Thursday, December 16, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has decided he is on the side of Julian Assange

No way to treat a valued friend

Greg Sheridan below is puzzled that Rudd again went off half-cocked -- Surprising that he does not see it clearly for what it was: Typical Leftist approval-seeking

THIS has been a remarkable week for Australia in Israel, made just a bit perplexing by a baffling little sequence from Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. This week the third meeting of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum took place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with a day in Ramallah talking to Palestinian leaders. There is no doubt Rudd is well regarded in Israel and his authentic leadership on Iran is appreciated.

However, there was one episode of policy freelancing, or innovation, or just downright oddity, that has no honourable explanation and has perplexed, to put it mildly, his many Israeli admirers.

In an interview with this paper's John Lyons in Cairo on Saturday, Rudd said: "Our view has been consistent for a long time and that is that all states in the region should adhere to the [nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that includes Israel. And therefore their nuclear facility should be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection."

Lyons was prompted to ask the question because Rudd had made very similar remarks at a press conference with the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, in Cairo the day before. In fairness to Rudd, he had strongly pressed the case that Iran's nuclear program must be contained.

However, the de facto equating of Israel and Iran is bizarre. Rudd may as well have demanded that India open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the IAEA.

But Rudd's words in Cairo were extremely welcome to his Arab interlocutors. No Australian foreign minister in history has previously called for Israel's nuclear facility to be open to IAEA inspection. Israel, not being a signatory to the NPT, has no legal obligation to submit to IAEA inspections. Iran, a member of the NPT, is in clear violation of NPT and IAEA rules.

Israel has never threatened anybody with nuclear weapons, Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Israel is a democracy, Iran is a clerical-military dictatorship. Israel does not sponsor terrorism, Iran is the chief international sponsor of terrorism.

Israel has never proliferated any nuclear material, Iran has been intimately involved in nuclear technology proliferation with North Korea and Syria.

Israel does not officially admit to having any nuclear weapons, but most experts believe it probably has about 200 nukes.

As Rudd has acknowledged many times, Israel faces existential challenges no one else faces.

There are areas of deliberate greyness in international diplomacy. No serious Western foreign minister ever demands that Israel submit to IAEA inspection. Everyone knows that Israel, like India, will never give up its nuclear weapons and a repeated demand for inspections would become just another sterile, anti-Israel agitprop slogan, of no utility to nuclear non-proliferation but very helpful to those who hate Israel and wish to demonise it.

So, presumably Rudd would not take such a radical and fateful step unless this prefigured some new and profound Australian policy objective, right?

But, dear reader, the truth is that when Rudd got to Israel he did not raise the NPT and IAEA inspections even once in his lengthy meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, or in his speech to a gala dinner at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Indeed, the timing of the publication of Lyons's story was such that Rudd's most senior Israeli interlocutors were not even aware that he had made these remarks when they saw him on Monday.

At a press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Rudd did repeat his statement that Australian policy wanted Israel to join the NPT but by then he had abandoned any reference to inspections.

On a smaller note, all through the Arab world Rudd had denounced Jewish settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, but in his talks with Netanyahu and in his public speech they didn't get a mention.

Now, in politics you can support policy A or its opposite, policy B. What you cannot credibly do is support policy A in Cairo and policy B in Jerusalem.

In a sense Rudd let down both the Arabs and the Israelis. If the Arabs thought he was sincere in wanting the Israelis to submit their nuclear facility to inspection, then they would be bitterly disappointed to know he didn't mention it to the Israelis.

If the Israelis thought he was sincere in his presentation of himself as Israel's best friend, they would have a right to be bitterly disappointed that he was espousing much more robust anti-Israeli opinions than the consensus view among even Israel's habitual critics in Western governments.

One interpretation is that Rudd could not resist telling the Arab audience in Cairo what it wanted to hear, then telling the Israeli audience in Jerusalem what it wanted to hear. This is a common interpretation of Rudd, but one this column has resisted, regarding Rudd as a figure of singular substance in foreign policy. But you cannot have it both ways.

Indeed, and this is a conclusion this column would be extremely reluctant to reach, Rudd's famous leaked comments to Hillary Clinton, saying that he wanted China to develop peacefully and fruitfully as a fully responsible member of the international community, but that if it didn't the US and Australia would have to have the option of force in reserve, could also be interpreted in this way: that Rudd was telling the Americans what he thought they wanted to hear.

The ongoing tragedy with Rudd is that his ability could never remotely be in doubt. He knows more about foreign policy than anyone on either side of the Australian parliament. But these strange quirks seem to get in the way. Rudd's performance in Israel overall was impressive, but there were times when he seemed to strain just that bit too much to connect with the audience.

At the speech at the King David Hotel, for example, he remarked: "From the 1930s, this hotel became the British field headquarters for what was then British Palestine, until Menachem Begin undertook some interior redesign." Rudd was referring to the incident in which Israeli independence activists blew up the hotel. I accept that they were not the equivalent of modern terrorists. But people died in that incident. I don't think such a joke was in good taste, although many in the audience appreciated it.

I remain convinced that Rudd has made a prodigious contribution to Australian foreign policy. His self-confidence on the international stage is a great asset. But he would do well to turn the volume down, stick a bit closer to conventional government positions, be a little less adventurous.

Now everyone in the Australian foreign policy debate is bound to explore whether this demand for IAEA inspections of Israel's nuclear facility is a serious government policy. As for myself, I confess considerable confusion about Rudd's purpose in this episode.


Australia is spending $600 million on climate BS??

Greg Combet says so

Australia understands that strong domestic action on climate change delivers both economic and environmental benefits. That is why Australia already has policies in place to encourage the development of clean energy sources within our economy, as well as a suite of policies to support greater energy efficiency for households and businesses.

My Government is also working to introduce a carbon price into our economy to achieve emissions reductions. No one should underestimate the challenge in Australia to make the economic reform required to reduce carbon pollution. My Government tried 3 times to introduce a carbon price during our last term of Government and was unsuccessful due to political opposition.

However, I reiterate our determination to pursue the introduction of a carbon price into our economy– it is a policy that is firmly in our national interest and one that will contribute to emissions reductions.

Apart from the domestic action we are taking the Australian Government is also endeavouring to play a constructive role internationally.

Today I announced further allocations under the $599 million of Australia’s committed fast start financing. These included:

$15 million to the Adaptation Fund
$169 million in new regional adaptation allocations to the Pacific, South and South-East Asia and Africa
$32 million for REDD+ Initiatives in Indonesia under our International Forest Carbon Initiative
$10 million to the Climate Investment Funds’ Programme on Scaling‑up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries, and
$10 million to the Partnership for Market Readiness

Australia is delivering on fast start and we will continue to provide regular and transparent information on the delivery of our fast start funds.


Australia's "cash for Clunkers" costs put ETS in the shade

JULIA Gillard's cash-for-clunkers proposal would cost 15 times more than an emissions trading scheme to reduce carbon pollution.And no research has been conducted on the fallout on used car dealers from the vehicle buyback policy.

Bureaucrats charged with administering the Cleaner Car Rebate scheme have confirmed that compliance to ensure vehicles were scrapped was a "major concern" overseas.

Under the plan, owners of cars manufactured before January 1, 1995, will be eligible for a $2000 rebate when they buy a new car with a Green Vehicle Guide greenhouse rating of six or above. The scheme is capped at 200,000 vehicles over four years.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has repeatedly declined to detail the carbon abatement cost per tonne of the cleaner car scheme, which has already been delayed for six months.

But the Department of Innovation has now confirmed for the first time that the cost of abatement under the $430 million scheme is $429.70 per tonne over the decade. That compares with a carbon price under the Rudd-Gillard government's original ETS of about $30 a tonne.

The Gillard government has already been forced to delay the start of the cash-for-clunkers scheme for six months as a budget savings measure.

But critics of the scheme believe Wayne Swan and Penny Wong should take the opportunity to axe it when they consider savings measures as part of next year's budget process.

Opposition innovation spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella said yesterday the departmental response confirmed there was no serious modelling, no serious discussion with the industry or research on likely effects.

"Kim Carr and Greg Combet have been like rabbits in the spotlight when asked about the carbon costs of this program," she said. "It's absurd. The government's own (emissions trading scheme) price was under $30 and this is now $429, it's just insane and there is no justification. It's disastrously inefficient from an environmental perspective.

"It makes imported cars more attractive. The used car market will be seriously distorted."

Australian National University climate change academic Frank Jotzo said if the federal government was going to spend $430m of taxpayers' money, there were far more effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"This kind of scheme is a very high-cost operation if the motivation is reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "In the US and Europe, the aim of such a scheme was to essentially prop up the car industry after the global financial crisis."


Death of 27 asylum seekers highlights Australia's immigration problems

Twenty-seven asylum seekers have died and dozens may be missing after heavy waves smashed their timber boat onto rocks on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean off Australia

With rescue efforts still under way on the remote territory of Christmas Island on Wednesday night, 41 people had been plucked from the water and one had swam to shore. Several of the survivors had been taken to hospital and three were in a critical condition.

The incident will reignite the simmering debate in Australia over asylum seekers and border protection.

Every year thousands of asylum seekers attempt to enter the country by making the dangerous 230-mile journey from Indonesia by boat in the hope that once they arrive they will be granted refugee visas and allowed to set up home on the mainland, which is 1,650 miles away.

Most hail from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and despite efforts to stop the procession of boats by the government, the country's detention centres are at capacity after more than 100 boats delivered 5,000 asylum seekers since January, the highest number for ten years.

There are now more than 2,000 people in detention on Christmas Island, which was originally configured to house 1,900. Three large tents are being used to accommodate the overflow.

On Wednesday, a wooden boat, believed to be carrying about 70 asylum seekers from Iraq and Iran, arrived at Christmas Island in treacherous seas.

Locals, woken at 6am by the screams from the stricken boat, rushed to the cliffs, where they were confronted by desperate scenes. The 130ft boat, which had lost power, was drifting close to the jagged rocks in the rolling surf. Women and children were clinging to the sides of the vessel and screaming.

As the islanders looked on, a huge wave smashed the boat onto the jagged rocks. The vessel disintegrated, sending its passengers and large planks of wood flying into the water.

While islanders frantically threw life jackets and ropes into the water, and some tried to clamber down the cliff to reach the victims, many of whom could not swim, navy boats attempted a rescue using two inflatable dinghies. But the dangerous conditions, brought on by a cyclone in the Indian Ocean to the north, hampered the rescue effort and scores of people, including women, children and babies drowned or were dashed against the rocks.

"There were children in the water. There was one very small child in a life jacket floating face down for a very long time... clearly dead," said Simon Prince, a local shop owner who lives on the cliff and was one of the first on the scene. "It's something I'm not going to forget very quickly."

"We could hear the screaming," a tearful resident, Ingrid Avery, said. "Screaming, screaming and I could hear children screaming." She said the navy boats had been delayed by the arrival of another vessel elsewhere on the island. Until the navy arrived, locals tried to help, she said.

"It was terrible to watch, there was nothing we could do, we were running around trying to send down life jackets but it was useless because the wind just blew them back in our faces."

Julia Gillard, the prime minister, said in a statement that the situation was "tragic" and the government was focusing on the rescue effort.

Earlier this year, Ms Gillard was accused of "going soft" on the issue by supporting policies that did not deter asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey across the Indian Ocean in unsafe vessels. Her party now wants to open a processing centre on East Timor, in the hope that it will move the problem out of Australian jurisdiction. The leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, has vowed simply to "stop the boats" if he gains power, a slogan that won his party strong support at the recent election.

Refugee rights groups have blamed misguided government policy for the disaster. "I do think the fact there isn't a welcome refugee policy, that the government has people smuggling laws in place which make it less likely that people on boats are willing to contact Australian authorities and to rendezvous," Ian Rintoul, head of the Refugee Action Coalition, said.

This is the third deadly incident involving boats trying to reach Christmas Island in the past decade. Last year, five Afghan refugees died when their boat exploded off Ashmore Reef, near Christmas Island, injuring 30 others. In 2001 the Siev X fishing boat sank just south of the Indonesian island of Java with 400 people onboard. A total of 353 people perished.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"However, the de facto equating of Israel and Iran is bizarre. Rudd may as well have demanded that India open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the IAEA."

Well? Why not? Why not inspect all of them, otherwise why have an IAEA? Why don't WE have our own nuclear deterent, and why don't WE tell the IAEA to F%&^ off like Israel does?