With America’s commitment to Asia-Pacific security looking shaky and China’s economic—and military—might rising, a peculiarly Australian question is at the forefront: Are we Asian or Western? It’s a dilemma not just of cultural identity—but about which major power Australia’s future hinges on.“We haven’t had to choose in the past,” said Hugh White, a former official in Australia’s defense department who now teaches at Australian National University (ANU). But with a more isolationist Trump administration in power in the US, “Australia now has to think for the first time in its history what kind of place it wants to make for itself when Asia is not dominated by an Anglo-Saxon power.”
Category Archives: Oceania
Australia is at a point where it has to choose between its ally America and its economic backer China
Australia is sleep-walking into a confrontation with China. Wars can happen suddenly in an atmosphere of mistrust and provocation, especially if a minor power, like Australia, abandons its independence for an “alliance” with an unstable superpower.The United States is at a critical moment. Having exported its all-powerful manufacturing base, run down its industry and reduced millions of its once-hopeful people to poverty, principal American power today is brute force. When Donald Trump launched his missile attack on Syria – following his bombing of a mosque and a school – he was having dinner in Florida with the President of China, Xi Jinping.
It’s a cold, wet Monday night in Melbourne, but the confluence of Flinders Lane, Degraves Street and Centre Place – the centre of “the world’s most liveable city” – is swirling with activity. In the shadows, just beyond the clip of foot traffic, Peter slumps in his brown woollen poncho on a thick square of cardboard. In front of him is a small wicker basket speckled with silver coins, and a cardboard sign on which is handwritten a tale of personal tragedy and an appeal for charity. In the darkened doorway behind him stands a shopping trolley filled with his life’s possessions: two sleeping bags, a swag, a coat, bundles of clothes and, for bartering purposes, four cans of Canadian Club whisky and two bottles of wine that he found on his night-time wanderings.
While it is encouraging to see the inertia around durable resettlement solutions for refugees on Manus and Nauru broken, Sunday’s announcement that they will be resettled in the United States raises more questions for those involved than it answers, particularly in the current political climate, and in light of Trump’s plans to ban Muslim immigration. This kind of ambiguity, while not unfamiliar, is particularly tough for a cohort who have already lived through three years of uncertainty and have scarce resilience left to draw upon.
New Zealand is a country in which sheep outnumber people by a factor of six, and its serene pastures have a timelessness that feels exempt from change. But Monday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake, centered near Kaikoura, sixty miles north of Christchurch, was a brutal reminder that, beneath its verdant carpet, New Zealand is still under active construction. It occupies one of the most complex geologic venues on the globe, at the messy boundary of two tectonic plates. The North Island, where the capital, Wellington, lies, is part of the Australian plate, and its landscape is dominated by two dozen active volcanoes. (One of these, the Taupo caldera, is notorious in the annals of volcanology as the site of Earth’s most recent super-eruption, twenty-six thousand years ago, which covered parts of the island in ejecta six hundred feet deep. Outside geophysical circles, the region is more generally famous as the home of Mt. Doom in the “Lord of the Rings” films.) The plate boundary lies about forty miles offshore, at the Hikurangi trench, a deep warp in the ocean floor where the Pacific crust slides westward beneath the Australian plate. Meanwhile, off the southern end of the South Island, the configuration is reversed—that is, the Australian plate sinks eastward beneath the Pacific plate.
Tour guiding in Australia is easy on some levels: you feed your charges well, take them to the right places, and try to keep their feet warm. But extreme weather, mechanical problems, flies in the daytime, mosquitoes at night, the Germans, the lack of sleep, the feelings of deep existential loneliness … all these things will conspire against you.
You should never, or almost never, give your tourists the choice between two options. This is a mistake inexperienced guides often make. Are you not the leader of this expedition? Have you not been here a hundred times before and know what it’s about? Don’t go inflicting the misery of democracy on them. It may seem generous and noble, but in the middle of an Australian summer I have seen some people reduced to tears.
Australia’s grubby little secret is secret no more.
The truth of the offshore detention regime financed, controlled and run by Australian government on the remote Pacific island of Nauru has been brutally exposed by the revelation by the Guardian of the Nauru files.
For all of the extreme measures to which the Australian government has gone to keep its offshore detention regime from public eye – moving detention centres to remote foreign islands where compliant local governments keep journalists away; an extreme and unapologetic secrecy about the “on-water matters” of boat turnbacks; legislation to jail doctors and detention centre workers who speak out on behalf of those held; and restricting access for international agencies such as the United Nations – the truth about its remote camps has continued to leak out over the four years of offshore detention. Now, it is laid bare.
After three years of murders, hunger strikes, mass protests and forcing people to live in some of the worst conditions imaginable, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled on April 26 that detaining asylum seekers in the Manus Island Detention Centre is a breach of the country’s constitution.
In the same week, Omid, an Iranian refugee who had been forcibly resettled on Nauru, self-immolated in front of UNHCR inspectors because he could not “take it anymore”.
I had a call from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks the other day. Rosalie is an elder of the Arrernte-Alyawarra people, who lives in Utopia, a vast and remote region in the “red heart” of Australia. The nearest town is Alice Springs, more than 200 miles across an ancient landscape of spinifex and swirling skeins of red dust. The first Europeans who came here, perhaps demented by the heat, imagined a white utopia that was not theirs to imagine; for this is a sacred place, the homeland of the oldest, most continuous human presence on earth.
It would mean so much, to so many thousands of people, for Cardinal George Pell to show compassion, contrition, empathy or even just profound sadness at the hurt that has been wreaked on the survivors of sexual abuse. If he were to just stand and bow deeply, that might help. If he were to cease his weasel words and instead concede open-endedly that he, Cardinal Pell, has failed the victims of sexual abuse that, too, might help.
But he seems unable to express the depth of contrition that is necessary. It is deplorable that, in 2016, more than a quarter of a century after widespread sexual abuse allegations began to surface in this state, the most senior ranks of the Catholic Church still fail to demonstrate unqualified regret.