MAY 2015

VICTORY IN EUROPE (VE) DAY, 8th MAY 1945. GAZA, Australian casualties. Commonwealth War Graves.
(Source, The Conversation, Matt Hardy, Deakin University)

The soul destroying humiliation of living in lands only valued for their oil.
(Graeme Wood, Atlantic Magazine)

The 2*C temperature limit defines a ‘warning line’ not a ‘guard rail’.
Climate Analytics, Berlin.

Contents.
Victory in Europe (VE) Day
Clash of Cultures
The Winds of Climate Change
The Budget, Macro-economics, Climate Change plus a RED ALERT
Fortress Australia and the ANZUS Treaty
A Power Stirs
Chinese Investment in Australia
Rural Bliss

Victory in Europe(VE) Day 8th May 1945.
LEST WE FORGET-but we do.
(Peter Carlin, Poets Corner)
Australian War dead, 40,400 in European, African and Middle Eastern theatres.
(secondworldwar/history/statistics)

Clash of Cultures
There is a growing awareness that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (IS) is more than blood crazed fighters or a ‘death cult’. Top management is controlled by educated Arabs that include medical, scientific and management cadres. There are Ba’athist military officers who served under Saddam Hussein. Many were hardened in the US Camp Bucca military prison in Iraq. It was in this prison that the seeds of IS were germinated within the mix of violent ideological extremists and former Ba’athist military officers ( SG Group Intel Briefs).
IS is quite unlike al-Qaeda, IS requires territory to remain legitimate and it has developed a top down structure to control and administer its territories. The movement has a medieval religious ethos with a commitment to return civilisation to a 7th century legal culture.
Although many Muslims reject IS it would be wrong for the West to deny it is a religious organisation with a theology that must be understood by the West. The theology is based on the original perfection of the Quran and reinterpretation constitutes apostasy. Such belief requires that IS is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.
The strength and attraction of IS is based on a bitter accumulation of grievance generated from history over the past century, that is since the demise of the Ottoman Empire. Grievances include the partition of the Middle East by the West, the resulting bad governance supported by the West, the shifting social mores and the soul destroying humiliation of living in lands only valued for their oil. In the background is the lingering primal memory of the great Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates and associated culture.
The IS ranks are strongly infused with Islamic vigour and there is no shortage of male and female volunteers from Europe, United States, Indonesia, and Australia. The IS propaganda machine generates enthusiasm but no deviation from the sacred texts of the Quran. Slavery and other atrocities are spelt out within the holy texts, e.g. Sura 70:29-30; Quran 8:12.
Denouncing IS can be counter productive if the teachings of the Quran are questioned. The West is facing a faith based ideological problem that is reinforced by an entrenched political and sociological problem that has been imposed on the Middle East by a Capitalistic West. Until the memory of imposed bad governance following WW1 and the humiliating memory of a people and lands only valued for oil is expunged a “Cause” will remain. Contained by the West with the support of both Shia and Sunni moderates the IS will possibly ‘bleed’ to death. This will not be quick as an ideology must be turned around. There is a risk the Islamic State and al-Quaeda may discover a common cause and this will increase the threat (What IS really wants. Atlantic Magazine, 2015).
The Australian government has not spelt out how ‘deradicalisation’ of IS volunteers will be attained. Under IS social media pressure potential recruits become idealists and espouse an ideology that seeks the past purity and glory of Islam, this provides an objective and sense of purpose. The Australian government will have to enthuse young Muslim minds with a sense of purpose and a replacement ideology. Punishment and vilification will be counter productive, remember Camp Bucca.
Giving young minds a new sense of direction will be difficult and it cannot be achieved by repression or force, again remember Camp Bucca.
Both Russia and China have offered only the most tentative cooperation with America and neither are involved on the ground. Russia is well aware of its unstable Muslim underbelly while China’s north-west region is a hotbed of Sunni Uighur independence ferment. Both regions have provided volunteers for the IS militia.

The Winds of Climate Change.
Two intertwined global warming trends have been reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO) on carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and the rise of sea surface temperatures round Australia and the Antarctic.
For the first time the global average carbon dioxide levels have exceeded 400 ppm and green house gases are rising by more than 2 ppm per year. NOOA calculates that cutting fossil fuel emissions by 80% would only slow down the rise above 400 ppm but, of course, this is politically impossible.
From ice core data the 400 ppm concentration is the highest for the past 650,000 years. Around 1750 global CO2 emissions were about 11 million tonnes per year while in 2009 emissions were in the region of 32 billion tonnes ( Climate Analytics, Berlin).
The UN Convention on Climate Change has just issued an alert that “the world is in a new danger zone’ and tipping points for the following might become irreversible : drought, sea level rise, acidic oceans, loss of Arctic sea ice, melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, methane release from permafrost and dengy fever.
Concurrent with rising greenhouse gas levels it was announced sea surface temperatures have risen by 0.7*C with warmer areas, up to 2*C higher, in north-western and east Australian waters. These warmer condition have generated a spate of cyclones over north Queensland waters and unusually strong East Coast lows along the south-eastern Australian coast line. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has recently forecast another El Nino for south-east Australia, in conjunction with the Queensland drought (see map) this is worrying news.

The Budget, Macro-economics and Climate plus a RED ALERT
It is not often the celestial bodies moon, earth and sun are in syzygy alignment (yoked together, Greek), less often does a budget, macro-economics and climate change align in this most unfortunate manner. Two item in the May budget, the small business stimulus and the proposed funding assistance to develop Northern Australia infrastructure are both facing economic and climate headwinds.
The stimulus to small business of instant asset write down of up to $20,000 per item must be rationalised against Australia’s historically low interest rate of 2% and the appreciation of the $A against the $US, the Reserve Bank has hinted the rate may be further reduced. The Australian economy is flat lining, capital inflow has dried up and capital will tend to flee. The budget objective is to generate expenditure and promote youth employment. The tax reduction of 1-5% is derisory i.e. a $150 deduction in a $10,000 taxable income. In the following budget talk back comment a recurring theme was that $20,000 was far short for many business upgrade or replacement costs. It was the Canadian experience where economic stimulation resulted in increased productivity but not appreciable increased employment.

Queensland's current plus three year drought
Queensland’s current plus three year drought

The budget is to encourage infrastructure funding for Northern Australia-laudible. There is mounting evidence that climate change will progressively adversely affect the north. Rolling forecasts on the back of recent past and future weather disasters should be locked into development plans, the implications of 400 ppm, and increasing, atmospheric carbon dioxide must be understood. Currently 80% of Queensland is drought declared with the 31 month rainfall deficiency the lowest on record (Map above. Source BOM, Australia), the Northern Territory has also suffered a below average 2014-15 wet season. One swallow maketh not a summer, neither does a few bad years prove fundamental climate change however the Abbott government must back infrastructure expenditure with a rolling climate trend analysis, without this information there is a risk of creating a failed ‘food bowl for Asia”.
RED ALERT. What the Government did not tell Australians when the budget (dominated by the end of the mining ‘boom’) was being dissembled is the disturbing decline in national capital investment-hence the strident attempt to generate capital expenditure and employment in the small business sector. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show capital expenditure figures fell by 4.7% for the quarter ending March 2015 as the budget was under preparation.
As mining investment came off the boil the hoped for rebound in manufacturing and investment services has not happened and these sectors are also declining. Manufacturing has fallen by 30% in the past 15 months and services by 20% in the past 18 months.
These are serious trends, forward estimates for 2015-16 are 25% below those for 2014-15. Westpac has indicated the Reserve Bank may be forced to reduce interest rates below 2%. ” Good for home buyers”, despite encouraging comment by the Treasurer this epizeuxis ‘Nope! Nope! Nope!’ by the Prime Minister would for once be appropriate. The cranials in our society will be wondering if Australia is about to join the exclusive ‘Sputtering Economies Club’ lead by Europe and America.

Fortress Australia and the ANZUS Treaty
The March blog noted the United States had quietly moved its Caribbean communication base to Western Australia. Not so quiet has been the proposed transfer of military bases to other locations including Australia. At a high level meeting in Washington it was announced a fleet of B1 bombers are to be rotated in Australia. These are supersonic long range aircraft with a payload of eighty 500 pound bombs.
There followed an immediate Australian political hubbub resulting twenty four hours later in a bemusing Pentagon statement there had been an ‘official miss-spoke’ and ‘there are no plans for B1 bombers to be rotated as of now but the United States intends to increase the rotation of of B52 bombers, fighters and refuelling tankers. Marine numbers on rotation to Darwin will also be increased.
The ‘miss-spoke’ cannot be a figment but probably reflects back room strategic discussions in the Pentagon. The American ‘pivot’ to Asia will certainly involve increased military hardware based in the Australasian region. Australia’s cooperation and support in the roll out of the ‘pivot’ policy is important to America. (RN AM and Late Line, 16 May). The Australian language matched the contorted phraseology of the Pentagon. The Prime Minister’s response approximately ‘the US does not have any plans to bring those aircraft to Australia’. This statement is heavy with the unstated and is not a rejection of the idea.
The cause of this political verbal minefield is the increasing Chinese military grip on disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Chinese activities have been described as terra farming or geo-engineering (Prof. H White, Strategic and Defence Studies, ANU). Strings of coral atolls are being constructed into air strips capable of accommodating heavy military aircraft. This work is proceeding some 800 km from the Chinese coast and about 200 km from the Philippines. The United States have been reluctant to directly challenge Chinese activity in these disputed waters but now this problem has to be addressed. Its relationship with South-East Asian allies is at stake. Also in the mix are extensive areas of sea bed oil and gas deposits in this region.
China is not only flexing its muscles in a show of strength but its international trade is dependent on maintaining sea route safety in the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits. Chinese maritime power through a ‘string of pearls’ policy has developed or investigated naval base options in Pakistan, Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar. China has already conducted naval exercises with Iran in the Persian Gulf. All this to protect China’s oil imports, 55% of which originate in the Persian Gulf, pass through the Malacca Strait and into the South China Sea.
A seasoned commentator stated ‘China is slicing its way salami like to a leadership role in Asia’. Apparently incompatible with current bellicose behaviour in the South China Sea its initiative in setting up the Asia Infrastructure and Development Bank is the obverse side of the same coin. Already a dilemma for Australian foreign policy has arisen, Australia acceded to the Chinese request to join while America wanted Australia to remain outside this economic coven.
There is a deja vu with this B1 ‘bombshell’ and the salami slicing progress of the United States in creating an Australian military outpost. Back in the sixties there was initial unease over the construction of the Pine Gap communications facility, then further unease when an American general in Darwin let slip that Haliburton, an American arms contractor associated with Dick Cheney former Vice President, had completed the Alice Springs-Darwin railway. Critics stated there would never be enough traffic to justify its construction, at some stage it could play a vital role in moving heavy military assets and supplies towards northern front lines. Then there was diverse comment several years back on the rotation of American marines in Darwin. The recent relocation of the Caribbean communication facility to Western Australia appears to have occurred under the radar. Now there is to be a rotation escalation of B52 bombers, fighters and refuelling tankers based at Tindall air base, south of Darwin. Additional marines will be rotated from the Darwin base. Perhaps the B1 bombers were intended to be a high flying decoy!!!
Ultimately Australia will have to make a decision to go with our biggest trading partner, China, or go with our biggest ally, America. If Australia is forced to make a decision the ramification will be vast.
Sixty-five years ago Australia was reluctantly involved in another great decision when Winston Churchill had to make the judgement whether Great Britain should join the European Union or support the Empire. It chose Europe and forced Australia into the trading arms of the very recent enemy Japan and its potential bete noir, China. Will Australia’s great Federation fear yet come to roost?
The big picture is that History does happen and Empires do rise and fall.

A Power Stirs.
While eyes and armaments are directed towards the South China Sea the rising giant, Indonesia, is stirring by gaining economic and military strength, the IMF is forecasting an approaching sea change. Within ten years Indonesia is slated to have attained air superiority over Australia. What then of American marine and air bases in Northern Australia?
By 2020 the IMF estimates Indonesia will be the world’s 16th largest economy (GDP $1.3 trillion), Australia will be at 14th ($1.49 trillion). In purchasing power Indonesia will be three times that of Australia.
Translating this into air superiority there are looming implications for Australia and the ANZUS Treaty. America will supply Strike Fighters to Australia and Russia will supply Sukhoi Fighters to Indonesia, cost and capability compared:
*American Fighter $230 million x 100 = $23 billion, missile cost $1.1-1.7 million each, software superiority for now. Australia may not take the full 100 fighters.
*Russian Fighter $100 million x 180 = $18 billion, missile cost $0.57 million each, flies two miles higher, longer range and faster than the American fighter.
It is estimated China, Japan, and Indonesia will have military superiority exceeding that of Australia in about a decade this is against a perception the United States is projecting less power than previously. (Source: Weekend Australian, 23-24 May.) The years of ‘turning back the boats’ may be numbered and in the future let us hope ‘Australia has no greater friend than Indonesia!’.

Chinese investment in Australia
The Rockhampton Beef Exposition has drawn large crowds, among them are are at least 350 prospective Chinese importers of Australian beef which include representatives of the Xiangyu Group who are planing to invest between $300-$500 million over the next five to eight years in integrated grazing, feed lot and abattoir enterprises. The driving force is ‘an obligation to make a contribution to the Australian beef industry’: code for ensuring a stable beef supply for China. The recent purchase of the Glenrock cattle station (March blog) in the Upper Hunter for #45 million provides weight to interest at Rockhampton.
In tandem, the Chinese investment in housing in Australia is attaining new levels. Investment for year ending June 2013 was $5.4 billion and for 2014 was $8.7 billion, at an estimated cost of $2 million per dwelling this is 4,600 dwellings in the Sydney/Melbourne region. Credit Suisse estimates $60 billion will be invested in new Chinese housing in the next six years, this is equivalent to 25,000 new units at $2.5 million each. It is reported that Melbourne and Sydney have higher valuations than London,New York and Tokyo.

Rural Bliss
Not only do Cabbages and Kings have a use by date so too does farm machinery and rural domestics. The past few months has witnessed a rolling snowball of mechanical and electrical failures necessitating repairs and replacements that has pushed expenditure to haemorrhage flows.
Recalcitrant and failed equipment includes the waterhole high pressure pump, blocked reticulation lines, domestic water pump, ride-on mower, push mower, computer, electric drill, quod motor bike, electric iron, toaster, television and, shiver my timbers, the electric blanket. Hither too among the 21st century plasticised comestibles the old faithful 1985 Hoover washing machine that has regularly thundered round the laundry has,alas, become incontinent, it too must go!

APRIL 2015

Easter 2015
I am innocent of the blood of this Person. (Mathew 27.24)

ANZAC Day 2015
His wild heart beats with painful sobs
His strained hands clench an ice cold rifle
His aching jaws grip a hot parched tongue
His wild eyes search unconsciously
He cannot shriek. (Herbert Read, 1915)

Easter 2015.
This Easter there was a stark reminder of a modern day Pontius Pilate washing his hands before the Australian multitude and intoning “I am innocent of the blood of this Person. (Mathew 27.24)
In a Perth hospital a young Iranian refugee, Saeed Hassanloo, lay dying. He is on a hunger strike, he has been in detention for four and a half years, he is a Christian. His application for a visa was rejected and he is to be deported to Shia Iran. He claims he will be tortured or killed because of his faith.
The Minister for Immigration, Mr Dutton, has indicated to the Press he is unable to assist this refugee now that his application has failed. Like Pontius Pilate, Mr Dutton is washing his hands of this professed Christian. Some two thousand years later The Minister, like the Governor of Judea, intends to hand this man over to the (Iranian) mob for some form of crucifixion. So ends the Easter message.
It is by curious chance Mrs J Bishop, Australian Foreign Minister, was in Iran discussing the the repatriation of Iranian refugees. On Saturday Extra it was disconcerting to hear Mathew Brown, ABC Correspondent, discussing the forcible repatriation of Iranian refugees which requires them to be ‘drugged and cuffed’ prior to boarding the aircraft.
In the months before Easter, Christian Europe has witnessed a plethora of nationalistic gatherings demonstrating on the dilution of ‘national’ character by a decades long influx of migrants with their attendant Islamic faith. Western governments are endeavouring to hose down this widening concern. Despite the ‘tyranny of distance’ concern has now reached Australian shores. Supporters for multiculturalism and for ‘Reclaim Australia’ have faced off across police lines. The situation is exacerbated by a birth rate below replacement in the Christian West jostling with a higher birth rate of the Moslem immigrants, it is an inexorable trend line with a cross over point some decades ahead.
The world is no stranger to mass migrations and from these history shows there are two possible outcomes. Migrants will possess a similar faith to the host country and will assimilate or the migrants or colonists will impose their faith, law and culture on the original inhabitants. Turning back the pages of history show different faiths tend to have a fractious coexistence when sharing the same tribal or national space when cultural stability or dominance is threatened. The ‘blood lands’ of Europe do not lightly wear this appellation.
Further, on Saturday Extra and germane to the above was a discussion on Australian academics in south-east Asian universities, from this followed comments on how these Asian nations do not dilute their national characteristics by immigration. In this regard Australia, United States and Canada have a comparable policies of accepting immigrants, because it is to this process they owe their existence.

Outback Degradation
From the Mount Lofty Ranges, brooding over Adelaide to Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsular, where Flinders and Baudin exchanged compliments, the pasture lands are parched blighted grey dying stubble over which token sheep or horses slowly move. Scattered vineyards in autumn undress rustle in the wind. It has been a long hot summer, in keeping with the Mediterranean climate. On a flight from Sydney to Adelaide, across the sweeping dry plains of NSW and SA to the Gulf of Saint Vincent, it is indeed a wide brown land virtually devoid of visible surface water. The flight generated the question ‘by how much has the carrying capacity of the land decreased since first European settlement?’ A lot!
Unfortunately, unless there is change in land use, the trend ‘towards a final hour’ is apparent. Trawling through the Range Lands Journal 2012 (G M McKeon), the Australian Natural Resources Atlas, the NSW State Environment Report 2000 and an Australian Academy of Science publication has unearthed disturbing information.
Since the 1890s there have been nine major prolonged droughts over eastern and central Australia. Soil scientists have have reached four principal conclusions:
* drought on its own does not cause degradation,
* persistent over-grazing is doing irreparable harm,
* European grasses are destroying natural pasture resistance and promoting woody weeds,
* fertilisers are causing degradation and soil erosion.
Following drought, pasture recovery requires above average extended rainfall with low grazing pressure. An increasing problem for the Australian pastoral industry is that improved cattle breeding ensures cattle remain on drought stricken pasture longer. A no win situation. A final conclusion is that the cattle industry is facing a major management problem at a time of degrading pasture, higher input costs, declining income and worsening climatic conditions. Degradation accelerants are:
* Soil Salinity is one of the most serious issues facing NSW agriculture. Salinity degradation has increased from 4000 ha in 1982 to 370,000 ha in 2000. It has been estimated that by 2050 60% (480,000 sq km) of NSW will be salt affected. Major salinity drivers are: clearance of native vegetation and the decline in soil nutrients particularly in wheat areas due to the application of inappropriate fertiliser. Irrigated land in the Murray Basin is also witnessing rising salinity.
* Soil Acidification is on the increase due to application of nitrogen and sulphur fertilisers which causes nitrate leaching, loss of nitrogen and removal of alkaline material which renders soil acid. Some 4% of soils were affected in 1987 but by 2000 it is estimated 7% of NSW soils may be affected. To slow down acidification, around 1.5 million tonnes of lime are required each year, but this is insufficient to halt the degradation. Forgone income in 2003 was estimated as $378 million.
* Soil Erosion. A 1987 survey indicated 38% of NSW pastoral and arable land is degraded by water and wind erosion and mass movement. The State of Environment Report 2006 concluded that in the past century erosion rates have increased by up to one hundred times.
Towards a Final Hour. Degradation trends are proven, unless there is a fundamental change in agricultural management, the area of usable pastoral and arable land will continue to decrease. The Final Hour might seamlessly merge into Gilding’s forecast of the mid-century ‘Great Disruption’.

End of Mission Afghanistan.
This was no Victory Parade. This was a Welcome Home March for the military who had served in Afghanistan in Australia’s longest war. The raw statistics over the twelve year war were 30,000 troops served, 41 died in action, 262 were seriously injured and around 10% (3000) suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Four Victoria Crosses were awarded. Cost to the tax payer is around $7.5 billion.
Australia entered the war under the ANZUS Treaty soon after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, New York The objective was to destroy al Qaida which had master-minded the attack. The Australian force was part of the coalition, the NATO lead International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). During the war Australian troops were involved in several missions, initially to support the United States and finally to train Afghan forces to maintain their own national security. Australian strategy in Afghanistan was often contradictory and vacillating due to:
* politicians having a poor grasp of military strategic issues
* the Australian force was a niche operation with in the large American effort resulting in friction
* there was only a critical assessment of Australia’s role with rising casualties in 2005.
( MacArthur Foundation Security Project)
Afghanistan in 2014 is very different to that of 2001. Al Qaida is a spent force but the Taliban, although weakened, is endeavouring to re-establish a political presence. The country is a fragile functioning democracy, regional control is not absolute and corruption is endemic. However, terrorist groups are no longer rampant and social services have improved. ISAF forces have left a country with a potential for development but if this falters it may become Afghanistan’s nemesis.
Following the exit strategy controlled by the United States, the Australian Government will have difficulty defining to the Australian people what Australia achieved in Afghanistan. A tangible benefit is that Australia now has a military core capable of operating in challenging political and physical conditions.
Setting aside the political and military legacy, the enduring domestic issue is PTSD among returned service personnel. This is a largely unrecognised blight in our Australian community. Sitting couch potato-like, comfortably watching pointless violent bloodless television, many of our citizens can acquire no sense of a slow agonising death or the horrific injury of children or adults, endured or witnessed by those in the armed forces. Television is there for entertainment or ratings, education is a lesser third.

ANZAC Day 2015
ANZAC Day quite rightly commemorates the bravery, suffering and sacrifice of Australian forces at Gallipoli but at the same time the concentration of Government orchestrated influence does a disservice to those Australians who served on the Western Front and other later conflicts where carnage or the carnage rate was even greater. Four battles, among many, soon after Gallipoli are significant, namely:
* 1915 Gallipoli———–26,663 casualties over nine months (awm.gov.au/encyclopedia)
* 1916 Fromelles———–5533 casualties in one night (awm.gov.au/wartime)
* 1917 Passchendaele——-38,000 casualties over three months (awm.gov.au/military-event)
* 1917 Polygon Wood——–5770 casualties over two days (awm.gov.au/event)
* 1918 Villers-Bretonneux–2400 casualties in one night (ww1westernfront.gov.au/villers-bretonneux).
Gallipoli The terrible conditions are in the public arena; it is however sad that a popular image of this campaign is Simpson and his donkey that sanitises the horrors of war.
Fromelles. This offensive has been described by senior officers as a “tactical abortion and a bloody holocaust”. After the failed attack, an eye witness records Australians writhing in agony in a nomans land covered in pieces of human meat.
Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres). The “intensity and horrendous conditions” moved a military officer to say, “this offensive symbolised the great loss,tragedy and futility of this war”. Five Australian divisions were involved. From this carnage sprouted ‘Flanders Fields where poppies grow’.
Polygon Wood. Amid seas of mud, 10,000 Australian troops of the 5th Division retook this position from the Germans.
Villers-Bretonneux (Amiens). The 5th Division took this position. It was a significant victory and crucial to ending the war. The Commander was General Sir John Monash who was instrumental in changing British military tactics.
The selection of Gallipoli as a focus for national ethos and commemoration is understandable, but illogical. The “birth” of Australian ethos could have equally occurred at Passchendaele which was a far more terrible event. Perhaps Gallipoli is an easier assimilable focus than the more defuse Western Front. This is regrettable as it ensures Australian youth has a myopic view of Australian contribution and sacrifice in the First World War and later wars. Somehow the Government must bring to the public mind a better understanding of Australia’s military history. With the effluxion of time and the passing of generations, historical fact will become garnished by myth. At some stage Gallipoli will have to share its pre-eminent position with military events of perceived greater moment.
In the welter of Gallipoli remembrance there appears to be a Government inspired culture of silence on the sacrifice and achievements of Australian troops in the Second World War. The raw numbers are:
* 17,500 casualties in the Pacific theatre (wikipedia.org/militaryhistoryofaustralia)
* 2,650 deaths on the Thai-Burma railway (anzacday.org.au/history/ww2)
* 40,600 deaths in Europe and North Africa (secondworldwarhistory.com/ww2)
Again, why the silence?
Australian military history represents an interesting triumvirate of endeavour, a partial compilation illustrates the point:
* First. The support of British Empire and the ANZUS Treaty well beyond our borders, e.g. Boer War, Western Front, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.
* Second. Missions and Peace-keeping in Timor Solomon Islands, Cyprus, Sumatra etc.
* Third. Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Malaya etc. This third group is significant as fighting in this theatre was actually involved in the defence of Australian borders. Australia was very nearly invaded by Japanese forces but Australians hear almost nothing on Australian victories and sacrifice in the defence of the Commonwealth of Australia. Why not? This is a fraught question.
A dark development may be unfolding. Hitherto, for one hundred years, the Turkish government has encouraged a secular society. By culture and tradition, Turkey follows Islam. Voices are now raised that favour a jihadist approach to the war with Australia. If momentum grows the nature of ANZAC services could be profoundly affected in Turkey. It has not been lost on Moslem intellectuals that Australia frequently calls on the Christian God when memorialising the Gallipoli campaign. Clearly Allah must also become involved.
I commemorated ANZAC Day at Pearl Beach, a small seaside village on the Central Coast. It was a day of quiet reflection. The pomp of National marches and the camaraderie is necessary however for people all over Australia – it is a peoples’ day. Letters on display to and from the Front contain deep emotions and longings that, if reflected in our own society today, would make it a kinder gentler society.

Rural Bliss
The face of the Upper Hunter and contiguous rural regions have transformed into an almost emerald landscape. Rainfall for the month reached 92 mm (over 3.5 inches) but it is still not sufficient to fill dams or make the local rivers run. Towards the end of April, a savage East Coast low battered and flooded coastal areas north and south of Sydney. To the Winds of Climate Change (January blog) can be added this latest weather disaster. Deaths. floods and wind damage have stretched Emergency Services.

The Drug Trade
There are four issues swirling round the events in Bali:
* ‘Saving face’ in Asian cultures is important. The megaphone diplomacy employed by the Australian Government gave no option to the Indonesian President but to maintain his Government policy. A back-down in the face of increasing pressure became unthinkable.
* The Australian Prime Minister has ‘lost face’ by his constant carping, one quiet phone call would have been sufficient. It is reported the President no longer accepts calls from the Prime Minister. The remainder of the Australian Government term will require bridge building. Australia needs Indonesia rather than visa versa.
* Throughout this sorry saga there has been a murky silence on the role of the Australian Federal Police. Their informant action has been expensive, has pushed diplomacy beyond accepted norms, has probably put trade at risk and polarised the community. The Federal Police owe the Australian public an explanation.
* As a fallout the Australian public should now see a ferocious policy on drug use in Australia. Such a policy should reflect the implacable opposition to the death penalty and an even more determined effort to reduce drug use in Australia. Anything less and sincerity might be questioned.
In this tense international situation Condorcet’s eulogy on the death of Benjamin Franklin comes to mind.
“He pardoned the present for the sake of the future.”

MARCH 2015

The Death Cult. Prime Minister Abbott.

In education there should be no class distinction. Analects of Confucius

The Winds of Climate Change 1
North America has experienced another Polar Vortex, a sustained blast of freezing air and snow from the Arctic. Historically these weather events occurred every twenty years. In quick succession in 2009-10, 2013, 2014 and 2015 these events portend climate rather than weather. This year snow has fallen in 48 of the 50 American states, Hawaii and Florida were spared. The situation was so dire that the Government ensured buses round the country with engines running all night provided shelter to thousands of homeless who would have frozen to death in temperatures down to -26*C.
The physics of these events is the Polar Vortex flowing round the Arctic Circle curves into lower latitudes. This is caused by the increased melting of Arctic ice as the sun heats the exposed water, moisture laden air rises to form feedstock for the violent Vortex blizzards which travel south displacing the more temperate Jet Stream. North America, Europe and Asia in recent times have all suffered unusual cold spells. As cold air roars out of the Arctic warm moisture laden air flows north to become feedstock for the violent snowstorms. Historically the Polar Vortex has been strong and kept the cold weather circulating round the polar region, this circulation system is weakening and the occasional Vortex is now increasingly looking like climate.
On the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Australia, listening to reports on the aftermath of cyclones Marcia (Cat.5) and Lam (Cat.4) a disturbing number of rural food producers are starting to give up after being flattened by three cyclone disasters in four years. Issues swirling round these disasters are leading to expanding mental health problems. Concurrently and related to increasingly violent weather events there have been over 1000 separate bush fires in Western Australia in what has been described as the hottest summer on record.
Reports of people giving up could be a growing global trend, is this a thin edge of the social wedge that gives weight to Gilding’s statement “The future is upon us”? Those entrusted with Homeland Security must be viewing trends with apprehension.

The Cockpit that is Europe.
Until Australia merges ethnically and culturally closer into South-East Asia it should remain very aware of developments in Europe. Caucasian Australians should be viewing with concern a growing crisis in Europe, a flash point that has its origins in European history. It is a situation shaped by the past and a disturbing present. After the Second World War and following the formation of the Common Market and later the European Union citizens were given to believe there would be a permanent state of prosperity. Put into collective amnesia was the fact that over 100 million people had been killed between 1914 and 1945.
After the Second World War the US Marshall Plan and the projection of unity was supposed to submerge the old animosities between France and Germany and between Britain and France. Since the late 1940s there has been a disturbing loss of sovereignty with power shared solely between Moscow and Washington. This situation lead to a declining vitality among European nations even as the Common Market formed to be followed later by the European Union, this was followed by the decline of the Soviet Union and the birth of a menacing bear, the Russian Federation. This loss of sovereignty and the lack of competition between Europeans left a dissatisfied nationalism manifest in the rise of right wing nationalist political parties across Europe.
Europe has a long lived fracture line extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, this is the ‘blood lands’ of Europe, it is where the ‘Border Lands to Europe’ are situated some 400 miles from the sea, it is where orthodox Slavic Christianity and orthoprax Islam inter-finger with the Catholic and Protestant West. The current flash point is Ukraine whose national anthem is ‘Shche ne Umeria’, ‘Ukraine has not yet Died’.
The European international situation has degenerated to where Europe is not wealthy but Germany is wealthy, this nation has reached the unsustainable position where it exports 50% of its GDP, compared to an impecunious Europe. Intra-European markets have virtually closed down but what Germany needs is a free trade zone and it now has to look to South-East Asian markets and here there are huge problems.
German unemployment is only 5% and this is destabilising when compared to Greece 26%, Spain 24% and Italy 22%, although Greece only accounts for 2% of the European economy a measure of Euro instability can be judged by a concern for a Greek default. Populations in Europe are becoming increasingly reactionary and it is a German nightmare should countries in the Euro zone erect trade barriers
It has been mooted that Europe is in this ‘slough of despond’ because of the existence of the European Union. The Union destroyed competition between nations and levelled the playing field until it became a morass in which all became bogged in mediocrity. If Europe had kept only to the Common Market all would have been a lot better. Europe is a small continent comprised of some fifty sovereign entities, it was friction at the borders that created healthy competition. Neighbourley malice has been largely submerged by fifty years of growth, now malice and right wing nationalism is returning. Europe has slumbered on ignoring deep structural problems, national, economic and cultural, now these triplets are waking up after a long sleep. Ideas for this article have been derived from ‘The Future of Europe’ by Dr George Friedman, Stratfor.

Indonesia has no better friend than Australia.
; A map of south-east Asia showing the ASEAN Community is instructive, Australia is missing. The three pillars of the Community are socio-cultural, political and economic, these are laudable and it would appear Australia has much to offer. In assessing Australia’s place as an adjacent non member of the Community three exclusion factors are important, ethnicity, religion and an inherited GDP per head. Australia can never become a member of this Community in its present form due to these exclusion factors, GDP per head for ASEAN is $4,300 (The Economist) while for Australia it is $67,000 (World Bank). Historically and politically it is quite different but in time with Asian immigration and fecundity this will change.
In the unsustainable world of the 21st century Australia will become more isolated and perforce Australia and New Zealand will be drawn closer together under a defence pact with a potentially unenthusiastic America. Australian policy makers must hope America will continue to use Australia as a barracks for a fighting force, a naval base for refits, R&R and a military communications facility, in this context it is of interest to note that the communications base in the Caribbean has been quietly moved to Western Australia. Australia is included as a marginal outlier in the OECD ratings and a peripheral observer to NATO. Unfortunately the way the economy is declining it could loose its place in the G20.
Australia has two great opportunities to counter this potential isolation and to become central to South East Asian affairs. Its secondary and tertiary education standards are widely admired, Australia should now be training quality teaching staff and expanding existing schools and preparing to build new ones for a coming influx of Asian students. The second opportunity will be to contribute impressively to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership initiated by China. This will provide for Australian construction companies, engineers and research institutions to be at the forefront of infrastructure projects.
What has all this to do with the recent proximate quote by Prime Minister Abbott “Indonesia has no better friend than Australia, we will stand by you and help you in times of need”! Drilling into this statement it unwittingly reeks of superiority and an ex-Empire mentality. This turn of phrase would never be used between two equals.It is a statement that gives the impression it does not recognise the ruling elite and intelligentsia of the ASEAN Community are on a par or more astute than equivalent Australians. While Australian foreign aid appears well meaning it is not lost on many in Cambodia, Malaya, Nauru, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that Australian aid may be associated with refugee issues.
With the exception of Thailand all other members of the Community have living memories of colonialism, Australia is tainted with this tar brush as it is a successful coloniser in another’s land and has inherited a standard of living that has its roots in Empire. Religion is another great differentiate, Australian Christian faith has virtually nothing in common with Islam or Buddhism.

The Winds of Climate Change 2
Following on from January blog cyclone Pam over Vanuatu and cyclone Olwyn over Carnarvon, WA, are both associated with similar physical characteristics. Cyclone Pam was the strongest ever recorded in this portion of the Western Pacific, it was classified as category 5 moving towards an unclassified 6, wind was gusting over 200 mph (320 kmph). According to the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, USA, the sea surface temperatures were 2*C warmer and moisture content was 10-20% greater than normal for this time of year. Likewise the sea surface temperature of the north-west coast of Western Australia was also 2*C above normal. In 2011 the Carnarvon region suffered devastating damage to its banana crops, it is the same again in 2015. Similarly with the banana industry in north Queensland in recent years, for how much longer can citizens climb out of the financial and physical debris and start again?

Fault Lines between Cultures
The Death Cult, what a ridiculous phrase! Is this absence of understanding on the part of the Australian Prime Minister or is it a deliberate attempt to mislead Australians as to the causes of this phenonomen? In either case it is unprofessional.
The Sunni Islamic State was conceived as a response to Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite (a corrupt off-shoot of Shi’ite belief) regime slaughter of Sunni Syrians, it was a response to a dreadful civil war in which the Christian West refused to become involved. The Islamic State is following an interpretation of the Qur’an and hadith of the Prophet. Considering the Enlightenment has not reached Islam there is a similarity to Catholic and Protestant massacres in the Middle Ages. That Islamic State has erupted in Syria and Iraq is not unexpected since both countries were controlled by essentially Shi’ite administrations that persecuted the Sunni majority.The movement must be tamed and its ideology redirected, Australians must be given more than jingoistic phrases to gain community understanding.
The term ‘radicalising of Moslem youth’ by third parties is only part of the problem. It would be more correct to suggest Australia is, in part, a contributor to the radicalisation. The French Government has recognised its responsibility and is looking at an integration program. Despite the back slapping hoo-ha of Australian multiculturalists it is likely many young Moslems cannot see a vision for their own future within a Caucasian society indifferent to their needs and aspirations, there is no manly challenge for them. The average Moslem is more religious than the average Christian so they may be enthused to take up arms in the name of Allah and right the wrongs imposed on Sunni by Shia.
That the Australian Government suggests this is not a religious problem is incorrect, it will mainly be Sunni who volunteer for the Islamic State, Shia Moslems have other concerns. This problem is a spiritual issue highly charged with emotion, it cannot be remedied by the dead hand of terrorist legislation. Surveillance and police raids will have some success but it will not purge the thoughts of thousands of young Sunni Moslems who are aware. The Romans tried to destroy Christian belief in the coliseum and failed
There are two related factors, for centuries young men have flocked to war, it is in the nature of young men to want excitement, derring-do and glory, that reality might be different is not a deterrent. The second factor is that young Moslems must be provided with a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their lives, this is even more urgent considering unemployment levels in Australia. Indonesia is concerned at the number of its youth attempting to join Islamic State, the population is 99% Sunni. This is significant as it suggests that the motive is primarily to join jihad. This fact is relevant for Australia’s approach to the problem since it can be inferred that discontent with life in the Australian community is of lesser moment than also a desire for jihad. This is a belief issue and will be hard to change while in the embrace of Sunni Islam. The Prime Minister must realise this is a religious problem.
Turning round young minds will take a long time but a suggested start is to initiate a modified Duke of Edinburgh award scheme that challenges bodies and minds and concurrently introduce current affairs-cum-politics sessions into schools, both would be a compulsory part of the curriculum. Enhanced training/ employment opportunities should be established in popular Moslem residential areas. The Government will have to lead this charge using open minded young Moslems who speak the language of their peers, ageing Imams are not the answer.
Any program will be costly for the Australian taxpayer but that is the cost of open ended multiculturalism where minority faiths are involved.

Education and Employment
The ABS produced informative figures of educational achievement in 2009 on the working age population of 10.15 million and its educational standards (rounded) are:
Post Graduates <1%, Bachelor 23%, Diploma 15%, Certificate 1-4 35%, Unskilled 26%. (410.2 Australian Social Trends, September, 2010) The Sydney Morning Herald (6/10/14) joined the chorus and reported on the serious STEM (science, technology, maths, science) study decline. Working on a post graduate estimate of <1% this means Australia is is producing less than 10,000 STEM graduates each year while the majority will be studying 'soft' subjects, on these numbers Australian future high tech industrial development will tend to stall. The Q&A show on the 16th March dealt with Education and Unemployment. Canada has a similarity to Australia, it was also reliant on natural resources but has revitalised its industrial capacity, the painful surprise was that as GDP increased so did unemployment. Modern industrialisation is now driven by computers and automation not factory labour. This outcome has special relevance for the 25 to 30 percent of the labour force (subject to adjustment for 2015) that is Unskilled. While it is important that students live with dignity and that HEX fees are not an intolerable burden the critical requirement is for Australia to raise standards and numbers of STEM teaching staff at schools and universities Commencing with Whitlam in the early 1970s Australia developed an egalitarian education system to ensure youth would have the opportunity to reach their potential. Now the Australian public must be made aware it is the upper echelon of the work force together with capital that will produce employment and industrialisation for the bulk of Australians. Meaningful employment will have to be generated for a probably increasing Unskilled group. To give these ideas substance more resources will be required to identify and and extend young minds to ensure what ever their 'class' they will have the opportunity to embrace STEM material. With in these same schools with the above arrangement classes can be organised to cater for those with aptitudes and aspirations towards trades and diplomas, this is 'streaming' but in an increasingly competitive world people may have to amend cherished opinions. Chinese Hegemony – A rising International Oligarch.
The confusing comments on the benefits of the proposed 49% leaseing arrangements of ‘poles and wires’ to a ?Chinese investor days out from a NSW State election generated a search for trends in Chinese industrial investment in Australia. Activity is from a low base but rising, if the trend continues by mid-century Chinese foreign investment will be considerable as will also be an increasing Asian demographic within Australian society. Individually investment trends may not be significant but the cumulative influence will become clearer because many of the commercial activities will be directly controlled by State organisations directed by Chinese government policy.
Data was gathered for Chinese investment activities in real estate, natural resources, agribusiness and electricity distribution, gross figures are:
* between 2006-2012 investments were $46.9 billion (US)
mining $36.9, gas $8.9, renewables $0.2, agribusiness $0.9
* for 2013 investment was $5.4 bn
* for 2013 Australian global share of investments was 10.8%
* since 2008 Chinese global expenditure on mineral/petroleum assets was $175 bn
REAL ESTATE.
The state controlled Sino Ocean Land Company is building huge (40 floor) blocks of flats in Melbourne and possibly Sydney, expenditure in 2013 was nearly $6 billion.
NATURAL RESOURCES. A surprising condition of the recently signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China is that mines are specifically excluded from Australia’s strategic assets, China considers Australian raw materials are vital to its economy. Current major projects are the Curtis and Browse gas fields, lithium, alumina, Karratha iron ore mine, several coal mines in the Hunter valley, two coal projects in the Galilee basin and the Watermark coal project, Gunnadah, for which the Shenhua Group paid $300 million for the right to explore. The recent acquisition of the lithium resource south of Perth by the Chengdu Tianqi Group and the China Investments Corporation is significant. This is reported as the largest spodumene (lithium aluminium silicate) deposit in the world, 70% of production will go to China for electric car batteries.
AGRIBUSINESS. In the period 2011-2012 Chinese investment was $980 million for logistics facilities and sugar, cotton, crop and wine producers, a recent acquisition has been 50 dairy farms in Victoria. Breaking news, Chinese interests have purchased Glenrock cattle station in the Hunter Valley for $45 million. Prime beef production will now be directed towards the Chinese market.
ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION. The State Grid Corporation of China has purchased a controlling interest in the South Australian and Victorian networks.Should the Liberals win the NSW State election on the 28th March 49% of the State’s ‘poles and wires’ might be acquired by Chinese State interests. Thus for south-eastern Australia including the Australian Capital Territory power distribution could be controlled by an overseas Communist state. What other capital in a Western democracy is in this situation?
CONCLUSION. Chinese investment in Australia is frequently arranged through State controlled organisations. The investment is in critical industries, if prosecuted over time aggregate foreign control will become significant, the beneficiary being the Chinese market. The caveat is that to develop Australia foreign investment is essential. The Economist has predicted that in 2015 the outbound foreign investment by China will exceed inbound foreign investment
(Reference. Australian Business Review, August 2013. Financial Services,February,2015)

Rural Bliss.
A dry summer has morphed into a dry autumn. Graziers in a wide area of New South Wales are being forced to sell all but a few breeding cows. Dams are drying up and creek water has disappeared into gravels. The country is too dry to sustain pasture and to damp to sustain cactus. This is the twilight world of purgatory for many on the land.

FEBRUARY 2015

Australia has run out of Luck  (Gerard Minak, December, 2014)

We can no more hope to end drug abuse by eliminating heroin than we could alter the suicide rate by outlawing high buildings or the sale of rope. (The Global Fix, 1987)

 

Global Finance. From Financial Big Bang to Global Black Hole.
Seldom is one lucky enough to hear a lucid description  of global financial matters, Nicole Foss on ABC1. Big Ideas provided this information. Foss, formerly with the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies and  now a Systems Analyst,  provided an insight into the global financial system teetering on the edge of a Black Hole.
The term ‘limits to growth’ and sustainability are commonly heard, the phrase now applies to global finance. Since the end of the Second World War  there has been a relentless rise  in industrialisation, economic activity and growth of the money supply. Inflation has increased as the money supply increased . Signs of financial insatiability are visible in the  bursting of the property bubble in Japan, China and the United States. As bubbles increase in size so too does inflation.
The financial system will be the first to fail as civilisation moves further into an unsustainable future. With the growth of the halcyon fifty years after the Second World War expanding markets  witnessed the growth of the money supply which ultimately morphed into paperless money and ultimately into almost incomprehensible credit instruments. Money has become almost an intangible commodity. There are now signs of an approaching financial crisis with the fall in the money supply and the quantitative easing employed by the United States, Japan and now the European Union to stimulate their flagging economies. Central Banks  have reduced interest rates to close to zero in order to stimulate productive investment. Globally the financial system is on the verge of a bust phase. Australians should take no comfort  from the Reserve Bank  decision to cut interest rates.
The 1980’s was the Big Bang when Great Britain and the United States deregulated the money markets, money freely moved round the world and the WTO and other trade/financial organisations precipitated  an enormous growth in the money supply. Cash decreased  as credit hyperinflation exploded and inflation increased. The stage has now been reached where 99% of the money supply is under collateralisation. This situation has promoted a deadly game of ‘musical chairs’ where only a few bankers, commercial organisations or traders holding debt are safe.
The world is on the verge of global deflation. Europe has entered that phase and the situation will become worse should Greece and Russia default on loans. In Greece  creditors will buy assets and Greeks will become tenants in their own country. The situation will precipitate a flight of capital to safe havens like Switzerland and the United States, this will knee jerk other nations to impose capital controls and so world trade will slow down.
The above situation will precipitate a savage revaluation of the housing markets. Price will no longer be the driver it will be affordability. Owners with large mortgages will see their equity plummet.
With deflation gaining momentum (as in Europe), unemployment will rise, wages and benefits will fall and taxes will rise as governments face a Black Hole. Behind this situation is the world of virtual money, creditors will force debtors to terminate their lines of credit, this may become impossible since there is no money supply. It was Iceland and Ireland that imploded few years ago owing debt.
In this new era of globalisation the money supply dried up and trade became dependent on letters of credit. In an environment of of virtual money and economic expansion there had to be increasing trust. With inflation falling and quantitative easing  increasing there is decreasing trust as debt increases. For many there is a Black Hole hardship ahead.

Carbon Crash – Solar Dawn
Following on from January a study on world energy, heard on ABC Big Ideas, shows the global energy industry to be in a parlous state.In the early days of coal and oil energy the industrial output was 1:100, in recent years the efficiency has fallen to 1:15 but in the near future the efficiency is slated to fall to 1:5 thus there is a desperate need for a low cost energy source. This declining efficiency may be in part due to the provision of ‘social’ energy to large population centres which use power for daily living where as in the early days of power it was used principally for industrial purposes. The early energy was used for productive enterprise and a productive workforce that contributed directly to GDP, now energy is supplied to vast and scattered population centres that do not have high positive economic impact.
In the January blog Gilding stated the “the future is upon us”, final comment by Foss mirrors this statement when she opined the world is a very different place to that of early industrial energy and cheap credit. New financial and energy systems are also upon us.

Australia from Commodity Boom  to Liquidity Crunch.
The Australian Industry Group made cooing noises on the strength of the NSW economy for 2013 as mainly derived from construction in the housing industry. This is in part a ‘ false dawn’ as this industry tends to churn the domestic money supply rather than producing export income unless overseas investors are encouraged  to purchase housing, unfortunately this will tend to inflate house prices and adversely affect Australian property buyers. This is a nice problem for Government.
With the end of the mining boom both Australia and Canada will suffer a liquidity squeeze. The Australian Government is already facing an income shortage hence the budget shenanigans. Australia’s weak position is due to
**a highly geared industry driven off shore by high input costs
**there is a high level of credit card debt,  $34 bn or $4400 per cardholder (ASIC)
**there is a huge housing bubble, for Sydney, Hong Kong and Vancouver, a significant correction is probable
For over ten years Australia has been to reliant on the resources industry, the Australian dollar has been grossly overvalued which has largely destroyed the manufacturing industry and driven it off shore. Successive Australian governments have not prepared the population for this economic downturn except latterly to intone the budget must be brought back to surplus which can only be accomplished  by squeezing health, social service and education.
In April 2014 the Australian Treasurer (RN Breakfast) indicated Government debt was $667 bn and rising while the budget deficit was $123 bn and rising, interest payments are around $23 bn per year and also rising. A comparison with OECD countries (IMF) shows Australia is not in bad shape, but alarm bells are ringing, government debt as a percentage of GDP is:- Australia 14, USA 88, UK 83, Greece 155, Germany 84.
An important source of Australia’s problems is the down turn in China’s economic activity. In recent years China has overbuilt on infrastructure and has accumulated a large natural resource inventory. There are vast multi story  housing blocks unsold and unoccupied. The Chinese industrial explosion has involved huge amount of credit, this will have to be repaid and represents a further source of instability in  the financial system. Australian woes are due too two numbers, Chinese boom generating growth  has fallen from plus 8% to round 3%

Reserve Bank Interest Rate Cut.
On the 3rd February it was concerning to hear Treasurer Hockey enthuse on the interest rate cut to 2.25% claiming this was good for home owners and small business. What the Treasurer omitted to say was that these historic low interest rates are indicative of a sluggish economy, rising unemployment and a tendency for capital flight out of Australia. The European  Union has low interest rates, high unemployment and is teetering on deflation. Government advice to Australians should be to tighten their belts and work harder than ever.
In late December 2014 Mr Gerard Minak, formerly Head of Market Strategy, Morgan Stanley, ( ABC  Business Program)  said that Australia has “run out of luck” following a staggering resources boom. Minak has forecast the serious risk of a recession for Australia in 2015, there will be  a lower dollar, lower interest rates, under performing equities and a significant fall in house prices. Why is it our politicians never call it as it is?

Dammed with Feint Praise
The saga has been humiliating for Australian democracy, the protagonists and the thinking public. The prequel to the Liberal spill motion in Canberra was characterised by a journalistic rabble attempting to elicit views and outcomes to leading  questions.
The spill motion was dealt with in a few moments, 60-40 in favour of Prime Minister Abbott, this was marginally above a censure motion, indeed it was a result dammed with faint praise.
The sequel, the 7.30 Report, Mr Abbott presented so poorly one could almost sympathise with him, he appeared to be grasping for answers, not directly responding to questions and indulging in pedestrian comment. It was telling  that he intended to be more collegial and inclusive with his ‘back bench’ but only in passing did he  mention the need to address his approval rating with the electorate.. Many viewers would have been disappointed with his measured and so very carefully chosen words. He was just not speaking as a confident national leader.
The day following the faint endorsement of Mr Abbott the Australian public endured an excruciating interview  with the Minister of Defence, Mr Andrews. The Minister was in Adelaide to discuss the $20?-$40?-$50? billion submarine program with the Australian Submarine Corporation. His press conference was marred  by ad nauseam repetitions that he was the Minister of Defence, the government approach to the project would be careful, cautious and methodical and contractor selection criteria would be a “competitive evaluation process” The Minister either would not or could not explain this process or how it varied from the normal tender process. Diction was hesitant and wooden as if a rigid  script controlled the proceedings, they were totally uninformative. It was dispiriting rendition of Major General Stanley, “I am the very model of a modern Major General”.`
A sequel a few days later was there would be a competitive tender involving Germany, Japan, France and Australia. The decision will be politicised. Having a defence agreement with Japan could bring Australia into international tension with China due to the dispute over the Senkaku (Japan) and Diaoyu (China) islands.There is also the issue of linking Japanese platforms to American armament systems.Both France and Germany (constructed over 100 submarines in recent years) have offered to build the submarines in Australia. The very complex tender process will continue to the end of 2015. Once built the Government has indicated there will be over 500 maintenance jobs created in South Australia.

Towards the Final Hour
My right eye is misbehaving, retinal corrosion according to the computer image. I am now on a crash course of eye drops to right this ocular wrong. The ultimatum from a MacQuarie Street specialist ‘get it fixed or go blind’.
A magic night of Faust at the Sydney Opera House. Goethe wrote the opera when he was 59 years old in 1808, he was already an ageing man who stated that “experiments in life had left him more unsatisfied”. The production illustrated love, lust,incomprehensible faith and mankind’s preoccupation with warfare, it fitted like a glove into the 21st century. One has to be an ageing male to relate to Faust and Goethe, another well fitting glove.

Rural Bliss
Great progress, it was two days of thinning eucalyptus trees on a steep boulder strewn slope disrupted by disintegrating branches, lethally pointed up turned tree stumps, bull ants lurking in camouflaged mounds and persistent flies that were drawn to facial spasaming orifices. Keeping a hot smoking chain saw on the trees rather than my legs and torso proved a great preoccupation. Such progress was only possible with the help of Sydney friends who toiled and sweated along side me.
I attended the local chapter of the Wild Dog Association AGM in Timor. Trends are not good and baiting is to be expanded. Dogs are becoming larger, they are hunting in bigger packs and they are now attacking and killing horses, as well as tearing apart but partially eating cattle and sheep. Tracking devices have established dogs make their lairs in quiet inaccessible areas from which they travel over twenty kilometres on hunting sorties, this give them an operating area of 1200 sq km. So far Animal Rights groups and the RSPCA have expressed a thunderous silence on this carnage.

Yemen, under the popular radar.
Another flash point for Middle East stability and safe passage for oil supplies has risen, Yemen controls the Bab al Mandab, the narrow strait to the Red Sea through which passes some 8% of global oil. Shi’ite Hoothi Muslims have been fighting the Sunni government for years, supported by Sunni Saudi Arabia. In the past few weeks Hoothi militia have forced the resignation of the President, Prime Minister and closed parliament. Saudi has now terminated support, famine and chaos are now facing Yemen. Western embassies have pulled out, only those of China and Russia remain. Despite American drone attacks Al Qaeda is well established, quixotically Al Qaeda regard the Hoothi as heretics and seek to destroy them. Yemen is now an out of control state controlling one of the world’s oil routes.

The Drug Trade
Official Australian Government policy in recent weeks has been a persistent request that two Australians due for execution in Indonesia be granted clemency. Portions of the Australian public have supported this request.
There are major issues swirling round these frantic pleas for mercy directed towards the Indonesian President. The dispiriting quote from the Global Fix meshes with a recent ABC Health Report program which suggested that drug addiction and death could be reduced if young and middle aged citizens had meaning and purpose to their lives. The Conversation (2013) has indicated that one third of heroin users are over 40 but there is a rising death rate in the 50 to 60 year olds which may be correlated with long term unemployment. The UNSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has indicated there are 74,000 heroin users in Australia mainly in the 20 to 30 year age group due to a combination of unemployment and little possibility of a normal family life. The ABS reported 366 deaths from heroin based drugs in 2005.
What ever the out come of the Commonwealth of Australia plea to the Republic of Indonesia ( it has been a mistake to make the supplication too personal) the Australian Government is now obligated to wage an implacable and sustained war on the drug industry and to institute programs that lift young people and older unemployed out of the ‘slough of despond’ that drives them into drugs. Anything less than a concerted bipartisan political effort could be construed as a reluctance to address the real issues behind two Australians on death row in Bali.

Coins for Australia.
If this initiative gathers momentum like a rolling snowball Australia’s humiliation in SE Asia could be devastating. Prime Minister Abbott in pleading for mercy for two Australians on death row in Bali mentioned the one billion dollars of aid sent to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami, it is reported this statement has enraged many Indonesians. There is now a grass roots move to collect ‘Coins for Australia’ and return the aid, support is now coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Let us hope this terrible gaff does not enter the history books along side:
***the Wooden Horse at Troy in 1178 BC
*** the Romans at Masada in 73 BC
*** the fall of Singapore in 1942
*** the Iraq victory claim on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003.
The irony of ‘Coins for Australia’ will not be lost on the intelligentsia of SE Asia who realise better than many Australians that the Great South Land has a rising deficit problem, rising unemployment and a moribund manufacturing industry. Australia is in an invidious position.

Postscript.The Future
I am increasingly concerned, I yearn to express some meaningful global good news on mankind’s progress deeper into the Anthropocene, suggestions welcomed. Living between rising carbon dioxide in the aerial ocean and concentrating plastic in the terrestrial ocean I now wonder about the future of all great grand children, recently born who will be 75 in 2090, forty years past the Great Disruption so eloquently forecast by Paul Gilding. Faith will help us to endure, only Churchillian determination will solve the problem.

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 2015

Australia Day
Pearl Beach Australia Day 2015

The Winds of (Climate) Change. (Harold MacMillan)
Carbon Crash-Solar Dawn (Paul Gilding)

The Winds of Climate Change
Hand in hand New Year Festivity and ‘unnatural’ disaster moved through Australia. In the first days of 2015, roaring plus 40 degrees   winds sand blasted bush fires in the Adelaide Hills and western Victoria. Trawling through the disaster records over the past 30 years (1985-2015) indicates the first years of the 21st century require explanation and are a cause for concern. Natural Disasters in Australia (australia.gov.au) highlight terrible events in two fifteen year tranches. The information speaks for itself
* 1985-1999  (No significant bush fires)
1990              Wide spread floods in Qld and NSW
1991-95       Drought in north-east NSW and Qld
* 2000-2015
2002-07     Drought, severe and wide spread
2003            Fire storm, Canberra
2006            Cyclone Larry (Cat.5), north Qld
2009            Fire storm, Black Saturday, Vic
2010             Floods, Brisbane, Bundaberg and districts, Qld
2011            Floods, Vic.    Cyclone Yasi (Cat.5), north Qld
2013           Bush fire , Blue Mtns., NSW. Cyclone Oswold, Qld
2015            Fire storm, Adelaide Hills, SA and western Vic
These ‘unnatural’ disasters occurred along side El Nino events, rising sea surface temperature and  heat waves. Meteorological  data from 2000 show Australia has in the past twelve years suffered the highest prolonged summer temperatures since readings commenced. What does this apparent increasing ‘unnatural’ disaster frequency mean for Australia?

Carbon Crash—Solar Dawn ( ABC Science Show 5th January)
Once again the Australian Government is shown to be out of step  on global issues. Three experts on sustainable energy R Slaughter (Futurist), P Gilding (ex CEO Greenpeace) and S Holmes a Court (Community Energy) discussed renewable energy,  Australia’s damaging policy and the coming Carbon Crash to be followed by a Solar Dawn. In dollar terms. some $300 billion is being  invested globally in new energy sources while major coal-gas utilities have lost 50% of their value, around half a trillion dollars. In misty northern Europe, Germany and Denmark lead the world in solar power generation. There is a global move towards households taking control of their own power; this will initiate a death spiral of the big power companies.
Under Australian government encouragement five years ago some 5000 homes were fitted with solar panels, there are now 1.2 million homes producing solar power and selling it back to the grid. The irony is that now during hot weather peak usage big generating companies are losing profits to solar powered homes. With Prime Minister Abbott’s scare tactics  on the carbon tax this drove more people to embrace solar power and thereby made matters worse for the coal fired power stations.Within the renewable energy industry the rate of change is rapid and chaotic, people are changing but the old established companies are not. Out of Cambridge University evolved the observation with regard to progress “Nothing should ever happen for the first time”, this certainly applies to to the renewable energy explosion. Gilding asserted the world is no  longer dealing with the future, it is upon us and the future is ugly but if mankind drags its feet the future will be very ugly.
It is Slaughter’s contention the future has darkened and that humans cannot just muddle their way through the global problems. Governments will have to be more proactive  and enforcers. Holmes a  Court described the Hepburn (Victoria)  cooperative wind turbine power station which has made the local community independent of the power grid. Denmark has built 2100  wind farms. Since Abbott testifies “Coal is King” the Australian government is not materially assisting this new growth industry.
The CEO of the Australian Solar Council (Environment ABC RN) states the government is winding back renewable energy:
**the solar roof program abandoned
**the reduction of the renewable energy target
**terminating funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
It appears Government policy is to reduce the impact of renewables on existing coal fired power stations thereby protecting big coal interests. To this end the California Energy Commissioner has stated “Australia is actually starting to fight the future, this is a mistake as Australia has a wealth of renewable energy resources. Who in our Parliament has recognised this bigger picture?

Towards the Final Hour
Not another medical condition!! At a routine post operation check up with my consulting oncologist he diagnosed an incipient case of gynaecomastia (Greek, gynae-woman, mastos-swelling), a slight swelling of the breast. This condition occurs in one third of older men and is due to a ratio change between testosterone and oestrogen. In my case the origin lies in the legacy of my excised cancerous adrenal gland. No treatment advised.

Fault Lines between Cultures
2015 has opened badly  but unfortunately represents a natural progression from the December blog. An Islamist zealot burst into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and killed twelve and injured seven staff. The magazine had published an image of the Prophet Muhammed. Western intelligence agencies confirm the IS is planning more attacks on the West.
Leaders of France, Britain, Germany and other national representatives met in Paris in mid-January to discuss this fault line between Islamic and Christian faith. The French President, Francois Hollande, in a speech declared  that Islam is compatible with democracy but there would be no compromise with French commitment to freedom of speech. The massacre generated very large mass gatherings across Europe in protest. Predictably there were large gatherings in the Moslem world in support of the action to preserve the sanctity of the Prophet. In south-west Sydney several hundred Muslims gathered to support the prophet Muhammed.
There is a growing awareness that a new deal must be generated to improve integration into Western culture for the twenty  million Muslims living in Europe; young Muslims are living badly and unemployment is an immense problem, (Professor John Keane, University of Westminster). Western Governments will have to start tempering ‘terrorist’ rhetoric with firm proposals for a more inclusive society. There has been much comment on ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim youth. This is not a condition that just happens, within Australia  there must be ‘cells’ where inciting and stiffening recruits are carried out. Government policy must be to engage more closely with Muslim authorities, ‘somebody must know something’. As President Bush once infamously said “You are either with us or against us”. Those Muslims who recently demonstrated in western Sydney, where do they fit into this quotation?
A German ex-politician, Jurgen Todenhofer, has returned from a ten day sojourn with IS forces in Iraq. At a CNN interview he indicated 5000 fighters are embedded in Mosul among the three million inhabitants. Coalition air power cannot dislodge them. He states many of the fighters are intelligent, educated and articulate. It was said some fighters returning to Europe are considered losers. Todenhofer is concerned the West is not fully aware of the strength, capability or objectives of IS with respect to the domination of the Islamic world and its intended expansion into Europe. Is this a clever subterfuge by IS, or maybe Western Governments are not aware of the true situation or information is being withheld from citizens of the Western democracies?

Bravery Awards
The Sydney Morning Herald has run the information the Prime Minister  has written to the Governor General recommending bravery awards for those killed in the Martin Place siege  in December. For those who escaped prior to police intervention citations are recommended, besides suffering a traumatic experience and perhaps eventually stress syndrome the escapees were unharmed
To present awards to these escapees belittles the bravery of our military who faced the enemy at Gallipoli, Western Front, Pacific Theatre, North Africa, Vietnam and Afghanistan. By all means present low key ‘certificates of survival’. Considering such presentations sets a dangerous precedent  of recognising other civilians who escape from other traumatic events. It is essential Australians do not dishonour our armed forces who died bravely facing the enemy.

Global Economic Recovery?
The decision by the Swiss Central Bank to remove its cap on its currency against the euro is serious and does not bode well for global economic recovery. The Swiss frank soared 30% against the euro to create enormous repercussions for global markets, currency stability and international trade.  The suddenness of the move has caused losses of millions of dollars in the foreign exchange markets  and  probably bankrupted thousands in Europe holding Swiss loans.
The significance of the move is that the Swiss Central Bank has lost faith in the European Central Bank and its ability to protect the euro, there is a fear the euro zone will descend into deflation. Pressure has been placed on the euro by the financial disaster that is  Greece. The national debt now exceeds the national economy. Greece is slated to default on its debts, which will put pressure on the euro and the possibility is then Greece will return to its debased currency. the drachma.  As the financial power house of Europe there will negative repercussions for Germany if Greece does revert to the drachma.
The Swiss bank is also well aware that despite the marginally improving American  unemployment figures of 6.2% the real unemployment rate is 12.6% as reflected in the US government ‘U6’ report (under employed and unemployed), future trends are not encouraging. The move by the Swiss Bank does not auger well for the economic stability in the foreseeable future,

Rural Bliss
With the confused state of the world swirling above the yellow box tree tops on the farm my feet are firmly on the ground in sweltering heat as I continue to slowly chain saw my way through fallen timber and enthusiastic secondary regrowth. In hot dry weather the ground and timber debris is a lifeless miasma of pulsating  radiant heat. After rain, logs and timber debris are cautiously moved as potentially unfriendly life teems, white ant larvae,  scorpions, millipedes, goannas and snakes are ready to jump, pounce or bite. Great care is taken reducing fallen trees as branches may be trapped crossbow taught; injudicious cutting can result in a head severing whip lash missile. I have conclusively proved that chain sawing is not an advisable activity for older men but against all odds I have survived intact and have not added to my medical scars.

Australia Day 2015
Pearl Beach is a community in harmony, relaxed with itself and family visitors. On this day no politician declaimed the benefits of multiculturalism or Australia’s destiny. It was a morning of sporting activities on the beach for enthusiastic children and adults discarding their inhibitions. The Gosford Brass Band was the backdrop, along with the encircling sandstone cliffs, to an uplifting rendition of Advance  Australia Fair by a passing fair young vocalist. The Australia Day oration described the traditional owners of the Pearl Beach locality, the Guringai tribe and its famous son, Bungaree, This amazing aboriginal  twice circumnavigated Australia, first with Matthew Flinders (1801-03) and again with Parker King (1817), his responsibility during the voyages was to smooth the contact between the explorers and the local aboriginal tribes along the way.
This public holiday, if free of political manipulation, could remain  a deeply significant day for the smaller communities  round Australia. It has become a day to mix, converse and fraternise: to cross our cultural boundaries and indulge in unaccustomed  bonhomie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER 2014

“Reconciling my Gross Habits with Less Income.”      
                                                                                                    Errol Flynn

Historical Fault Lines between Cultures

Climate
“It’s going to be a big one,” so stated a local grazier, but I doubted his ability to sniff the air.  In the first ten days of December, an area of south-eastern Australia was deluged with rain.  The Timor locality muddied under five inches which turned the local stream into a roaring foaming dragon.  In twelve years this was the greatest torrent I have seen.  Weather records in the Sydney region have also been broken – the longest period of thunderstorm activity since observations commenced.  In quick succession we have experienced the warmest winter, the longest summer heat wave and the warmest November on record.  No worries!!
Based on unusual weather events for 2014 a red light alert should now be flashing for Australia. During 2014:

  • there were two category 5 cyclones in the north Queensland region
  • Melbourne experienced four days over 41*C
  • Brisbane experienced super cell storms
  • Blue Mountains  were buried under spring snow storms
  • Australia has burned under the twelve hottest Novembers since 2000
  • over 79% of Queensland is in drought, the highest percentage ever
  • the most worrying event  is the exploding burning methane blowing craters in the Siberian tundra. Permafrost is melting and releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its global warming  capacity. There is the  possibility of vast fires in the Russian and Canadian  Arctic  due to global warming.

The Lima Climate Change Conference has ended with a watered down communique on a unified funding policy which will be ratified in Paris in 2015.  Progress?  Climate Action Network Europe has released a survey that shows Australia at the bottom of the list of industrialised countries on its global warming policy.

Mid Year Economic Forecast (MYEFO)  
The budget deficit has blown out from $30 billion to $40 billion plus.  Australia’s terms of trade are  the worst since records commenced in 1959.  Government revenues have plunged with the fall in prices for iron ore, coal, gas and wheat.  A comment on the budget update by Deloitte Access Economics (Chris Richardson, ABC RN) intimated Australia has just slipped out of the biggest natural resources boom. Due to the “worst terms of trade for many years the next couple of years may be ugly”.  Big Savings can only come from welfare, education and health.  To compound this situation, the unemployment figures are not encouraging, set to rise to 6.5% amid predictions of falling incomes for Australian citizens.  Errol Flynn’s maxim now takes on a revitalised meaning.
Last month “The Price of Inequality” was cited.  Hitherto , Australians have relied on natural resources for a component of their wealth rather than creating wealth through manufacture or intellectual effort.  2014 will prove to be the year when we no longer rode on the “sheep’s back”.
The MYEFO bad news has coincided with a report by the Gratten Institute (G Gencho) showing a decline in wealth of the 25-44 year olds relative to postwar baby boomers.  Before 1997 house prices and earnings maintained a parity, after 1997 earnings have risen 27% while house prices have risen by 121%.  There is a disturbing trend in home ownership between the 35-44 year olds and the over 65 year olds, between the years 1981 and 2013.

  35-44                                                      Over 65
1981 – 75%                                         1981 – 78%
2013 – 65%                                         2013 – 86%
The Gratten document had identified anger and resignation at this increasing skewed wealth distribution.
Asylum seeker policy is adding to the financial problems.  Chairman, Mr G Inness,  Attitude Australia Foundation (RN am 10/12) provided information on costs of maintaining holding centres on Manus and Nauru.  Running costs are around $1 billion a year while naval and defence support are estimated at $5 billion a year.   Costs for a maximum security prisoner is around $130,000 a year while to maintain an asylum seeker is round $500,000 a year.  This is not sustainable.  Bringing asylum seekers to the mainland would have enabled ABC and CSIRO to avoid budget cuts.  Is the above the will of the Australian electorate?

NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme
There are alarums off-stage on the increasing costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (ABC RN).  Currently the initial program is catering for 9,000 impaired individuals with a staff of 75,000.  Assuming salaries are around $50,000 each per year, the annual administrative/operational cost might be around $37.5 million.  There are 460,000 registered persons with a disability – when the full scheme is rolled out, will it prove to be unsustainable?

Towards the Final Hour
Arrested development in the process of ageing is a good thing.  My condition of peripheral neuropathy has apparently reached stasis, blood tests, and an MRI on my backbone have drawn a blank. Nerve conduction studies have shown on a scale of 1 to 10 i log at 7, that is verging on a severe neuropathy, obviously not a problem since the doctor does not wish to see me until December 2015!  Soon after this diagnosis a splinter was driven in my big toe, the pain was exquisite, I now wonder on the veracity  of the diagnosis.!

In early November, my right eyeball had the lens removed and a plastic one inserted.  I was led to believe the world would be one of colour and vitality; I would indeed be looking on the “bright side of life”.   The moment cometh, bandage was removed and “quelle dommage”, all I saw was a dark grey fog.  There followed six weeks of consulting a retinal specialist.  Eye drops have become a ritual. However, such has been my improvement, the specialist does not wish me to consult him until the final days of January.

Fault Lines between Cultures
A Canadian study (Economist 17/10) has linked extra schooling with a declining attendance at church or mosque.  This study overlaps with the news (ABC RN, AM  16/12) that, in the past few years, the Taliban in Pakistan have destroyed more than 1,000 schools and in the last week, have  killed over 100 pupils in an army school .

The appropriate word for the loss of a family member under the siege situation in Sydney this month does not easily come to mind.  The public reaction is understandable and the media have played their part. It is appropriate to place the Martin Place siege into a time line and to examine  fault lines between cultures.

In the two centuries after the founding of Islam in the mid 600s, an Islamic Empire extended through western, central and southern Europe, northern Africa and central Asia.  The Crusades, terminating in the 12th century, left a bitter legacy between Christian and Moslem.  The Moslems were driven out of Spain in the 15th century and the Spanish monarchy endeavoured to expunge all traces of Islamic culture.  The great age of European maritime discovery and colonisation commencing in medieval times was, in part, driven to break Arab (Moslem) control of the spice trade.

Long after the Crusades, the Islamic Ottoman Empire controlled the Holy Land, the Arab Middle East and south-east  Europe.  The Ottoman Empire ended during the First World War (1918) when European powers controlled much of the Arab (Islamic) Middle East.   For the Arab world, this was a period of stasis until the mid 1960s which coincided with the dissolution of the Western European Empires.  During this stasis, and for years afterwards, there were those who knew of the great days of an Islamic Empire, its architecture, science and culture.

From the 1960s onwards, there has been a rise of Islamic nationalism and recollection of the glories of past caliphates.  As we, in Australia, magnify the memory of ANZACS, so too do Arabs remember Saladin and the battle of Hattin. Arab nationalism has grown with the growth of communications, historical knowledge and education.  In this modern era, there is now a world dominated by Christian/Secular culture and an all consuming capitalism that, for many reasons, Moslems “on the street” are unable to enjoy: Arab youth unemployment is terrible (Doha Round on Youth Unemployment).  The vision by some to establish a caliphate is an attempt, in part, to re-establish the glory days of Islam.

Scattered across the Islamic world are individuals whose dislike of Western culture has boiled over, whether “deranged” or “sane”, these thoughts exist, despite the fact that at “grass roots” level communities may wish to collegially co-exist.  A review of recent atrocities directed at the West in which “Allah is Great” might have been heard are:
1997 –Luxor – 62 tourists shot
2004 – Sinai – tourist hotel bombed
2014 – London – British soldier killed
2014 – Algiers – beheading of French tourist
2014 – New York – axe attack on police
2014 – Iraq – beheadings by IS
2014 – Riyadh – shooting of Danish worker
2014 – Saudi Arabia – stabbing of a Canadian
2014 – Abu Dhabi – stabbing of an American
2014 – Ottawa – shooting of a sentry
2014 – Sydney – two Australians die
2014 – France – pre-Christmas attacks
 (Source – Economist, 13-19 December 2014)
Many of these attacks appear to be “lone wolves” however, it may be these individuals have grown up with a litany of ill will towards the Christian West.  Quite rightly Western leaders have vilified the perpetrators.  However, no-where have I become aware of any concerted effort by political leaders from both sides to establish a commission of enquiry to study a healing process between the Islamic religious state and the Christian nation state.  This is a global problem not a localised regional problem.

Christmas 2014
Despite St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas), a 4th century bishop of Myra, originating the reality of Santa Claus the concept was hijacked by Christian northern Europe and relocated near the village of Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle, Finland from whence Santa Claus conducted his world wide mission. A giant theme park is now being constructed in the Chinese city of Chengdu and it is to be spread abroad the park will be the official home of Father Christmas. For years China has been producing Christmas decorations and gee gaws for Western Christian festivals.  Xinhua, a state run news agency, states that 60% of Christmas trinkets for the Christian West come from the Christmas city of Yiwu. Is the world about to witness a schism similar to that between Constantinople and Rome in the early Middle Ages!?

Christmas 2014, as usual unprepared anticipation, the degustation and the Boxing Day breather, it was a shared day with a cohort of the family, it left a very warm glow. The high point was the children’s carol service at St. John’s, Gordon accompanied by Jill’s almost reluctant grandchildren, enthusiasm sky rocketed with the terminating sausage sizzle. Come the day when the six enlarging families between Jill and I will sit-down to a great family Christmas celebration.
For as long as I can remember the Christmas period  is often marred by a tragic accident. This time there is the loss of a passenger aircraft between Indonesia and Singapore with the loss of more than 160 souls;  in Europe over 300 souls were trapped on a burning passenger ferry in the Adriatic sea while buffeted by a raging storm. It was a perilous helicopter rescue exercise.

The Middle East
Alas 2014 ends on a sombre note. On RN breakfast the Executive Director of the Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra, provided an assessment of the past four months  battles between the Islamic State   forces and the US lead coalition  with ‘boots on the ground’ provided by Kurds and Iraqis. The result is a hard fought stale mate. To date there have been only 1500 air strikes generally limited to IS vehicles. The IS fighters cannot be ‘degraded’  by this technique. The IS fighters have now changed tactics and embed themselves among a reluctant population thereby preventing effective air strikes. Currently there are around 3000 US advisors on the ground but to degrade IS forces at least 10,000 are required, the Iraq government has pleaded to the USA for more troops.
There is a developing reality to the situation in Syria and Iraq. There is a possibility Iraq may fragment into three states, the Kurds in the north, a Sunni caliphate in the centre and a Shia Iraq rump in the south. Such an outcome might precipitate an arms race between Iran and Saudi Arabia with further destabilisation in the Middle East. Such a scenario would undo the international boundaries established by Mister Sykes and Monsieur Picot following the First World War.
There are two further realities, a change in policy is not envisaged by President Obama during his final two years in office, the second reality is that the West may not consider Iraq sufficiently important  to engage in another war to maintain its integrity. The problem is that ideologically driven IS fighters are facing off a reluctantly defensive posture of a war weary West.
This analysis sparked a response from a retired Australian major-general who reiterated that it  will take a ” long time ” to defeat the IS.  It was stated there are 48 countries in the Coalition. With this potential fire power and resources ranged against the IS the public are entitled to reasons why the term “long time” is used.

Vale 2014
The  international and national events during theyear have been cause for concern . In my opinion the worst, scariest and best events  were:
* the response of the West to the ebola pandemic
*methane explosions in the Russian tundra due to global warming
*revitalisation of the Catholic church by Pope Francis.

On a personal basis due to my mid-year major operation I veered ‘towards the final hour’ but with great assistance from my wife I am now striding along a ‘yellow brick road’.

NOVEMBER 2014

No Sense of Proportion!

Not another Medical Condition!

I have a growing concern I am becoming less able to “look on the bright side of life”.   With October consigned to history, I was determined to enter November full of optimistic radiance – this was short lived.

The opening bars of the November symphony on the farm provided a reflection of conditions in rural south-eastern Australia. Two galahs were perched on the edge of a cattle trough desperately trying to reach the water – they failed and flew off! Two large kookaburras were found drowned in another cattle trough. Kangaroos are now drinking at a birdbath close to the house. The continuing drought combines to grip the countryside. Dams have progressed from muddy brown soup to sun-baked clay.

As if on cue, a recent IPPC report has provided a stark warning on the dangers facing Homo sapiens. The ABC news bulletin gave equal time to the IPPC report and an obscure drive-by shooting in south-west Sydney. There was no sense of proportion on the relative seriousness of each news item. This even-handed treatment proves a collective “sleepwalking” to the disaster of the “great disruption”.

The Abbott Government may be unwillingly developing a dangerous mindset among less fortunate Australians. In the book “Global Crisis” by Geoffrey Parker, he dealt with civil unrest among the masses during the period of climate change in the mid-1600s. It was an aggregation of small imposts by ruling elites when their “loyal” subjects were suffering from a poor economy, unemployment, war and poor harvests.

In Australia there may in part be a mirror image and a combination of small financial irritations, namely:

  • Medicare co-payment of $7
  • Fuel tax of $0.01 per litre
  • Salary impositions of only 1.5% for military and civil service
  • Increased tuition fees for students.

The current unstable climatic and economic conditions in Australia, when considered with the dire warnings provided by Professor Steglietz, Columbia University, in his book “The Price of Inequality” (Big Ideas, ABC 4/11/2014) should be a flashing red light for Australia, other Western democracies and particularly America.

Factors applicable to Australia are:

  • since the mind-1990s there has been soaring financial inequality and lower growth
  • there is a lower level of opportunity for offspring whose parents are not wealthy
  • with very few exceptions dependency on natural resources is a curse since wealth does not trickle down
  • citizens of resource rich countries tend to atrophy since wealth does not come from intellectual energy, it comes from the ground
  • resource rich countries have a great wealth disparity
  • there are two ways for countries to increase wealth – this applies to Australia – namely to invent or manufacture something or pursue rent seeking wealth appropriation, the latter is pernicious and currently Australia is caught in this trap.

Steglietz contends advanced economies penalise the poor:

  • banks are always the first claimants
  • citizens lose homes and farms
  • billions are paid to keep banks afloat but there is nothing for small investors
  • rent seeking causes inequality and weakens the economy.

My progression “Towards the Final Hour” has been given a boost by the unexpected diagnosis of another medical condition – peripheral neuropathy. First indication was a night time tingling of the toes. Events moved to a North Shore specialist’s rooms where I failed the pinprick test in my extremities and was subjected to shock treatment and an MRI on my spinal column. Blood tests followed including those for mercury and lead. I now await the cause and the cure. Such has been my medical condition this year, I have been forced to admit I now have more social intercourse with the medical profession than I have with friends and family.

The China-American Climate Change Agreement was signed on 7thNovember, a few days before the G20 Summit in Brisbane. The Agreement calls for China to cap emissions by 2030, while America will reduce emissions by 26-28% below the 2005 levels by 2025. Details have not been released by either party.

There has been vocal criticism in the United States that it is a poor deal for America but, industrially and economically, China has a long way to catch up, its major problems being:

  • its high energy intensity industry
  • a slow growth in consumer and service industries
  • poverty
  • a requirement for greater GDP growth.

At the G20, Australia was embarrassed and wrong-footed by the Chinese-American Agreement. Australia’s “direct action” policy provides for financial inducements for polluters to reduce emissions. Business will compete to win tenders and be paid to undertake emission-reduction targets. The rest of the Industrialised World is using a carbon trading scheme. Australia has set up an Emission Reduction Fund of $2.55 billion over four years – the target is to reduce emissions by 5% below the 2000 emissions by 2020.

The Chairman of the UK Council on Climate Change, Lord Deben, is scathing on Australia’s climate change policy. The planned expenditure (2.55bn) and the target reduction (5%) is derisory. Direct Action will not work and Australia is out of step with the rest of the world.

Like an errant willy-willy, the G20 Meeting stirred up Brisbane and was gone. The G20 Leaders’ Communique dated 16th November 2014, appears to be a document of agreed principles that mandates Ministers must now implement policy. Principal objectives appeared to involve living standards, jobs, global growth, Third World infrastructure and the transfer of technology; there is a move to relocate global institutions away from the West. There is a move to expand global gas supplies. In relation to climate change, the G20 seeks sustainable development.

The overall objective of the G20 is to create sustainable economics through co-operation, transfer of resources and seek closer harmonious union. Philosophically, there may be a problem highlighted by the critical situation in the European Union – the policy of closer co-operation and less competition has moved Europe towards a condition of stagnation and deflation. Competition is one of the main drivers of prosperity and innovation. The G20 policies should consider Europe’s situation in relation to global growth.

The collegial spirit of the G20 has already fractured. Despite the recent steep fall in the oil price Saudi Arabia has refused to reduce production, an ABC News item alluded to the fact that a low oil price will damage gas production in the United States, thereby forcing the States to rely on Saudi oil.

A curious reverse migration is seeing increasing numbers of Jews returning to Germany. Israeli citizens are applying for European passports, many with the objective of settling in Germany. Reasons cited are the cost of living and the hostilities with the Palestinians. The Israeli government has condemned these ‘descenders’ for lack of nationalism and an insult to Holocaust survivors. The philosophical issue is unless brain washed how long will younger generations follow national ethos supported by parents and grandparents? This mind set has relevance to Australia due to the fading numbers calling Britain ‘home’ and the ANZAC tradition. In the years to come the Australian government will have to maintain a robust memorial policy.

I attended the local Light Horse contingent Christmas Party. I found it sobering to look around the gathering and realise it was these type of people who produced the deeds, myth and legend that is ANZAC

The closing bars of the November symphony mirrored the opening cadence, the rainfall for the month was the lowest in twelve years. Kangaroos are regular visitors round the birdbath.