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MUNGO MacCALLUM. Peter Dutton and his South African friends.

A minor set back last week for Peter Dutton’s unbending plan to rule the world. Not only did he put his own jackboot in a cowpat, but his chief enforcer, Commission Roman Quaedvlieg (anagram: love and quagmire) hit the wall over findings of inappropriate and misleading conduct with the employment of his girlfriend.   Continue reading

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LUKE FRASER. Australia is not “full” but lazy infrastructure policy strengthens the notion

The “Australia is full” immigration argument suggests we have our infrastructure planning and investment settings quite wrong.

Debate is now re-emerging about the need for Australia to consider new cities. Continue reading

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IAN DUNLOP. If Business Leaders Want To Regain Our Trust, They Must Act On Climate Risk.

Business leaders seem astonished that community trust in the activities is at an all-time low, trending towards the bottom of the barrel inhabited by politicians. To the corporate leader dedicated to the capitalist, market economy success story of the last 50 years, that altitude is no doubt incomprehensible and downright ungrateful.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy | Leave a comment

ERIC SIDOTI. What if anything Corbyn can teach the ALP?

Populism is rapidly evolving as the catch-all explanation for the maelstrom engulfing national and international politics. It is said to be driving the rise of the authoritarian right in Europe and to be evident in the re-emergence of ‘strong man’ politics associated with Putin’s Russia, Xi Jinping’s China and Duterte’s Philippines. While Trump appears to be riding a populist wave all his own, it is also proferred as the key to understanding Bernie Sanders’ and Jeremy Corbyn’s surprising successes. The recourse to populism as the answer risks blinding us to the complex realities. It risks obscuring the more meaningful lessons that would better serve the sort of reform-minded social democratic movement that we might like to think the Australian Labor Party could be. Continue reading

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STEVAN WONG,TRI NUKE PUDJIASTUTI, SRIPRAPHA PETCHARAMESREE and TRAVERS McLEOD Dialogue on Forced Migration ;Co-Chairs call for ongoing, coordinated action on Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM) concluded its sixth meeting in Sydney, Australia, this week ahead of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. The meeting focused on the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh and Myanmar; efforts to address human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery; and principles for sustainable and protection-sensitive repatriation and reintegration pathways. Continue reading

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MELISSA PARKE. Arms Export Goal Risks The Standing Of A Good International Citizen.

Five years ago Australia played a key role in drafting and negotiating the UN Arms Trade Treaty in order, as the government announced at the time, “to reduce the impact of armed violence on communities around the world”.

Five weeks ago Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his “vision” for Australia to become one of the top ten weapons exporting countries in the world. Rather than visionary, it struck me as grotesque.

This regression from good global citizen to swaggering deputy sheriff reflects the contradictions at the heart of our foreign policy. Continue reading

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Remember Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Pentagon PapersPeter Hannan, Environment Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald has written a review of his new book The DoomsDay Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Ellsberg recounts the occasions during the Cold War when the world came close to a catastrophic all-out nuclear war, triggered not by politicians but by technical errors and misinterpreted signals. Attention has been focussed on North Korea, but there are at least seven other states with nuclear weapon capability – France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Writing in the New Yorker, John Cassidy compares Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium with the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act, a misguided protectionist policy that contributed to rounds of retaliatory actions by other nations, aggravating the damage of Depression, and in turn contributing to the tensions that led to the 1937-1945 War.

“The term ‘sovereign risk’ is the kind of econobabble bullshit that is destroying public debate” writes Richard Denniss in the Fairfax media. In trying to stymie economic reform, powerful interest groups put up the bogey of  ‘sovereign risk’ as an argument to preserve their privilege.

Trump’s new Secretary of State has received most money from Koch Industries – RenewEconomy

Trump and Abe: Golf and Gold – New York Review of Books.

Mismanagement and corruption have left the Darling River dry – the Age.

How Barnaby Joyce came undone – the ABC. He’s been described by colleagues as a loner, a genius, authentic, and a narcissist. Here’s the story of how the former Nationals leader ended up on the backbench.

The guns crisis in the United States – New York Review of Books

Saturday Extra, March 17th Geraldine Doogue is looking at how the issue of human rights can be discussed diplomatically in international dialogues such as this weekend’s ASEAN meeting with Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch; Rajesh Walton, AUSTRAC’s Director of Innovation discusses the challenges facing the region in combatting cyber-attacks, terrorism financing and money laundering; Vladimir Putin and his foreign policies and interactions and how will he handle this area in his new term with Ivan Nechepurenko, a Moscow based writer and journalist and Leonid Petrov from the ANU; R& D in Australia, budgets and attitudes with Bill Ferris, Chair of Innovation and Science Australia and Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist and continuing with our March series, historian Billy Griffiths on his book about this ancient land or ours, Deep Time Dreaming.



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JOHN MENADUE. The ASEAN Summit in Sydney this weekend.

The meeting this weekend will highlight for Australia the importance of our relations with regional countries.  It will also highlight the importance of our relationship with the US and China, and how that rivalry can best be managed in association with regional countries. As background to this weekend’s Summit meeting, I provide links to five important foreign policy articles that were posted on Pearls and Irritations in May/June 2016.

These articles were part of a series called Fairness, Opportunity and Security edited by Michael Keating and myself.  The Foreign Affairs articles were written by former senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  This series was later published in book form.  The title Fairness, Opportunity and Security was, incidentally, picked up by Malcolm Turnbull as part of a government mantra.  But that is a subject for another day!.

The five foreign affairs articles, with links, are as follows:

Richard Butler.  Foreign Policy.  An Independent Australian Foreign Policy Richard Butler was former Australian Ambassador to the UN.

Stuart Harris.  What Australia’s Foreign Policy Should Look Like.  Stuart Harris was Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, 1987-88.

Cavan Hogue.  Australian Foreign Policy.  Cavan Hogue was Australian Ambassador to Mexico, USSR, Russia and Thailand, and High Commissioner to Malaysia.

John McCarthy. Foreign Policy. Australia, the United States and Asia. John McCarthy was Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Mexico, Thailand, USA, Indonesia and Japan; and High Commissioner to India.

Stephen FitzGerald.  Security in the region.  Stephen FitzGerald was Australian Ambassador to China.



Posted in Asia, Defence/Security, International Affairs, SERIES: Freedom, opportunity and security | Leave a comment

TIM LINDSEY and DAVE MCCRAE. Australian-Indonesia: strangers next door

At the weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on the margins of the Australia-ASEAN Special Summit. Although Turnbull seems to have built the positive personal relationship with Jokowi that eluded Tony Abbott, managing the bilateral relationship won’t be any easier for Turnbull than his predecessor. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 1 Comment

NANDINI PANDEY. Rome’s “Empire Without End” and the “Endless” U.S. War on Terror (Replaying the Roman Civil Wars in Reverse Since 9/11)

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

JENNY HOCKING. News release. The Palace Letters.

TODAY, Friday 16 March 2018, Justice Griffiths handed down his decision in the Federal Court  action Jennifer Hocking v Director-General, National Archives of Australia’, in favour of the National Archives. Justice Griffiths has ruled that the ‘Palace letters’ between the Queen and the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at the time of the Whitlam dismissal are ‘personal’ not Commonwealth records and do not come under the Archives Act. The Queen’s embargo will continue and the Palace letters will not be released. 
The decision has maintained the long-standing practice of designating the Monarch’s letters as ‘personal’ rather than official ‘Commonwealth records’, ensuring the continued Royal secrecy over her correspondence, including with the Governor-General, regardless of its content or historic importance. With this decision, the Federal Court has continued the Queen’s embargo on their release, potentially indefinitely. The hidden history of the dismissal of the Whitlam government will remain hidden. Professor Jenny Hocking says:‘We are obviously extremely disappointed with the outcome of this important case. The decision by Justice Griffiths continues the Queen’s indefinite embargo over her correspondence with Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, denying Australian’s access to key documents about an important part of our history. It is a disappointing decision for our history, specifically for the history of the dismissal which has long been cast in secrecy. Unfortunately, that secrecy will now continue.’
‘Our legal team is currently examining the decision in greater detail and we will have more to say on this and any possible future developments shortly.’

In our view, as argued by our legal team as led by Antony Whitlam QC, the Palace letters are official Commonwealth records relating to a critical time in our history, and not ‘personal’ records. They form part of our national historical estate which Australians should share. With this decision, rejecting calls for the release of the Palace letters, one of the last remaining pieces in the secret history of the dismissal of the Whitlam government, will remain secret, and the full story of the dismissal cannot yet be told.

‘It is astonishing and demeaning to Australia as an independent nation that access to the Queen’s communications with Governors-General continues to be at the whim of the Queen. Today’s decision has maintained this residual British control over Australian archival material, kept from us in the name of the Queen through the exercise of a Royal veto’.

‘I call on the prime minister, a committed republican, to make good his stated support for the release of these letters and advise the Queen to lift her embargo’.

‘I wish to thank the legal team all of whom worked on a pro bono basis, Antony Whitlam QC and Tom Brennan, instructed by Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth, for their tireless work and commitment. ‘Without them this case could never have proceeded, and could never even have been imagined. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their public-spirited pursuit of accountability and transparency at the very highest levels. I also thank and acknowledge the hundreds of supporters of the crowd-funding campaign  release the Palace letters and who have followed its way through the Court with such enthusiasm.’
For more background details on the case, read here.

Continue reading

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NICOLE GURRAN, BILL RANDOLPH, PETER PHIBBS, RACHEL ONG, STEVEN ROWLEY. Affordable Housing Policy Failure Still Being Fuelled By Flawed Analysis.

Australia has a housing affordability problem. There’s no doubt about that. Unfortunately, one of the reasons the problem has become so entrenched is that the policy conversation appears increasingly confused. It’s time to debunk some policy clichés that keep re-emerging. Continue reading

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RICHARD BUTLER. The US/DPRK Summit: War or Peace?

The planned Trump/Kim Summit has a clear choice between a negotiated solution, or war. There is a choice, whatever both sides may say. War is not unavoidable and if it were to occur it would be devastating.   Continue reading

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BOB BIRRELL Australia’s Skilled Migration Program is not delivering Scarce Skills

As vexations flowing from record high net overseas migration mount, supporters of the permanent entry program have had to dig deeper to defend it.These supporters include the Treasury and the Reserve Bank as well as business and property interests. They say that any major cut to the migration program would put in jeopardy Australia’s 26 years of unbroken nominal economic growth. The Treasury emphasises that Commonwealth taxation revenue would also diminish, putting further pressure on the budget deficit. Continue reading

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GILES PARKINSON. South Australia’s renewable energy future hangs by a thread.

It’s an election that is impossible to call. And too important to ignore. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 2 Comments

TOYO KEIZAI. The Peace Train Leaves The Station.

Tokyo — In a flurry of developments that left experts stunned, the long-stalled Korean peace train has suddenly left the station. Sitting in the locomotive is the engineer of these events, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un. The conductor of the peace train, welcoming the passengers aboard, is South Korea’s President Moon Jae In. At the front of the passenger car, we find a jumpy U.S. President Donald J. Trump. A few rows back, wearing a quiet smile, sits Chinese President Xi Jinping. And in the last row of the car, a clearly unhappy Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo tightly clutches the armrest of his seat. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 2 Comments

CHARLES LIVINGSTONE. Is gambling reform possible?

Gambling reform has been in the headlines lately – perhaps more than at any time since the Wilkie-Gillard agreement was shot down by ClubsNSW between 2010 and 2012. Continue reading

Posted in Health | 1 Comment

ELAINE PEARSON. Human Rights Should Be a Focus of ASEAN-Australia Summit.

On March 17-18, 2018, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will host government leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. The summit will be preceded by a business summit and a counterterrorism meeting to “strengthen our joint contribution to regional security and prosperity, including by addressing shared security challenges and securing greater opportunities.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MOTOKO RICH. Japan Fears Being Left Behind by Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un

As recently as last fall, it was Seoul that appeared sidelined by Washington in its approach to North Korea, as President Trump made fiery threats and accused South Korea of “appeasement” for advocating dialogue. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, was Mr. Trump’s closest friend among world leaders. Continue reading

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CHRIS BONNOR and LYNDSAY CONNORS A school funding horror story: special deals are back

Almost a year ago we thought that peace had been declared in the school funding wars. True, the Turnbull government’s ‘Gonski’ school funding changes fall well short on many fronts but the government did try to bury the special deals that have dogged school funding for decades. After less than a year Labor has resurrected them in a planned gift of $250 million to Catholic schools in the first two years of a new Labor government. Continue reading

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

ROSS GITTINS. Who is to blame for the housing crisis and how to fix it

There aren’t many material aspirations Australians hold dearer than owning their own home – but dear is the word. There are few greater areas of policy failure. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 1 Comment

CASSANDRA GOLDIE. The tax cut war and why everyone must pay for essential services, including wealthy shareholders

Labor’s policy on tax refunds for shareholders released on 13 March 2018 is a stark reminder that policies addressing the huge gaps in Australia’s revenue base are necessary.This is a media release by Cassandra Goldie

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

IAN McAULEY. Labor’s superannuation changes: clever cosmetics but a failure on equity, public revenue and economics.

There is something wrong when “self-funded” retirees can enjoy a six digit tax-free income, while others who earn their income through their own efforts pay normal rates of income tax. But Labor’s proposals on dividend imputation would sustain that inequity, would compromise public revenue, and would divert Australians’ savings away from high-return quality investments. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 3 Comments

JERRY ROBERTS. Populism and Social Democracy.

So-called “populist” parties in recent European elections have all but wiped out established social democratic parties.  The exception was Britain where Labour improved its position under the uncompromising social-democratic leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.  Two questions arise at home.  What fate awaits our social democratic party, the Australian Labor Party?  More importantly, what is populism? Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 6 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Could the Trump Kim summit succeed?

The Kim–Trump summit is an opportunity that will be difficult to seize and easy to squander. For example, if Trump decertifies the Iran nuclear deal on May 12, ahead of the summit, the move would almost certainly call into question America’s good faith and ability to honour negotiated international agreements. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

SAM BATEMAN. No need to rock the boat in the South China Sea.

In the wake of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to Washington, there has been renewed pressure for Australia to undertake assertive freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. It has also been suggested that France and the United Kingdom should undertake joint patrols in the South China Sea to push back against China. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 3 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. Cars, not immigration, are killing our cities.

This week on Four Corners many commentators blamed immigration for many of our ills. It was a diversionary tactic.  I think that immigration is Australia’s great success story. Many of the problems that immigration cause are the result of policy failure in other areas like housing and transport.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Housing, Infrastructure, Politics | 2 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. When will we wake up to the risks as well as the benefits of the US alliance? (Repost)

We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous ally. Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war; wars that we have often foolishly been drawn into. The US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments over two centuries. It has a military and business complex, almost a ‘hidden state’, that depends on war for influence and enrichment. It believes in its ‘manifest destiny’ which brings with it an assumed moral superiority which it denies to others

. We are running great risks in committing so much of our future to the US. We must build our security in our own region and not depend so exclusively on a foreign protector.

Unfortunately many of our political,bureaucratic,business and media elites have been so long on an American drip feed that they find it hard to think of the world without an American focus.. We had a similar and dependant view of the UK in the past. That ended in tears in Singapore. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs, Politics | 3 Comments

MACK WILLIAMS. North Korea: What now?”

President Trump’s positive response to Kim Jong-un’s invitation to direct talks naturally has created a swirl of media commentary and speculation.  It has served Trump’s interest to promote a sense of surprise though it probably also reflects a considerable amount of activity by a number of stakeholders in recent months.  Given the DPRK’s track record in earlier negotiating efforts and the seemingly dysfunctional White House, it is hard to be more than cautious about where it might lead. Continue reading

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Trump Is Smart to Talk to Kim Jong Un

The problem is, the United States is nowhere near ready for this kind of high-stakes diplomacy.   SUZANNE DIMAGGIO and JOEL WIT point out the risks Continue reading

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