CHINESE PRESS ATTEMPTS TO BULLY AUSTRALIA OUT OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
A hectoring editorial in China’s Global Times newspaper (“Australia will learn its lesson”) should be concerning for all Australians, not only their government. Long known for its tub-thumping drumbeat, the Global Times, with a circulation of more than two million readers, does not carry the weight of The People’s Daily. But it is state-aligned nonetheless, its editorials passing through some official filter. So it matters when the Global Times fires a rhetorical broadside at Canberra, complete with insults and threats of revenge. The issue at hand is Australia’s “delirious” diplomatic support for The Hague arbitration tribunal ruling on the South China Sea, which found emphatically in favour of The Philippines, deeming China’s maritime claims to be excessive.
Australia is accused of “blunt double standards” in regard to its sovereignty claims in Antarctica and “disputes with other countries over territory”, an oblique reference to East Timor although no actual territory is in dispute with Dili. That much was expected. China’s hostility towards the ruling was long telegraphed. Australia’s forward position in urging China to abide by the binding judgment makes it an obvious target for a share of Middle Kingdom opprobrium. However, the Global Times editorial goes much further. Many Australians will be offended by barbs about their country’s “uncivilised” origins as an “offshore prison of the UK”, colonised in “a process filled with the tears of the Aboriginals”.
These are not the words one expects from a country rated as Australia’s closest friend in Asia, according to the Lowy Institute 2016 poll. But insults can be shrugged off more easily than pledges of revenge. The editorial continues: “If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.” Australia’s power “means nothing compared to the security of China”. It pays not to be too thin-skinned in international relations. But let’s call this out as the unmistakeable tactic of a bully: undermine your target’s self-esteem, followed up by threats of harm. A big country picking on a smaller country, with a “scarce population” and an “inglorious history”.
This is not the first time Global Times has had Australia in its sights over the South China Sea. Late last year, referring to regular Australian reconnaissance flights under Operation Gateway, the newspaper warned “it would be a shame if one day a plane fell from the sky and it happened to be Australian”. This editorial was unambiguously hostile, summoning up invective reminiscent of North Korea. Given this hyperbole there is the question of how seriously to treat it. The key question is: does this signal a genuine intention on Beijing’s part to punish Australia, or is it theatrical high dudgeon calculated for effect? Whatever the Global Times’ intention, such a crassly phrased effort at intimidation should awaken more Australians to China’s growing chauvinism and the strategic risks it poses.
However, I suspect it will only serve to reaffirm the views of many already inclined to see entrapment within the US alliance as the greater risk to Australia’s security. Such are the craggy furrows of our national debate. The editorial does not merit any official response from Canberra. That would only dignify it, and risk validating a hardline position that China’s authorities have not officially taken. Washington also may want to keep any ensuing messages of reassurance to Canberra low-key for this reason. China should be judged primarily on its actions. So far, Beijing’s reactions to The Hague ruling have been restricted mainly “non-kinetic”.
Yet the fact Vietnam, the only Southeast Asian country to express its support, saw its national airline hacked last weekend does not bode well – especially once Beijing’s host role for the G20 summit next month is out of the way. There is a further question: is the objective behind the Global Times editorial not simply to deter an Australian freedom of navigation operation but to keep the Australian Defence Force permanently out of the South China Sea? On that, Canberra must continue pushing back, ensuring that the RAAF and RAN maintain a consistent presence there. If the thread of that legally enshrined longstanding access is spooled in, Canberra’s defence relations in Southeast Asia will be significantly compromised. More important, we will have been bullied.
Source: by Euan Graham, international director at the Lowy Institute
SHOPPIES UNION ENDS OPPOSITION TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
The powerful and socially conservative shoppies union – the Right flank of Labor’s industrial base – has formally dropped its opposition to same-sex marriage as the Turnbull government prepares to put the issue to a popular vote. The national executive of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association has passed a resolution declaring the union would adopt a neutral stand on the issue. The move temporarily resolves a conflict between the Labor Party and one of its biggest union affiliates over the party’s determination that while its members will have a conscience vote in this parliament, they would be bound in the next parliament to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.
Former union secretary and South Australian senator Don Farrell is among the ALP Right members expected to vote against same-sex marriage on conscience grounds if it comes before the current parliament. The union’s resolution declared the national executive “recognises that the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM) will now be dealt with by the Australian Parliament or a plebiscite of the Australian people. “The Association shall have no position on the matter of SSM and will support the right of members of the ALP to vote according to their conscience”. The union, one of the country’s largest with a membership of more than 230,000 retail workers, was particularly opposed to legalisation of same-sex marriage under the leadership of former national secretary Joe de Bruyn.
The shift in position has occurred under his successor, Gerard Dwyer, who told The Australian yesterday the issue had “moved out of party forums” and had been “dealt with”. “The ALP have a conscience vote, and we expect that to be respected,” Mr Dwyer said. “As a national executive we have formed the view that individual party members should be free to act according to their conscience on this matter.” Former WA Labor senator and a previous SDA state secretary Joe Bullock announced his resignation before the July 2 election because he felt uncomfortable reconciling his opposition to same-sex marriage with the party’s plan to move to a binding vote.
Mr Dwyer said he hoped the union could now focus on its core business of fighting for a better deal for workers. “The marriage debate has never been a distraction in the industrial arena for us, but the fact is the issue is not a subject of discussion inside party forums anymore. It’s our clear view that we have no position now, going forward,” he said. Mr Dwyer said he expected the ACTU to allow unions individual positions ahead of a plebiscite or parliamentary vote. “First of all, it hasn’t been raised at the ACTU level and I imagine there is a diversity of views across the union movement as there are across the community more broadly.” Mr de Bruyn, now the Union’s national president, said he approved the change of position.
AUSTRALIANS COULD SELECT SEX OF CHILD UNDER PROPOSED IVF LAW CHANGES
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has raised concerns over a proposal for Australians to be able to pick the sex of their baby under proposed IVF law changes. The Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) is meeting soon to consider advice about new ethical guidelines for Australia’s IVF industry put forward by a working committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The chairman of the working committee recently suggested that the proposed changes may open the way for couples to select the gender of their third child. ACL spokesperson Wendy Francis said opening up discrimination on the basis of sex sent the wrong message about the inherent value of humans.
“It makes no difference if it is for a first child or third child, most Australians would agree that discrimination based on sex is always wrong,” she said. “The autonomy of the parent to choose the sex of their child should never trump the need for the child to be loved unconditionally. What approach to parenting will we adopt if we start eliminating human life in its early stages for being the wrong sex? It sends all the wrong messages to children about unconditional love.” Some cultures practice sex-selective abortion and there is a widespread use of pre-natal testing and abortion to prevent the birth of girls in China and India.
“Commercialising egg donations, which is currently illegal in Australia, is also being considered by AHEC. This too would be a backwards step,” Ms Francis said. “If same-sex marriage was introduced into Australia the consequence will be increased calls to remove the prohibition on the sale of eggs and calls for the commercial surrogacy which will have fundamental bearings on the right of a child to be, wherever possible, be brought up by a mum and a dad.” The Committee is meeting this month to discuss the draft ethical guidelines. The Committee may approve the draft guidelines or refer them back to the working committee for further advice or amendments.