Home > Oz Politics, World Events > Crikey goes Godwin on tiny uninhabited islands

Crikey goes Godwin on tiny uninhabited islands

November 28th, 2013

The usually sensible Crikey team has gone off the deep end (in an editorial sent out as email, can’t find it on their site) on the Australian government’s response to the recent dispute between China and, among others, the US over a group of “tiny uninhabited islands” (even the name is disputed). The longstanding policy of Australian governments, very sensibly, has been to avoid getting between the US and China on issues like this, of which there are a huge number, involving many parties and incomprehensible claims. Crikey not only endorses Julie Bishop’s abandonment of this policy, but uses the loaded term “appeasement” to describe opponents. So, a refusal to get involved in a game of posturing and sabre-rattling that has gone on, in one form or another, since 1949, is equivalent to selling out the Czechs to Hitler.

Crikey draws a comparison with Kevin Rudd’s willingness to take the Chinese leadership to task over human rights abuses, a willingness criticised by Bishop at the time. To see how absurd this is, you need only ask whether Chinese dissidents, who mostly endorsed Rudd’s speech (some thought it did not go far enough) are going to welcome our support for the anti-China position in this territorial dispute. The answer is obvious: for the most part, Chinese democrats fully support the government position on these issues.

The idea that, having just ignored human rights issues in Sri Lanka, the Abbott government has suddenly developed a concern with these issues in China is equally absurd.

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  1. ratee
    November 28th, 2013 at 15:57 | #1

    Perhaps its just a diversionary tactic to get Indonesia off the agenda or at least distract attention, while playing to their pro-USA base.

  2. Mr T
    November 28th, 2013 at 16:41 | #2

    This is not about rights. It is about expropriation of property. (Money not People)

  3. David Allen
    November 28th, 2013 at 16:54 | #3

    The Abbott government has so far broken everything they’ve touched. Worst.Government.Ever.

  4. Lt. Fred
    November 28th, 2013 at 17:06 | #4

    Indonesia has already cut several trade ties with us. What if CHINA is decides to follow suit?

  5. Deena Bennett
    November 28th, 2013 at 18:03 | #5

    Did the LNP think this one up on their own? Has it been done with their own initiative? Is there an outside influence involved? Australia’s foreign policy has long run in lock-step with our friends in the Northern hemisphere, and I have long worried about our domestic policies.

  6. Neil Hanrahan
    November 28th, 2013 at 19:56 | #6

    Perhaps Gareth Evans with one of his characteristic bon mots “relevance deprivation syndrome” could help explain his successor-but-several’s buying in to this issue publicly.

    There is no reason why the federal government shouldn’t suggest to all parties (though, inevitably mostly China) interested in the seas and rocks to the each of China’s mainland that they cool it and give reasons for that which include the seriously self-interested like keeping the sea lane and the air above free for navigation. But why not practise even more of the quite diplomacy that Abbott has had forced on him by events of 2009. Do not all remember how Alexander Downer, even Alexander Downer, came to sound quite wise and well informed as a rule when speaking on foreign affairs. All ministers for foreign affairs are in a position where they are infinitely better informed than 99.99 per cent of listeners and viewers on most relevant matters pertaining to their portfolios and can easily give plausible sounding reasons for not saying, or indeed knowing, more than they care to say. And Julie Bishop isn’t any less lacking in native wit than Downer. She should be able to get away with just sounding judicious and moderate and firm and wise. Perhaps it is too early to start inferring devious purposes and subtle messages from the the fact that she went out of her way to upset China (on the face of it anyway: do we really tnink “China” gives a damn? For all we know, it is just a case of someone in the very unimportant office which is called “Australia: Politics and Other Second Rank Matters” taking the chance to bignote himself and be heard by someone higher up.)

    At a

  7. Ikonoclast
    November 28th, 2013 at 20:46 | #7

    I don’t think we will get very far trying to tell China what to do. As for sucking up to the USA, well sucking úp earns no respect from anyone. Best thing we could do is keep quiet, keep a low profile and hope to let the Northern Hemisphere forget we exist. When elephants fight don’t be the ant that gets crushed between their toes.

  8. Ikonoclast
    November 28th, 2013 at 20:56 | #8

    @Lt. Fred

    They won’t trade with us? Good, seeing we have all the energy and food we need, we don’t actually need them. A little autarky would see us revive some of our own manufacturing capacity. Another plus. Ceasing to be the mere mine and granary for Indonesia and China would be a great plus for us in the long run. The pain of adjustment would be worth it.

  9. SJ
    November 28th, 2013 at 21:26 | #9

    Do not all remember how Alexander Downer, even Alexander Downer, came to sound quite wise and well informed as a rule when speaking on foreign affairs. All ministers for foreign affairs are in a position where they are infinitely better informed than 99.99 per cent of listeners and viewers on most relevant matters pertaining to their portfolios and can easily give plausible sounding reasons for not saying, or indeed knowing, more than they care to say.

    I must have missed that bit. I do remember where Downer was getting his intelligence from anonymous right wing blogs, and Fox News (while drinking scotch, no less).

  10. SJ
    November 28th, 2013 at 21:45 | #10

    Cite for the Downer/Fox News thing

    Albrechtsen started by asking whether “Western self-esteem is waning”. She included a story that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had told her recently that when he gets home he does three things: drinks a whisky on the couch, turns on Fox News and downloads the latest Mark Steyn column.

    If someone consistently acts and sounds like a useless moron, it’s certainly possible that they’re just pretending. It’s more likely, however, that they’re not pretending.

  11. Neil Hanrahan
    November 28th, 2013 at 21:59 | #11

    @SJ

    Thanks for linking to the electronicintifada.net which I had never heard of. Very useful any time I want to annoy Jewish friends I would think from a quick glance. But the fact that it may have found Alexander Downer speaking on something of little importance to Australia with less than good reason for what he was saying on some occasion doesn’t in any way negate my assertion that Foreign Ministers ought to be able to sound wise and well-informed as evidenced by the fact that even Alexander Downer was rarely, if ever, caught out sounding as though he was floundering on Lateline or the 7.30 Report, let alone the news.

    Julie Bishop is perfectly capable, surely, of saying “we have taken note of China’s stated intention to …etc…. which could potentially affect Australia’s interests in freedom of navigation and we have made representations to the Chinese government. It is Australia’s general policy that disputes of the kind that have arisen over the X islands and the seas adjoining them between South Korea, Japan and China should be determined according to o international law and that orderly processes of negotiation and legal determination should be the means of resolution of differences.”

    Q. So is Australia condemning China for acting contrary to those principles?

    A. “It is our position that condemnation is not a useful contribution to resolving differences of opinion or conflicting assertions of rights. It is Australia’s position that, in the absence of legal certainty, negotiation, mediation and possibly arbitration and compromise should be exhausted before unilateral threats of force are resorted to. That is a position that we have attempted to make clear to all parties involved and it should not be interpreted because it may be conducive to conflict avoidance and resolution and it should not be interpreted as condemning any party.”

    Q. But if you are saying X then must you not be saying Y….

    A. “Yada yada yada”….(Educated waffle language and more of the same…..).

  12. Fran Barlow
    November 28th, 2013 at 22:10 | #12

    @SJ

    If that’s Downer’s practice, it might be that it’s his self-esteem that is waning.

  13. rog
    November 28th, 2013 at 22:14 | #13

    This Abbott led govt seems to be overachieving when it comes to stupidity. Why they felt the need to launch into an attack on China about a bunch of uninhabited rocks in the east China sea, ostensibly in the name of Australias “freedom to navigate”, is a mystery.

    We need to tap someone’s phone and get to the bottom of this.

  14. Megan
    November 28th, 2013 at 23:06 | #14

    @Neil Hanrahan

    Have you got a source or other reference for that thing you mentioned the other day about oceans heating up and releasing CO2 accounting for the rise in CO2 over the last 70 years?

  15. sunshine
    November 29th, 2013 at 07:06 | #15

    The Coalitions anti-PC ,slightly xenophobic ,butch, no-sorry, proud Aussie approach worked well from opposition as far as winning govt goes, but the rest of the world was watching the whole time .Im going for an overseas holiday next year . This time it will be even more embarrassing to be Australian than it has been on previous occasions .

  16. J-D
    November 29th, 2013 at 15:35 | #16

    @Neil Hanrahan
    If you think being able to annoy your friends is useful, I can only conclude that your friends must be very peculiar people. Personally I wouldn’t want any friends who thought annoying me was useful, but à chacun son goût, I suppose.

  17. November 30th, 2013 at 00:15 | #17

    @Neil Hanrahan
    Right. A key skill in diplomacy is the art of saying absolutely nothing at length. This should not be too difficult for politicians.

  18. paul walter
    December 5th, 2013 at 14:41 | #18

    Crikey?
    I remember them.
    Nicholas Gruen got me to sign up on a group discount and the first thing that happened was that my first comment, on the sacking of John Quiggin from AFT, was censored despite its careful wording critical of the decison.
    Why?
    They keep sending offers, eg a pair of First Dog’s dirty underwear, as inducements to re-sign, but on the rare occsions have broken throught their paywall, have not read anything so rivetting that would have me subscribe to their “journalism”.

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