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April 14, 2013

On Julia Gillard’s China Diplomacy

April 5, 2013 by

Pictured: Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister. Lukas Coch/AAP

What happens to Australian delegations when they go overseas? They whimper, whine or fawn; they stumble into positions of prostrate foolishness. They resemble, as Malcolm Muggeridge described British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s meeting with the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev, Don Quixote mounting Rocinante, with Sancho Panza by his side. In this instance, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has several Panzas – the foreign minister Bob Carr, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten. It is a true fools cast, and one fitting for a secondary power which is only relevant by the speed it digs up its resources and sends them to imperial powers, current and future.

A previous visit by the current prime minister went wrong. It seemed like an afterthought, clumsy, ill-executed. Her speech was appalling. As with her visit to the United States, the current leader of Australia is incapable of finding gravitas. She is, however, able to hit the hidden shallows. The latest is her insistence on pressuring China to “rein in” North Korea’s belligerent stance, a view that shows how ill-informed the Australian delegation is by the influence Beijing can exert over Pyongyang.

Aside from the usual blunders, Gillard’s press briefings have been slightly better, though the size of this Australian delegation comes across as overcompensation. The Australians want to make their small presence felt at the Boao Forum, a premier trade gathering that hasn’t previously figured too highly on the current government’s list of priorities. No high level representatives went last year.

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Kafka and Cocaine: The fall of the Australian Labor Party

March 22, 2013 by

Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia. Photo by Mauroof Khaleel

It would be odd to find parallels between the Australian Labor Party’s behaviour during the week, one which saw a meandering and vain attempt at self-destruction, and a central European writer with a sense of the apocalyptic. But the parallels are there – the absurd situation, the words that mean little and the sheer arbitrariness.

Odder still is that this is a party in government presiding over a country that has seen 21 years of uninterrupted economic growth, with an unemployment rate of 5.4%. Australia is a nation bored by luxuries and governed by brats and prats. Its political classes are hollow. Its visionaries are permanent absentees.

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A Fatuous Exercise: Australia and the Security Council

September 25, 2012 by

Private Allen Pitt from the Brisbane-based 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment maintains a watch as troops from the 1st Reconstruction Task Force patrol the streets of Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan. Image via news.com.au

“Australia, for the most part, is invisible in international politics and rarely rates a mention in international media.”

– M. Connors, New Global Politics of the Asia Pacific, 60

Why do countries bother? In a sense, a position as a temporary member on the UN Security Council is merely an award to the best and smoothest briber – such a country can claim some ceremonial status, not more. The gang of five retain their vice like grip on proceedings, allowing some faux respectability to be conferred on the other ten members who do the decent thing and innocuously rotate. Some commentators have been frank enough to identify the farce and call it as it is.

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