China is not an enemy (Washington Post letter, 3 July 2019)

Dear President Trump and members of Congress:

We are members of the scholarly, foreign policy, military and business communities, overwhelmingly from the United States, including many who have focused on Asia throughout our professional careers. We are deeply concerned about the growing deterioration in U.S. relations with China, which we believe does not serve American or global interests. Although we are very troubled by Beijing’s recent behavior, which requires a strong response, we also believe that many U.S. actions are contributing directly to the downward spiral in relations. Continue reading

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TREVOR WATSON. Crossing a line in the Korean sand; Trump goes where others have been before

Donald Trump’s crossing of the 38th Parallel into North Korea was a ten out of ten for symbolism. It was wonderful television and an outstanding PR move by the US President and the North Korean Leader, Kim Jun Un. The event took me back almost 30 years to my own crossing of the famous ceasefire line which also generated little of substance.   Continue reading

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LOUIS COOPER. Trudeau fights for re-election

Canada has a national election in October and a recent poll shows the electorate is feeling worried and conflicted. Will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party be re-elected? Continue reading

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ROSEMARY O’GRADY. Lost leaders.

The first words addressed by the Hon David Hurley AC as Governor-General were to the Australian First People and their successors, including, specifically, ‘future leaders’. Continue reading

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KEVIN PEOPLES. Is the Male Clerical Church Irrelevant?

I first met the clerical God in 1964. I was 27. This was at Springwood, in the Blue Mountains. I met him while hiding away at St. Columba’s seminary. He was not to my liking and we parted in just under three years. Unlike my God, this distant and patrichal God lived somewhere outside his created world. Continue reading

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GREG BAILEY: Christopher Pyne: Consultancy as government

The sudden elevation of Christopher Pyne – formerly Minister for Defence Industries – to defence consultant with Ernst & Young may have taken some people by surprise. Surely, though, it was always on the cards, especially since he retired from parliament at a relatively young age of fifty-one and with a pre-election likelihood of not being returned as the member for Sturt. However, his appointment points directly to wider developments in the politico-economic culture of this and other countries.

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ROB MAINWARING. Centre-left politics: dead, in crisis, or in transition? (The Conversation, 24 June 2019)

The ALP’s defeat at the 2019 federal election was a surprise. Shorten’s Labor fell short, against both wider commentariat predictions and unrepresentative polls. Yet, if we take a step back, the result is less surprising if we locate Labor’s defeat in the wider “crisis” of social democracy. Continue reading

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MONIQUE ROSS. Why the Pharmacy Guild is the most powerful lobby group you’ve never heard of (ABC News)

It’s been called the most influential lobby group in Australia, and some believe it has the power to bring down a government if it really flexed its muscle. Continue reading

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ROBERT MICKENS. Reforming the Church with ‘no possibility of return.’ How Pope Francis is initiating processes of Church reform that will be hard to undo.

How many cardinals does it take to help Pope Francis reform the Roman Curia? And how many years do they need to get the job done?Many Catholics – at least those who are hoping the pope can succeed in decentralizing ecclesial power away from the Vatican – have grown frustrated that after some six years there have been no definitive answers to those questions.

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MICHAEL KEATING Why the Stage 3 tax cuts will need to be revisited.

In previous articles I argued that Stage 3 of the Government’s proposed tax cuts should be opposed (see Pearls & Irritations, 30 May and 24 June). However, the Government appears to have the numbers to pass its proposed tax cuts as one package, with or without the support of the Labor Party. Nevertheless, the Grattan Institute in a report released on 30 June provide additional evidence as to why “the Stage 3 tax cuts should wait”. Grattan’s and my concern is that Australia will eventually find that these tax cuts cannot be afforded, and that the best alternative will be to reverse them at a later date. Continue reading

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HUGH WHITE.  With China’s swift rise as naval power, Australia needs to rethink how it defends itself (The Conversation, 2 July 2019)

Visiting Wellington in April 1996, I fell into conversation with a very wise and experienced New Zealand government official. We talked about the still-unfolding Taiwan Straits crisis, during which Washington had deployed a formidable array of naval power, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, to the waters around Taiwan. The aim was to compel China to abandon a series of missile firings near Taiwan intended to intimidate voters in forthcoming presidential elections. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 8 Comments

GEOFF MILLER:  Trump in North Asia; policy changes?

A lot of the reactions to President Trump’s visits to the G20 in Osaka and to Korea have been scathing, but there are some positive signs in regard to both US-China trade issues and negotiations with North Korea.  But having encouraged hard-line one-dimensional attitudes on both issues within the US, Trump may find that maintaining his apparent new-found flexibility runs up against domestic political opposition, including from within his own party. Continue reading

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PETER RODGERS: Israel-Palestine and the Bahrain conference – Jared in wonderland

Whatever happens with Donald Trump’s presidency, the future of his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is assured. A career as writer of romantic fiction is his for the asking. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 3 Comments

NOEL TURNBULL. The curious incident of the dog that didn’t bark

There is nothing more beloved of apocalyptic thinkers, intelligence agencies, conservative politicians and general scare-mongers than the threat of some disaster. It is even better when the threat is insidious, little understood and able to be transformed into policies which actually have other purposes.

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JOCELYN PIXLEY. Morrison bows to monied men

Liberal UK Prime Minister Gladstone, 1868-94, grumbled that William III put the state in a position of ‘subservience’ to induce ‘monied men to be lenders’ in 1694. As Australia faces recession, the Government bows to every bank demand for low wages and flatter taxes, to foster more household debts, rather than a fair and cautious economic policy.

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MIKE BRUCE. No jobs here: Penalty rate cuts fail to fire up employment growth (New Daily)

Jobs growth in the retail and hospitality sectors has more than halved since the introduction of Sunday penalty rates, a new study has revealed. Continue reading

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NARGES BAJOGHLI. Trump’s Iran strategy will fail (New York Times, 2 July 2019).

As tensions with Tehran escalate, Washington has been struggling to understand the internal thinking of the Iranian government, and especially that of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The organization, which functions as an elite military branch and a bulwark of the country’s revolution, is today the most powerful force within Iran’s complicated political structure. Understand the Revolutionary Guards, and you understand a good part of what makes modern Iranian politics tick. Continue reading

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DONALD COZZENS. How much corruption can we tolerate in the church before we leave?

After reading James Carroll’s lengthy lament in The Atlantic on the corruption in the Catholic Church and its priestly caste, I remembered reading an article in America magazine by the late Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt.

“In the course of half a century,” the weathered scholar wrote in Tell the Next Generation, “I have seen more Catholic corruption than you have read of. I have tasted it. I have been reasonably corrupt myself. And yet I joy in this Church — this living, pulsing, sinning people of God.”

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NIALL McLAREN Times change. Fools never.

Times change, and people who refuse to change with them will be left behind. Continue reading

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ABUL RIZVI: South Australia – Canary in the Ageing Coalmine

In terms of the impact of population ageing, South Australia provides a glimpse into Australia’s future. Over the next decade, ageing will impact Australia more significantly than at any time in our post World War II history. By 2030, all the 5.5 million baby boomers will be past age 65 and predominantly in retirement. Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Trump’s disdain for Japan is insulting and high-risk

In his forays abroad, US President Donald Trump increasingly resembles a bull carrying his own china shop on his back, to be set down for wrecking at diplomatic confabs. At the moment a grave crisis seems imminent with regard to Iran. As former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer notes, soon Trump will come to a fork in the road to Tehran where he must choose between: a diplomatic climbdown on his impossible demands; or a war with Iran with regional and long-term consequences far worse than the terrible damage wrought by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Either will hurt Trump’s standing with his base, the only constituency he seems to care about.

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PAUL BARRATT. What are we to make of Iran’s nuclear program?

Iran’s nuclear program, never out of the news for long, is on the front pages of the world with President Trump’s insistence that his belligerence towards Iran is driven by a desire to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. The facts are that there is no reason to believe that Iran has made any moves even to acquire a nuclear weapons option since 2003,  that Iran has good reasons to maximise the independence of its nuclear electricity program, and that until the United States ripped them up, there were robust arrangements in place to ensure that Iran didn’t acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 3 Comments

TONY WALKER. Acting on Iran has painful shades of joining the US in Iraq. (SMH 1.7.2019)

Here’s a word of advice to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Unless he wants to risk a smudge on his reputation of the sort that accompanies John Howard to this day: don’t get involved in conflict with Iran beyond limited naval engagement in a Gulf peace-keeping role.  

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STEPHEN KINZER. In an astonishing turn, George Soros and Charles Koch team up to end US ‘forever war’ policy (Boston Globe, 30 June 2019)

BESIDES BEING BILLIONAIRES and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy. Continue reading

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JOHN CARMODY. The enduring farce of British politics

To Australian eyes, British politics appear relentlessly chaotic, even anti-social.  The solutions seem impossible to find, forever out of sight, let alone reach and – as in true tragedy – entirely self-inflicted. Continue reading

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BERNARD MOYLAN. Homily on Israel Folau

I intended to speak today about the hyperbolic language Jesus used in order to get a point across. The point in today’s gospel is that life is more than rigid responsibilities and that our following him should be unencumbered. He is also reported as saying that “if your eye offend you, pluck it out; if your hand offend you, cut if off.” We are not meant to take these statements literally. [more] Continue reading

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RORY MCGUIRE. Middle East: Comedy or Tragedy?

It is increasingly difficult to decide whether the ongoing drama in the Middle East is a comedy or a tragedy. The actors are performing roles written for comedians but the consequences of their actions are tragic too often. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

ROBERT MICKENS. Pope Francis or Steve Bannon? Catholics must choose. American alt-right leader enlists Catholic allies to turn people against the pope

 

Among all the world’s political and social leaders, Pope Francis stands increasingly alone as the most powerful force for global peace and stability. Thank God – and the cardinals who elected him in March 2013 – that the Argentine Jesuit is the current Bishop of Rome.

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JENNY HOCKING. The ‘Palace letters’ case heads to the High Court

Professor Jenny Hocking’s long-running case against the National Archives of Australia seeking the release of the secret ‘Palace letters’ about the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, stepped up again this week with the announcement of a Special Leave hearing in the High Court of Australia on 16 August. Continue reading

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GARETH EVANS. Breaking through the bamboo ceiling: Asian-Australians in the Asian Century.

Asian-Australians are an underappreciated and underutilized national resource as we face  the challenges and opportunities of the Asian century.  The 2012 White Paper, and everyone else, agrees that we dramatically need to lift our ‘Asian capability’ – defined by the Diversity Council of Australia as meaning ‘individuals’ ability to interact effectively in Asian countries and cultures, and with people from Asian cultural backgrounds, to achieve work goals.’ Continue reading

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