30 November 2010, 1 comment
, category: Politics & Policy
Scott Morrison, the Australian Shadow Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, gave a keynote address at the Lowy Institute today on the Opposition’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker policy. It was essentially a talk on boat people. “Stop the Boats” seems to be the explicit policy of the Opposition and the implicit one of the Government.
I counted the words ‘boat’ and ‘boats’ used 21 times in his address, while the word ‘airplane’ or any derivative of air travel was never mentioned. I asked the Shadow Minister why he mentioned boats 21 times while air travel did not rate a mention, as there are cases of illegal entrants who come by plane. He acknowledged this and replied that the people, who come illegally by plane tend to to have valid documentation, while boat arrivals do not or destroy them en-route.
The Chatham House Rule precludes me from going into much details. I was at a presentation this week on the challenges and opportunities on the future regional security arrangements for the Asia-Pacific. The talk centred on the proposed Asia-Pacific Community that the former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd championed.
I asked whether the Asia-Pacific Community could one day evolve to an Asia-Pacific Union, given the fact that the European Union was once called the European Economic Community. The quick one-word answer was no. While I doubt the success (and failures) of the European Union could be replicated elsewhere. One should not be quick to dismiss the fantasies of politicians and public servants.
A few days ago on The Interpreter, the ‘blog‘ of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, had a post asking if the word ‘blog’ was still a dirty word? Sam Roggeveen, editor of The Interpreter, writes that an editorial in The Australian, fails to mention correctly that an article appeared in the Institute’s blog and not its website or provide a link to it.
“Granted, The Interpreter is not a blog in the purest sense, but ‘blog’ or even ‘zine’ would have been a clearer description than ‘website’.”
I do not think blog or blogger are dirty words. As with many words, they do evoke certain images (good and bad) of citizen journalism. Marc Ambinder writes in The Atlantic that;
“blogger carries a stigma among high-level editors and the standard-setters of this business that needs to be erased.”
National Times, 11 November 2010
Today is United Nations Day. It marks the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter on 24 October 1945.
I wonder if many people will notice the significance of the day.
To paraphrase the former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan: ‘Sixty-five years ago, after the devastation of the Second World War, the leaders of the world came together to unite the nations as never before. They created a forum – the United Nations – where all nations could join forces to affirm the dignity and worth of every person, and to secure peace and development for all peoples. Here States could united to strengthen the rule of law, recognise and address the needs of the poor, and provide for the safety of future generations.’
Some years ago at a conference on the United Nations I made the following remarks. I think they are as relevant today, as they were back then.
Four months ago, the Dutch went to the polls to elect a new government. The previous coalition government collapsed over a parliamentary debate about extending the Dutch deployment to the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan.
Four months ago I wrote about the need for such a debate in the Australian parliament about our own involvement. Such a debate has been denied to the people, in the People’s House.
This week, after four months of intense negotiations, the Netherlands has a new coalition government. The new government will consider a request by NATO to send non-combat troops to train the Afghan police. The Dutch will debate this issue in parliament.
In June, I asked, “Is it not time that we in Australia also question our military involvement in Afghanistan?”
This week, four months since the polls closed, the Netherlands finally has a new government.
It will be a minority one, the first in modern Dutch history, with a Liberal prime minister, the first in 92 years. The VVD and CDA will make up the cabinet. The coalition can count on the support of the PVV in parliament, to give a slim majority of 76 seats to 74.
Prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet comprises of 11 ministers with a further eight junior ministers. The cabinet met for the first time in The Hague today.
The PVV will support the VVD-CDA coalition on a number of issues, but will have no ministers and is “not officially part of the government.” Whatever that means. Some call it a silent partner agreement. But it is hard to imagine the PVV’s Geert Wilders as anything but silent! The Economist calls his mouth the biggest in Dutch politics.
Many commentators in Europe have criticised the deal with the PVV. Some call the new government ”Wilders I.” But siding with populist parties is somewhat the norm in Europe. Populist (I do not use the term far-right) parties are gaining ground and are the “silent” partner for minority coalition governments in their respective parliaments. Sweden’s recent election yielded such a result.
12 October 2010, 1 comment
, category: Politics & Policy
Last night I was in the audience of Q and A. A moderated panel discussion show on the ABC where the audience gets to ask the questions. It was my first time on any TV studio recording or live broadcast.
I submitted a question and it was short listed. It was the second one asked. My question was:
“What is the point of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Commonwealth Games? Is this not a colonial relic and a vestige of the British Empire? Or does the Commonwealth and the games merely exist for us Australians to beat the English in games that they invented?”
Yesterday, the world lost one country, but gained two new ones. Yesterday, The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist, and Curaçao and Sint Maarten have become semi-autonomous countries. Though they will still be part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Much like Aruba, which became autonomous in 1986.
The other islands; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, will become municipalities of The Netherlands, they will be part of the country proper. Saba has an active volcanic mountain, Mount Scenery, which at 877 m is now the highest point of The Netherlands proper.
The Kingdom of The Netherlands now consists of four autonomous countries: The Netherlands proper, Arbua, and now Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Interestingly, none of the islands in the former The Netherlands Antilles voted for full independence. I assume they want to cling on to their Dutch passports and a sense of European security (and prosperity) that comes with it. The Netherlands will continue to look after defence and foreign policy for the Kingdom.
This Sunday, the 3rd of October 2010, will mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification. Also, on this Sunday, 92 years after the guns of the First World War fell silent, at 11:00 am on the 11th day of November 1918, the Great War will officially end. On this Sunday, the Federal Republic of Germany will make its last reparations payment as outlined in the Treaty of Versailles.
Maybe a little stretch to say the war will officially end on Sunday, but a sorry chapter of the 20th century will finally close when Germans celebrate 20 years of reunification, and pay €70 million.
To truly understand the 20th century, one needs to understand the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles. Many geopolitical issues of today were determined in Paris in 1919. The war to end all wars, somehow became the ‘peace’ to start more wars.