Friday, October 30, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has an idea about how to discourage illegal immigrants

Australian banks 'don't need fixing'

ANZ Bank is pushing back strongly against the rising tide of global regulation, with its outspoken chief executive Mike Smith cautioning the local prudential regulator against "fixing something that's not broken". Mr Smith's comments came the day after Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chairman John Laker said local banks would not be spared from tighter global standards, even though they have withstood the ravages of the financial crisis, The Australian reported. "It would be curious indeed for our financial institutions to promote their strengths to the marketplace while at the same time shying away from global benchmarks; investors will not allow that to happen," Mr Laker told a Finsia financial services conference in Sydney on Wednesday. "There can be no unilateral declaration of independence from global reform."

But Mr Smith told analysts in a conference call yesterday that people were quick to jump on the regulatory bandwagon after a crisis. He pointed to a proposal emerging from the Basel Committee, the global standard-setting body for banking regulation, for a leverage ratio to put a floor under the build-up of leverage in the financial system. While such an initiative might be appropriate for a more leveraged operation, for example UBS, Mr Smith said, a commercial lender like ANZ had a "totally different make-up" and a different portfolio of businesses. "I think there is a real danger of fixing something that's not broken," he said. "We have to say our piece on this; there's not one size that fits all."

ANZ chief financial officer Peter Marriott said such proposals would affect everyone, because they represented an additional cost that would inevitably be passed on to customers.

Mr Smith said it was imperative APRA considered the effect of such regulation, noting there was a limited amount of government-issued paper available for stocking up bank liquidity.

The Basel Committee, apart from looking at a leverage ratio, is also examining the introduction of capital buffers that can be drawn down in periods of stress, strengthening the quality of bank capital, and the development of stronger liquidity buffers.


Conservative politicians lose faith in Warmist laws

LIBERAL Party frontbenchers have begun to dump their support for carbon emissions trading after receiving party research showing voters are increasingly skittish about putting a price on carbon. Despite Malcolm Turnbull's ongoing attempts to broker a deal with Labor that would clear the way for Kevin Rudd's proposed ETS, political hardheads among the Liberals are moving closer to the Nationals' view that endorsing carbon trading is political poison. They are now urging the Opposition Leader to take a harder line in negotiations and to reject Labor's legislation unless the government accepts the Coalition's proposed amendments in full. And they believe their best chance in next year's election is to attack Labor's proposals as leading to higher costs for consumers.

The shift has been on for the past few weeks and has gained pace since Liberal MPs were briefed on Tuesday on party research indicating voters overwhelmingly want action on climate change but do not understand the detail of the ETS proposals. Several sources said party director Brian Loughnane told the meeting that when interviewers explained the implications of an ETS to survey respondents, they were negative about the proposed scheme.

News of the shift emerged yesterday before today's launch by Liberal ETS opponent Cory Bernardi of a highly critical assessment of the European Union's emissions trading scheme which estimates it has cost consumers up to E116billion ($190bn) since 2005, with little environmental benefit.

The study, prepared by Britain's Taxpayers' Alliance, says climate change policies there form 14 per cent of household electricity prices and that electricity generators have made windfall profits at the expense of low-income earners and the elderly.

The Coalition has been negotiating with the government for more than a week on proposed amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Kevin Rudd told parliament this week the bill would be introduced in the Senate on November 23, before the UN's global climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. If it is rejected the Prime Minister can use the Senate vote as the basis to call a double-dissolution election for both houses of parliament next year.

Mr Turnbull, a strong supporter of the need for a properly designed ETS, wants the government to amend its scheme to provide greater support for industries affected by a shift to carbon trading to adjust to the change.

Yesterday, the government rejected a Coalition bid to force an early vote on the scheme in the House of Representatives.

While Mr Loughnane refused to comment on party research yesterday, accounts of his briefing to MPs were broadly similar from sources on all sides of the ETS debate, with their differences relating to conclusions about the meaning of the findings. Some said the research made clear that the party should not back Labor's legislation unless the government embraced all of its amendments -- an unlikely prospect. "There is a move afoot in our party, depending on what happens, to say we should actually dump an ETS as a policy and go with something better and more effective," one source said.

But another shadow cabinet source said the research demonstrated that the party could not afford to accept the Nationals' approach of an outright rejection of carbon trading, and therefore must press hard for its amendments. "The message he was sending was that this is a dangerous zone but that because of the public acceptance that something must be done on climate change, doing nothing is simply not an option," the MP said.

Whatever the interpretation, Liberal frontbenchers who previously supported the idea of passing an amended ETS and then holding the government accountable for the outcome have shifted their view, insisting that only a "wholesale capitulation" from the government to Coalition demands would stand any chance of winning Coalition backbench endorsement.

Senior Liberals are now saying the party polling, and public polls, show increasing concern about the costs of an ETS. They believe the best political option is to run a campaign against the government based on increased costs to households and industry. Another MP said voters were starting to doubt the seriousness of climate change. It is also understood backbench pressure is growing from marginal seat holders who fear they will lose their seats. The Taxpayers' Alliance says the EU's ETS "has failed to perform and is imposing serious costs on ordinary families".

According to the EU's own figures there were only minor reductions in most European countries in greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2008. Senator Bernardi, who is leading the Liberal revolt in the Senate and running a direct opposition campaign, said yesterday the British report showed an ETS was "a massive economic impost that has no real environmental benefits". "An ETS in any form is bad for business, bad for families and bad for our economy," he said. "With clear evidence of how ineffective and expensive it has been in the European Union, there is no way an ETS should be introduced in Australia."

Last night the author of the report, Matthew Sinclair, said from London that the European ETS had failed to "produce a stable carbon price, leaving consumers with an unpredictable addition to their bills".

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said he was not surprised by the Liberals' research, which reflected his long-standing position.


Uncontrolled Muslim influx a threat

A FEW weeks ago in London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told me that 75 per cent of the terrorist plots aimed at Britain originated in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan. Some 800,000 Pakistanis live in Britain. The vast majority, it goes without saying, are law-abiding citizens. But there is a link between uncontrolled Muslim immigration and terrorism.

The real historic significance of the illegal immigration crisis in our northern waters is that this could, if things go wrong, be the moment Australia loses control of our immigration program, and that would be a disaster.

It is extremely difficult to talk honestly about Muslim immigration. All generalisations about it are subject to countless exceptions. Muslims are very different from each other. Most are reasonably successful. But a much bigger minority end up with social, political, extremist or other problems resulting from a lack of integration than is the case with any other cohort of immigrants in Western societies. A lack of honest discussion about this results in bad policy.

The most enlightening book you could possibly read on this is by US journalist Christopher Caldwell, "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West". It is by far the best book on public policy of any kind I have read for a long time. It is wittily written but attempts to be neither provocative nor politically correct. It is dense with data but its greatest strength lies in laying bare the intellectual, political and social dynamics that have led to the mess in Europe. The way the Australian debate is reprising what were profoundly destructive and misguided European debates, dominated by moral sanctimony and a failure to grasp reality, is eerie.

Caldwell is enlightening on the way asylum assessment processes are so easily scammed, and the sophisticated, intense exchange of information that means the slightest change in attitude by a receiving country is instantly relayed throughout illegal immigrant networks. He writes: "An easily game-able system was in place that made admissions automatic to prospective immigrants who understood it. Various immigrant advocacy NGOs in Europe made sure they understood it... migrants knew the best countries to claim to come from. They also knew the best countries to go to ... (There was an) incredible sensitivity of prospective migrants to shifts in immigration law, and to countries' moods towards immigrants."

Caldwell also shows that once an illegal immigrant route is established as reliable it becomes immensely popular. This is what the struggle in the waters to Australia's north now is really all about. He further demonstrates how completely subjective and plastic the asylum-seeker assessment procedures are. In 2001 Denmark approved a majority of asylum applicants. By 2004, when the mood had changed, it approved only one in 10, though of course in Europe rejected applicants basically don't go home.

At times Caldwell seems to be arguing against immigration in principle, although all the problems he adduces relate specifically to Muslim immigration, and he acknowledges the success of other immigrants in Europe. He frequently acknowledges the success of immigration in Canada, the US and Australia. In Canada and Australia, the governments choose the immigrants. In the US, most illegal immigrants come from Latin America and don't have the Muslim problems.

But in so far as he makes a general case against immigration, I strongly disagree with Caldwell. What he is really concerned with is uncontrolled Muslim immigration. The facts he produces are very disturbing. No European majority ever wanted this to happen. There are 20 million Muslims in western Europe and this number will double by 2025.

How did this mass immigration of people with few relevant job or language skills, and a culture deeply alien to Europe, come about? Caldwell argues that the post-World War II period saw a radical disjuncture in European attitudes. Europe had just been wrecked by an enemy, the Nazis, who were avowedly racist. The unimaginable disaster of the Holocaust haunted every discussion of morality or policy. Europe was in the throes of decolonisation and felt guilty about its relations with non-white people. This made an ideology of anti-racism - which itself became extreme and distorted, detached from reality and in many cases downright intolerant - the more or less official state religion of Europe. This had little to do with really combating racism.

In one of history's countless ironies, Muslim immigrants benefited from the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust. The determination initially to extirpate anti-Semitism didn't help many European Jews because they were almost all gone, but it offered a template for Muslim immigrants to find and exploit an ethnic victim status. This set up profoundly destructive dynamics and, in another irony, reintroduced serious anti-Semitism to Europe, carried with the Muslim arrivals.

Caldwell suggests a welfare state makes a bad marriage with mass, unskilled immigration. Welfare rather than opportunity becomes the attraction. More importantly, welfare becomes a lethal poverty trap. At the same time, satellite television, the internet and mass immigration from a few countries means the old culture is always on hand for Muslim migrants. They don't need to integrate if they don't want to or find it difficult. In many cases Caldwell cites, the second-generation of Muslim immigrants is less integrated than the first, and the third less than the second.

The demographic figures he cites are familiar but still shocking. Native Europeans won't have babies at anything like replacement level while the fertility of Muslim immigrants does not decline through time, as is the case with other immigrants. Religion is the strongest predictor of fertility in Europe. By mid-century Islam will be the majority religion of Austrians under the age of 15. In Brussels, most births are to Muslims and have been since 2006. In France, one in 10 people are Muslims, but they are one in three of those entering their child-bearing years, and Muslims have three times as many children as other French.

Caldwell writes: "Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest ... when an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter."

Uncontrolled Muslim immigration is a change to Europe so great it makes all the treaties and bureaucratic falderol of the EU look footling and transitory by comparison.


More media amnesia about the sins of the Left

Hal G.P. Colebatch

IT is a graphic demonstration of the political skew in Australian culture that the killing of a group of journalists, probably but not quite certainly, by anti-communist Indonesian troops at Balibo in Timor in 1975 has been the subject of ongoing agitation, including two books, a recent film and countless articles, ever since as well as demands for reparation and the punishment of the guilty. East Timor President Ramos Horta has recently awarded Balibo director Robert Connolly and producer John Maynard the Presidential Medal of Merit for the film.

Meanwhile, the killing of a group of Australian journalists by communist Viet Cong in the Cholon district of Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive has been almost completely forgotten. In contrast to Balibo, there has been a complete absence of any indignation by the Australian Left over the Cholon massacre. No chance of a movie there. This is despite the fact that, unlike Balibo, the circumstances of the Cholon killings are known in detail.

There was one survivor, journalist Frank Palmos, who has written a detailed account, Ridding the Devils, published in 1990, including an account of how he came to meet one of the killer-squad members after the war.

In the Australian section of the London Spectator of September 26, Eric Ellis fulminated over the Timor killings: "It would be correct and just, if the word were so, for Jakarta to offer up the military officers who murdered the defenceless Balibo Five, the biggest single-incident killing of media personnel in any war anywhere, killed simply because they were journalists in the right place at the wrong time. But Balibo agitators will be disappointed if they expect Indonesia to offer up the killers."

The voluminous writings on the Balibo killings have a hole at their centre: the lack of witnesses and of facts. We do not know if the journalists at Balibo were murdered - that is, killed deliberately by people who knew they were non-combatants - at all. Fighting was going on between the then communist-aligned Fretilin and Indonesian or pro-Indonesian Timorese forces. It is not even certain which side killed them, let alone what individuals.

I was at Balibo in early 1973, in the last days of Portugese rule, writing a script for a travel film. The area was thickly grown with semi-jungle vegetation and bush, in many places more than man-high, often right up to what primitive roads there were. On much of the terrain nothing would have been easier, during fighting, than for someone moving in this dense bush to be mistaken as an enemy target or to walk into a burst of gunfire.

John Whitehall, writing in the October Quadrant, has repeated an earlier statement that at least two of the journalists, who he saw shortly before, had then actually been wearing military uniforms, the equivalent of painting a target on oneself.

On the other hand it seems plain that the killing of the Australian journalists in Cholon by communist forces was the killing of obviously unarmed non-combatants. On May 5, 1968, at the height of the Tet Offensive Palmos, then aged 28, was driving through Cholon in a civilian jeep with fellow Australian journalists Bruce Pigott, 23, John Cantwell, 29, Michael Birch, 24, and British correspondent Ronald Laramy, 31 (Michael and I read poetry together in Perth coffee-shops when we were junior reporters on The West Australian).

The journalists were watching US helicopters firing rockets at guerilla positions. Fleeing Vietnamese civilians shouted warnings to them: "VC, VC, beaucoup VC. Di di mau (get away quickly)! Go back, go back!" They turned a corner into a lane with a roadblock of oil drums. Suddenly several Viet Cong guerillas stood up and started firing. Four of the journalists were killed or wounded.

The communist commander, wearing tiger-pattern jungle fatigues and not the usual black pyjamas of the guerillas, walked forward. Birch, already wounded, cried: "Bao chi, bao chi." ("Press, press.") The commander repeated "Bao chi!" derisively - apparently no question of mistaken identity there - walked towards Birch and shot him at point blank range with a Chinese K54 pistol, before firing bullets into Cantwell who was lying on the ground nearby. "The man shot and missed," Palmos said, "then shot again and again, hitting. He seemed to enjoy his work. Not only did he ignore all pleas of innocence, killing Westerners seemed to appeal to him."

Palmos, who had played dead while the Viet Cong officer was reloading, ran and hid among the fleeing Vietnamese civilians, who sheltered him at risk to themselves. He returned to Vietnam after the war, and, oddly enough, the communist authorities and Vietnamese journalists co-operated with him in finding the killers. They located one of the few surviving men who had been in the Viet Cong squad, Nguyen van Cuong, in 1989. The Vietnamese government in 1988 had offered a statement expressing "profound regret" and said the killings "were clearly a case of mistaken identity". It added, somewhat backhandedly: "We regard the Western journalists as very important in our struggle because they were telling the truth of the war to the world outside."

An interview was arranged with Nguyen van Cuong, after he had apparently been assured the authorities would protect him. Shooting the unarmed and wounded men, he told Palmos, was "carrying out normal procedures". He was close-mouthed. When asked: "How do you feel, sitting opposite the man you tried to kill?" he froze. And there, apparently, the story simply came to an end, save that it emerged that Palmos had unintentionally been the instrument of revenge for his colleagues.

Apparently the officer in charge, Minh Pung, who had actually fired the pistol shots into the journalists and had pursued Palmos when he fled, had been taken by the chase into an open street where he had been blown to bits by fire from a US helicopter. Palmos concluded of Minh Pung: "It was without any thought of innocence that he shot my friends, and would have shot me. And it was with plain murder in his mind that he chased me down the road to kill me. "He knew even then that we were not armed. Our Jeep was not followed by any other attacking vehicles. We were white, we were Westerners, and we had to be blown away with the smallest risk and the greatest number of heroic points accrued."

The point is not to establish degrees of guilt here: the Viet Cong, as communist authorities in Vietnam said later, may have thought the journalists in Cholon were enemy agents, even though the killer's derisive cry of "Bao chi!" and the fact that both the men and the Jeep were obviously unarmed tell against this. Both massacres might be ascribed to the heat of battle and the fog of war. There is probably little to be gained by picking over either of them further.

The point is now not what happened in Cholon or Balibo then: the point is the completely different sets of reactions to the two massacres in Australia: one ceaselessly dwelt upon (and at a time when Indonesian goodwill is important in the anti-terrorist campaign), the other virtually ignored.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Thank you for posting this JJ. I'm getting on yet I'd never heard of Cholon. I guess thats an example of what the Americans refer to as something being dropped down the memory hole.