Category Archives: Conflict

BRUSSELS-TRUMP-HELSINKI July 2018

BRUSSELS-TRUMP-HELSINKI

OR

MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN VERSUS AMERICA FIRST

 

Caption:  QUIET ENGLISH WEEKEND,  JOUER DEJEUNER  OR LIGHT RELIEF BETWEEN ANGELA AND VLADIMIR  (dailymail.co.uk)

QUIET ENGLISH WEEKEND!!   JOUER DEJEUNER. (dailymail.co.uk)

BOISSONS–DRINKS
The same herd of elephants in NATO head quarters will move to the President’s palace in time for the Trump Putin meeting. It is almost certain two important issues will not be properly addressed.

The issues are the fallout from the unilateral decision by Present G W Bush to withdraw from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 which spawned another arms race between Russia and America. The second issue is the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia in 2014. Hot potatoes like North Korea, the Iran nuclear program, Russian interference in Syria, cyber security will be discussed at the expense of the really serious.

ERSTER GANG–FIRST COURSE

Caption:  ‘FOE” AND FAUX PAS, NATO, BRUSSELS
(Business Insider)

FOE
FOE” AND FAUX PAS, NATO, BRUSSELS. (BUSINESS INSIDER)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    At the NATO meeting in Brussels Trump demanded that members increase military spending to 2% of GDP.  If there is a poor response, Trump threatened “America might go it alone”.  This might be a negotiating ploy but behind this statement America has real concerns:
  • The United States requires Europe to remain a strong strategic and financial buffer between the American homeland and the Russian Federation. Just as Russia requires Eastern Europe and Ukraine to be a buffer to NATO and China requires the Nine Dash Line as a first line of defence, so America requires the same. As a digression, China is increasing its influence in the Pacific Islands north-east of Australia which could affect the security of Australian maritime trade.
  • In 2001 America withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to improve its missile defence systems as a precaution to counter the rise of terrorism. This inevitably triggered a renewed arms race which made Russia nervous of American military power. This has resulted in Russia upgrading  its military capability that is now perceived as a threat to European security. Putin recently made an unusual reference to the development of anti-ballistic missile defence systems and other offensive military equipment.
    (Russian Military Buildup,  4 March 2018, National Interest)

The European Union is America’s most important trading partner, despite the current adverse terms of trade; by contrast Russia is twenty-third in the list.  Also, America requires a stable Europe and a more indefinable, but important, resilient Trans Atlantic Community. (Newsweek, 16 January 2018)

America is still a superior power compared to Russia but ‘boots’ on the ground might pose a threat:

  • The Russian ‘Zapad’ military exercise in September 2017 involved up to 100,000 troops, heavy armour and aircraft adjacent to the Polish and Lithuanian borders. (Washington Post, 23 September 2017)
  • By contrast, a major US led NATO exercise, Sabre Strike 18, only involved 18,000 soldiers from nineteen NATO countries which were spread across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The exercise was ‘a demonstration of commitment and solidarity to the alliance”.
    (US-NATO Lead Exercise, 3 June 2018, Associated Press)

Prior to Sabre Strike 18, the Polish Government had requested an American armoured division (15,000 men and 44 tanks) to be based in the country to counter Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture along the border. The Polish document referred to Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.
(MENI-ONET, 20 March 2018)

Russia appears to have more ‘boots on the ground’ than NATO at any one time, To counter a hostile act, NATO maintains 30,000 equipped troops with only a 20,000 strong rapid response group that could be mobilised in thirty days. (Die Welt, 3 June, 2018))
Last year there were only 30,000 American troops in Europe. (Business Insiders, 30 August 2017) This information may explain why NATO members must contribute 2% of GDP to increase its deterrent capacity.

OSNOVNOYE BLUDE–DINNER
(Written before the Summit)
The flash points for discussion between Trump and Putin in Helsinki have been well aired. The elephants have now arrived at the Presidentinlinna from Brussels. While Trump made enemies in Britain, they will conclave to ensure that crucial matters will not be addressed. These matters are the destabilisation of Ukraine and the military build up by Russia along the Eastern European border lands.

Details are:

  • Irrespective of Trump’s view of deficient contributions by NATO members, the security of Europe is important to America as its primary trading partner; Russia ranks twenty-third. America must maintain the integrity of European borders.
  • America has a special relationship with Ukraine which makes it surprising that America has permitted Russia to cross a ‘red line’ and annex Crimea and destabilise Eastern Ukraine. Trump should make it clear to Putin that these incursions will not be tolerated. Unless a hard line is taken, Russia will commence  incursions into Eastern Europe – note Poland’s concern.
  • American policy is complicated by America’s special relationship  with Ukraine. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine has has been a good ally for the United States. The country gave up its nuclear weapons following the implosion of the Soviet Union and signed a non-proliferation treaty with America. In 1994, the Budapest Declaration signed by Russia, America and Britain guaranteed the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia tore up this document with the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. This has crossed a ‘red line’. In 2008, Ukraine supplied three battalions to the Iraqi Coalition and was fourth with ‘boots on the ground’ after America, Britain and  Poland. Soon after, President Bush attempted to bring Ukraine into the Atlantic Alliance but this was not supported by Nato members.

KAFE  I  VODKA–COFFEE AND LIQUEUR
(Written after the Press Conference)

Caption: “THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT”, PUTIN TO TRUMP, HELSINKI. (ABC NEWS)

Ball
“THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT” PUTIN TO TRUMP, HELSINKI (ABC NEWS)

The Press Conference produced a furious, disgusted reaction in the United States at the performance by President Trump: no substantive issues were discussed to a conclusion. The mood is best summed up by John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, quote “Today’s Press Conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in living memory.” (The Guardian, 17 July 2018)

The Press Conference ended with a brilliant tactical move by President Putin when he threw a soccer ball to Trump with the quip “The ball is now in your court!” President Trump, almost expressionless, quickly threw the ball to The First Lady. Trump has returned to the Washington “Swamp” much discredited and to face the fury of many people.

POKHMELYE–THE HANGOVER
There was no meeting of minds between the two leaders; the incompatibility of ‘Make Russia Great Again’ and ‘America First’ ensured there was no common ground. Major international issues were virtually ignored as both leaders were mindful of their domestic politics and their support base. For Trump, this was a difficult meeting as Russian interference lurked just under the surface. It was probably Trump’s intention to blame the Obama administration for the poor relations between the two countries, not the Trump  administration, but the message was lost in translation between the brain and the vocal chords. The move by Special Council Mueller to indict Russian agents threw Trump into confusion which resulted in Trump endorsing Putin’s view of the election interference situation. This was a PR disaster for Trump.

A diplomatic leak (Gazeta Express, Kosovo, 25 July) from the closed door meeting mentioned a discussion on the partition of Kosovo between Serbia and Albania. Should this proceed then serious boundary disputes and fighting could erupt in Bosnia and Macedonia leading to widespread unrest. ( Geopolitical Futures, 1 August 2018)

Concerning ‘dirt’ on Trump – if there had been, the Russians would not have permitted the press conference to proceed. Strange as it may seem, Russia wants to increase Trump’s standing in the West as he is such a divisive influence: this assists  Russian foreign policy objectives.

In this sorry saga, real damage has been done to one politician, Trump. The electorate and his base know him and the latest ratings show him at 47%.  Nothing much will change in the heartland but a deluge of comment can be expected from his critics. Post Helsinki nothing will change. The slow shift in power politics will continue, but if hostilities should erupt, then a little more rapidly.
(The Trump Putin Meeting, 18 July 2018, Geopolitical Futures)

Caption: JOHN McCAIN, CHAIRMAN, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE>

WORDS
THE WORDS OF AN AMERICAN PATRIOT (Pinterest)

 

JOHN HUGH HILL
Current Affairs Flash Points  –  towardsthefinalhour.com
lurgashall@westnet.com.au

 

 

 

THE DRAGON and the KANGAROO June2018

THE  DRAGON  AND  THE  KANGAROO
OR
WILL  LESSONS  EVER  BE  LEARNT?

Caption – Australia’s Bête Noire. Fishing in contested waters.

Problem
AUSTRALIA”S BÊTE NOIRE. FISHING IN CONTESTED WATERS>
(economist.com)

CURRENT  AFFAIRS FLASH POINTS
The average Australian citizen might see a common denominator to the list below sooner than some decision makers in Canberra. The list unrolled is:

  • The eruption of Mt Pinatubo, Philippines, in June 1991 leading to the departure of American forces from Subic Bay naval base and Clarke airforce base resulting in a military power vacuum.
  • A few months later the Chinese Government reinvigorated the Nine Dash Line in the South China Sea thus increasing its influence over east Asian nations.
  • Darwin port and the 99 year lease granted to the Chinese-controlled Landbridge Group for a paltry $650 million odd.
  • Whispered plans for a Chinese military base on Vanuatu.
  • Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Australia’s politicians visits to China.
  •  The publication of Silent Invasion by Dr Clive Hamilton.
  • Australia’s recent arm wrestle with Huawei to construct a $200 million undersea communication cable to Papua New Guinea.
  • An announced Australian Government program  to install undersea cables to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
  • Foreign Interference legislation passed to protect National Security.
  • Chinese acquired shortwave radio access to Pacific island nations because Australia terminated its well-established shortwave service for a paltry annual net saving of $2.8 million. China, naturally, filled this broadcast power vacuum. (ABC News, 22 June 2018)

Comment will be restricted to the termination of Australia’s shortwave radio services to Pacific island nations and the predictable rise of Chinese influence by snapping up Australian shortwave radio frequencies. Larger issues flow from this.

This decision  will be shown to be a major diplomatic blunder by DFAT and the ABC. It reflects poorly on lessons to be learnt from history on the nature of ‘vacuums’ in geopolitics.

EXIT THE KANGAROO
In January 2017, the ABC formalised a decision to terminate shortwave radio services to the Northern Territory and Pacific nations to save an annual current cost of some $1.9 million. (aph.gov.au, Restoring Short Wave Radio) This decision was made before updated FM services were in place. The reason being the technology was old (but very effective) and would be updated  by FM and digital at a future date. So, immediately, Papua New Guinea’s population of eight million (less 10% with internet access) and several million in other Pacific nations, were in radio silence – not a good way to win friends and influence people.

In June 2017 after the termination, DFAT indicated Pacific nations clearly required this vital service, but the cost would (only) double to $4 million a year. However, net increase would only be $2.8 million a year. (The Strategist, 19 June 2018)
In a thinly-veiled attack, the Lowy Institute’s Melanesian Program Advisor indicated that $2.8 million was no more than a rounding error within the DFAT budget of $1.1 billion in 2016-17 for the Pacific nations. (SBS News, 22 December,2016)

In Pacific nations away from principal population centres, Australia’s shortwave radio service was the only contact with island capitals and the outside world. This service was essential in times of disaster, political instability and security. For eighty years, since the 1930s, Australia has been providing this service to millions of people. The service has won friends, stabilised hearts and minds, promoted trade and national interest. Now we pack up our swags, leave a radio black hole behind us and provide the perfect environment where Chinese influence can flourish.

At a Senate Estimate Hearing in March 2017, the ABC CEO intoned ” I am confident we have met our Charter obligations across all services we needed to provide”. This mean-spirited myopic comment beggars belief. There is a lack of understanding of Australia’s role in the Pacific region involving international relations, security and national interest. The fact that the CEO, Ms Michelle Guthrie, has no experience in journalism or public broadcasting could explain the lack of vision and foresight for the ABC in the Pacific. (theaustralian.com/abc/guthrie)

DFAT appears to have been barely involved and was apparently unconcerned over security, geopolitical issues or trade. In an interview with the Foreign Minister, the Vanuatu Trade Commissioner said it would be a disaster if the shortwave radio service was terminated. Ms Julie Bishop agreed to pass on this concern to the ABC – a totally inept response. History does not record any result. (SBS, 31 January 2017)

While tedious, it is instructive to appreciate the extent of this radio black-out by Australia. Nations affected are Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Kiribati, Micronesia, Polynesia, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands.

Under questioning, the ABC stated “while there are no firm figures on audience numbers in those regions they are understood to be low”.  In fact, the number exceeds ten million. The view of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute is “this is a dumb decision and another bout of OZ amnesia. (SBS, 22 December, 2016)

Concluding this section, both ABC and DFAT have terminated a vital shortwave radio service apparently oblivious to social, trade and national security implications for a net annual saving of $2.8 million dollars. A vacuum has been created – drum roll for the Dragon.

ENTER THE DRAGON
With Australia’s unwise relinquishment of shortwave radio, frequencies for the Pacific region Radio China International acquired these assets and is now broadcasting to Pacific nations on Australia’s maritime ‘turf’. This was to be expected as illustrated by the Mt Pinatubo eruption and the fallout from the military vacuum.

The irony is that China has acquired valuable radio frequencies for minimal cost, complete with a tied established audience with radios already tuned to Australia’s discarded frequencies. The Voice of Radio China is now heard without adjusting the settings. It is not too late for Australia to re-enter this arena but it will be with a diminished voice. Meanwhile, New Zealand maintains its short wave influence in the region. (RNZ, 22 & 25 June 2018)

The implication of this Australian faux pas is serious and must be considered in parallel with other tensions across Australia’s Pacific ‘turf’. These are:

  • China is seeking to become the the controlling power in Australasia; it has large resources at its disposal.
  • Canberra is seeking to negotiate a security treaty with Vanuatu to address economic aid, maritime surveillance and defence cooperation. It is not impossible to consider Vanuatu could be used by a hostile power to threaten Australia.
  • It has been reported by Australian military sources that China and Vanuatu are discussing a military base on this island nation – so far denied.
  • Unrelated to the above! – China has financed a new cargo wharf on Esprito Santo and completed an upgrade to the international airport. China now owns more than half of Vanuatu’s $440 million foreign debt while, since 2007, trade between the two countries have increased six fold.
  • China is in talks with the Solomon Islands Government to construct an airport and aircraft maintenance facilities on Guadalcanal. (The Times, 1 May 2018)
  • To forestall Chinese intentions, Australia has committed to construct a 4,000 km submarine internet cable from the Solomon Islands to Australia.
  • The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea  has just completed a visit to China where he has committed the country to the One Belt One Road policy. This is significant as it now places this Chinese trading structure within a canoe ride of the Chinese controlled port of Darwin. (Geopolitical Futures, 25 June 2018)
  • An extraordinary ‘big picture’ is emerging of Chinese influence, military aspirations and trading links involving Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. These island chains control the north-eastern maritime approaches to Australia.

The concept of land or sea barriers between warring states is older than the Roman Empire but still relevant today. Russia’s influence over the Intermaruim plus Ukraine has been a central tenet of Russia as a buffer against Europe. China has sought some security behind its Nine Dash Line. Australia had its opportunity to develop a buffer along the island chains of the Western Pacific but China appears to now be turning this situation on its head to become a security issue for Australia. There is now a discernible trend in Chinese policy – if it is not halted it will continue.

Caption.  Fair Go! Not another problem!
Fishing in contested waters.

Fair Go
FAIR GO – NOT ANOTHER PROBLEM!!  FISHING IN CONTESTED WATERS.  (sbs.com.au)

CLOSE
History is important – two comments:

  • The Nine Dash Line was reinvigorated into the vacuum created by America. The termination of ABC shortwave radio into the Western Pacific, created a vacuum now filled by  Radio China International.
  • The port of Darwin was acquired by a Chinese company without visionary regard to long term trade, security and geopolitical implications by the Australian Government. This unwise arrangement resulted in a mystified  phone call —- Obama  to Turnbull  “What the devil is going on down there?” China now controls many of Australia’s former shortwave radio frequencies. The same question from America is again warranted.

Finally, the burning question is “Just how much America thinks China’s expansion into the South China Sea matters to its interests and how far America is willing to go to protect those interests”. (Geopolitical Futures, 28 June 2018)

The corollary that follows is: how far will America go to protect Australia’s interests in the Western Pacific?

JOHN HUGH HILL– lurgashall@westnet.com.au
Current Affairs Flash Points – towardsthefinalhour.com

 

 

AUSTRALIA DAY 26 January 2018

AUSTRALIA DAY 26 JANUARY2018

Trade Routes
SOUTH EAST ASIAN TRADE ROUTES _ LIFELINES OF OUR NATION .          (Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment)

HISTORY – ANCIENT AND MODERN
Some 60,000 years ago, the first Australian settlers arrived on this continent and peopled the land, developed resources and maintained lifeways and culture. Around 220 years ago, new waves of settlers arrived and continue to arrive on these shores. These later arrivals multiplied and developed resources that satisfied their lifestyle and culture. Utilising combined knowledge and culture of both waves of settlers, they have created a nation that is the envy of many countries for living standards, democratic principles and the rule of law.

Amongst the post Colonial nations Australia is fortunate or perhaps not, that it did not have to fight for independence or nationhood or confront civil war. Despite this the Australian front line military are among the world’s finest. On this issue, far more attention should be paid to the World War II Papua New Guinea campaigns in 1942 when Australian troops were defending the Australian homeland  from Japanese invasion.

The day of celebration should include a reflection on a debt of gratitude to our ancestors and early settlers who endured hardship, privation and danger to create this Australia that we all now enjoy.

We are now living in an enlightened era and, perforce, must recognise 18th and 19th century colonial history. Australia, in common with the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil, was settled by waves of European Caucasians who drove indigenous inhabitants from their lands destroying tribes and regional culture. Over one hundred years later, descendants of these Caucasian settlers cannot be held accountable for previous migrations and settlement of indigenous land since this was the accepted imperative of the time. Now that we are aware of the recent history of modern immigrant nations, National Days should acknowledge history which would generate meaningful dialogue. For perhaps one hundred years since Federation in 1901, Australians have preferred to distance themselves from the reality of Colonial settlement – we can do this no longer.

The Caucasian expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries, in terms of migration, was nothing new. For millennia, Empires and armies have threatened and maintained order round the globe replacing or enslaving vanquished people. As recently as the 1940s, if Fascist Germany and Imperial Japan had not been defeated, Europe, East Asia and Australia would today look and sound very different.


THE SOUL OF OUR NATION                                                                               
Over centuries, Australian culture has evolved through corroborees, round the boree log, the Sydney Australia Day Regatta to finally, the many-splendoured event that is now Australia Day. As Australia’s multi-cultural policy matures and the demographic visibly changes, Chinese, Indian and Islamic influence will blur the edges of the Anglo-Saxon traditions. While the emphasis is to be Australian no young nation should become rootless. The soul of a nation will lie in its myths, legends and heroic figures who lived among the early mortals.

While Australia Day Honours quite rightly recognise service and achievement, thought should be given to creating an annual group of Australians who keep alive the ‘soul’ of Australia – protectors of our collective culture.                                                                                                              A suggested list for 2018 is proposed:

  • Windradyne Windradyne (1800–1829), Resistance fighter, Wiradjuri tribe, NSW.
  • David Unaipon (1862–1967), Aboriginal philosopher & author, Adelaide University.
  • Paula Travers, Children’s Literature, ‘Mary Poppins’.
  • Dorothea MacKeller, Poet, ‘Sunburnt Country’.
  • Patrick White, Author, ‘Voss’.
  • Fredrick McCubbin, Triptych, ‘The Pioneer’.
  • Patrick Durak, Cattle Industry, ‘Kings in Grass Castles’.
  • Lang Hancock, Mining Industry, ‘Rush that Never Ended’.
  • Dr Anita Hill, Chief Scientist, CSIRO.
  • Dr Victor Chan, Heart Surgeon.

This is a list of yesteryear heroes, those who have recorded the hardship of settlement and those who drive Australia today. It is these and similar people who contribute to folklore who deserve incorporation into the ‘soul’ of Australia.


PROGRESS AND THE RULING ELITE                                                          
Most Australians are fine, industrious, innovative individuals. Unfortunately we are held back by an inept, self-serving political elite who, like the evolving ruling hierarchy of Agrarian Empires before the Common Era, lived on the backs of exploited, reluctant citizens. Tribute-taking elites before and during the Common Era extracted resources in ways that inhibited innovation and depressed productivity. (Dr D Christian, Maps of Time, Macquarie University)

AGRARIAN RULERS
AGRARIAN RULERS EXPLOITED THE UNDERCLASS AND APPEASED MERCHANTS  (MyIndMakers)

Australians need look no further than the straightened circumstances of the nation’s science and research industry due to a shortage of resources. Parliamentary Library documents show for 2014-15 Government funding was 0.56% of GDP, the lowest since 1978-79. Further, OECD statistics on Government R&D expenditure, show Australia as sixteenth of eighteen with only 0.4% of GDP. With contributions from the States and private enterprise, the ranking improves to ninth with 2.1% of GDP compared to the leaders in the 3-4% range. Australia’s future is no longer ‘on the sheep’s back’ or from ‘the mile that Midas touched’ – it will come from invention and innovation. (The Conversation, Infographic – Science and Research, 22 June 2016)

More emerging problems for Higher Education were announced by Universities Australia (18 December) and by The Week End Australian (13/14 January). Funding cuts of $2.2 billion announced by the MYEFO update will, according to Universities Australia  Chair Professor Gardner, leave universities ‘frozen in time’ and regional Austalia will be the hardest hit. Giving force to this statement Peter van Onselen (WEA) claims politicians are responsible  for the shortcomings of the Higher Education sector and not academics who are paid below private sector rates.

Political Elite
A ‘FLOURISH’ OF AUSTRALIA’ S POLITICAL ELITE                                               (Crikey.com) 

But for today: “In joyful strains then let us sing”.

 

 

 

MARRIAGE DEBATE DENOUEMENT NOVEMBER 2017

A SENSE OF PERSPECTIVE
In mid-November the results of the Plebiscite will be released to the Australian public who will have little idea of the issues which will swirl around a yes vote. The Government has been derelict in its duty by not informing citizens of problems experienced in other countries which have voted for marriage equality.

Below are details of Anglo-Saxon, principally Judaeo-Christian, nations who have acceded to 21st century Enlightenment:

  • United Kingdom  Pop. 67m, 93.5% heterosexual, 1.5% LGBT. (Office of National Statisics, 2013)
  • Canada  Pop. 35.4m, 97% heterosexual, 3% LGBT,
    0.8% same-sex couples – 72,000. (Statistics Canada, 2017)
  • New Zealand  Pop. 4.7m, 85% heterosexual, 10 -15% LGBT,
    1% same-sex couples. (Statistics NZ, 2013)
  • Australia  Pop. 23.6m, 97% heterosexual, 3% LGBT,
    1% same-sex couples – 48,000. (ABS, 2015)

The relative trans-national support for the LGBT community far exceeds their number within a population. The long-standing Judeo-Christian culture may be an explanation with the guiding principle set down in Matthew 7 – 12:                                                                               “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,        do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

The rise of militant LGBT, has coincided with the devasting decline in Christian church attendance through the Anglo-Saxon world. Christianity is suffering from a rise of secularism and increasing exclusion of religion in public life. Thus, the verities that influence older Australians, are no longer relevant to younger generations. With the exception of South Africa and Taiwan, the Islamic world, Africa and Asia are not yet in the “fold”.  Religious discipline, primitive taboo and large rural societies have slowed 21st century ‘enlightenment’.

Legal Equality
COUNTRIES WITH LEGAL MARRIAGE EQUALITY (Geoworld.biz)


THE  AFTERMATH
Negative fallout from marriage equality legislation is now becoming alarmingly obvious in the United Kingdom and Canada. Based on this painful social history, it should have been obvious to the Australian parliament that proper debate and protective legislation should have preceded this uninformed and contentious vote on marriage equality.

Set down below, is a summary of festering national sores and much ill-will between the LGBT minority and those still holding to traditional family and faith-based principles. The overarching situation in the United Kingdom and Canada is the increasing pressure on religious institutions, voluntary aid agencies, schools and parents, to embrace and materially support marriage equality legislation. Employment security of independent-minded employees is being threatened. Below is a potpourri of evolving issues:

  • CANADA
  • 52% of Canadians complain the Government is supporting laws restricting freedom of expression.
    (The Conservative,  August 2017)
  • Bill 89, Ontario – ’Supporting Children, Youth and Families’ . This legislates that “unless parents’ and foster parents’ attitude to gender expression, identity and sexual orientation outlook are acceptable, their right to bring up children will be reviewed”. (Blaze, 2017)
  • Children will not be permitted to be raised under the umbrella of a parent’s faith.
  • Bill 13, Ontario – Church leaders must accept the new orthodoxy of the 21st century.
  • In Ontario Province, marriage commissioners can no longer decide who they can marry, pastoral letters of Clergy are vetted by Local Authorities and pressure is being applied to schools to embrace 21st century orthodoxy.
    (Speak Up for Marriage,  August, 2017)
  • UNITED KINGDOM – a litany of evolving disruption.
  • The Equalities Minister, Rt Hon Justine Greening, has announced ‘Churches must keep up with modern attitudes’.
  • Religious parents may face interrogation if homosexuality is not accepted.
  • The High Court recently ruled that a Pentecostal couple were considered ineligible as adoption parents since their attitude on sexual orientation was not appropriate despite their being good parents.
  • Jews, Moslems and Sikhs are no longer considered fit to adopt children.
  • There is a move to bypass medical consultation before a gender change – an official application will be sufficient.
  • Court decisions now stipulate that business owners will be compelled to promote the LGBT cause, irrespective of personal conviction.
  • Employees in Government Departments have been threatened with dismissal for suggesting there are better child outcomes with heterosexual parents.
  • All 62,000 National Trust volunteers must now wear the same sex rainbow badge; those who resist are confined to the ‘back office’.
  • Children three years and above must attend classes on ‘gender fluidity’.
  • OFSTED – National School Regulatory Department  – is codemning successful schools for inadequate promotion of homosexuality and gender orientation.
    (The Spectator 7th September, 2017)
  • In conclusion, the Bow Group Conservative Think Tank, London, has stated that ‘same-sex marriage was promoted by Government as a process of tolerance and equity – it has become a most unequal and intolerant “hydra”, the worst outcome of any political issue in recent history’.
  • NEW ZEALAND
  • Both the Minister for Education and the former Prime Minister have indicated that, after four years of marriage equality, nothing has changed and the process is working well for New Zealand.. (Buzz Feed News & skynews.com,  September, 2017)
  • Since New Zealand has a Bill of Rights, perhaps cultural and religious norms are protected. By contrast, in the United Kingdom and Canada, the rights of the majority are being trampled underfoot by the 2% minority.

THE CRACK OF DOOM
The Australian Government is incompetent and irresponsible by enforcing a Plebisicite without enacting legislation to protect civil and religious interests. It is certain many voters will have no concept of the ramifications of a YES vote and the problems that could eventuate because the Government has failed in its duty of care. Unfortunately, there will be no Heracles to slay this hydra so it is probable that the social disruption in Australia will mirror that of Canada and the United Kingdom.

Hydra
HERACLES SLAYING THE HYDRA (theoi.com, Z26.1B)


The fundamental question is ‘Will marriage equality create a unified Australia – a nation-building ethos that strengthens the moral and social fabric of the Commonwealth?’

May the legislation, yet to be debated truly ‘Advance Australia’.

 

JOHN H HILL
lurgashall@westnet.com.au
Current Affairs Flashpoints
towardsthefinalhour.com

 

THE ROHINGYA – IMPEDIMENT TO DEVELOPMENT November 2017

DOWNSIDE OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Gas & Oil
FIG. 1   GAS & OIL PIPELINES FROM RAKHINE TO SW CHINA                               (Shwe Gas. The Conversation)

Much has been written on crimes against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state, Myanmar, but muted are the issues swirling round the genocidal activity of the Myanmar military.                                        Much has been written on the Rohingya refugee camps around Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, but there has barely been mention of refugee concentration camps ringing the oil and gas installations owned by the China National Petroleum Company some 250 km to the south.

The international community has been well informed by vested interests, that military action in northern Rakhine state was due to the attacks on police posts last year by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who were  fighting to improve the condition of the Rohingya people.  The bottom line of this discussion (mentioned in advance) is that the Rakhine-Yunnan oil & gas pipe lines are indispensable to the Chinese economy. The oil pipe line transfers oil from the Middle East to the east coast industrial regions of China. (The Truth Seeker, UK)

Pipelines
FIG. 2   OIL & GAS PIPELINES FROM RAKHINE TO YUNNAN, CHINA (thetruthseeker.co.uk)

Vindication for this infrastructure is China’s concern for the security of oil supplies from the Middle East through the Malacca Strait choke point. Also, there was concern over the long haul through the Indonesian archipelago and the South China Sea. Recently, Indian submarine activity has been detected in the Malacca Strait approaches. Considering the fraught situation between India and China in the Himalayas, China’s program seems justified.

Placing the violence in Rakhine state into context, it must be recognised that there are vested powerful economic interests involved.  Land-grabbing in Rakhine and globally is endemic when major infrastructure projects are planned. In 2011, Myanmar enacted political and economic reforms to encourage foreign investment in the country. Shortly afterwards, in 2012, violent attacks against the Rohingya commenced concurrent with Chinese and Korean interests acquiring timber, mineral and agricultural assets in the region.

The recently commissioned oil & gas pipe lines by CNPC will benefit Myanmar through transit fees, energy revenues and  satellite industries springing up around this energy hub, serviced by a deep water port and eventually, a rail link into China. There will be little benefit for locals. The construction and commissioning has involved forced land acquisition, unsatisfactory compensation, environmental degradation and an influx of foreign workers. The importance and vulnerability of the project is illustrated by the concentration of military depots deployed along the pipelines. (Figure 1)  The concentration of refugee camps, distant from the violence in the north, around the oil and gas coastal infrastructure    is indicative of corralling and a subsequent relocation program. (Figure 3)

Refugee Camps
FIG. 3   RAKHINE REFUGEE CAMPS.   KYANKPYU (KYAUKPYU) CLOSE TO OIL/GAS TERMINAL  (Rohingya-American Society)

 

In 2015, the Myanmar government revoked the citizenship of many Rohingya ensuring forced removal could be facilitated.
(The Conversation, September 2017)

Such has been domestic outrage at the exploitation of Burmese resources and increasing Chinese influence during and following the completion of the energy installations, that a long-planned $20 billion Chinese rail link between Kunmin and the port of Kyankpyu (Kyaukpyu ) has been delayed. In this regard, the Chinese ambassador recently made two interesting announcements: “unrest in Rakhine is an internal affair and the work of the security forces is justified” and “the Myanmar government assistance to the displaced people is welcome and China will donate $147 million toward this work”. (Reuters & Hindustan Times 17 September) This donation could well be an encouragement to the Myanmar government to expedite approval for the rail link. Compounding the violence against the Rohingya, the coastal region of Rakhine is increasing in strategic and commercial importance with both India and China seeking to exploit the economic potential of the region. To this end the Myanmar government has a vested interest in clearing the land (depopulation plus scorched earth) in order to encourage foreign investment. (The Conversation, 12 September 2017)


SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Myanmar.
The silence of Aung San Suu Kyi is understandable. The current violence in Rakhine is not simply due to ethnic or religious animosity. This ethnic cleansing is generated by a desire for economic and industrial development. In previous decades all industrialised countries have forcibly ‘relocated’ or killed indigenous people to further their own economic or strategic imperatives. Unfortunately Myanmar is in the 21st century’s spotlight. Developing nations in the 19th and 20th centuries, however, have been able to develop their economies prior to the instant news cycle.  This problem cannot be solved by Aung San Suu Kyi or General Min Aung Haiang, Chief of Armed Forces. There are about 1.1 million Rohingya – nearly half must be in Bangladesh or Myanmar refugee concentration camps. If the International Community will not provide relocation then the situation might subside into silent exhausted hatred, with the rump of the Rohingya moved away from valuable coastal areas.

Australia.
At a ‘working’ lunch in New York on the 18th September 2017, the Australian Foreign Minister spoke on the violence in Rakhine. (Parliament of Australia Briefs)  Condemned in equal amounts were the ARSA attacks on police posts and the military for their attacks on the Rohingya. The Minister noted “something was wrong and called for a cessation of hostilities”. (Naive in the extreme!!!).
The Minister further noted that Australia had donated $65 million to alleviate suffering. (Little is solved by only throwing money at a problem!!!) All good motherhood stuff, but it was a speech of no moment. There was no mention of unrest due to foreign investment, dispossession or environmental damage. There was no suggested solution; a capitulation to an inevitable.  Unfortunately our ‘national’ hands are tied. Australia can say nothing to jeopadise our coal, iron ore and tourism exports but Australia must, perforce, inevitably permit a perceptible colonisation of Australia’s higher education instituions.

As Napoleon Bonaparte famously noted: “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she awakes she will move the world”.

Current Affairs Flash Points   towardsthefinalhour.com                          John Hill      Email: lurgashall@westnet.com.au

 

DARWIN – A CHINESE PORT & CHOKE POINTS July 2017

 

 

Sea Power
PROTECTING CHOKE POINTS (thediplomat.com)

DARWIN – A CHINESE PORT                                                                          China has expressed concern over the Strait of Malacca as a vunerable choke point for its energy supplies from the Middle East oilfields. In the near future two strategic straits may enter maritime discussions, the Torres Strait and the Bering Strait.                                The 99 year lease of Darwin port to  Landbridge, a Chinese company, by the Northern Territory government has now acquired an added significance. Darwin is well placed for Chinese authorities to monitor and provide services to commercial and other shipping using the choke points of the Lombok and Torres Straits and the developing oil fields in the Timor Sea. Both these straits are used by the West Australian iron ore trade to China and the by vessels bound for east Asian ports and North America.                                    Darwin could well become a valuable strategic pendant hanging of the ‘string of pearls’ within the One Belt One Road Chinese expansion policy

 

Lombok-Torres}
MALACCA, LOMBOK & TORRES STRAITS (csba-airsea- battle.jpg)

CHOKE POINTS & MARITIME TRADE                                                    Choke points are critical to the protection of maritime trade routes. With  China expressing concern on Indian navy surveillance of its military vessels in the Malacca Strait the increasing importance of the Lombok and Torres Straits are becoming apparent. The Torres Strait is the only direct route between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is nominally under the control of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the navigable channel for commercial shipping is 800m wide and 13m deep. This constitutes a navigational and stategic choke point. Control of choke points in times of international tension or hostilities is vital for the preservation of national interests. Examples of srategic choke points are: the Danish Strait into the Baltic Sea, the Straits of Dover into the North Sea, the Strait of Gibralter into the Mediterranean , the Gulf of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, the Malacca Strait into the South China Sea. The Lombok and Torres Straits are now becoming increasingly important as safe maritime passages, as a consequence military build up will follow. Those with vested interests  are Australia, Indonesia and China.

 

China
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHINA. ARCTIC TRADE ROUTES  (Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration)

As an extension to this scenario the Bering Strait between the United States and Russia is looming as a choke point with China very much ‘The Third Man’. Commercial shipping has doubled over the past five years and will steadily increase as the Arctic ice cap melts to create wider, safer seaways. China is developing trade routes west to Europe and east to Canada and the United States. Unfortunately Australia is situated far to the east distant from the trading hubs, but could become a way point for oil imports to China from the Persian Gulf.

John Hill,  lurgashall@westnet.com.au                                                       Current Affairs Flash Points,   towardsthefinalhour.com

 

NORTH KOREA – Spectre of the Cold War

 

Missile
Missile on Parade (scmp.com)

North Korea – Spectre of the Cold War
 Comments

Justice Michael Kirby addressed the Sydney Institute on the 21st June dealing with North Korea’s human rights record including comment on the case of Mr O F Warmbier. The ensuing discussion, while relevant to the specific issue, was unable to articulate a solution to the current geopolitical situation.

The overarching problem is the nature of the North Korean regime and the nuclear threat it poses. The Cold War between the Warsaw Pact and NATO (1945-90) did not erupt into a nuclear holocaust because NATO maintained an around-the-clock airborne nuclear armed vigil. It was a case of mutual deterrence . If the Soviet Union had released ICBMs, major Russian cities would have been annihilated by incoming NATO weapons.

Today a comparable situation is emerging should North Korea direct missiles towards American interests or South Korea it would probably be neutralised by airborne and submarine-based ballistic missiles.

America is in the difficult situation should a definite immediate threat become manifest. There would be a retaliation that would have to, simultaneously, destroy the armaments along the ‘demilitarised zone’ and identifiable missile launch sites. The urgent problem is how to prevent North Korea progressing to perfecting its delivery system. To expect China to accomplish this is to misunderstand the geopolitical situation. Although China supports the United Nations sanctions on North Korea, it does not push too hard  due to concern over regime instability that could precipitate millions of refugees crossing the border into China. Furthermore, North Korea’s  nuclear ambitions are partially diverting America from China’s increasing hegemony in the East and South China Seas. A wild card into this situation is that America might reach a clandestine agreement with China on the 9 Dash Line in return for neutralising North Korea’s nuclear delivery threat. This arrangement might be considered in conjunction with negotiating a more balanced trading relationship that would boost American export industries.

Lessons from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis could be useful. China, as a proxy Russia,  might convince North Korea, as a proxy Cuba, to dismantle its nuclear capability under supervision, in return for development funds and a guarantee of national security. A sweetener for China might be that America would withdraw its B52 nuclear bombers from the region. Decisions would also involve Japan. North Korea is no Cuba but a ‘defuse’ mechanism might lie in this logic.

Missiles (smh.com)
Surface to Air Missiles. (smh.com)

A frontal attack poses an unacceptable threat for America. To bring North Korea to nuclear impotence would require a simultaneously stepped military assault:

  • stealth bombers must destroy anti-aircraft missile systems and command centres;
  • the virtually instantaneous destruction of thousands of artillery pieces along the DMZ trained on Seoul and nearby cities harbouring some 24 million souls;
  • the  massing of an invasion fleet that could not be hidden from China or North Korea causing the latter to consider a pre-emptive strike.
Artillery (netnews.vn)
Massed Artillery (netnews.vn)

There may be members of the International Community that have hoped for a modified French Revolution (1789) or a Bolshevik Revolution (1917) or preferably a Soviet implosion (1991). However, these alternatives may fade in the light of new relationships being developed in East Asia.

The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, favours engagement with North Korea which could morph into a rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul. In addition there are deepening trading ties between China and South Korea. Should closer ties develop between the three nations there may be pressure on America to reduce its forces in South Korea. The Kim dynasty is only interested in its own survival not in the well being of the North Korean people. Ultimately, to ensure a safe haven, the current ruling elite might be accepted in China or be ensconced in an enclave in North Korea. Pure conjecture!!

Should the three East Asian nations form a closer association, then America might need to rethink its ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy and southern members of the ANZUS Alliance may have to review their relationship with East Asian nations.

JOHN HILL                                                                                                                                    Current Affairs Flash Points                                                                                                  towardsthefinalhour.com                                                                                                         lurgashall@westnet.com.au