Tuesday 10th of December 2019

still feeling the howard effects of ming...


My former professional background as a policy planner ( 1985-90) in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and related areas where I worked for 30 years enabled me to hone the skills of ‘joining the dots’ between apparently disconnected facts. It was particularly easy to do so, as I read three stories about China on page 11 of the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday 24 July.

The first story concerned the significance of the latest Chinese Government defence white paper (the first in four years), which unusually singles out by name Australia as a country which  ‘is seeking a bigger role in Asia-Pacific security affairs’, and as a country that China sees as ‘a new source of uncertainty in the region’. 

Rory Medcalf of ANU National Security College and a former senior Australian Government defence planner was reported by AFR as commenting that he thinks this naming of Australia in the Chinese defence paper is a good thing,  ‘because it acknowledges Australia is a country to be taken seriously. It doesn’t mean we are a target.’

This is one of the sillier things Rory Medcalf has said publicly about Australian national security since becoming a respected part of this public conversation, from which I am excluded because of my radical global political views. 

There is no possible way in which it is a good thing to be named by China in this negative way. It shows that China has finally rejected Australian claims, of provenance going back to Prime Minister John Howard’s time, that Australia can be a good economic partner of China and at the same time a strong military ally of the US against China. Our attempts since Howard’s day under successive Labour and Coalition governments to ride these two horses have been correctly understood by China as self-deceiving hypocrisy and doublethink. 

The Chinese government has come to despise Australian efforts to pretend, on the one hand , that it truly values China as an investor , our largest export market, and major source of property investment and education mega dollars: while thinking that we can without punishment from China increasingly lock ourselves into the American -led attempts to contain China strategically, as seen in myriad ways in the strategic decisions and expressed attitudes of Australia’s defence planning and national security sectors of government.

Every decision like the Huawei 5G rejection, noisily stepped-up US military basing in Darwin, singling out of China and Russia as the main targets of the Australian 2018 foreign influence legislation, declared strategic competition with China in the South Pacific, expressed enthusiasm for the unviable Quad strategic grouping, the kind of defence procurement decisions Australia makes aimed at helping the US to project long-range military power in the Asia-Pacific region, and reliably hostile mainstream media commentariat reaction to every Chinese or Russian assertion of strategic interests – with no Australian counter-opinions ever permitted to be expressed in mainstream public debate – sends the same Australian elite message to China and Russia: that however much we are happy to take their money in trade and investment, we see them au fond as the strategic enemy. 

Now China, after being immensely patient for many years, giving our elites far more time than they deserve to come to see the error of such inconsistent indeed hypocritical strategic thinking, has served us up in their latest defence white paper the most unambiguous warnings of the consequences of our fecklessness. 

But Rory Medcalf, in one of his more idiotic statements, thinks this is ‘a good thing’. And nobody in the mainstream Australian strategic world challenges him.

The second report on page 11 of the AFR last Wednesday was that important China-US bilateral trade talks are about to resume after dramatic suspension in May. This resumption is a consequence of the degree of US-China civil dialogue re-established between Xi and Trump at the June G20 summit in Osaka. 

The resumption of these vital trade talks, after their abrupt breakdown in May, means both sides are seriously contemplating the renewed possibility of reciprocal bilateral trade concessions, whose negotiation will focus primarily on the self-interest of both sides. Trump, a transactional president, will not worry about the interests of third parties like Australia. And why should China do so, when we are now officially listed by Chinese defence planners as a new source of strategic uncertainty in the region, and a country that seeks a bigger military role for itself? Not a friend, clearly. And our trade diplomats would be naive to expect otherwise. 

The third news story on page 11 of Wednesday’s AFR reported the first Russian-Chinese joint long-range air patrol in the Pacific, by three Russian and three Chinese military aircraft. They flew together through a ‘South Korean Air Defence identification zone’ (a zone whose legality is not recognised by China) and they flew over an island whose sovereignty is contested by South Korea and Japan. Reportedly, according to South Korean officials, ‘hundreds of warning shots’ were fired at them by South Korea. 

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the Russian planes had been airborne 11 hours and covered 9000 km, and that ‘foreign fighter jets had escorted them on 11 separate occasions’. It did not deign to report any shooting. Perhaps warning shots were fired from a prudent distance, and ignored by the visiting aircraft?

Clearly, this flight did not lose its way and accidentally stray into South Korean airspace. Its route was a major test of resolve and can be expected to be followed by other such flights in future. The route would have been carefully planned and executed in unison by both highly expert airforces. 

These were no ‘air space incursions’ as alleged by a US Defence spokesman, but deliberate assertions of Chinese and Russian freedom to fly in international airspaces as close as possible to Korea and Japan, as a demonstration of Chinese and Russian military capacities to operate as allies in the North Pacific.

The joint flights show how quickly Russo -Chinese military cooperation at the high-tech level is progressing. This is a lot more impressive than driving tanks together around the snowy Siberian tundra, and swapping friendship pancakes in military headquarters as Putin and Xi did a year and a half ago.

This was a delicate precision navigational exercise to fly a fleet of three Chinese and three Russian military planes (I note equal parity of forces, which itself sends an important diplomatic message) just outside Western alliance territorial borders. It would have required mutual Russian-Chinese military trust and mutual cool heads to ignore the warning shots and fly on together, an Impressive and significant military demonstration by any measure. 

To the extent this was reported at all, as in the AFR article, it was reported as an escalation and a provocation of the Western alliance by Russia and China. 

It was neither: it was a legitimate assertion of determination to protect mutual strategic interests close to Russia’s and China’s nearby borders in the North Pacific, through forward projection of both nations’ high – tech military power. 

But do not expect Australian strategic planners, defence academics, or mainstream media elites, to join these three important dots and discuss their significance for Australia’s national security. And do not expect me to be invited to speak or write on these matters in any mainstream forum anytime soon. My writing will continue to be safely confined to the silos of my Facebook Page and personal email contact list.

Our reading and listening public, which fondly assumes it will read and hear truth and freely contested views in our mainstream media on important issues of national security, will continue to be deceived by our elites. 

Tony Kevin is an Emeritus Fellow of Australian National University and a former Australian diplomat and foreign policy analyst 1968-98. He is the author of Return to Moscow (UWA Publishing, 2017)



Read more:




fast-tracking gamblers from china...

The federal government has confirmed it had an agreement with Crown Casinos to fast-track short stay visa applications for Chinese visitors.

The revelation of the deal between Crown and the Department of Home Affairs has fuelled mounting pressure for a parliamentary inquiry into the company’s dealings.

Crown has been the subject of a Channel Nine investigation that made a series of allegations about attempts to attract Chinese gamblers to its Australian casinos.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed it has “stakeholder arrangements” with several large international organisations for the quick processing of short-stay visas, but insisted there was no special treatment given to applicants.

“The arrangement with Crown Casinos was put in place in 2003. The arrangement was last affirmed by the Minister in June 2011 and ceased in 2016,” a spokesperson for the department said.

“There is no reduced vetting in certain locations or for certain applicants. Our offices in China are well aware of the risks that may be present in their caseloads and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly.

“There is no discretion to waive legislative checks or requirements and the department has no evidence that this has occurred.”

Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg told Channel Nine that two federal ministers and a backbencher lobbied his agency to make it easier for Chinese gamblers to enter Australia on private jets.

Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked last year after an investigation found he helped his girlfriend try to secure a job within his department at Sydney Airport.


Read more:


crown troubles to be solved by newscorp...

Some of Australia’s highest-profile business people might face prosecution if investigations into Crown Resorts reveal serious misdeeds by the company.

Following investigations by Nine media leading to allegations of money laundering and buying influence in the bureaucracy, the Morrison government has ordered investigations by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Such investigations will put the company and its board under scrutiny, meaning some of the unusually prominent Crown board may face uncomfortable examination.

However Crown’s powerful board of directors has hit out at the claims with full-page advertisements in newspapers.

The advertisements have not appeared in Nine newspapers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald but competitor News Corp, claiming to be “setting the record straight in the face of a deceitful campaign against Crown”.


Read more:




Meanwhile the NSW governments play favourites...

star versus crown

On the left: Crown casino hotel (James Packer's) fast-tracked by the Libs...

On the right: Star casino hotel rejected by the Libs...

Gus note: Although I don't know, I have a feeling that the Star casino (already creaming the Chinese) hotel is supported by NewsCorp and this rejection might not please the head honcho Uncle Rupe who might see himself as a rival to the young upstart Packer... I don't know, but in its glossy magazine presented to us to make sure we re-elected Glaydys and her fundamentalists, the Murdoch media published full-colour spreads of the new Star Hotel in glorious glowing grand thermic terms.


Star Casino says it will push on with plans to build a $530 million tower on Sydney's waterfront despite it having been rejected by planning authorities.

Key points:
  • Plans for the 220-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and 204 residential apartments were lodged by Star in August 
  • After a review and public submissions, the independent NSW Planning Department rejected it 
  • Star intends to push on planning for the project, with a final decision set for next month


In a decision that has pitted the anti-development groups against tourism proponents, Star's concept, labelled "completely inappropriate" by one City of Sydney councillor, was rejected by the NSW Planning Department as inconsistent with the existing and future character of inner-city Pyrmont. 

It is understood Star City is privately fuming over the department's decision, which puts its luxury 220-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and 204 residential apartments on hold, possibly for good.

The 66-storey building is on the other side of the Sydney Harbour from Crown's half-complete Barangaroo skyscraper, and was pitched as part of Star's plan to attract wealthy Chinese tourists

Analysts suggest the development was also a critical part of Star's future plans to lure tourists away from Crown's controversial luxury casino and hotel, due to be complete in 2021. 

It is understood Star still hopes the development will get over the line — despite the independent NSW Planning Panel, which has the final decision, usually taking Department advice. 

In a statement, a Star spokesperson said it would "continue to seek approval". 

"We believe it will have a significant benefit for tourism, the city and for the state of NSW," the spokesperson said.


Read more:


blaming the money somewhere...

Ex-US Treasury head says department's credibility 'damaged' by accusing China of manipulating yuan

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration's decision to name China a currency manipulator, and said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has "damaged his credibility and that of his office'' by doing so.

In an op-ed article published in The Washington Post, Summers said:

"By labeling as Chinese currency manipulation an exchange-rate move that was obviously a natural response to his boss's policies, the secretary has damaged his credibility and that of his office.

"It will be harder now in the next difficult financial moment for Treasury Department pronouncements to be credited by market participants. Having seen the United States label China a manipulator, the world will wonder whether and how the United States will get China to change its exchange- rate policies," Summers wrote. "If Chinese policies do not change, we will have only demonstrated our impotence to China and the world. Why is that desirable?''

He ended the article by saying: "There is a final problem with the Treasury Department's manipulation claims. ... We have only limited capacity to shape Chinese behavior. Should we not focus on areas where our position is clearly right and the stakes are high rather than areas where our claims are dubious and prosecuting them damages our economy?''

And in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday, Summers said, "I don't think there was much justification" in the Treasury's manipulator decision. "When you are propping up your currency, not running a trade surplus, you're not manipulating the currency on any definition that is understood and accepted in the financial community."

He said that China has been preventing its currency from sinking rather than pressing it lower.

Summers served as Treasury secretary in the Bill Clinton administration and as an economic adviser to former president Barack Obama.

Read more:





President Trump on Wednesday morning called out what he perceived as the Federal Reserve’s failure to cut rates fast enough to compete with other countries. The latest comments come after Trump has spent several months escalating a war of words with the Fed, which he once called his "biggest threat."

“Our problem is a Federal Reserve that is too proud to admit their mistake of acting too fast and tightening too much (and that I was right!). They must Cut Rates bigger and faster, and stop their ridiculous quantitative tightening NOW,” Trump posted on Twitter, while noting that "our problem is not China."

While the Fed has yet to move at the pace Trump wants, his recent moves against China may force their hand. Trump last week placed a further 10% tariff on Chinese goods, prompting retaliation from the Chinese government which let the yuan fall below 7 to the dollar.

This move led to Wall Street volatility, with the Dow Jones on Monday suffering it's biggest one-day decline of 2019. CNBC noted that Trump's comments come "with U.S. government bond yields tumbling and the closely watched spread between the 3-month and 10-year notes at its biggest inversion since April 2007, just as the economy was heading into the financial crisis."


Read more:



One has to remember that the US Federal Reserve Bank is not a public entity but a central bank controlled by the US big banks.


Read from top.