Prologue This offering attempts to place the ‘Jobs and Growth’ song line into Australia’s current and projected economic situation. Background is Australia’s terms of trade, past innovations, the imperative for export income and closes with comment on poor academic achievement and Government funding as drivers for growth into the 21st century.
Preamble The slogan, ‘Jobs and Growth’ generates two issues:
If Australia is to prosper ‘growth’ must be directed toward generating export income.
In an expanding 21st century, economy improving education is necessary but unemployment is still forecast.
The policy of encouraging domestic employment will not increase the national wealth in an expanding population – it will merely churn the money supply. This activity will encourage quantitative easing, a devalued currency, deflation and more expensive imports – as experienced in Europe today.
‘Growth’ for Australia must be directed to generating export income. Much has been made of a ‘transitioning economy’ but the Government has apparently not articulated a specific sense of direction, although small business has been given a boost – but how much product is export oriented?
For Australia to prosper, the monthly terms of trade must be returned to positive, such that the national budget at least returns to break-even; this will stabilise the national debt. The flip side is that high tech export industries do not require a large relatively unskilled work force. Canada found transitioning toward a high tech economy does not substantially reduce unemployment but it does increase GDP.
Australian Exports, Imports and Terms of Trade In 2013, Australia produced a positive terms of trade (DFAT April 2016, dfat.gov.au/trade):
Top Exports – $329 billion. Iron ore, Coal-Gas-Petroleum, Wheat, Copper, Aluminium, Cotton, Wool, Gold, Financial services.
Top Imports – $318 billion. Travel-Freight-Transport services, Motor vehicles, Computers, Refined petroleum, Furniture, Telecommunication equipment, Heating/Cooling equipment, Iron-Steel-Aluminium structures, Professional services.
Terms of Trade + $11 billion. Additional impost is the interest on National Debt – $16 billion.
Since 2013 the terms of trade have moved into deficit. In the first half of 2016, the terms of trade ($ billion ) were: January 3.42, February 3.41, March 2.16, April 1.58, May 2.22, June 3.19 – that is around $15 billion. (tradingeconomics.com)
The budget deficit for 2016-17 is $37.1 billion which is forecast to decrease to $6 billion in 2019-20. (Australian Government Budget 2016-17) It is these deficits, among other factors, that provoked a warning from the Ratings Agencies on Australia’s AAA credit rating.
Jobs and Growth Australians cannot maintain their living standard by creating domestic jobs thereby churning the money supply. Our Nation must export more to improve the terms of trade. Government policy appears to be promoting any jobs rather than export oriented jobs – possibly a hidden agenda to reduce unemployment and maintain social stability. The main game is jobs that create export income. It is a sad fact that successive Australian governments have presided over the closing down of labour- intensive manufacturing industries, in part due to thin internal markets, high production costs and a strong currency boosted by a vibrant natural resources industry. To illustrate past, current and probably future closures, below is an incomplete list;
Ford-Toyota-Holden car plants, SA/Vic; Electrolux, NSW; Smiths Crisps, WA; Amcor, Vic/Qld; Buizen Yachts, NSW; Arrium, SA; Blue Scope Steel, NSW/WA and food producers Rosella, Windsor Farm Foods, Dairy Bell.
The picture is concerning despite, during 2015, over 300,000 jobs were created. Unfortunately, many were part-time and there was a trend for monthly hours worked to decrease. (Fact Check March 2016 and ABS June 2016) Critical missing information is the distribution of labour between domestic and export oriented jobs. ABS should collect this information.
Export industries up and running and with scope for immediate expansion are tourism and education:
Tourism, year ended June 2016. Recorded 7.85 million visitors – conservative income $6 billion.
Education for 2015. School/University students 270,000, Vocational students 70,000. (AFR December 2015)
To promote export industries, Australia has a rich gene pool of scientists, engineers and lively minds to draw upon. Examples of Australian brilliance are:
Science and Engineering. Aircraft Black Box, Electric Drill, Winged Keel, Frazier Lens, Racecam, Refrigerator, Splayds, Triton Work Centre, Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, Permaculture, WiFi, Underwater Torpedo, Photo Lithography, Stump Jump Plough, Mitchell Thrust Block Bearing, Humespun Pipes, Dethridge Wheel, Self Propelled Hoe, Coupé Ute, Froth Flotation, Quantum Bit, Anti-hacking Software, Blast Glass.
Medical. Spray-on Skin, Pacemaker, Cochlear Implants, Ultrasound, Plastic Lenses, Zinc Cream, Gene Silencing, Pollilight Forensic Lamp, Blood Test for Still -borns.
Australians are innovative and growth should be directed towards universities, research establishments and selected ‘garage’ entrepreneurs in a bid to improve Australia’s terms of trade. Despite the Turnbull quote “Innovation is the critical aim of the Administration”, both the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have reduced the influence of the CSIRO by budget cuts and retrenchments. Recently however, the CSIRO has been boosted with a $300 million Innovation Fund to promote a data driven economy, co-investment and an acceleration program.
Universities have also endured funding cuts in the 2016 Budget. A recent Vice-Chancellors’ meeting recorded “a deep disappointment at the proposal to reduce public investments”. Among the reductions was a $2.5 billion cut over the forward estimates to 2019-20 and a withdrawal of an efficiency dividend of $1.2 billion. These cuts are inexplicable in the light of a statement by Professor Ian Jacobs, Vice-Chancellor, UNSW who indicated on ABC RN (18 August) that in 2014 Australian universities contributed $60 billion to the Australian economy by way of innovation and commercial research.
The dilemma for the Australian Government’s ‘stairway to the stars’ is financially compromised by the competing requirements of Health, Social Security, NDIS and Education,; the latter, perversely, being critical.
Another brake on Australia’s drive toward an innovative future (jobs and growth) is the poor uptake by Australia’s youth in the STEM subjects. The OECD global education ranking for Australian fifteen year olds in maths and sciences was 14th. Rankings are: 1 Singapore, 2 Hong Kong, 3 South Korea, 4 Japan, 5 Taiwan——- —11 Poland, 12 Vietnam, 13 Germany, 14 Australia. As if on cue, there has recently been disappointing comment on NAPLAN tests in Australia.
In transitioning to a 21st Century high-tech industrial economy, Canada announced in 2015 their GDP increased but with little opportunity for increased employment.
A critical driver in the 2016 Budget to promote ‘jobs and growth’ is the reduction of tax rates from 30% to 25% over the forward estimates such that by 2026-27 cost to the taxpayer will aggregate $48.2 billion. (theaustralian.com.au/budget, 6 May: Smart Company, 3 May 2016) If the principal outcome of this initiative is to boost domestic employment supplying a domestic market, it will increase GDP but the terms of trade will deteriorate as business imports will increase, it is vital these tax benefits promote export growth. To round out this policy, the Government must actively encourage Australian industry to establish export markets and reward successful companies for this. This must become the mantra for ‘jobs and growth’ otherwise living standards will continue to fall.
Epilogue This opinion piece has attempted to examine issues lurking behind the Government’s song line ‘jobs and growth’.
The Chinese objective in the South China Sea is rational if one steps back in time to consider historical precedents.
Ignoring the theatrical assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, an important cause of World War I was the German invasion of north-eastern France to control the coal and steel industry in this region. (International Encyclopaedia of the First World War, Pierre Chanceret)
Among causes for World War II was the German invasion of the coal and iron ore resources of Silesia and Sudetenland and the push towards the Caspian oil fields. Japan commenced war in the Pacific a little before these events in Europe by the invasion of Manchuria to control iron ore reserves in that region. Later Japan moved into south-east Asia to control tin, oil, coal and rubber resources.
China’s actions in the South China Sea are consistent with the above as this Power wishes to control potential oil and fish stocks. This policy reflects those of other aspiring Powers in the first half of the 20th Century. A principal finding of the 2012 Rio Resources Conference was “there is a coming desperate competition for resources.”
History books inform us, that during the 1930s, Europe ‘sleep walked’ its way to war. During this decade Nazi military build-up was clear but the Democratic West hoped, nay prayed, that the threat would disappear. So today, a comparable situation exists with China. Fast reverse to 1991 when Mount Pinatubu in the Philippines erupted. Among the devastation were the United States Clarke Air Force base and the Subic Bay Naval base. America withdrew its military might to Alaska and Hawaii thereby creating a military vacuum adjacent to the South China Sea. Within a few months, the Chinese Government proclaimed “The Law of Territorial Waters and their Contiguous Areas” which effectively ensured any fish and oil resources within the 9 Dash Line could be controlled by China. For 25 years, the Pacific Rim countries appeared to have ‘sleep walked’ their way to the present confrontation today.
Russia and China possess similar geopolitical threats. Russian policy is to maintain a buffer between itself and NATO by maintaining influence over Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States. In a similar way, the Chinese construction of forward defences along the 9 Dash Line distant from its littoral is understandable. China’s reaction to the chorus of ‘Rule of Law’ is no surprise.
Despite China’s unfavourable reaction to the ruling of the International Court of Arbitration, it has a serious problem. The Chinese navy is no match for the United States navy as it is not yet an effective fighting force,. (Beijing’s Blue Print for the South China Sea, George Friedman, June 2016)
Again, peering through an historical rear window, documents show that once aspirations for Empire take root in a ruling elite, the growth become virtually unstoppable. The life cycle of an Empire is rise, domination and implosion or destruction by a virile aggressor. Empires require vassal states to provide cheap raw materials and food. By mid century, 35 years hence, Australia’s future international status, which incorporates the Chinese controlled port of Darwin, may be different from that of today.
Another driver to Chinese assertiveness is the 200 year memory of European intervention, including the introduction of opium, into Chinese affairs. Muscle flexing truly commenced in 1997 with the return of Hong Kong and Macau to China by former colonial powers.
A flash point for this regional issue could occur in the East China Sea over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkakus islands. As at June 30, 2016, in the previous three months, Japanese military aircraft ‘scrambled’ more than 100 times due to suspected Chinese incursions into disputed air space, also in mid June a Chinese frigate entered the contiguous sea zone. (Japan Today, 30 June, 2016) The significance of these events is Article V of the United States – Japan Security Treaty which requires the signatories to support one another in the case of a third party attack.
As a concluding comment, Beijing must now walk a tightrope by maintaining the expectation of the Chinese people and enforcing an exclusion zone over the South China Sea.
Australia has a serious youth unemployment problem. For 2008, the 15 – 24 age group numbered 300,000 young people, that is, a 14 % unemployment rate. (Source Youth Unemployment in Australia, Dr Patrick Carvalho, November 2015)
Backpacker working visas granted during 2012 – 13 were 249,000. These young people found employment picking fruit, working on farms, hotel cleaning, in bars and restaurants. (Source Department of Immigration, August 2013) There is now one backpacker for every Year 12 school leaver. (Source Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University)
I was recently in a packing shed in central New South Wales, Korean backpackers were efficiently working. I asked why no Australian young people were in the mix. The owner snorted and stated he would not employ young Australians for several reasons from laziness to unreliability.
Our Australian culture still suffers from the legacy of ‘Loss of Empire’. We, as a nation, must come to terms with the fact that there must be young Australians in our midst who will remain ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water: aspirations for degrees and diplomas for some will remain pipe dreams and our political elite must face reality. The above ideas will be dealt with in more detail later. Contribution on this issue would be welcome. A variation on crowd funding!
BREXIT Calais Refugee Camps
A ‘boil’ barely mentioned but might be painfully ‘lanced’ is the international boundary between Britain and France, nominally in the middle of the English Channel. Currently, France assists Britain by placing the boundary on the seaward side of Calais – Britain pays millions of pounds a year for this service. There are now rumbles from the French Government that this cosy arrangement may be reviewed. There is now a possibility that the refugee camps containing some 18,000 displaced persons could be transferred to ‘This blessed plot, this realm, this England (Richard II). In recent months, France has foiled 37,000 attempts by migrants to reach the shores of Kent. (helprefugees.com and BBC News) Martello Towers and the ghosts of The Few and Francis Drake will be unable to repel this new invasion. This might become an unimagined consequence of the ‘Leave’ faction.
In 1991 Mt, Pinatubo, Luzon, Philippines erupted with devastating results, in addition to the appalling loss of life the eruption altered the Pacific balance of power and the course of history. The volcano destroyed two critical American military bases, the Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base, both enormous military arsenals. America withdrew its assets to Alaska and Hawaii and immediately created a military vacuum. Within months of this withdrawal the Chinese Government promulgated a far reaching decree., “The Law on the Territorial Waters and their Contiguous Areas”. From this all else follows.
With the rise of China manifested by the Chinese Dream and the One Belt One Road aspiration contemporaneously with the Australian mining boom, it is interesting to dwell on the concepts of Foreign Investment versus Foreign Acquisition as they apply to Australian assets.
Germaine to this discussion are four factors relevant to Australian and Chinese commercial and strategic imperatives. (Professor Bath, Chinese and International Law, Sydney University)
Australia sees itself as a reliable supplier of minerals and agricultural products; China encourages the acquisition of natural resources to service national growth and its millions of citizens.
Australian companies invest for a commercial return; Chinese companies, some with links to Government agencies, are required to supply imports necessary for Chinese growth, profit for the overseas entities is less important.
Australia’s capitalist ethos requires returns to shareholders; China’s objective is to sustain growth over generations, profit is secondary. Three year political cycles and associated budgetary gymnastics are viewed with contempt.
The Australian government maintains a foreign investment oversight via the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) on media, banking, airlines, airports and telecommunications. In Australia, China is making significant acquisitions in ports, power companies as well as mining and agricultural projects These are also subject to FIRB scrutiny with value or national security implications. China’s acquisition of Darwin port or south east Australian power companies appear to have other objectives than purely commercial.
Within informed society, Australia’s relationship with China is an important issue. For China, Australia is only a pawn in a grand expansionist strategy. Integral to the Chinese Dream are the commercial imperatives of the One Belt One Road policy. This policy is to revive trade and commerce along the ancient Silk Road linking China to western Europe augmented by the maritime trading routes that linked East Asia, East Africa, the Arab Middle East and thence to Venice.
This initiative has been dubbed China’s ‘Marshall Plan’ as it will promote trading links with countries along the transport corridors. This initiative will tend to reduce the importance of the North West Passage as Arctic sea ice retreats. In this grand scheme, Australia appears to be relegated to a ‘colonial ‘ source of minerals and agricultural products specifically for Chinese consumption.
It has been noted by Professor Hugh White, Strategic Studies Institute, Australian National University, that the acquisition of Darwin Port by the aptly named Landbridge company, with links to the Chinese government, may be a clue to Chinese ambition for Australia. The urban population of Shanghai is around twenty-two million; Australians must come to terms with the fact that, with a population around twenty-four million, a projection of national influence will be difficult.
Chinese Iron Ore Acquisition
Superficially, the foreign acquisition of iron ore mines in Western Australia appears to be a complex of large and small producers jostling for sales contracts; the reality is more sinister. The big picture reduces to a Chinese determination to break the monopoly held by Rio Tinto, BHP/Billiton and Vale de Rio Doce in Brazil. In 2013-14 Chinese steel mills imported 850 million tonnes of iron ore. Australian production was around 610 mt.
To force lower prices, Chinese companies acquired mines with only a modest production of five to fifteen million tonnes. These high cost operations tend to run close to break-even or a small loss. Falling iron ore prices thus means lower feedstock prices to the Chinese steel industry. For every $10 drop in iron ore prices the Chinese economy saves $8.5 billion. The $70/tonne drop in iron ore prices since 2013 has saved the Chinese economy more than $40 billion. (The Conversation, Canberra. May, 2014)
The Chinese government is astute enough to realise that:
increasing supply in an inelastic market, mine revenue will fall but buyers will receive more for less money.
upstream investment from unprofitable mine production makes economic sense. This is another form of transfer pricing beloved by multi-national foreign investors.
new production onto an oversupplied market is warranted under a Chinese procurement policy, but would not be considered rational by investors not involved into a vertically integrated process.
At any time, production from mines can be halted and the plant mothballed or restarted by a Chinese controlled Australian work force. The concern for the Australian Government is the future of infrastructure, population stability and employment continuity if Chinese state funded entities are investing in new production to force down prices rather than develop a profitable mining venture.
The economic politics of the West Australian iron ore industry, like a good strip tease, has been laid bare. The State Government will extend its Magnetite Financial Assistance Program for another year to two wealthy Chinese companies in an effort to preserve Australian mining jobs. The government will pay a $41 million subsidy to keep the 1000 strong work force in employment. The Chinese companies, Citic (profit $7.3 billion) and Ansteel operate the Pilbara Sino Ore and Karara magnetite deposits. Gindalbie Metals Ltd is the minority Australian partner. It appears Chinese mineral acquisition policy has engineered the Australian political system to subsidise local mining operations that ensures low operating costs that maximises profits in China by ensuring low cost feed stock for Chinese steel mills. (The Australian, 13 May, 2016)
Despite the reliability of Western Australia iron ore industry, there are warnings on the horizon. The Chinese objective is to diversify away from Australia and to a lesser extent Brazil as pre-eminent suppliers of iron ore, there may be a myopic tendency to regard Western Australia as an unassailable source of iron ore. There are monster deposits awaiting exploitation in sunburnt or freezing country in Guinea, Liberia, Mongolia and Brazil. (Fortune, Connected Logistics, February, 2016)
Concerning Brazil, it is a stirring giant. By 2018, Vale de Rio Doce is slated to exceed the combined production of Rio Tinto and BHP/Billiton in Western Australia. Currently, China is contributing $5 billion to Vale for the construction of five high tonnage iron ore carriers. (Investing News, November 2015; SMH, January 2014)
A conclusion that may be drawn from Chinese acquisition in the Australian iron ore industry, is that economic production in Australia is less important than the ability to source low cost feed stock for Chinese steel mills. This import policy will drive prices down.
In the frenetic fish bowl that small Australian mining entrepreneurs inhabit, the public are encouraged to support Initial Public Offerings (IPOs). Subsequent joint ventures with Chinese acquisitors will ultimately drive share prices into the bulldust to ensure low cost mine product. The Pilbara and Hammersley iron ore provinces have competitors overseas.
Chinese Lithium Acquisition
More than one million electric cars were anticipated to be in circulation by the end of 2015 with a planned 500,000 annual production by 2020. Lithium for car batteries are expected to grow by 10% a year. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), global reserves of lithium are in very tight supply,. The top four producers are:
TABLE. Lithium Producers
Reserves & Resources (tonnes)
Despite low production costs in Chile and Argentina, China prefers to obtain lithium ore from Australia. Currently, China is the largest lithium consumer- around 50,000 tonnes at a market price of $6,600/t. The price is forecast to rise as demand outstrips supply. (Batteries, Storage and Fuel Cells,.J Hunt, 2015)
In Australia, lithium reserves and resources are mainly confined to Western Australia where they occur in spodumene (lithium aluminium silicate) rich pegmatites. Deposits currently of interest to Chinese industry are (Investing News, July 2015; WestAustralian, September 2015):
Greenbushes. Talison Resources and Chengdu Tianqi Group. This is the world’s largest high grade spodumene deposit running 61.5 mt at 2.8% lithium oxide.
Mt Marion. Reed Industrial Minerals and Jangxi Garfeng. Deposit 14.8 mt at 1.3% lithium oxide.
Mt Cattlin. Galaxy Resources, formerly with Jiensu Lithium Carbonate Plant, now with General Mining, Canada, planning to re-enter the Chinese market. Deposit 9.9 mt at 1.1% lithium oxide.
Very early in Japanese industrial development, the Japanese government decided to preserve its forests and import timber from overseas. With large reserves of lithium, it appears China has adopted the same policy as the Japanese and is seeking off shore deposits. It is significant that the largest hard rock lithium deposit in the world has slipped from Australian to Chinese control.
Foreign investment in the Australian mining industry is necessary., Taxation policy must minimise transfer pricing and market price manipulation.
Chinese Agricultural Production Acquisition
The Chinese imperative for acquisition of Australian agricultural production is driven by a population estimate of 1.4 billion by 2050 which is coinciding with declining soil fertility and increasingly polluted water supplies. A UN report states that by 2050 food supply must increase by 50% and water supply by 30%. To meet this threat, the Chinese government has decreed that three billion dollars must be expended with celerity on overseas agricultural security, (Yahoo 7, June 2015) Target regions for agricultural acquisition and expansion are Africa, South America and Australia.
The acquisition process in Australia has taken on a permanent drip feed character to include all sections of the food chain from crops, animal husbandry to processing plants. These products will not be sold on the domestic market but will be exported to China. The Financial Review (September, 2015) ran the comment that, during the previous two months, agricultural acquisitions had been running at $40 million per fortnight. In the past few years examples of some purchases are:
Cattle Station search. Chongquing. Budget $100 million.
Cattle Station search. New Hope Group. Budget $500 million.
The above and below are a fraction of purchases across the agricultural industry that include:
Fifty dairy farms in Victoria acquired by ?COFCO Group involving 90,000 cows and 500 million litres of milk annually.
Sugar and sorghum development in Western Australia by Shanghai Zongfu. $700 million.
There is a growing trend for wealthy Chinese to enter the wine industry- vineyards are being actively purchased. Australians will soon be come aware of new names in the industry or on the labels, for example, Zhitai Wang, Kuifen Wang, Xin Jin, Yingda Investment Company and Xingfa Ma. The bottom line is -“the Chinese value land and wineries more than the Australians do”. (BBC News, October 2014)
There are two issues that discomfort the Australian people; first the apparent frequency of acquisitions and second, the opaque nature of the arrangements through the use of shelf companies, trust funds and extended settlements. (Daily Telegraph, February 2014) The FIRB is said to examine all foreign investment proposals exceeding $244 million, however, lower value investments do incur scrutiny. The comment ‘selling off the farm’ raises concern but an Australian Bureau of Statistics table (below) shows there is not yet cause for concern.
Agricultural Land %
Agricultural business %
Sheep, Cattle, Grain
TABLE Australian Agricultural Land and Agricultural Business Ownership.
The acquisition of Australian agricultural assets will continue and an increasing number of Australian managers and labour will have to accept instructions from Chinese owners. It was mooted (ABC RN 9 May) that under the Free Trade Agreement with China, Chinese labour might be permitted to work on agricultural projects.
There could be a financial downside to increasing acquisition of agricultural assets by Chinese interests. Currently, Australia sells 58% of its food production overseas; this represents 70% of the sector’s total value. Food exports for 2013-14 were valued at $40 billion. With increasing Chinese ownership, this export income will reduce and will tend to be exacerbated by transfer pricing and suppression of farm gate values by a technique similar to that employed in the iron ore trade. (Future Directions, September 2014)
At the end of May, the Bank of China with the Australian Chamber of Commerce hosted a conference principally on the dairy products industry. Over 600 Chinese delegates attended who are aware of the purchasing power of the anticipated three billion Middle Class in East Asia by 2030. (The World Today, ABC, 23 May) It would be naive to anticipate Chinese foreign investment, rather it will be foreign acquisition of Australian agricultural assets as already exemplified in Victoria and Tasmania. It makes commercial sense for foreign investors to acquire virtually a 100% equity and to create a vertically integrated export industry. An extension of the Mercantilist theory!
Since the Colonial period, Australia has relied heavily on foreign investment and this will continue into the future. What appears to be changing, is the subtle move away from infrastructure investment to natural resource and agricultural product acquisition, which, if carried out to an extreme,will result in the hollowing out of a nation. Foreign investment should ideally include the construction of tollways, railways, ports and mass housing but this appears not to be happening despite the concept of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) being well established. The problem is that the States are short of money and, like the Federal Government, carry unsustainable debt; hence the sale of Darwin port by the Northern Territory government and the sale of power assets in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to Chinese interests. The NSW Trans Grid sale of ‘poles and wires’ to China’s State Grid has recently been approved by FIRB, consideration $9 billion. The proceeds will go towards the rebuilding of sports stadiums. Back to the Roman coliseum!! (Daily Telegraph, November 2015)
A trend has been established and, if continued, there, will be significant redistribution of Australian assets. The President of the National Farmers Federation recently pithily remarked “foreign investors have spotted an opportunity domestic investors have shunned”. Of deeper impact is Australia’s destiny in the Chinese Dream.
Introduction. During my career I had the opportunity to observe Chinese culture in Malaya, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands and latterly in Australia. Although domiciled in these host countries the Chinese retained a strong affiliation with China and their heritage.
The Event. In Sydney, on the 12th April, there occurred a significant event supportive of Chinese activities in the South China Sea and by extension the ‘Chinese Dream’. The ‘Dream’ involves the betterment of the Chinese people combined with an aspiration to increase national influence in the East Asian region. On this day sixty people met under the auspices of the Chinese Patriotic Association of Australia to express unequivocal support for Chinese government policy. The principal points being:
A desire to support core interests of the Chinese nation.
A recognition the islands in the South China Sea belong to China.
Australia might be faced with a crisis situation.
These sentiments are the appropriate views of an overseas Chinese elite.
It is significant the Chinese Embassy in Canberra has, apparently, made no public comment but it is certain there would have been tacit approval.
History and Painful Politics. There are historical and current international issues which have logically conspired to promote this action by the Patriotic Association:
Over the past two hundred years China has experienced European aggression, colonialism and commercial exploitation, these yokes are no more.
There is a growing awareness among the Chinese population and the diaspora of 19th and 20th century history and of the dawn of the “Asian Century’.
There is a realisation the ‘Asian Dream’ is gaining momentum which engenders confidence and assertiveness among the rising intelligentsia.
Discussion. The wording of the published communique (SMH, 13 April) presents an exquisite problem for the Australian government vis a vis relations with China and with current multicultural policy. As a dictatorship, guided democracy or a Communist regime there would be a simple solution. As a democracy with enshrined free speech there are clearly more than fifty shades of grey at a time when tensions are increasing. With Australia supporting iAmerica in the right of untrammelled navigation in the South China Sea the comments of the Patriotic Association are unhelpful. Its stance could encourage more Chinese Australians to support its philosophy. Remember the Chinese student demonstrations in Canberra in 2008 involving policy on Tibet. It could take only an inflammatory speech or an emotive cause to mobilise a cast of thousands. It is certain the Chinese government is aware of this anti-Australia stance. It would be noted if if the voice of the Patriotic Front was silenced.
Diplomatic and Trade Mission to China. At the mid-April visit of the Prime Minister to China the Australian desire for peaceful negotiation over the South China Sea disputes was noted. as is the military alliance with America. The response by organs of the Chinese government constituted unveiled threats:
“Concerning the territorial disputes this will be a test of Australian leader’s political wisdom”. (National Institute of International Strategy, Beijing)
“This disagreement would tend to cast a shadow on promising cooperation if such a tendency keeps developing”. (Institute of World Economics and Politics, Beijing)
Such pronouncements from senior Chinese officials could encourage more assertive voices in Australia. The Beijing pronouncements should also be evaluated against the news America is positioning war planes in the Philippines. (SMH, 15 April). By an alliance with America Australia is also involved. An unpalatable conclusion is that support for American activities might damage trade with China as intimated in the above unveiled threats. To this mix add the complication of Chinese control of Port Darwin
The implacability of Chinese negotiation tactics should not be under estimated In 1981 President Deng Xiaping met Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to discuss the Hong Kong handover in 1997. The talks ended with the comment by Deng Xiaping “I could march into Hong Kong any time and take it over if I wished.” President Xi Jinping cannot be any less forceful.
Multiculturalism. The second issue is the effectiveness of Australia;s multicultural policy in relation to the unpatriotic stance of the Chinese Patriotic Association of Australia. At a security conference in Germany (BBC, February, 2015) the United Kingdom Prime Minister stated multiculturalism had failed. British policy should have included a greater requirement for inculcation of a stronger national identity that could have reduced extremism. Current policy in Britain promotes a sense of separateness not integration.. National ethos that encourages a sense of Britishness is required. A similar logic could apply to Australia. However accommodating multiculturalism might become in Australia it is unlikely the Chinese diaspora will ever forgo their culture or allegiance to their roots.
Coaling Stations, Strategic Ports, a String of Pearls and a Priceless Pendant — the Darwin Time Bomb
The western Pacific littoral is verging towards a longitudinal arms race. Never forget Europe sleep walked its way to WW2. Dr Hugh White, Director, Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra (ABC Counterpoint, 14 March) stated ‘China and America are drifting towards a confrontation. They need to pull back’. Unfortunately this may not happen; for China because of the Chinese Dream and for America because it is still a superpower.The east Asian region and particularly China and Indonesia, together with the United States ‘pivot to Asia’ are beefing up their military forces. There are three problems, among several, facing the ADF:
Submarines, the design, lead time, national security and military objective.
Joint Strike Fighter, design, cost and combat readiness.
Darwin Port, the role of Darwin as a pendant below the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) estimates the cost of submarines to replace the Collins class vessels will be between $1.4 billion and $3.04 billion each with an estimated total cost of $36 billion. Submarines may not be ready until the mid-2030s.
National security cannot be overemphasised. At the conference ‘Submarine Choice’ (September 2014) hosted by ASPI Sweden very publicly removed its Kukums submarine contractor from German control citing a concern over militarism. Is there a warning signal for Australia with Japan as contractor?
With respect to the ill disguised position of Japan in the preliminary discussions, the Australian public is entitled to greater transparency. Is the situation related to the American ‘pivot to Asia’?
America is keen to bolster Japan both militarily and economically as a bulwark against China and it may well be that America will use the opportunity to insert its weapons systems into the construction contract. With a European contractor this might be more difficult.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (11th March) has produced a damming report on the dangers of using a Japanese submarine builder:
Japanese submarines have a 20-year life, not a 30-year life as required by the Australian navy.
Japanese shipyards have not built a submarine for operation in a distant theatre. French and German companies have.
The Japanese Soryu class submarines are 2950 tonnes; the Collins class submarines are 3100 tonnes.
The Soryu class has only two thirds the range of a Collins class submarine.
Japanese builders must redesign the submarines for extended under water propulsion. Beware the F35 debacle.
Why did Japan refuse to build submarines for India in India?
Modern submarines have a single pressure hull- the Japanese hulls are composite alloys. This may explain the shorter operating life due to metal fatigue.
French and German shipyards have discussed widely with Australian suppliers, Japanese have not.
French and German shipyards have built submarines for other navies. Japan has not.
Mr Abbott should explain to the Australian people why overt preference has apparently been given to Japan. In the murky world of the armaments trade, was America providing liminal pressure only visible to a Canberra cohort to support Japan?
At the Submarine Choice conference, there was reference to Australia’s unique requirements for its submarines. What are they? A senior naval consultant stated ‘Australia is the only navy in the world that flogs its submarines thousands of kilometres across the ocean before going on patrol’.
Among design circles, it has been mooted that due to the threat now caused by autonomous underwater vehicles, consideration is being given to an ‘aircraft carrier’ type concept, that is, a ‘mothership’ servicing smaller, less expensive and more expendable submarines. The problems for submarines patrolling an enemy coastline is they are increasingly vulnerable to sophisticated shore launched undewater drones.
The problem is these vessels have to be relevant for the next thirty years.
Joint Strike Fighter.
Grave concerns have surfaced on the design of the US built F35 stealth fighter. They are a long way from being combat ready although delivery to Australia was supposed to commence in 2012. The F35 is a venture between the States and Lockheed Martin, the project overrun is in the billions. The United States has been pressing its allies to accept a share of the cost overrun additional to their contract price.
The F35 is designed as an out -of-sight attack aircraft. In the dog fight situation, pilots state it is slower and less agile than other fighter aircraft and becomes a vulnerable target. Top gun pilots refer to the F35 as the ‘little turd’.
The seriousness of this situation is illustrated by the the Canadian Government; the decision has been made to pull out of the F35 project and its contract to acquire 65 fighters. (defencenews.com, October 2015)
Problems with the F35 are: (Business Insider, March 2015)
In flight and on the ground the electronics fail over 32*C.
Overall a high electronics failure rate.
Navigation and accuracy software is unreliable.
Fuel tank explosion problems.
Flight control system degrades over time.
The $400,000 pilot helmet can kill on ejection.
Cyber security not confirmed.
The current cost of these stealth fighters for the three services are:($US million)
Airforce – F35A – 148 million
Marine – -F35B – 251 million
Navy – —F35C – 337 million
Annual maintenance plus $2 million
Australia originally agreed to purchase 72 fighters in 2002 with delivery expected in 2012. There were delays. In 2015, the Government confirmed a $24 billion order for 58 aircraft (approx. $A400 million each), despite the problems. At the current March Senate hearings, a US spokesman was unable to confirm how many aircraft are on the production line, he thought between one and sixteen!! Delivery will be sometime in the 2020s.
The immense problem for Australia, as expressed by Dr Joiner, former head of ADF Test and Evaluation Department, is that ‘Australia must show more spine and consider the Canadian decision, otherwise Australia will end up with a plane not knowing what it can do and what it cannot do”. (ABC Background Briefing, March 2016) Who in Australia is prepared to spearhead a decision?
By serendipity, in mid=March, the Chief of the Australian Air Force launched a strident defence of the F35 on ABC News with reporter Andrew Greene. The forceful argument was, however, hedged with a proviso that if the F35 was further delayed F18 Super Hornets would be acquired which entered Australian military service in 2010.
Coaling Stations, Strategic Ports, a String of Pearls and a dangling Pendant — the Darwin Time Bomb
At its peak, the British empire protected its trade routes and maintained naval hegemony using its vital coaling stations and strategic ports, for example, Cape Town, Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong. Royal naval presence based in these ports maintained safe passage for British commerce.
Hong Kong was ceded to the British following the First Opium War in 1842. Later, Kowloon and the New Territories were leased to Britain for 99 years. Hong Kong and Territories were returned to China in 1997. During this 150-year period, Hong Kong was of immense commercial value to Britain.
Jog forward to 2000 AD. For the past 5000 years, empires have risen, collapsed and new ones risen. The Chinese Dream is in the ascendent and has materialised as a crusade for economic, political and military primacy in South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. (The Drum, November, 2015) For the first sixteen years of the 21st Century, the Chinese iron fist inside a silken glove has extended power with a glacial, inexorable momentum. No huffing and puffing by a super power or squeaks from an aspiring middle power has slowed this momentum. Expressions of diplomatic opposition are naive.
As a rising maritime power (like Britain), intent on increasing influence and commerce, China must protect its future maritime trading routes. This process has been dubbed the Chinese ‘string of pearls’. This, in reality, is a number of China friendly ports extending from the South China Sea to include ports in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Djibouti and Iran in the oil rich Persian Gulf. From naval bases in these countries China will protect its commercial interests.
The Darwin Port was leased to China for 99 years in November2015. Darwin constitutes a veritable Kohinoor diamond pendant hanging below the ‘string of pearls’. Darwin controls a strategic region close to the Australian east coast shipping lanes carrying coal and wheat and the west coast lanes carrying iron ore, offshore oil and gas and lithium concentrates. On Darwin’s near north are the oil resources of the Timor sea.
Currently there is a Senate Committee hearing on the Darwin port purchase and the national security implications of Chinese ownership. This is a story that is morphing from the bizarre to the surreal. That a sovereign nation would cede a strategic asset with national security implications to a potential enemy is beyond belief.
This story is gaining widening traction with revelations emanating from the Committee hearings. In November 2015, Landridge, a company with links close to the Chinese government, negotiated a 99-year lease with the Northern Territory Government, consideration $600 million. This is derisory. The application was approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) because ‘numerous subsidiary companies were involved which were under the FIRB radar’. FIRB approached the Australian Defence Force (ADF) three times and was informed the Navy was ‘comfortable’ with the lease, despite the fact that the Australian Navy would be excluded from the port in 25 years. Incredibly, ASIO admitted it had not ‘reviewed Defence needs’ relating to Darwin port. Following this government policy debacle, there is now a move for this type of foreign investment be subject to scrutiny by the National Security Committee. (AFR, 10 March, 2016)
An indication of unease behind the scenes is the US State Department conducting a nation wide opinion poll on Australians’ reaction to the Darwin lease. (AFR, 10 March) This is surreal – what has transpired within the US State Department to consider this move? The US Ambassador in Canberra has down-played, not denied, this poll.
Because of or inspite of the Darwin lease, a reinforcement is planned for the ‘pivot to Asia’. B1 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are to be based near Darwin in order ‘to deter Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea. (SMH, 8 March) No doubt Darwin Port will advise Beijing when these bombers take off and return! Returning to empires, over the past 5000 years, history shows they die of exhaustion-they are not stopped in there tracks as they increase the size of their overseas possessions.
Unless the Chinese are expelled from Darwin now, because of an irregular FIRB submission, the Darwin facility will remain a thorn in the side of the ADF for 99 years.
Postamble. 2016 Defence White Paper (14 March)
Comment on the Defence White Paper will place the foregoing into context. Some elements of the strategic outlook are:
The relationship between China and the United States will be one of competition and cooperation. For the next two decades the US will remain the preeminent global power.
There will be challenges to global stability, however Australia can only prosper under a rules-based order.
The threat of terrorism will increase.
The Pacific region will suffer slow growth and modernisation.
Asian defence spending is exceeding that of Western Europe.
Australia’s military edge will decrease as regional nations modernise.
In the next twenty years, half the world’s submarines and military aircraft will be deployed in in this region.
There will be threats from space and cyberspace.
Recast in a different way:
The global and regional order will become less civilised.
Australia’s military will deal with uncertainty, not containment.
The Asian security environment will become more competitive and less cooperative.
There is the possibility of unexpected breaches of thresholds making sudden conflict likely.
Indonesia is pushing ahead with vigorous military modernisation.
To ensure Australian security the White Paper recommends the ADF:
Be empowered to project a more muscular response.
Become more agile, capable and responsive.
Must maintain a higher level of preparedness.
Overall the White Paper implies a sense of urgency.
A philosophical question – what is the purpose of the east Asian arms buildup? As in the European World Wars I and II, will the region split into two sides or will it degenerate into nasty little wars as occurred in South America, or will there be the equivalent of the Spanish Civil War where two larger powers tested their weapons on a destabilised country. Pax Deo!
Below is a significant global map with immense ramifications. Climate refugee mass migration routes can be deduced.
The Paris Climate Change Conference (COP 21), December 2015
The Paris Conference
‘Social Europe’ Analysis
Global Warming Migration Refugees
2*C. A number that has acquired the significance of the Golden Mean. Nothing of the sort. 2*C is an amalgam of political expediency and scientific doubt. This rootless number is derived from an estimation of global temperature calculated from ice cores over the past 100,000 years. 2*C represents an academic opinion that global temperature should not exceed the upper bound of these records. The 2*C limit is therefore a published political objective that global warming should not exceed 2*C above the global temperature at the commencement of the Industrial Revolution. It is a temperature which reflects the upper global temperatures determined from ice cores during the Holocene Period.
Based upon current observations and estimates in the science community, the 2*C limit will be breached by mid-century and perforce, international attention is being given to living in a hotter and more violent climate. The Scientific American (March 2014) published an article by Dr. Mann (N0AA) stating that by mid-2030s, based on estimated fossil fuel consumption, the critical 2*C of warming will be reached.
The merit of 2*C is it is a simple number that politicians can comprehend. A more scientific approach would be to use greenhouse gas concentrations but these are more complex. (The Economist, 10 December, 2015)
Carbon dioxide equivalent values released by NASA illustrate the increasing carbon dioxide problem swirling through Earth’s atmosphere:
1880, pre-Industrial Revolution, 280 ppm
Safe limit for Homo sapiens and planet, 350 ppm
2015, current carbon dioxide concentration, 405 ppm
Rate of carbon dioxide increase per year, 2 to 3 ppm
2050, est. 2*C above 1880 level, 460 ppm
So, the background to the mid-December 2015 Paris Climate Conference is that global temperature above pre-Industrial Level will be breached by 2050. Very disruptive weather events are expected. The deliberations will concentrate on living on a hotter, more violent world, not holding the global temperature below 2*C — this is a pipe dream.
The Paris Conference
The Economist (19 December) under the headline ‘Hopelessness and Determination’ summarised the principal conclusions arrived at by 195 countries.
The global temperature must not rise 1.5*C above pre-Industrial Levels.
The adopted Climate Agreement cannot prevent a global temperature rise above 1.5*C.
The Agreement (pledges) between the nations “will put the world on a course for something like 3*C of warming”. (The Economist 19 December) This elevated temperature will cause the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps to melt and over centuries sea level to rise by up to six metres.
The Nations have agreed they cannot control each others carbon dioxide emissions, and into the foreseeable future fossil fuels will still power national economies. Recognising this fact, the major international pre-occupation will be to reduce the risks of climate change and ensure populations can adjust to a hotter and more violent climate.
Elements of the final communique are:
More international funds will be available to to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
A task force will assist those communities unable to adapt and require a new ‘home’.
Carbon pricing activities will need to be expanded.
Countries are to be encouraged to ‘fight and survive’. This appears to be a clear objective of Wealthy Countries who do not wish to accommodate millions of climate refugees.
Wealthy Countries must increase research into clean energy alternatives.
To slow the rate of global warming, countries must increase emission costs and accelerate industrial and domestic alternative power adaption and storage for decades to come.
Apparently not dealt with was a discussion on the nexus between sustainability, pollution and global warming.The philosophe, F Scott Fitzgerald, once uttered the sanguine comment “Things are hopeless and yet there is a determination to make them better”.
The Conference concluded with motherhood statements such as ‘the world stands as one’ and ‘the benefit of collective effort’. Low lying nations heaved a collective sigh of relief muttering ‘now we have a pathway to survival’. These comments sit uneasily alongside ‘Hopelessness and Determination”. The overarching policy objectives are:
To keep global temperatures well below 2*C and to make strenuous efforts to keep temperatures below 1.5*C. This will be funded by ‘intended nationally determined contributions’. (INDCs)
By 2050 greenhouse gases will be removed from the atmosphere at the same rate as they are added – 43 giga tonnes. (IPCC est. 2016). There appeared to be no mention of technology or greenhouse gas dilution rates in the atmosphere.
A contentious issue administered by the UN Convention on Climate Change has now been modified. Nations were previously required to ‘act in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities’ This meant ‘rich’ countries had to reduce emissions while ‘poor’ countries were required to make no reductions. This inconsistency was well illustrated between China and America, both are the world’s largest emitters.
The Paris Agreement requires that ‘developed’ countries donate $100 billion INDCs a year by 2020 to assist ‘less developed countries’:
to adapt to climate change rather than attempt to slow it down,
donor countries will be ‘policed’ to ensure the voluntary commitments are honoured.
A critical fact is that the ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ will not keep global warming below 1.5*C because donors only sign up to what the think they can do. The Economist (15 December) considers the pledged contributions are expected to lead to global warming of 3*C. My December Blog cited a 1.5*C would be a calamity, a 2*C rise a disaster and a 2.7*C rise a catastrophe. (IPCC)
Since a 1*C warming above pre-Industrial Levels has occurred, ‘to hold warming below 1.5*C would exceed the heroic’. (International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Vienna), its opinion is that carbon dioxide emissions would have to reduce to zero by 2060. This is impossible since new coal mines are coming on stream and ruminants are annually producing over 100 million tonnes of methane – 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (UNFAO)
The 1.5*C waypoint defined by the Paris Agreement is only a symbol because as a goal it is not feasible since global temperature is forecast to rise above this benchmark.
The political class appear now to be taking global warming seriously. The Paris Conference has formalised an oversight forum where national progress in carbon dioxide reduction will be monitored and pledges contributing to the $100 billion INDCs fund checked. All good housekeeping!
There appears to be two matters not dealt with:
Lead time estimates for global temperature decline related to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. Is Homo sapiens looking at tens to hundreds of years before atmospheric concentrations ofcarbon dioxide start falling?
Will the ‘selfish gene’ in human nature overwhelm the requirement for all to reduce emissions? Is it possible there will be significant numbers who will want others to do more while others do less? (Jarad Diamond, ‘How Societies choose to fail or survive’, UCLA)
‘Social Europe’ Analysis
An article in Social Europe (18 February) states that commitments made by the contributing countries will not keep global warming below 2*C by 2100.
The greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) between 2010 and 2030 will actually increase from 49 Gt to 58 Gt (rounded) However, the emissions gap for a 2*C pathway is still 16 Gt. The reduction, INDCs or pledges, if implemented will still push global warming to a range of 2.7-3.0 *C. Thus the emission gap to bring global warming below 2*C is 16 Gt. (1 Gt = 1,000,000,000 metric tonnes.) (Climate Action Tracker)
Furthermore, to bring warming below 2*C, net zero emissions must be achieved between 2055 and 2070. Net zero emissions require all GHG emissions to be buried or chemically neutralised. The technology for this process is not yet available.
Finally, the Emissions Trading System (ETS) has failed due to a collapse in the carbon price – the intention is to revamp the system by 2020. The ‘low carbon economy’ policy has also faltered due to a low carbon price and historically low fuel prices. To reach net zero emissions by 2050 the overall system must be improved.(After COP21. The EU needs to revise Climate Policy Targets, 18 Feb.)
Global Warming Migration Refugees
Scientific authorities warn the searing miasma of global warming will, by mid-century, precipitate the forced migration of millions of thirsty, starving, destitute humans. The IPCC estimates by 2050 more than 200 million people will become climate migrants due to shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.
Planet earth is no stranger to climate induced migrations:
Fourth Century. A cold period over many decades forced Huns and Germans to invade Gaul and the Visigoths to sack Rome and destroy an Empire.
Eighth Century. Decades of drought in the Middle East forced Muslim hordes across North Africa and into Europe.
Seventeenth Century. The fifty year Little Ice Age convulsed populations into survival migrations. Between 1600 and 1700, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations fell from 220 to 180 ppm. By 1850 the concentration had commenced its vertiguous ascent into the Anthropocene.
1998. Floods in Bangladesh and the Yangtze basin required resettlement of 35 million people.
The concentration of the many serious global weather events at the commencement of the 21st Century can only be harbinger to more disruptive events.
The NASA – GISS image of global temperature between 1970 and 2004 (34 years) permits certain deductions if the temperature trends continue.
Conclusions that may be derived from this image:
The high latitudes are heating rapidly triggering concerns over the melting of the Greenland ice cap which, over a century, would raise sea level by a few metres.
The Bering Strait region shows an extreme rate of change. Spontaneous methane fires have erupted as the tundra melts and fears have been expressed that fires could spread round the Arctic rim.
North-eastern United States and western Europe are still relatively cool.
North Africa, Middle East and Asia are indicating a worrying rate of temperature increase.
South America, equatorial Africa and south-east Asia (jungle covered) remain relatively cool.
Australia is perhaps an aberration- evidence indicates this continent is becoming markedly hotter.
Antarctica remains cool with a small rate of temperature change.
The above observations are based on data more than a decade old: anecdotal and scientific records indicate trends are continuing.
The IPCC has classified potential near future disaster regions with respect to drought, flood and wind storms. (Assessing the impact of Climate Change on Migration and Conflict, World Bank, 2008)
Western nations are establishing Departments of Homeland Security to protect vital infrastructure and to control mass migrations at their international borders. The White House (May 2015) has instructed the United States Homeland Security to be responsible for:
Protecting infrastructure and military installations from sea level rise. Since 1900 sea level has risen by 30 cm round the Statue of Liberty.
In Arctic regions temperature is rising fast, fish stocks and food security are at risk and require protection.
National security threats are considered to be mass migration, power supplies and storm surges.
Weapons systems must be redesigned for use in extreme weather conditions.
The image of declining crop yields with global warming reflect a sombre picture. (World Resources Institute)
From the NASA and WRI images it may be deduced:
Europe and Russia will attempt to deny access to millions of climate change refugees from North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Expanding habitable areas may form in Greenland and northern Europe but melting permafrost and methane eruptions may render northern Russia and Canada uninhabitable.
India and South-East Asia might become overwhelmed by Arabs, Persians and Chinese, however, declining Himalayan snow may create water shortages.
The jungles of Brazil, central Africa and Indonesia/Malaya may not be able to support large numbers of climate migrants.
New Zealand may become a ‘Mecca’ and will have to repel boarders,
Coastal Australia will experience an influx of Pacific Islands inhabitants’. Becoming the south aast Asian ‘food bowl’ may not be possible.
Patagonia, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Macquarie Island might become bracing retreats for political, industrial and military elites.
Antarctica might become a new home for a privileged few.
Scenarios that could resemble the above may become apparent as the 21st Century passes the halfway mark. A critical factor for mankind is when carbon dioxide concentrations start to substantially decline. A time frame of at least 100 years should be expected.
In December, the former Director General of Security, David Irvine, cautioned Members of Parliament on the danger of expressing speculative opinion following the Paris massacre. This advice implies how ill-informed some politicians are on the nature of Islamic jihad and the irreversible demographic trends changing Australia. The apparent short term political focus in Canberra is concerning since long term policy is required to deal with the changing religious character of Australia.
An ‘elephant in the room’ regarding long term immigration from the Middle East is the strong ‘imagined reality’ of Islam compared to the declining strength of ‘imagined reality’ within the Christian community. The belief and practice of each faith may be considered inappropriate or heretical by devout members of the other faith.
Despite the low population number of Muslims in Australia, within segments of the Australian community there is concern at the increasing visibility and influence of Islam. The facts below place this concern into context. The 2011 Census showed that 61 % (67 % in 2001) claimed to be Christian. The ‘No Religion’ cohort was 22 % (15 % in 2001). Minority religions are Buddism 2.5 %, Islam 2.2 %, Hinduism 1.3 % and Judaism 0.5 %.
The 2011 Census recorded 476,300 Muslims (2.2 %) living in Australia. The projected population increase between 2010 and 2050 for Muslims is 75 %, but for Christians (Caucasians) is 35 %. (SBS News, November 2015) The Census also forecast that during this period (2010 – 2050) growth trends for Christianity were 3.7 %, Islam 39.9 %, and No Religion 29.4 %.
A significant issue facing the Australian government in the coming decades is the declining ‘imagined reality’ of Christian belief while ‘imagined reality’ in Islam will remain strong. The power of ‘imagined reality’s’ ‘collective fiction’ should not be underestimated. All tribes, nation states and ancient and modern empires were created and ‘glued’ together by myth, legend, deity and religious belief. Arabic immigrants are maintaining a strong ‘imagined reality’ of Allah while Caucasian Australians are losing theirs in relation to God. It is belief in a fiction or legend (embellished history) that draws people together to become a creative strong unified population. There may be a problem if two dominant belief systems are operating in the same social and administrative tribal or national border.
In the early 21st century. increasing numbers of Australians are questioning their religious belief; in its place the Government is seeking to create a national ethos by invoking the ‘Spirit of Anzac’. With an increasing proportion of the population, there can never be a wide acceptance for this Memorial Day. In the same way, Australia Day will never be accepted by the First People. A day that commemorates the birth of an Immigrant Nation might have wider acceptance, that is, 1st January, 1901, Federation Day. Looking towards mid-century, Australia will require a belief or a legend that a population of immigrants and the First People can rally round. The concept of ‘Team Australia’ is derisory.
In 2014, the Australian population was estimated at 24 million. (ABS) The 2011 Census revealed that 54 % of Australians had both parents born in Australia while 34 % had both parents born overseas. This ratio is increasing in favour of new immigrants. There is possibly an unspoken unease among Caucasian Australians as the declining birth rate continues below the replacement rate of 2.1 per female since the 1970s. (The Conversation, 2013) In 2013, the ABS announced the national fertility rate was 1.88, down from 3.1 in the 1950s. By 2026, the ABS has forecast a decline to 1.8. By contrast, the Pew Research Centre (June 2015) announced the Australian Muslim birthrate is 3.1 which supports the 75 % increase by 2050. This has implications for religious diversity for Australia by mid-century.
Against the background of a relative Muslim population increase, the Australian Muslim Party was registered in November. (SMH, 18 November) The proponent, Diaa Mohamed, is a Paramatta business man who manages ‘ My Peace’, an organisation dedicated to bringing Muslims and Christians together. The objective is to obtain 500 members and contest a Senate seat at the next election. In the 2013 election,there was a 23 % vote for the minor parties. Currently, 18 Senators sit on the cross benches. Just 2 % of the primary vote is enough to win a Seat. However, some sitting Senators with only 0.04 % of the primary vote have won Seats, namely Stephen Conroy, Julian McGauran and Judith Troeth.(www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore)
The Muslim community may well support this Party as it will be viewed as supportive of Islam. The Party name will have negative repercussions in the population at large for the following reasons:
Australia purports to be a secular society; a party with religious overtones will irritate the electorate.
The name implies a favoured faith for its members and may deter Christian membership.
Whatever the Party’s manifesto, it will be viewed as more interested in matters of faith than economic policy and social improvement.
The Party name will tend to perpetuate lax reporting and political comment due to incorrect use of secular or religious terminology. In public statements and news items Indians, Chinese and Sudanese are reported by nationality but frequently, there is no mention of Syrians, Iranians or Iraquis – more frequently the term Muslim is applied. This is sloppy thinking.
Australia’s multicultural policy is here to stay. The original planners probably never envisaged a need for a multi-faith policy but this omission will need to be addressed, bearing in mind history and the requirement for social accommodation and restraint. This is not a Protestant-Catholic or a Shia-Sunni fault line, this is an interface between Islam and Christianity that will require inspired leadership.
Considering the low Australian fertility rate and the declining immigrant arrivals from Europe, the immigrants from other regions are having an increasing impact on multicultural diversity. The Conversation, Canberra (June 2013) quoted immigration figures for 2011-12 as Chinese 25,000, Indian 29,000, English less than 25,000, Arabic (Muslim) less than 8,000. (Tables B4 & B6, Markus, 2014) The Tables below indicate immigration trends which, if continued, will clearly alter the ethnic mix in Australia.
Table1. Permanent Additions to Australia’s Population. Top seven countries, percent of annual intake. Caucasian intake in decline. (Dept. of Immigration, www. immi.gov.au/media)
Table 2. Off Shore Humanitarian VisaGrants. Top seven countries, percent of annual intake. (Dept oI Immigration. immi.gov.au/media)
The ABS (June 2014) record resident population figures as Chinese 447,400, Indian 397,800 and Muslim (Middle Eastern) 476,300. Chinese and Indians, in public comment, are clearly identified as such, however, the religious term Muslim is used and not country of origin, this is sloppy reporting. The battle for Caucasian ‘hearts and minds’ will be the ‘imagined reality’ of Islam. Throughout history, there has always been a fault line between Islam and Christianity living under the same power base unless controlled by a dictator.
In Australia, concurrent with the policy of identifying radicalisation in young citizens, the Government must introduce a policy promoting hope, a place for them in Australian society and reducing the sense of marginalisation. The difficult long term political policy will be to promote religious tolerance alongside multicultural policy, despite a 2 % – 98% ratio, possibly 5% – 95% by 2050. The fault line in the nation is religion not culture, There can only be one ‘Law of the Land’. According to Dr Ghena Krayem, Faculty of Law, Sydney University, Muslims wish to see principles of Sharia Law integrated into the Australian legal system. This is not practicable – immigrants and established settlers alike must be treated absolutely equally. Other minority groups with with a 2 % influence may also wish for special treatment, such dispensation would quickly lead to legal chaos.
To summarise the issues:
Australian internal security is currently seeking to identify suspect individuals within 2.2 % of the population, a very small number. Viewing this situation objectively, any random terrorist shootings or bombings will never approach the 1,153 road fatalities or the 32,500 serious road injuries recorded in 2014, with similar annual repetitions. (Dept. of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics)
With estimated Muslim fertility rate of 3 and an estimated 75 % increase in the Muslim population it will approach 850,000, that is approximately 2.6 % of the population in 2050 within an estimated Australian population of 31 million.
Australia’s multicultural policy requires overhaul. Much more attention must be given to the integration of young Muslim citizens into an increasingly secular Caucasian society.
The source of friction between Christians and Muslims is not culture, it is the difference in ‘imagined reality’ between two incomprehensible beliefs and the subliminal dominance sought by each faith.
A factor that may require more managed immigration is the increasing imbalance between Muslim males and females. The 2001 Census recorded a male – female ratio 53-47%, Australia 49-51 %. Social scientists will have to advise on potential social instability. If there are Muslims in Australia with more than one wife then the published gender imbalance (53-47) with respect to unattached males is even worse. A social problem looms.
With Australia’s transition to a Republic, the Head of State will administer a vastly different Commonwealth to that governed by the British Crown at the time of Federation. Due to the changing ethnic mix in Great Britain, the reigning Monarch remains ‘Defender of the Faith’ but in 2012 the Queen, in a speech at Lambeth Palace, signalled a change in emphasis. The Anglican Church now has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in the United Kingdom. So too, the first Australian President will probably be invested with a similar responsibility as ‘Defender of the Faith’. This is a totally new canvas; for the first time in 1,400 years Christian Heads of State will have the responsibility for protecting Moslems. Saracens and Crusaders will no doubt be turning in their graves.
A quiet coffee on the verandah under a cloudless blue sky. A roaring from the direction of the setting sun, trees at the edge of the garden suddenly in whiplash convulsions, air full of dust and leaves as a 50 metre wide ‘willi willi’ tore through the air just in front of me, it crashed into a ridge like a mini-hurricane with a howl that subsided to a rustle of leaves leaving the gum trees in a state of shocked immobility. A tremulous bird song warbles the ‘All Clear’.
CHRISTMAS 2015. MAN’S LAUGHTER or MAN SLAUGHTER? (Lord Thomas Babington Macauley, 1800 -1859)
Back Ground to the Paris Massacre
Advance toward 1984 via the Spanish Civil War
Prequel to Paris Climate Conference
The Hurricane of Climate Change
Background to the November Paris Massacre
An article in Social Europe has placed the November Paris massacre into context, ‘The Paris Attack, the people are made to pay for disastrous Government policies’ (17 November, 2015), author Dr Mehmet Ugar, Professor of Economics, Greenwich University, London, is instructive. The paper was prompted by recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Beirut.
The political elite of the Western World and despotic Middle East acolytes are closing ranks due to the growing realisation that Western Governments have been instrumental in the the rise of Islamic State due to the illegal support provided to the Taliban in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation and culminating in the current bombing in Syria of Islamic State forces. Bombing by Britain and Germany in WW2 did not achieve the objective of breaking the spirit of the people, it built up a strong will to survive and an intense hatred of the enemy.
Ordinary people are now asking questions on national security risk and its relation to Government support provided to various militias and partial warfare against the Islamic State. To call the Islamic State a ‘death cult’ trivialises the situation and does not promote understanding of the issues. This phenomenon has erupted since Western powers intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq (Mission Accomplished!!), Libya and Syria. Despite religious rhetoric, Al Qaeda and Islamic State grew from the political misadventures forced on the Middle East by Western Governments. The terrorism and terrorist threats now endured by Western nations (as an unintended consequence) has been created from the death and destruction, the power vacuum and the supply of weapons facilitated by the West.
The images of Mission Accomplished’ (May 2003) – fantasy, and a destroyed Russian war plane over Syria (November 2015) – reality, encapsulates Western policy in the Middle East.
The back ground to this current situation was the formation of a unipolar world following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This generated a push for market dominance by America and the embryonic European Union. The resulting policy was for a ‘democratisation’ of the Islamic Middle East to produce vast new markets for Western industry (economic colonialism). History has shown this policy to be an abject failure. Likewise, when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Western industry moved in slavering over the vast new markets (the Russian people).This was also a disappointment except for the luxury car manufacturers and legal/financial advisors. As an aside ,economists are advising the West that it must develop markets in Africa if Capitalism is to thrive. Here the West is already on the ‘back foot’ due to an aggressive investment policy by China. Looking back at the history of European Empires, the prime mover for expansion was commerce swiftly followed by military force.
Our politicians do not remind us it was the United States who armed the Taliban to enable them to fight the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, the Taliban then diverted American funds away from the failed state of Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s produced numerous Sunni fighters who formed Al Qaeda in Iraq and created the nucleus for the Islamic State militias in 2006. These groups recruited Sunnis who had lost their jobs and livelihoods under the occupation by American, Australian and other NATO – ISAF members (International Security Assistance Force). From this canvas, the West has created a dangerous Lemaean Hydra.
With the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, arms depots were looted and sent to Syria via Turkey, a NATO ally. It was the hope of the West this ordinance would be used by militias to topple the Syrian President, Assad. This policy was doomed since Syria is Russia’s only Middle Eastern ally, and Russia would obviously protect its Syrian naval base.
The reaction of Western Governments to the Paris massacre is not reassuring:
There is a security reflex action after the event which severely restricts the movement of people- the authorities must be seen to be doing something! As if on cue, at the Griffith lecture on the 2nd December, journalist Peter Gresta stated Western Governments are becoming more repressive, are providing more ‘spin’ and journalists lives, are being made more difficult. Globally, millions in the Christian world are being ‘terrorised’ by tens of thousands from the Islamic world. Why?
Western Governments have failed to acknowledge any hand in the catastrophes in Libya, Syria and Iraq through their support of illegal armed militias. Western Governments outcry over the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State lack credibility since they are the source of the problem.
To heighten population anxiety, Western Governments have not distinguished between political (in house ) terrorism and terrorist (Islamic State ) terrorism. There are examples of political terrorism in Turkey and the war against the Kurds who are battling Islamic State. The West has not challenged Turkey on this as it is regarded as a NATO partner with geopolitical and business advantages.
It is extraordinary that the G20 Summit has just been held in Turkey, despite the fact that the Government did not consider the Islamic State to be a terrorist organisation until recently. Add to this the media restrictions and the state of emergency with the Kurds. Quite obviously, Turkey is important to NATO. Again, extraordinarily, it has recently come to light there is an illegal oil trade between Turkey and Islamic State (Dr Alexy Moraviev, Curtain University). Credence has been given to this assertion by an ABC News Flash which statedTurkey had shot down the Russian warplane as it was disrupting the oil trade with Islamic State. In early December, CNN also announced the Russian warplane had been shot down to protect the oil trade with Islamic State. On RN Breakfast (3 December), a Terrorist Finance expert (DML Associates, Virginia) indicated Islamic State has an approximate income of $1.5 million a day from oil fields under its control in Syria and Iraq. Regularly, oil tankers cross the border into Turkey. The Assad Government also purchases oil from Islamic State.
Western policy has produced a twin-pronged terrorist recruitment problem:
The numbers of the original disaffected Sunnis with military background are being reinforced by Iraqis and Syrians whose families have been destroyed by Western bombing, thereby generating a hatred for Western culture. From this will flow a desire to revenge their own dead and maimed families.
Young Sunni men and women in Europe, America and Australia are open to radicalisation because Governments have not pursued active assimilation. As immigrants, these people feel marginalised and consider they do not have a future.
The announcement that America is to permit Special Forces to operate in Syria has the makings of a macabre Gilbert and Sullivan operetta:
Russian troops are in Syria protecting President Assad, a naval base and a military airfield. The troops are bombing Syrian militias who wish to depose Assad and have an interest in neutralising Islamic State just as Russia has concerns for discontent in its own Islamic underbelly.
Simultaneously, American forces will be in Syria to destroy the Islamic State and support freedom fighters whose objective is to remove Assad.
Both Powers (which include Royal Australian Air Force) are bombing military targets which will involve ‘collateral’ damage.
Also under this scenario Russians and Americans are on either side of a firing line.
In conclusion, ordinary citizens will continue to suffer from disastrous Western policies: there will be Government spin and less democratic freedom while authoritarian regimes will be supported for commercial or strategic reasons. Take home message – always look behind the news. The general public is provided with an ‘approved’ version, not necessarily the unvarnished truth. Peter Gresta’s advice was to be skeptical of all public information.
Advance toward 1984 via the 1936 Spanish Civil War
It is possible the ghost of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) now hovers over Syria. The antagonists in Spain were the ‘Right’ army (military and landowners) and the ‘Left’ army (battalions of workers). Fascist Germany and Italy supported the Right and the Soviet Union supported the Left. Historical comments show both Germany and Russia used the war to test and experiment with new techniques of mechanised warfare.
Enter the Syrian crisis onto the world stage: on the Left is Russia supporting a despotic Assad while on the Right are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Both are engaging Islamic State but Russia is also fighting militias who wish to overthrow Assad while NATO members support and arm the militias – a dark Gilbert and Sullivan travesty. Both Russia and NATO forces are using these hostilities to test precision bombing and other armaments. The disaster that is now Syria has been a ‘Godsend’ to the industrial-military complex which relishes increased sales and the opportunity to test the effectiveness of new weapons on humans.
Enter 1984 in the guise of 2016. George Orwell was a visionary. The current geopolitical situation appears as a progression toward ‘1984’ which is a fiction but current global trends are a concern. Orwell conceived eternal conflict between three global power blocks. There was no victor only shifting alliances to ensure no one power block became dominant. The waring entities were:
Oceania comprising North America, South America, Britain, Southern Africa and Australia.
Eurasia comprising Russia and Western Europe.
Eastasia comprising China and East Asia.
Disputed comprising Central Africa, India and South East Asia.
The map is a fiction but it is inescapable that the world is verging towards three power blocks, China, Russia and North America. The current global situation appears to be that:
China is a rising military power which is increasing its grip over East Asia. Its foreign investment policy in Africa is vigorous.
Russia is flexing naval muscles in the Pacific and is causing NATO angst over Ukraine and Monte Negro and is sending shivers into the Baltic States.
The United States is on a shaky ‘pivot to Asia’, and appears to have no counter to China’s policy in the South China Sea. There is a quiet but serious struggle for influence with Russia over Syria.
It is important Australia clings tightly to ANZUS; it is not impossible that this continent might also become an Orwellian ‘Disputed Territory’ only valued for its mineral wealth. Is it possible Eastasia has already netted a 99-year lease on the port of Darwin?
The prognosis for 2016 is that current geopolitical trends will consolidate – some in the South China Sea are already set in concrete.
Prequel to the Paris Climate Conference
The world has moved from the benign Holocene climate to the benighted Anthropocene (Human Age) that brings fire, flood, hurricane, drought and species extinction. The bottom line of the PCC appears to be that, on present carbon dioxide equivalent pollution, global temperature in fifty years will rise to 2.7*C above baseline – catastrophe. To limit temperature to 2*C will still be a disaster while limiting to 1.5*C will be a calamity that might be managed. The entrails of the Conference have been spread across the planet, no further comment is warranted here.
Apparently, not given prominence was the nexus between global warming and ecological disaster, geopolitical hegemony and Capitalism that drives global commerce and global warming. Comment published by The Guardian (3 September) is relevant:
current Capitalism is an impediment to solving climate change,
successful Capitalism depends on perpetual economic growth, -this is no longer possible,
there is an inherent contradiction between Capitalism and environmental sustainability,
Capitalism requires inexhaustible natural resources and increasing production, markets, consumption and waste disposal,
neoliberal economic policy has failed; Governments must become more prescriptive and enact restrictive laws,
ecological rehabilitation, recycling and greenhouse gas reduction must proceed in lockstep.
A recent publication by E Colbert (2014), ‘Can Climate Change cure Capitalism? This makes for sombre reading:
global corporations have become to big too fail,
corporations distain civil society- commercial drivers are growth and profit, not the condition of the host country,
global corporations operate outside the law and are degrading natural capital,
global corporations are generating resentment around the world.
Enter now competitive hegemony and its corrosive addition to global warming. The Monthly Review (2009) published the paper by Dr J Forster, Sociology Department, Oregon University, “A Failed System – The World Crisis of Capitalism and Globalisation and its effect on China”. In this sombre review, the spectre of ‘1984’ (George Orwell) is emerging in a destabilised global community. There are three consuming problems:
A global financial crisis teetering towards stagflation or deflation. Society living under Capitalism is suffering income inequality and an inability to maintain employment equilibrium. The Achilles’ Heel of Capitalistic production is that it depends on the consuming power of society. The destabilisation of the MiddleEast, the implosion of the Soviet Union and slow African development has not produced the anticipated markets required necessary for a Capitalistic hegemonic power block to survive.
An ecological collapse may be a greater threat than a financial collapse. With global temperature around 0.9*C above pre-industrial levels, ecological disasters are sweeping the planet, namely deforestation, overgrazing, desertification, ocean acidification, water shortage, species extinction, industrial and human pollution, polar ice loss and cancerous urban growth.
There is increasing imperial global instability originating in a struggle for hegemony and natural resources. Perhaps ‘winning hearts and minds’ has now been replaced by ‘bomb the bastards’ or ‘lock them up’. The cult of Capitalism, by its nature, is ‘imperial’. The ‘centre’ controls the process while the ‘periphery’ provides natural resources and the markets. Originally, both China and Russia were dependant satellites of Western Capitalism; now this is changing as new power blocks are rising to challenge American hegemony.
Capitalism and its impact on the GlobalCommunity. The concentration of power (economic, financial, communication, industrial, military) is intrinsic to capitalism as a global system since the world economy was based on wealth accumulation at the ‘centre’.
The Capitalistic world is most stable when there is a single hegemonic power, i.e. Britain in 19th century and America in 20th century. The rise of China is precipitating hegemonic instability and the the financial system is verging toward crisis. The rise of China and Russia constitute a tectonic geopolitical shift in the Capitalistic system and this can precipitate ecological disaster as military activity ramps up. With decline in power of the United States relative to China, the United States has sought to gain resources and political dominance by establishing military bases round the globe. America regards China as its ultimate major competitor and views with concern its active roll in African resource development. It also has concern for a China-Iran alliance – to counter this America has a pact with India. Although the United States and China have strong trade ties the rise of China and the relative decline of United States influence is generating a tense relationship. Current flash points are the military activity in the South China Sea and the ‘string of pearls’ maritime bases (including Darwin) terminating in the oil rich Persian Gulf.
For Capitalism to flourish wealth must be maintained at the ‘centre’ which was ‘The City’ (London) and ‘Wall Street (New York). The financial centre of gravity is moving eastward across Eurasia towards China. America now worries about the strength of its dollar. To remain relevant as an economic power, America must maintain its trade settlement and reserve currency status. Currently China is seeking to globalise the renminbi to trade financing capacity and become a currency of last resort. Ultimate international acceptance would weaken United States financial influence. Currently China holds over $600 billion of US Treasury debt: if America devalued, China would regard this as a hostile act of expropriation. The other horn of this dilemma is if China moves away from the dollar this could destabilise the United States and the world economic order.
In the 21st century, classic geopolitical Capitalist theory requires the control of the rim lands of Eurasia, this is in line with American ‘Pivot to Asia’ to ensure economic and military dominance.
Capitalism (production and consumption) is the principal cause of global warning. It is regarded as a failed system by economic experts for several reasons:
There is a threat of global deflation worse than in the 1930s,
Ecological disasters due to industrial/economic activity threaten the planet,
Neoliberal Capitalism is now discredited,
America has attempted to regain hegemony by a ‘War on Terror’
At the time of the Global Financial Crisis, the banking industry was bailed out by $4400 billion while the climate change program only netted $13 billion.
Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, (Financial Times Oct. 2015) is concerned the global economic system could break down as in the 1930s. This situation is partly due to the policy of mercantilist countries (China, Germany, Japan) running a large surplus, with insufficient internal demand – there was a policy of dumping on distressed markets.
Capitalism has been in a long term crisis which has resulted in depression economics as a general global situation. Among ‘democratic’ populations there is now a perception that industrial Capitalism and consumerism are responsible for global warming and ecological disasters. Concurrent with this realisation is the rise of three competing power blocks, America (Oceania), Russia (Eurasia) and China (Eastasia). Collegial cooperation, to ensure global warming objectives, will be more difficult to maintain due to their competing quest for hegemony and resources.
Final Comment. The international community has to surmount several issues if global warming reduction is to become reality:
vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
sequester carbon in sinks, soils, forests, geological formations
commence massive recycle programs
reduce product choice in consumerism
create a new form of Capitalism based on less consumerism
encourage ecologically friendly industries with commensurate returns on investment
Scientific advice is that it will take several decades for current greenhouse gases to work through the system: climatic conditions will continue to deteriorate before improving. Complicating progress will be the three global powers battling for supremacy.
The Hurricane of Climate Change
Behind the glitz, carols and incantations of Christmas it has been despair and devastation for millions. The disasters below all encompass the ‘Festive Season’ – on their own an unfortunate occurrence, globally a portent as clear as the ‘Star over Bethlehem’. According to NOAA, globally 2015 was the hottest year to date with the Pacific and Indian Oceans being the warmest ever. Australia’s BOM reports the warmest year for Sydney. The cartoon again illustrates that the lifestyle of Anthropocene mankind is coming back to bite it.
A partial picture across the ‘Festive Season’:
Australia: flooding south of Darwin, bush fire along the Great Ocean Road, the Kurnell tornado, the South Australian heatwave.
Argentina-Paraquay-Brazil-Uruquay: worst floods in fifty years, over 150,000 flee to safety.
North America: extensive bush fires in California, floods in Missouri, tornados and blizzards inTexas and New Mexico.
England: severe flooding in north and central regions, over 2,000 homes affected.
Philippines: typhoon Melor affects over 700,000 people.
Ethiopia: drought and famine, over 350,000 children severely undernourished.
India: worst floods for over 100 years in Tamil Nadu.
The Vatican: ongoing corruption and sleaze trial! (ABC RN Breakfast, 30 December)
Despite dire warnings of a dry El Nińo weather event, November/December rainfall was seven inches, dams are full, creeks are flowing. For an El Nińo the Southern Oscillation Index is inconsistent – falling from minus 18 (av.) Sept/Oct to minus 6 (av.) Nov/Dec. Moisture laden winds from the Indian Ocean and East Coast lows are providing unexpected rain. With the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ sea surface temperatures abnormally high the SOI has been driven lower but the El Nińo is still causing havoc in South America and southern Africa.