AA's request, with some tidying up of ideas ([i]Complimentary Bonus Post[/i]: Acerbic Conehead's immortal response a few comments later...): "[i][b]12... Bushfire Bill[/b] Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink[/i] Jennifer Hewitt takes the Milne Line: [i]'What is increasingly evident is that rather than Rudd's deep knowledge of China being a strength in Canberra's dealings with China, the government's approach has become ever more of an irritant in Beijing.'[/i] If you can’t get Rudd for going to strip clubs, knowing Brian Burke, growing up in Eumundie, Long Tan, his fat wife, driving a crony ute, misleading Parliament, plunging us into debt, Fuelwatch, Grocery Watch, being a nerd, being too dinklum Aussie, being a nerd again, insulting hosties, upsetting his staff, religious hypocrisy, taking overseas junkets, betraying George Bush’s confidences, strutting the world Stage, pork-barreling, living in a coccoon of spin, speaking Mandarin, and being too friendly with China… then get him for being so close to China that it’s not only affecting Stern Hu’s freedom, but could well bring down the entire Australian economy. And he’s a toxic bore to boot. It’s a Scandals-R-Us, a new one every week. The people are out with their torches and pitchforks, lusting for the Monster’s blood. The Australian says so. Having forsaken attacking Rudd’s alleged weaknesses, the Ltd News gurus are attacking his strengths. He is a toxic bore who lamely tries to be Bazza McKenzie and then he speaks Wonk again. In international relations he betrays Presidential confidences, arrogantly struts where he should not be, is two-faced on climate Change and then takes it out on junior staff when they don’t have pickled tofu on the menu ready for him. If he doesn’t ruin the country with debt and deficit over a Global Financial Crisis that probably doesn’t exist, this man Rudd will single-handedly ruin the country’s chances of recovering from this Thing That Isn't Real with his arrogance and hostility to China... which is different from when he was going to ruin us with his empathy and closeness to China. It’s a total mess. The best thing we should do is put Peter Costello in, or Joe Hockey, or Tony Abbott, or Julie Bishop, oh yes, and maybe Malcolm Turnbull, who would personally take the Big Stick to those Commie Asians and teach them a lesson or two about messing with White Men. Who needs their trade? We’ll always have Japan… except Rudd’s ruined that too by snubbing them… It’s hopeless. As Jennifer Hewitt puts it, 'Lose, lose, lose.' Now there’s an insightful analysis for you. Who loses, what we lost, when did we lose it, how we can get it back and why should we worry about losing whatever it was we lost is not clearly explained. 'Lose, lose, lose' seems sufficient. It's a summary of just about every Ltd News article on the Rudd government since its election. And about as informative. I just can’t figure out why the Liberals are starting to think (as Dennis reports) they might not win the next election." [i][b]Acerbic Conehead[/b] Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink[/i] Bushfire Bill (12). You forgot to mention the hairdryer.

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14/07/2009BB, Thank you - what a great post. Folks, if you haven't read [i]Jack the Insiders Blog[/i] of yesterday [i]Cries of ‘do something’ a bit rich in China spy case[/i] http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/jacktheinsider/index.php/theaustralian/comments/cries_of_do_something_a_bit_rich_in_china_spy_case/ it’s worth a look. As usual, Jack has written a sensible piece. He is also very diligent in responding to comments. I posted a comment at 8.55 pm and he had replied by 9.12. There are now 233 comments and still going. Many of them will give you a good laugh.

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14/07/2009Folks, In [i]Crikey[/i] yesterday, taking a line similar to [i]Jack the Insider[/i], an amusing but telling editorial reads: http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/07/13/crikey-says-40/ [quote]"Foreign Secretary: In the old days we'd have sent in a gunboat. Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes. James Hacker: I suppose ... that is absolutely out of the question? Yes, Minister "Australia's interests - indeed, its dignity - are being affronted throughout the region. Stern Hu remains in Chinese detention, beyond consular access. An Australian tragically has been shot dead in West Papua. "And up goes the cry for the Government to do something. Quite what it should do isn’t clear, but the demand for action is insistent. The Government’s insistence on following established procedures is taken as a sign of weakness. "Australians’ obsessive need for government action to address each and every problem used to be confined to domestic politics. Now Australians appear to want Government responsiveness to extend to each and every Australian overseas. In non-anglophone countries only, of course. "There’s an air of colonialism about this attitude, a 'don’t they know who we are' tone that suggests foreigners are out of line when messing with Australians. We’re white, we’re friends with the Americans, and we play sport well. Don’t get uppity with us, we’re serious -- world -- players. "Of course, we’re not. We’re a well-endowed quarry, a first rate source of actors and sportsmen and little else. That doesn’t mean there isn’t much to be proud in Australia’s successful democracy and high standard of living, but our apparent insistence on carrying on like we’re deputy sheriff and accordingly owed respect by the rest of the world is a peculiar leftover of the cultural cringe. We’re a minor player. There’s only 22 million of us. Deal with it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of."[/quote]

Just Me

14/07/2009[i]China is not a cohesive entity whose parts act in unison.[/i] Exactly. China is in serious transition at the moment, and will be for some time. Many things are changing, not least of all their relationship with North Korea. [i]and although Coalition supporters try to extract some solace from Turnbull’s approval/disapproval figures,[/i] Well, it is not like Turnbull's approval/disapproval ratings could have sunk much lower, they could really only go up after the last disastrous round of polls. The claims of the Coalition supporters of a resurgence and reclaiming of ground by Turnbull are pretty hollow, especially based on one poll.

Just Me

14/07/2009[i]Scandals-R-Us[/i] LOL

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14/07/2009Just Me, Dennis Shanahan's pieces in [i]The Australian[/i] on this morning's [i]Newspoll[/i] are entertaining musings. First [i]Malcolm Turnbull starts to claw his way back[/i], http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25778648-601,00.html then [i]Not a lot to crow about for Liberals[/i], http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25778612-5013871,00.html and finally [i]Malcolm Turnbull's leadership is 'terminal'[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25778613-5013871,00.html. Then along comes Dennis this afternoon quoting words of wisdom from Bronwyn Bishop in [i]Malcolm Turnbull 'needed a pounding' to improve in polls[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25780311-5013871,00.html Amusing reading, except of course for Coalition supporters.

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14/07/2009Folks, Yesterday in [i]Crikey[/i] http://www.crikey.com.au/ Richard Farmer wrote something that might give cause for reflection on the presumed innocence of Stern Hu: [quote]"A little red warning light. The Fairfax correspondent in China, John Garnaut, brought forward this morning the story of the red envelopes with cash in them that should be serving as a red warning light to the Opposition politicians who, without having any knowledge of the charges or the evidence to support them, have found Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu an innocent man. "Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull and his Deputy Julie Bishop have seen in the arrest in Shanghai of this major Australian iron ore salesman as an opportunity to embarrass our Chinese speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. If the Australian people see Mr Hu as a man wrongfully imprisoned by an authoritarian communist government then Mr Rudd will surely be seen as the impotent expert, not the leader whose understanding of things Chinese is strengthening the foundation for Australian prosperity to keep growing with their impressive economic growth. "Which is what makes the Garnaut remark that 'when Rio Tinto holds press events in China, its public relations firm sometimes hands out red envelopes of cash to Chinese journalists who are kind enough to turn up' such a significant one. Not to put too fine a point on it, the accusation is that Rio Tinto is in the business of bribing journalists. If we have to guess what the charges against Mr Hu will turn out to be in the end it will in all likelihood turn out to be the very same thing. That is what the reports in the Chinese press - clearly not influenced on this occasion by what is in the little red envelopes - point to. "With the experience of the Australian Wheat Board in Iraq so recently before us, we would be extremely naive to think that improper conduct by an Australian company is somehow impossible. Messrs Turnbull and Bishop might care to ponder that before going any further with their blanket verdict that Rio and its employees are naturally not guilty."[/quote]

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14/07/2009Folks, another insight into the Hu affair, Yesterday in [i]Crikey[/i] http://www.crikey.com.au/ Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane wrote in a piece [i]China will do whatever it likes. Hu knew[/i] [quote]“Gosh what a tizz the Chinese Government has us all in. “China is run by a murderous clique of kleptocrats, with a human rights record that makes Robert Mugabe look benign. And that’s just the national government, never mind the provincial governments. They are rivalled only by Russia for out-and-out corruption. “But then, you get that with dictatorships. Governments that don’t understand or accept the need for the rule of law only regard corruption as a problem when the wrong people get paid. “That’s why - as Greg Sheridan correctly observed today - discussion about minutiae like the identity of the Chinese state and its corporate interests, and whether what we understand as commercial negotiations could be interpreted as espionage by the Chinese, is moot. It’s like asking a Mafiosi to be crystal clear about exactly the reason why you’re being whacked. The Chinese don’t do the whole rule of law and due process thing. “Western corporations are happy to overlook all that, or more correctly budget for it, in the hope of tapping that vast market. Western Governments are happy to overlook all that for the same reason. Increasingly, the latter have little choice, given China’s economic importance. And if China is effective in shifting its growth base to domestic demand rather than exports, that will complete the deal. "Kevin Rudd suddenly finds himself in the firing line for failing to meet Australians’ expectations about how we should be treated overseas. We may now laughingly recall the early days of the Rudd Government when there was much nudging, winking and eyebrow-arching over how Rudd was too close to the Chinese, too much the Sinophile. In fact Rudd’s stance toward China if anything has been more aggressive than his predecessors. He literally lectured them - in Mandarin - in Beijing on Tibet. He laid down guidelines for assessing foreign investment bids by state-owned entities. The Defence White Paper squarely addresses China’s military capability and its potential threat. "But at the same time, Rudd has been vigorous in promoting a greater role for China in world financial institutions. Sinophile, Sinophobe - either way, Rudd’s calls on each of those issues has been based on policy principles, and has been correct. The Opposition keeps trying to cast Rudd as a Sinophile - it’s only a couple of months ago that Peter Costello was referring to 'our Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister' who would tick off Chinalco’s Rio bid - but Rudd’s decisions have made it hard for them. Indeed, Malcolm Turnbull looked rather peculiar as a Liberal leader complaining that the White Paper targeted the threat of China too much. "Criticism of Rudd’s "failure" to somehow rescue Stern Hu from durance vile isn’t simple point-scoring by the Opposition, or isn’t only that. There’s a collective element of self-delusion in the criticism of the Government. The fact is, there’s nothing any Government could do, and that’s the awful truth that we don’t want to face. The Chinese are vastly more powerful than us, and, worse, we are now economically dependent on them. "It matters very little whether we have a good or bad relationship, or a Prime Minister who speaks Mandarin. The Chinese will do as they please. Australia has extensive resource assets on which China depends, and the Chinese Government clearly resents paying market rates for access. "Thus, the Chinese will behave this way more and more often until we give them what they want, in the manner of an African country that is happy to take Chinese cash while they take the minerals. There’s much "inscrutable Chinese" nonsense at the heart of the coverage of the Hu case, as if Beijing’s intentions can only be divined by some white-bearded scholar transcribing ancient texts and considering animal entrails. The Chinese are merely pursuing their interest in identifying low-cost sources of fuel for their remarkable economic growth. Get in their way and they’ll hurt you. "The Left might argue that, given our traditional allies the Brits and the Americans have long acted in exactly this manner toward small and medium-sized countries, there’s an element of justice in Australia discovering what it’s like to incur the wrath of an imperial power. But at least there were independent courts and some slight human rights protections even at the height of Anglophone imperialism. And China’s critics don’t offer much of a solution either. Having finally worked out just what monsters have run Communist China for the past 60 years - more or less coinciding with the conversion of Communist leaders to capitalism - the Left can offer the purity of disengagement and criticism, for which quite a few thousand unemployed Australians won’t thank them. And it won’t help any Tibetans or Uyghurs either “Australia can’t control what the Chinese do. We are only responsible for our own actions. The Government has to pursue the national interest in dealing with arbitrary-minded Government not averse to butchering its own people. Stern Hu is showing the price of pursuing the national interest, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t like it? Ah well, that’s too bad.”[/quote]

Just Me

14/07/2009[i]We’re a well-endowed quarry, a first rate source of actors and sportsmen and little else.[/i] A little harsh. Particularly on a per capita basis we often punch well above our weight, and are even sometimes among world leaders, in a number of areas of human achievement beyond the sport/arts/entertainment and extractive/agricultural industries. Like Nobel prizes for Medicin, general governance standards (legal, political, technical, safety), basic education standards and opportunities, personal freedoms, etc. But, beyond that, the Crikey editorial is basically correct. We should be proud of who we are and what we have achieved (whilst also acknowledging our faults and failings), but we should also not kid ourselves about our role and influence in the bigger world. Broadly speaking we are a minor player in world affairs. And Jack the Insider is easily one the very best bloggers around, and certainly the leader among the 'professional' journalist bloggers in Australia's MSM.

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14/07/2009Just Me, I agree we should be proud of our achievements and that as a middle order nation we are entitled to express our views, exert influence, and to take our place unassumingly among larger nations - certainly not arrogantly. Rudd's contribution to the recent G8 climate change forum in Italy is a fine example of how a relatively small nation can contribute, and have that contribution acknowledged and applauded as did Barack Obama at the time, and Al Gore afterwards. What we could do without is the national custom of self-deprecating behaviour that so many people exhibit, and that journalists encourage and perpetrate. We tend to be a nation of knockers, and take particular aim at the high flyers – the 'tall poppy syndrome'. I’m all for Rudd’s enterprise in taking the initiative in climate change, in regional relations, in developing relations with China, in defence, in financial and economic matters, and in stimulus plans to sustain the economy and jobs. After all we heard about ‘all spin, no substance’, now the criticism is that he’s ‘getting above himself’. Those who don’t want to be satisfied by Rudd’s performance never will be.

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15/07/2009janice, I noticed that too. By yesterday Turnbull had toned down his rhetoric, perhaps stung by the ‘megaphone’ taunt that has come not just from Government, but from some sections of the media and the commentariat. Last night, in rather a subdued video clip, he said that it was not a megaphone he was advocating, but a telephone call. Maybe he’s shrewd enough to let a possible alternative leader get out there to take the flak. Her shrill message was so convoluted that only her supporters would be listening. Have you noticed the legalistic twist to her messages? She argues her case like a barrister to a jury, most recently trying to prove how lowly the Chinese official was who talked with Simon Crean, and how the Vice Foreign Minister to whom Rudd spoke in Italy was but one of many of that rank - all to prove that Rudd and his ministers are being snubbed, and to destroy in the public’s mind the idea of Rudd having a special relationship with China. Although she irritates me intensely every time she comes on air, her appearances are probably even more advantageous to Labor than Turnbull’s. Both she and her leader have shown again that in their desire to gain some political traction, their political judgement is deeply flawed, and dangerous should they ever become the government.

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15/07/2009BB, There's another Rudd 'scandal' you can add to your list.- [i][b]Using his religious views for base political purposes[/i][/b] Janet Albrechtsen's blog piece in today's [i]Australian, PM proves a convert to the politics of faith[/i] provides all the gory details. http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/janetalbrechtsen/index.php/theaustralian/comments/pm_proves_a_convert_to_the_politics_of_faith/

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15/07/2009janice, The editorial in today’s [i]Australian, Opposition must put away the megaphone[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25783559-16741,00.html says what we think: [quote]“Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop has been shrill in urging Kevin Rudd and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith ‘to pick up the phone, speak to their counterpart ministers and ask what is going on’. Her strategy, however, would raise the stakes over Mr Hu at an early stage, before anything is known about the allegations against him. It could also compromise the chances of a low-key, face-saving resolution that avoided major damage to China's reputation as a place to do business. A wiser strategy for the opposition might have been to offer bi-partisan support and later, if appropriate, to offer to travel with a government leader to Beijing to present a united case. Politically, the onus would remain on the government to deal with the matter, especially given the Prime Minister's affinity with the Chinese. West Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett, who will raise Mr Hu's situation with Shanghai's highest-ranking official, Han Zheng, at the weekend, is being more level-headed.”[/quote] For this to come from [i]The Australian[/i], the OO, illustrates just how out of line the Coalition is on this issue, how poor its judgement is once more.
T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?