Empty Rhetoric: Obama’s BS On Climate Change

THE POLITICAL LEFT — internationally — is cock-a-hoop in the wake of a “deal” between China and the USA on climate change, announced last week by US President Barack Obama; far from isolating Australia, this arrangement will never even take effect, and far from achieving anything meaningful, it will disappear behind the shifting priorities of Chinese pragmatism and the reality that Obama has lost control of his own government.

I have continued to be deprived of the time I would like to post on this site over the past few days, and whilst I haven’t published anything I have certainly been keeping track of the goings-on at both the G20 summit in Brisbane and in politics generally; we will, I’m sure, touch on several of the “missed” issues as we move into the week.

But I wanted to comment on the “deal” on climate change that was announced late last week by Barack Obama, because it’s been some time (and distance) since such an unutterable pile of sanctimonious bullshit was last dumped on “believers” and the gullible and/or stupid — assuming, of course, those groups aren’t comprised of exactly the same people.

And in terms of the distance travelled since the last batch of comparable verbal diarrhoea was encountered, the name of a town called Copenhagen springs to mind.

I’m not going to pull apart the specifics of the promised deal; there is no need to do so, save to note that China and the President of the United States appear to have confirmed a framework of aspirational targets to enact swingeing cuts in global emissions, with China and the US ostensibly providing the world “leadership” that has been conspicuously absent, often demanded by the “believers,” and claimed for patent purposes by the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party Greens in the form of a tax.

Rather, I simply wish to point out why this latest exercise in verbal defecation won’t even yield a solid stool, let alone emissions reductions, and anyone who accepts the announcement by Obama without a very big pinch of salt probably needs their heads read.

On the Chinese side, it has been a fashionable argument of the Left (and the Greens in particular) to observe that China has been closing down coal-fired power generation plants, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, and such an observation is correct.

But this characteristic and deliberately misleading half-truth neglects to add that the decommissioned coal-fired plants are being replaced by new, far larger plants (that also swallow tons and tons of coal) and being augmented by new nuclear power generation and hydro-electric capacity, too; far from reducing her energy footprint, China is rapidly and exponentially expanding it as it caters to the energy consumption needs of a modernising — and ballooning — new middle class comprising hundreds of millions of affluent Chinese.

To date, China has exhibited scant practical interest in emissions reduction, combating climate change, tackling global warming, or any of the other emotive watchwords of the Left.

The “science” of climate change — settled or not, depending on your view, and not even relevant on this occasion — has failed, if it is true at all, to curb or even alter the course of colossal industrialisation of Chinese industry, commerce, and consumption, and there is no reason to believe this will change.

What China does have a reputation for is pragmatism: pragmatism through the prism of its own interests and its own agenda, and this, I suspect, is where the “deal” announced by Obama comes into play.

After all, China has faced relentless criticism and sustained political pressure from the global Left on this issue; what better circumstance in which to strike a “deal” could it wish for than with someone who currently stands in the shoes of Barack Obama?

A big hint that this “deal” is nothing more than a partisan political stunt (agreed to by the Chinese for reasons of pure and understandable expediency) was glaringly evident from the start; the USA and China may very well be the two biggest emitters in the world, but the complete absence from the structure of the agreement of any of the others — India, the EU, the UK, Russia, or the developing bloc in South America — somewhat tarnishes the glittering light in which the “deal” was presented.

But Obama, with two years remaining on his presidential term, can do little more than talk.

Already unable to control the US House of Representatives, his Democratic Party was brutalised in mid-term elections last week that saw it also lose control of the US Senate; consequently, Obama is — to use the American vernacular — a lame duck in every sense of the word.

In practical terms, it means Obama can promise whatever he likes, but unless it’s something he is able to decree by the Executive Orders he has proven so enamoured with during the past six years, his initiatives will never see the light of day: and anything that radically targets climate change — a subject viscerally detested by the energised Republicans who now operate the levers of legislative government in the USA — will be bitterly and ruthlessly savaged by his opponents.

It is all well and good that the G20 summit in Brisbane has concluded with the issuing of a communique that pledges constituent nations to “support strong and effective action to address climate change;” these are mere words, and whether you fit the “believer” or “sceptic” approach to climate change, they will amount to precisely nothing.

The Chinese, for their part, can hardly be blamed for signing up to Obama’s plan; after all, with a complete inability on the US side to deliver, they will be held accountable for nothing by doing so.

And if a Republican wins the White House in November 2016 — which is a distinct possibility, with Jeb “the competent one” Bush increasingly likely to seek his party’s nomination — this “deal,” announced with such fanfare, will quietly cease to exist at all.

Which, frankly, is as it should be.

I’m not passing any judgements on the merits or otherwise of what the agreement sought to achieve; merely to note that far from the big win the lunar Left thought it had scored, it is nothing more than an empty, empty promise.

What it was, however, was a flagrant play at partisan politics.

Far from isolating Australia, the “deal” probably makes the Abbott government’s Direct Action plan look good (or at least, to look better than it otherwise would); after all, doing something, however spurious, is better than doing nothing more than talking.

And with the darling of the American “moderate Left,” Hillary Clinton, seeming more likely than not to stand against (we presume) Jeb Bush in 2016, there is a clear vested interest for Obama to pump up the hot button issues US Democrats crow about at election time, but rarely — if ever — deliver on.

Obama can hardly crow about healthcare, employment, education, welfare reforms or the state of the US budget deficit: after six years as President (and too long to keep blaming George W. Bush), these are all signature failures of a regime seemingly obsessed with European-style socialism and the unproductive sovereign debt levels that accompany it.

And he can hardly claim to have been a successful President in international affairs when the Cold War has all but resumed on his watch, with Russia emboldened by his policies of strategic disarmament and the perception that if push came to shove, Obama would do nothing.

Just like the annexation of Crimea and ongoing Russian-orchestrated insurgency in Ukraine have been met with little meaningful response.

And elsewhere in the world, and particularly in those areas in which America traditionally prides itself on its influence in the Middle East and Asia, the number and scope of dangerous flashpoints have exploded on his watch as President.

Hence the grandiose rhetoric and posturing on climate change, and this “deal,” from Obama: just about the only agenda item in the Democratic manifesto his administration has singularly failed to bugger up thus far.

Nobody ought to believe for a moment that “progress” has been made on climate change this week, if that’s what they are looking for: it hasn’t.

And far from being hailed as a hero and a man of principle, this “deal” of Obama’s should be examined in context of the spectacular failings of his administration and the failure he has been as President, and the tacky attempt to reset US Democratic politics in Clinton’s favour by using this incendiary hot-button issue in an international setting when his own domestic political shortcomings now dictate he can deliver absolutely nothing.

This is empty rhetoric, delivering an empty promise, premised on little more than hot air and bullshit.

But Obama has made a political career from these attributes for years, so it ought to surprise no-one.

It should, however, make plenty of people who “believe” — in both Obama and in climate change — very angry indeed.

And when all is said and done, China — in agreeing with Obama — can hardly be blamed for it.


Hong Kong And The Risk Of Tiananmen Revisited

PRO-DEMOCRACY DEMONSTRATORS in Hong Kong are risking more than just the failure to achieve their objective of “full” democracy, if latest developments are any guide; ominous and bellicose rhetoric — emanating from the central Communist government through its state-sanctioned, state-controlled mouthpieces — suggests there is a real risk that history, 25 years on, may repeat itself. Only a hope that cool heads prevail can avert a catastrophe.

It’s a post this morning to keep an eye on goings-on in our Asia-Pacific neighbourhood, with reports coming out of China and Hong Kong that ought to alarm Chinese people globally, believers in freedom and democracy, and anyone who remembers the shameful day in 1989 that saw tanks crush student protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

I have an old friend who has lived in Hong Kong for many years, who has sporadically communicated his rising unease of late in relation to the upsurge in popular movements for democracy in Hong Kong and the unmistakably icy responses they elicit from the Chinese government; now it seems his fears may be about to be realised, and developments in recent days have recreated many of the conditions that existed in June 1989 when the campaign for democracy reached its bloody, but terminal, outcome.

For reference, readers may like to access this article from the Murdoch news wires, which provides an accurate and reasonably comprehensive snapshot of where things stand in Hong Kong, and whilst we pray nothing like the brutal crackdown that occurred in Tiananmen Square (or anything remotely similar) transpires in Hong Kong, the risks are obvious, clear, and the potential for any suppression of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” to spiral out of control is all too real.

I passionately believe that democracy and the rule of law in a free society is the best form of government among so many more imperfect alternatives; I know most readers share that view, and it is natural that those who do not enjoy these things should aspire to obtain them: at considerable personal risk, and sometimes as the potential cost of their own lives.

Certainly, this is a price paid — for nothing — by the Chinese students massacred in 1989.

It is obvious that any comparison of the conditions that led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and those that exist presently in Hong Kong, is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

Yet even so, I want to simply make a few comments this morning on the situation in Hong Kong and, whilst I don’t pretend for a moment that these are in any way comprehensive, they point to a situation that could easily draw such a bloody response from the central Chinese government — if the Communist regime in China is of a mind to order it.

There are those who laugh at the prospect of such Chinese Communist brutality happening again, preferring to point instead to the remarkable economic expansion and improvements in living standards for hundreds of millions of Chinese that followed that black day a quarter of a century ago.

But Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control only 17 years ago, and the overwhelming bulk of the population of Hong Kong has first-hand memories of life under the rule of British law, the semi-Westernised culture that existed in their booming territory, and the freedoms that then existed and which have progressively been curtailed.

Certainly, they remember the freedoms and economic liberalism introduced — to China’s fury — by the last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, which included full democratic elections and self-governance: reforms quickly subverted and/or dismantled by the Chinese government after it resumed control in 1997.

China watchers know that the ruling Communists face opposition on two fronts: the various pro-democracy movements on the one hand, and resurgent support for Nationalists on the other; I don’t propose to deviate down the tangent of Chinese Nationalism to any great degree, but I would observe that Taiwan — which China regards as a renegade province — has been ruled by the Nationalists who fled China in 1949, and that it is only in the past few years that any resurgence in Nationalist support on the mainland has conspired to pose any serious potential threat to continued Communist control.

Even so, the word from my old friend and others who have spent time in China is that the government is worried (one likened it to a cornered puma) and the risk — with its stern lecturing to the West about its sovereignty, and its sanctimonious assumption of the moral high ground where any international criticism of Chinese law is made — is that the “cornered puma” that is the Chinese government could very well lash out.

The kind of things the pro-democracy demonstrators are doing — demanding the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, blockading government buildings, staging mass rallies that completely obstruct major thoroughfares and other activities explicitly designed to cause chaos in a system wherein order is rigorously enforced — have already triggered violent clashes with Police that have included the use of tear gas against the student protesters.

To Western minds, the objectives of the protests might seem modest: China is offering elections, but allowing them to be contested only by a handful of state-sanctioned candidates; the pro-democracy movement wants the veto of candidates by Beijing to be abandoned.

But this is enough — more than enough — to enrage Beijing, which will not tolerate widespread and protracted dissent, and which can ill afford the prospect of anti-Communist candidates being allowed to stand for office in “full” democratic elections in Hong Kong.

Ironically, it is the precedent of exactly such an election and its after-effects, presided over by Patten, that hardens Beijing’s position on such matters now.

And whilst China’s relations with the West have been far more open over the past couple of decades — with more liberal figures in the Communist Party succeeding those who ordered and orchestrated the brutality in Tiananmen Square — one of the consequences of the rising nationalism I alluded to earlier is that the cycle has again turned to some degree, with the present generation of Chinese leadership representing a far more hardline Communist cohort than has been seen for some time.

Already, it has effectively told the US (and other Western leaders) to butt out over concerns of where any response to democracy protests in Hong Kong might lead.

It has repeatedly insisted that the elections, in their designated form, are not open to negotiation or alteration, and it has been belligerent in its emphasis on their validity within the Chinese legal system.

This intransigence has now been backed up with rants published in official government newspapers and state-sanctioned publications, warning of dire consequences if the protests do not cease, with one editorial stating that the actions of protesters are illegal and that if they do not desist “the consequences will be unimaginable.”

Based on Beijing’s past record in squashing dissent and extinguishing protest by its own people, and by the most violent means available, nobody should misinterpret such bellicose rhetoric as anything other than an explicit threat of a very bloody crackdown, and it is noteworthy that in the runup to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the same publications carried similarly worded warnings of vague-sounding, but unmistakably chilling, consequences if the protesters of the day did not desist.

And as the Murdoch article notes, next Wednesday and Thursday are public holidays in Hong Kong: providing the perfect opportunity for thousands of activists to mass and linger in the city’s empty streets, making themselves a very clear target for whatever recriminations a malevolent, hardline regime might opt to dispense.

We hope and pray that this situation resolves peacefully, and of course hope the day comes when the peoples of Hong Kong, China, and other countries subjugated by the tyranny of totalitarian rule are able to enjoy the same basic freedoms as we do here in Australia.

But the portents are not good, and the “Umbrella Revolution” has concocted a volatile political mix indeed, and one not at all to the liking of its Communist overlords.

We pray the Chinese government approaches this issue with great restraint and care. The potential for another 1989-style massacre — irrespective of the international outrage it would provoke — is, alas, all too real.

It is to be hoped that cool heads and sage advice are preferable to those who rule in China than the exercise of a collective finger on the trigger.

Slapdown: Palmer’s Snivelling Apology Falls On Deaf Ears

PERHAPS BECAUSE it took eight days to offer, or because it didn’t cover the “threat” of a nuclear strike made by one of his brainless Senators, but a fawning apology from Clive Palmer to the Chinese ambassador to Australia over his reprehensible outburst on #QandA last week has elicited a rebuke. Bellicose eccentricity might seem like fun, but saying whatever pops into one’s head is a dangerous game. Whether Palmer comprehends this is unknown.

Clive Palmer had a big week last week, and for all the wrong reasons; he kicked off with his now-notorious outburst on the ABC’s #QandA programme on Monday night, which was followed two days later by the unbelievably idiotic suggestion from Palmer Senator Jacqui Lambie that Australia should acquire — and use — nuclear missiles against China in a pre-emptive act of “defence.”

Readers who missed my articles on those events can access them — with some good additional material available through links — here and here.

Eight days after his initial outpouring of bile on #QandA (and after a veritable Who’s Who of Australia’s parliamentary and media cliques scrambled to try to limit the damage), Palmer saw fit on Monday to send an apology to the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu. Readers can access this missive here, and all I can say is that the humble pie devoured in crafting it must have been a bitter meal indeed.

I don’t think there are very many grounds on which Palmer can be afforded forgiveness for his remarks.

His rantings on #QandA were, despite subsequent protestations to the contrary, very clearly aimed at China and its government; Palmer’s characterisation of Chinese “mongrels” and “bastards” were always going to deeply offend and perhaps provoke China’s leadership — crafted, as they were, by a prominent Australian MP with extensive business interests and dealings with China in his own right.

The fact they were made by an individual facing allegations of ripping them off and legal proceedings to pursue these would have exacerbated the slight.

From an Australian perspective, this episode has risked inflicting enormous (and potentially irreparable) damage to bilateral relations with China: not least of which has been to place the conclusion of a historic free trade deal with the Chinese at risk. It is fortunate, and to the credit of Abbott government figures such as Trade minister Andrew Robb and Foreign minister Julie Bishop, that all of these potential ramifications of national effect appear to have been averted.

The Chinese — to be sure — have drawn the distinction; the intemperate words of the one has not affected the interests of the many.

But ordinary Australians are entitled to remain exceedingly angry with Clive Palmer; not only has he severely jeopardised the national interest for the apparent pursuit of his own objectives, but he has finally shown — once and for all — that the careful construct of a rich eccentric who might be your cuddly old uncle, behind which he loves to hide, is nothing more than an illusion.

It remains to be seen whether this new reality, laid bare by his antics, is fully appreciated by those Australians inclined to continue to vote for him.

Maybe Palmer added insult to injury by seeking to downplay his remarks; his assertions (in the wake of being absolutely slammed across the country last Tuesday) that they applied only to one company with which he was mired in an acrimonious commercial dispute are disingenuous when reviewed against what he actually said on television the previous night (and for those who didn’t see it, the first of the links with this article contains a link to the episode of #QandA in question).

Maybe and perhaps entirely predictably, the brainless Lambie inflamed what was already a white-hot situation with her apparent advocacy of a nuclear strike against the “Communist Chinese” (as opposed to some other unknown variety of Chinese people) who, if not thus restrained, were certain to invade Australia at some unspecified future juncture.

Maybe the delay of more than a week in seeking to make amends for his contemptible proclamations irritated the Chinese.

And maybe — just maybe — the letter of apology itself inflamed things even further, switching seamlessly as it did from grovelling contrition to apparently jocular rapport building of the type that is hardly warranted in the circumstances.

For any or all of these reasons, it is unsurprising that Palmer’s apology was not expressly accepted; rather, it elicited a rant of its own, with the response of the ambassador making statements that can only be interpreted as a thinly veiled rebuke of Palmer for his utterances.

Obviously, I’m not going to pull His Excellency’s remarks apart line by line.

But the lofty assertions that “the Chinese people are never to be insulted” and that “slandering China will not gain support” should leave nobody in any doubt that no matter what Palmer might otherwise protest, his incendiary remarks were interpreted as an attack on China, its government, and its people — and not on a single company as he had sought to suggest.

Australia has been lucky this time; as noted earlier, it appears that the repercussions from this distasteful episode — if there are any — will be confined to Palmer himself. It has been a salutary illustration of the honour and “face” with which Asian countries conduct their business and political relations with others. As a high-profile Australian politician and businessman, Palmer’s antics in the matter serve as a warning to others, especially within the ranks of his own party — not an example.

Palmer’s penchant for saying whatever he likes — with nary a concern for the consequences — was also the subject of yesterday’s Editorial in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, which readers can peruse here.

Australian electors are entitled to certain standards of conduct from their elected representatives, and whether Clive Palmer and his band of miscreant Senators uphold those standards is a matter for each voter, on their own terms and in their own time, to resolve.

But in the final analysis, this grimy and aberrant episode appears to have done nothing to alter Palmer’s standard approach to his political dealings; yesterday he chose to announce to the media, rather than first inform the government, that his party was terminating negotiations over the $7 Medicare GP co-payment — and that under no circumstances would they revisit the issue.

For a man who insists on being taken at face value, it isn’t suggestive of an outfit operating in good faith.

This column believes that Australia will be well-served by the eventual defeat of Palmer and his minions; already, private LNP polling in his Queensland seat of Fairfax is said to show Palmer’s primary vote halving — and falling too far for him to be re-elected, even with the overwhelming preference flows he achieved from minor parties last year.

That defeat is to be eagerly anticipated and welcomed with relish when it eventuates.

But even if Palmer (and his minions) achieve no further electoral success, the country is stuck with three of his Senators with close to six remaining years on their terms in office, which means that even if Palmer himself is thrown out of Parliament by voters, others will continue to do his bidding for a long, long time to come.

The China debacle last week was a potent illustration of just how destructive Palmer has the potential to be. Regrettably, others may well follow.



Yellow Peril: Palmer Sideshow A National Menace

HOT ON THE HEELS of his reprehensible anti-China rant on the ABC’s #QandA programme on Monday night, others in Clive Palmer’s vicious, resentment-fuelled party have taken up where he left off, with hothead Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie declaring China is poised to invade Australia and that we should “aim missiles at them.” There is a “Yellow Peril” at hand. It is not China. The Palmer United Party, bluntly stated, is a national menace.

Yellow — ties for the men and a scarf for Jacqui Lambie — is the colour of choice for the Palmer United Party; in fact, yellow seems to be the colour of choice for Clive Palmer full stop, with his corporate collateral at Mineralogy, the Palmer United Party website and his resort in Coolum (littered with yellow and black signage) all disproportionately shaded in this ubiquitous hue.

Mark Knight cartoon, Herald Sun, 20 August 2014

I think we’ve arrived at the point at which it is safe to declare that a Yellow Peril threatens Australia, and despite the ranting and the tirades this country has witnessed in the past 36 hours or so, that threat does not emanate from China.

The fallout from Clive Palmer’s idiotic and ill-advised outburst against the Chinese on #QandA reverberated across Australia yesterday, as disgusted government figures and industry leaders worked to mitigate any lasting damage the incident might inflict on Australia’s national interests.

Those responses would appear to have been wise; a strongly worded rebuke from the Chinese embassy branded Palmer’s remarks as “full of ignorance and prejudice” and “absurd and irresponsible,” and anyone who might seek to explain away Palmer’s behaviour as letting off some steam under pressure would do well to consider the very real damage this one individual has the ability to inflict on Australia’s most important trade relationship.

From Prime Minister Tony Abbott to WA Premier Colin Barnett and Foreign minister Julie Bishop, the message has been united: nothing in Palmer’s remarks is in any way representative of Australia’s attitude toward China, and in hanging the fat billionaire out to twist in the wind, none of them have minced their words. Even Bill Shorten (for once) made the appropriate noises instead of trying to score puerile and petty points from the fracas.

Yet just as those actually charged with governing were working to neutralise and disown Palmer and his intemperate utterances, a fresh hand grenade was lobbed from the Palmer camp by its “deputy leader” Jacqui Lambie, who stated that Australia faced “the threat of a Chinese communist invasion,” asserting that “we need to look into missiles” — presumably of the multi-megaton nuclear variety — and aim them at China to form the spearhead of our defence against this “threat.”

The efforts of the Palmer duo were the subject of an excellent piece on the ABC’s 7.30 programme last night — and you can access that segment here. And even the Fairfax press has belatedly jumped into the anti-Palmer fray, with a brutal piece seemingly designed to explode some of the myths about Palmer that have been allowed to fester publicly for perhaps too long.

In some respects, even dignifying such rubbish with comment is an indecent act; for allegedly responsible individuals elected to significant positions of governance (and expected to behave in Australia’s national interest), the conduct of the Palmer United Party in the past couple of days is contemptible.

It is true that some — including myself in this column — have openly speculated that the day might come when some future military confrontation between the USA and China would force Australia to choose sides or risk isolation; such a question of policy encompassing trade, defence and national security will, God willing, never amount to more than the hypothetical it presently poses.

But the words of Palmer and Lambie do not represent rational discussion and debate of such matters; they are a flagrant and savage attack on China, and as such deserving of the multilateral rebuke they have elicited.

In fact, their outbursts are rich with ironies.

Foremost among these is the fact that not so long ago, Palmer was arguably the most trenchant advocate of China and its interests in the country (to the point of accusing Australians of rank racism), notwithstanding the fact his sentiments might have coincided with his own business interests: a subject that forms the basis of an excellent piece in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today.

I think that in attacking China as he has, Palmer is simply using the same approach he has been deploying against Coalition figures out of spite: that is, they wouldn’t give him what he wanted when he was bankrolling them, so f*ck them. Excuse the expression, but it succinctly encapsulates the entire approach of his party and the objectives he has himself articulated to remove conservative governments wherever they hold office. (I am also reliably told it is consistent with sentiments he has expressed privately toward the Liberals).

Whether one finds this approach to the Liberal Party acceptable or not, I don’t think anyone can justify or excuse it when directed at China. If Palmer has wandered into trouble with his Chinese business partners, then in the big scheme of things he is too insignificant a pissant to warrant jeopardising this country’s whole relationship with China just so he can tell people what he thinks of them.

The full reality of the Palmer United Party has sprung sharply into focus as a result of this week’s events.

We know it is a movement not simply created by Clive Palmer, but one which acts purely in his own image; it should surprise nobody who watches the political goings-on of this country at all, but the “obsession of self” that this party — with its control over the final say in whatever is legislated — is extreme, total, and exceedingly dangerous.

There is scant evidence, despite rhetoric about “standing up for the little guy” and similarly melodramatic rubbish designed to hoodwink the votes of the gullible, that Palmer is remotely interested in the advancement of anyone’s welfare — or agenda — other than his own, and as we’ve discussed countless times now, that agenda seems driven by little more than business greed, spite, and a desire for revenge against the Liberal Party for not asking “how high” when instructed to jump.

The behaviour of the Palmer United Party Senators over the budget — voting and manoeuvring to inflict as much recurrent damage as possible on the bottom line, whilst reciting talking points about protecting the vulnerable — clearly mark Palmer’s party out as no agent of responsible or astute economic stewardship.

And in launching an assault unprecedented for its bile and vitriol by a pivotal member of Federal Parliament on Australia’s largest trading partner, Palmer has demonstrated that there is literally nothing and nobody who is immune from his petty, self-obsessed hatreds: irrespective of the cost, and irrespective of the damage it inflicts on the country he professes to love, and is elected and sworn to serve.

As for Lambie, the suggestion that Australia should arm itself with nuclear weapons and launch them at China can be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Taken in sum, there is nothing to recommend either Palmer or his party.

Outside the narrow band of family members, former employees, sporting heroes, treacherous turncoat conservative MPs and the handful of Australians who seem to think he makes good sense — in short, everyone beholden to Palmer anyway — it is difficult to see how Clive Palmer can retain any electoral support whatsoever; time will tell on that count.

But the past few days have made one thing abundantly clear.

There is indeed a “Yellow Peril” that threatens Australia. It is not China. With their yellow ties and yellow scarves and yellow bunting, the Palmer United Party has the capacity to inflict enormous damage upon this country, and the longer the Palmer saga continues to unfold, the more determined it seems to do so.

In short, the Palmer United Party is a national menace.

The sooner it is disowned by all comers and voted out of existence, the better.


Lots of links today. And credit, as it is due, to the ABC and Fairfax. It seems the only people who don’t get it are Clive Palmer and his band of idiot sycophants.


Mongrels And Bastards: Palmer Takes Aim At His Own Credibility

CLIVE PALMER put in a cringeworthy performance last night on the ABC’s #QandA programme that will hardly aid the national interest; questioned over allegations at the centre of pending court action — that he siphoned $12 million from a Chinese state-owned company to fund his federal election campaign — Palmer declined to respond, engaging instead in a rant against China and its government. His credibility, such as it is, looks a little tarnished.

I want to begin my remarks this morning by pointing out that the Fairfax press — which Clive Palmer explicitly nominated yesterday as the only unbiased commercial media company in Australia — has failed, at time of writing (5am Melbourne time), to cover his intemperate outburst on #QandA; far from a lack of bias, as Palmer suggests, I think (as I have opined previously) that a likelier explanation lies in the disproportionate reticence of the Fairfax tomes to criticise anyone they recognise as a fellow traveller on their mindless, senseless (and mostly baseless) personal crusade against Tony Abbott.

Certainly, Palmer has been forthright in articulating his view that Tony Abbott is a terrible human being who needs to be removed from office in the most ignominious fashion possible.

He is entitled to his views, and we will come back to those a little later; the issue of biased media and agenda-peddling is also worth touching on this morning, and Clive Palmer features in that little gem as well.

I think regular readers know that #QandA is not a programme I hold in particularly high regard, and certainly struggles to fulfil any meaningful brief for providing a quality offering on politics and associated events in Australia.

Its chief value, in my view, is as a vehicle to monitor the things the Left is talking about: after all, nobody with the slightest grip on reality would describe host Tony Jones as being in any way to the right of centre, and his panel of five guests each week splits, without fail, at least 3-2 in favour of the Left — and more often than not, by a 4-1 margin.

Clive Palmer’s “concerns” about biased commercial media outlets certainly don’t extend so far as to preclude him from featuring in their productions: free publicity that you don’t have to pay for (which Palmer has indicated in the past is the best kind in politics) would seem to render such considerations obsolete.

And in apparently declining to cover Palmer’s outburst last night, Fairfax has prevented me from offering readers — in the interests of catering to their preference — a choice of mainstream media coverage for further reading. Consequently, The Australian‘s article is accessible here, and the one from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (and carried by the other metropolitan Murdoch mastheads) may be viewed here.

I’m not going to cover off on everything featured on #QandA last night, as jaundiced and as intellectually dishonest as so much of it invariably is, but for those with an hour to kill and the urge to satisfy, the episode can be seen through this link (in the interests of facilitating access to the ABC’s biased excuse for a “quality” production on Australian politics).

Suffice to say, #QandA progressed last night as #QandA invariably does, with plenty on offer for those to the Left of the spectrum and plenty for those to the Right to be considerably irked by; yet near the end of the programme the conversation turned to the lawsuits Palmer is defending over allegations he used Chinese money held in trust to bankroll his campaign at last year’s federal election. Unexpectedly, he exploded.

His former business partners at state-owned Chinese company CITIC Pacific were “Chinese mongrels” who “shoot their own people;” China was engaged in an endeavour “to take over this country.” By way of elaboration, Palmer added that “I’m only saying that because they are Communists,” going on to suggest that he would “stand up to China,” which was “taking over Australia’s ports” and “stripping the country of its resources for free.”

“I don’t mind standing up to the Chinese bastards to stop them from doing it,” the Murdoch press recorded him as saying.

I don’t have a problem with Palmer’s refusal to answer questions about litigation that is on foot, and in fact I think it entirely proper that he declined to do so.

But the tirade against China is worrying, and should give any Australian inclined to support Palmer politically pause for thought.

Clive Palmer isn’t simply any common-or-garden federal MP; he’s a billionaire businessman with significant mining interests that intersect with Australia’s trade in minerals with China and, as such, an individual of considerable relevance to China in its dealings in Australia.

Whilst Palmer’s business interests are wide, diverse and vast, in doing business with CITIC he has essentially done business with the Chinese government directly: such is the nature of a state-owned enterprise such as CITIC Pacific.

And as a federal MP — and one controlling a significant portion of the upper house balance of power in Australia — his context where the Chinese are concerned (and their perceptions of it) becomes exponentially more integral to its evaluation of its business in Australia and its value as a (big cheque-writing) minerals and energy customer to boot.

When someone as uniquely placed across both government and international business as Palmer is chooses to “let it rip” in the fashion he did last night, people listen, as they should; in this regard, no defence can be attempted on the part of the Fairfax press for failing to cover the Palmer remarks on the basis they were incendiary and counter to Australia’s national interest.

Those remarks are the kind of thing seemingly calibrated to send the kind of xenophobic message associated with Pauline Hanson in the late 1990s, when planes full of Asian tourists en route to Australia were shown news bulletins in flight that gave Hanson coverage, and arrived in Australia literally wondering what kind of reception they were facing.

At the very least, Palmer has told his former partners at CITIC — and the Chinese government itself — exactly what he thinks of them: an indulgence unlikely to be tolerated in any Australian court.

The only thing missing was some of the really foul-mouthed abuse in which Palmer is said to be prolific; unlike former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd he declined to call the Chinese “rat fuckers,” but in view of the sentiments expressed he might as well have done so. At least Rudd’s version was more concise.

I fail to see what credibility — in the context of Australian politics, governance, and the facilitation of public policy outcomes in the national interest — Clive Palmer retains.

That he is a megalomaniac obsessed with amassing and exercising power (and attempting to feed a weird “cult of self”) is beyond doubt; one only needs to look at the assortment of “Palmer this, Palmer that” entities — including a political party masquerading as a mass movement of national unity — to see the proof of this.

He appears determined to destroy conservative governments on as widespread a basis as possible for the simple reason he couldn’t get what he wanted out of them when he remained within the Coalition tent; his unprecedented personal crusade against Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is a case in point. His bent on destroying the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott (for what seems little more than a view that Abbott is a bad person for refusing to fawn all over him, and that he isn’t Malcolm Turnbull) is another.

The very act of ratting on a lifelong allegiance to the conservative parties should be regarded with deep suspicion by any individual countenancing a vote for him, committed as it was to enable the establishment of an outfit that can hardly be said to be remotely conservative in its conduct; and despite his tirade against “Communists,” Palmer has proven more than willing to vote with the Communists Greens in the Senate when it has suited his agenda. I don’t say that in jest, either.

Now, Palmer has ripped into Australia’s biggest trading partner — a country that buys over $150bn each year from us in goods and services — in terms that will hardly facilitate the smooth, deep and growing trade relations that increasingly underpin Australia’s economic welfare, and he has done so using the imprimatur of a federal lawmaker and key figure of government.

Dumb stunts, double-speak and wobbling that fat arse of his on camera are no substitutes for offering something substantial, and using what influence he has accumulated in the national interest rather than petty agendas and get-square vendettas.

If Palmer had a scintilla of political credibility before last night, he has none now. It is about time the likes of the ABC and the “unbiased” Fairfax press stopped fawning over and feting him, and started to call his insidious presence in Canberra out as the sledgehammer impacting the national interest that it really is.


AND ANOTHER THING: One thing the Fairfax press is prepared to cover this morning is the plan by Palmer to establish his own national news publication; pitched as a “newspaper competitor” to Rupert Murdoch, Palmer has registered (or is in the process of doing so) the names The Australasian Times, The Australian Times, and Australian News.

There always seems to be a high-profile target wherever these “initiatives” by Palmer is concerned; not merely content to attempt to destroy a Prime Minister and a Premier, it now appears Palmer fancies himself to knock the most powerful media proprietor in the Western world down a few pegs as well.

Given the way he has conducted his political activities to date and what seems to be his conviction that the rest of us share his obsession with himself, it will be fascinating to see what passes as Palmer’s version of “unbiased news” — if this latest hare-brained scheme ever amounts to anything.

My guess is that even if it gets off the ground, it will find very limited favour with the news-consuming public; having spent 20 years in and around media companies and having acquired a firm grasp of what is involved in running them, my guess is that such an enterprise will haemorrhage money from Palmer’s fortune for as long as he is silly enough to persist with it.

Should it ever come to pass, Murdoch will be laughing — literally — all the way to the bank.


China vs Japan, And Australia: Independence And Isolation Not The Same Thing

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott has enjoyed favourable press this week, with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visiting to sign off on the free trade agreement between Australia and Japan; the visit has been interpreted by some through the prism of potential confrontation with China, and what consequent course of action would best serve this country. Independence and isolation are not the same thing; if Japan and China come to blows, a choice will have to be made.

I’ve been reading an article from yesterday’s Fairfax press by its resident international affairs columnist (and prominent academic) Hugh White; his basic premise is that in striking free trade agreements with Japan and signalling increased co-operation with the Japanese in a range of areas including trade, defence and investment Australia risks damaging its relations with China, and needless to say this is presented with a distinct undertone of suggestion that these developments are a very bad thing indeed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (we are talking about Fairfax, after all) it is also presented with a distinct “Tony Abbott is stupid” flavour to it, too. I’m not criticising White for his views, mind; we’ve certainly discussed his material here in the past and whilst I disagree with him from time to time I also do concur just as frequently. On this occasion, however, I beg to differ.

My remarks will be somewhat more cursory than I would usually devote to such a complex issue; I’m writing this piece after 3am (Melbourne time) and for a raft of reasons haven’t had as much time for posting content in the past week, as readers will already know. So do forgive me if some of my points are a little simplified — the thrust of my case will remain clear enough.

I have long believed that at some stage, China and Japan will come to blows and that when they do, that conflict will pose a very real risk of escalating into a global war — possibly involving the use of nuclear weapons — rather than, say, a regionally contained naval spat over the disputed Senkaku/Diayou Islands. Such a conflict is the last thing I would wish for, and any escalation is the last thing I (or anyone else with their sanity intact) would ever want to see.

Much has been made recently of the centennial anniversary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and purported similarities between the political climate that existed across Eurasia at that time and the climate that exists there now, with the ongoing spat between Russia and Ukraine portrayed in some quarters as a potential ignition point for a conflict that could spiral out of control and drag the world to war again; I think that whilst anything is possible (and I’m not being flippant about it), those who concern themselves with such worries would be better advised to refocus their attention onto the situation that is unfolding in north-east Asia.

The parallels between the anniversary of the first World War and the current situation in the Pacific are striking, and not least because they involve a peace that has existed since the end of the second World War that, to be candid, has grown to appear a little wobbly, to put it diplomatically. Hugh White is absolutely correct in his assessment of the situation: China in recent years has started to throw its weight around in the region, and Japan — understandably, and perhaps predictably — has begun to move away from its post-war pacifism toward a military and security posture that allows for the active use of force in its own defence.

The Japanese occupation of parts of China between 1895 and 1945 — and the atrocities the occupying forces committed — continue to burn in the Chinese national psyche; on the Japanese side of the equation (as elsewhere in the world) the generation with direct memory of the second World War is ageing and literally dying. Even so, these two countries continue to regard each other with mutual suspicion and distrust, and whilst they will remain powerhouses economically for the foreseeable future, the military rise of China is unquestionable and that, too, will continue indefinitely.

Where I disagree with White — and remember, I’m an opinion writer on these matters, not an academic — is the unspoken but nonetheless undeniable suggestion he makes that somehow, Australia’s best interests would be served by not building closer ties to Japan, and remaining independent in the event of any conflict between Japan and China, as well as some of the other overt contentions he makes that conspire to show his position as a dangerous one indeed where considerations of the national interest are concerned.

And I’m not going to dignify his inference that Abbott is either too stupid or too incompetent to have “thought through” the implications of deeper ties with Tokyo with a rebuttal; such a cheap and baseless jab from a reputable figure doesn’t merit a response.

It is true that our country has almost limitless opportunities for trade with China. Almost every country does; China accounts for one-sixth of the world’s 7 billion people, and the sheer weight of numbers dictates that it has a large appetite for everything it can’t produce itself (which is most of what its people actually need to survive). This extends far beyond mineral ores to food, oil, motor vehicles, services like education, and beyond.

Even so, in peacetime I think it’s dangerous to “safeguard” opportunities with one country — irrespective of how lucrative the opportunities it appears to present might be — by limiting those with others. In the trade and bilateral relations sense, Japan is no different to other countries in the region with which Australia has burgeoning opportunities, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines.

Coincidentally or otherwise, these are also countries with which China is engaged in a series of dangerous territorial spats as it lays claim to most of the South China and East China Seas, and specifically to disputed lands, speculated oil fields and other resources these areas are believed to contain.

I don’t think Japan — in building stronger ties with Australia — is looking, as White contends, to gather allies to Japan’s side to join it in any future conflict with China; it doesn’t have to, for the United States is obliged to defend Japan should it ever come under military attack, just as it is to defend Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and (let’s be blunt about it) Australia.

This leads to his other contention — that America appears reluctant to confront China on Japan’s behalf — which is true in the sense that America has no incentive, as at today’s date, to do anything of the kind.

America is faced with the same endless opportunities for trade and bilateral ties with China that most countries are: there is no point in Uncle Sam cutting his nose off to spite his face in the name of a pre-emptive warning over military mischief and sabre rattling that has amounted, in precise terms, to absolutely nothing to date.

China can indulge itself with belligerent gestures and bellicose rhetoric, vague threats of this or that, or even ridiculous gestures of passive aggression (such as its attempt to enforce an air exclusion zone over parts of the territory it disputes with Japan) to its heart’s content. America, and other interested countries, will rightly monitor these activities and develop contingencies against a range of potential escalations or outcomes. But until a nuclear-armed country with more than a billion people actually commits an act of aggression against a US protectorate like Japan, the Americans aren’t going to lift a finger. And, to be clear, nor should they.

White bemoans the “division of Asia into hostile blocs” and rhetorically asks whether it is in Australia’s interests to contribute to that. The fact is, however, that Asia is already divided into hostile blocs — basically, China in one bloc and the rest of the region, with a few exceptions, in the other — and nothing Australia does will alter or influence that. We need to remember that whilst Australia is respected on the world stage as a “middle power,” others will make their own strategic decisions in their own interests . China is the clearest example of this the world has seen for a very long time.

Whilst I have commented on these matters before I am generally reluctant to do so, because the last thing I want to be is either alarmist or to sound like a conspiracy theorist: I am neither. But when discussions such as this arise, they do warrant a hypothetical consideration of what the course of events might look like if the worst case scenario were to materialise.

None of this matters, in a literal sense, for as long as the security balance that currently exists remains unchanged. But for the sake of the conversation, what would happen if China were to occupy the Senkaku Islands?

This would, in fact, constitute an act of war and an attempt to seize the territory of Japan; it may or may not in itself lead to an outbreak of hostilities, but to make the point I wish to make, let’s assume it does.

In this eventuality, the US’ “reluctance” to confront China will immediately move from “perceived” to non-existent. As the US becomes entwined in the conflagration it will be dependent on facilities it shares with Australia that are based on our own soil for its military machine to operate effectively, accurately, and to minimise US and Japanese battle casualties.

And — as I have pointed out in the past — Russia is likely to come to China’s aid militarily, especially if the latter is faced with the prospect of nuclear conflict: China may possess nuclear weapons but their use is largely limited to its own neighbourhood, meaning in this case, Japan. Its capacity to hit US targets is limited to its submarine forces. But the involvement of the Russian strategic forces changes the equation completely.

And in that event, the importance of facilities such as Pine Gap to the US military would be absolutely critical — not that they wouldn’t be so at a far lower level of military engagement.

Yes, this is a doomsday scenario and a nightmare prospect, but the point is that a conflict over a few lumps of rock could easily escalate into exactly this situation. World War I was ignited by a peasant assassinating an aristocrat in Serbia. To dismiss the Senkaku/Diayous as worthless specks of granite that are too insignificant to start a war over is to ignore that a single political assassination 100 years ago provided the spark that set Germany at war with the rest of the world. And the generation of Japanese who directly remember what such a conflict (and its consequences) was like to endure is decrepit and dwindling in number.

If this scenario were to materialise, who would care about trade relationships with China? There would be no point worrying about offending China because we would be at war with it anyway — unless misguided pacifism and misplaced ideas about “independence” manage to stop Australia honouring its treaty commitments to the US.

Independence and isolation are not the same thing; it is one thing to desire that wars do not happen — I think we all hope for that — but another matter altogether to think that when they do, it is appropriate to run out on our mates and hide in the toilet while all hell breaks loose outside the bathroom.

If such a conflict were to erupt, we would need the Americans to defend us; this is a fact dictated by our small, conventional military forces weighed against the might of the Chinese and Russian goliaths. The presence of US military forces on Australian soil makes any pretence of neutrality or “independence” moot. We would be a target.

And provided there was actually a world left once the shooting had stopped, we’d need the US to guarantee our safety — for the same reasons. Proclaiming our “independence” and doing nothing is a recipe for post-war isolation, and if it ever came to pass would leave Australia vulnerable to invasion and conquest.

As unpalatable as it might sound, if China and Japan come to blows, this country will have to choose: China or America. This is what it boils down to. And if the choice (God forbid) ever has to be made, then the only logical side to take is the side of the USA, Japan, and like-minded partners and allies across the free world — irrespective of the riches that otherwise beckon as fruits of trade relations with a China that we remain mute to avoid offending.

And in turn, this is why what Abbott and his government have been working towards on trade with Japan — irrespective, but cognisant, of the peripheral issues and their attendant risks — is not only the right thing to do, but it should be encouraged, not chastised.




Ditch The US: Fraser’s Latest Geriatric Pronouncement

MALCOLM FRASER has emerged yet again from his dotage to make the ridiculous claim Australia should end its military alliance with the United States; the comments show his perspective on world events has slid dangerously toward a far Left view of the world, if further proof of such a movement were required. Alternatively, the former PM has shot his bolt completely. Either way, his remarks are dangerous, ill-considered, and simply wrong.

It’s difficult to know where to begin to comment on Malcolm Fraser’s latest geriatric musings on matters that have clearly slipped from his grasp, but we’ll try: and it ought to be noted that these wild, destructive edicts, dovetailing neatly as they do with the anti-American obsessions of the hard Left, rarely appear outside the pages of the Fairfax press.

Fraser is the subject of an article by Mark Kenny in today’s issue of The Age that betrays an appalling and flagrant disregard for the explosive new realities of the global geopolitical order, and Australia would adopt his octogenarian edicts at its peril.

Fraser’s thesis — that the “(surrender of the) nation’s strategic independence” to Washington risks Australia being “pulled into a disastrous war against China” simply doesn’t stack up; in fact, given China’s increasingly bellicose penchant for confrontation and military mischief in south-east Asia, Australia’s alliance with the US is the best safeguard this country has against being subjected to the same aggressive threats being experienced by others in the region.

I have written in this column previously that the day would come when Australia will be forced to choose between the USA and China; some readers understand the basic premise behind such a consideration, whilst most have ridiculed the idea. Yet I stand by the assertion.

China — increasingly — is throwing its weight around the region, threatening the security of its immediate neighbours, with Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines (among others) facing ambit territorial claims from China that are increasingly being backed by military posturing and almost brazenly overt threats of force to pursue them.

Its effort to set up an aviation exclusion zone around the Senkaku Islands has been ignored by most of the international community, and it is true that China has declined to attempt to enforce it. Yet the fact such a move was taken at all is a pointer to the belligerent new stand it appears determined to employ in matters it perceives critical to its interests within the region.

China determinedly and persistently refuses to bring its errant ally, North Korea, to heel: perhaps the only country in the world with any leverage over the errant Communist regime, China has been content to allow the murderous junta in charge of North Korea to push the region to the brink of armed conflict as a proxy, and any doubts around this will be dispelled (again) if the rumoured fourth nuclear test being prepared by Pyongyang goes ahead next month and elicits no more than a few stern words from Beijing in response.

All of this is happening against the backdrop of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in eastern Europe, as Russia — perhaps in contrast to the Chinese — acts out its long-articulated ambitions of territorial expansion in its bid to recreate in effect the USSR and with it, Russia’s “rightful place” as a global superpower.

That endeavour carries with it the very real prospect of igniting a conflict that could easily escalate into a third world war, with well over a hundred thousand Russian troops apparently poised to invade Ukraine to complete the first phase of this enlargement of Russia’s borders. Sanctions imposed by the West appear to have had no impact in discouraging Russia, and its President’s suggestion that further action against it could result in gas supplies to western Europe being shut off is no idle threat.

It’s true that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry — a figure savaged in this column repeatedly as being totally unsuitable to do America’s bidding on the world stage — is making things worse with his aggressive rhetoric about consequences Russia will face in retaliation for any invasion of Ukraine that are just as unlikely to achieve anything meaningful if implemented.

But Obama and Kerry are tilling the soil for their Republican adversaries, and some kind of change in America is only a couple of years away. China and Russia, by contrast, are totalitarian dictatorships operating on long-term settings that have not changed in decades, and are unlikely to.

It is well known, and generally accepted, that China and Russia have agreed on co-operation should either face military conflict on anything approaching an existential scale: and in the context of the present international environment, this “bottom line” consideration must be central to any assessment of the validity of Fraser’s remarks.

From the perspective of Australian politics, it is necessary to handle China very carefully. It clearly resents our alliance and trade links with Japan and South Korea, and has suggested it expects to be favoured above Washington in the longer term to give any “meaning” to the relationship it seeks with us.

Already, there is evidence enough that China sees value in Australia as a food source and as a providore of raw natural resources, and the trade value of these links is considerable. Yet through its state-run enterprises it is clear that trade in these areas is not enough for Beijing: it seeks to acquire ownership of vast tracts of agricultural land, the rights to mine an increasing amount of the minerals it presently buys, and the means with which to process them. The eventual result of this will be to decimate the value to Australia of any return it might make from what should be its competitive advantage with China.

How does Fraser reconcile these realities with his suggestion we have ceded sovereign control of the country to the Americans?

It remains a fact that had the US not come to Australia’s aid in World War II, this country would in all likelihood have been overrun by the Japanese; this is a historical debt that endures, not something to be dismissed on a whim.

Fraser accuses former US President Lyndon Johnson of “lying” to America’s allies over the Vietnam War, claiming he misrepresented CIA assessments of the North Vietnamese in order to enlist the involvement of allies in the conflict. Yet this is disingenuous, and if true reflects more on Fraser’s poor judgement as Army minister and Defence minister in the governments of Harold Holt and John Gorton in the 1960s than it does on Johnson. Fraser was “all the way with LBJ” as much as any central figure in the governance of Australia at the time, and to suggest otherwise now is a vapid attempt indeed to airbrush the culpability he apparently claims now from view.

And Fraser’s criticisms of US-led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq do not pass muster either: there are clear benefits to all free nations in eliminating the scourge of global terrorism, a cause which found succour and nourishment under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan which, if left unchecked, posed the real threat of making the 9/11 attack simply the opening salvo in a global war against western interests.

As for Fraser’s remarks on Iraq? It’s one of those ironies that those who profess outrage about the second Iraq War point to the UN as the bedrock of their outrage, but this ignores the fact Iraq had systematically and consistently ignored its obligations under a number of UN resolutions to disarm; it was Russia and China, now central to the new global instability that threatens to pull the USA into another conflict, who refused to support action at the UN to enforce Iraqi compliance. America may have taken action against Saddam Hussein, but it was the inaction of Russia and China that sought to allow the Iraqi dictator to continue to perpetuate his murderous outrages unchecked.

Should NATO be pulled into any conflict in eastern Europe in the short to medium term, it’s a very reasonable expectation that at some point China will join the conflict on Russia’s side, particularly if the conflagration lasts for any period of time; and if that happens, the charade of benevolent neutrality Fraser seems to seek to perpetuate will be shown up as the nonsense it is in the most ominous way possible.

There will be no useful purpose to be served by the UN, that debating society used by the global Left to assert Sino-Russian primacy in such matters; in any case, Russia and potentially China would be irretrievably compromised.

Under such circumstances, the luxury of picking and choosing friends — or taking the Fraser option of running off and hiding in the toilet whilst others get their hands dirty — will cease to exist, and in the context of a protracted period of international conflict, China will have little interest in safeguarding Australia’s security.

In fact — as a partner of the US and its NATO allies in every conceivable respect — it would become a matter for contempt.

In practice, the best way to get involved in a war against China is to do exactly what Fraser suggests; stripped of the only real security guarantee Australia has enjoyed for the past 75 years, there would be nothing to prevent the conquest of our strategically and economically pivotal little piece of the planet, and with our inconsequential national defences decoupled from the US military machine, nothing to fight back with.

Perhaps Fraser should focus on being a doting grandfather and polishing his racing cars. After all, when it comes to matters of real weight, whether through philosophical sellout or senility, it’s obvious that his is a very dangerous voice indeed to pay any attention to.