Tuesday, June 09, 2015
TV networks pass on Julia Gillard telemovie
A feminist flop. She was eventually tossed out by her own party
“EVERYONE hates Julia Gillard, nobody is remotely interested in her.” That’s what producer Richard Keddie was told by a TV broadcaster as they passed on his telemovie about Australia’s first female Prime Minister, starring Rachel Griffiths as the controversial politician.
And that broadcaster wasn’t alone, with every Australian TV network politely declining to touch the project which hasn’t yet been filmed.
Keddie, who previously produced political TV dramas Hawke and Curtin, now plans to make a feature film about Julia Gillard instead of a telemovie. “I’m hoping now to get into finance later this year and shoot early next year,” said Keddie to TV Tonight.
“Now it is theatrical it means I don’t have editorial controls on me from broadcasters.”
The telemovie was to be based on Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book, The Stalking of Julia Gillard, but Keddie has since expanded on the script.
“It’s about how everyone treated the first female Prime Minister — on every level: the media, Rudd, Abbott, the people and the Labor Party. Nobody comes out smelling of roses from it.
“It’s kind of a Lord of the Flies story. It was a blood sport to kill Julia. But there is so much more than that.”
Tony Abbott has terror targets in his sights
The Abbott government could be planning something much more decisive, radical and controversial in its approach to stripping Australian citizenship from dual nationals who pose a terrorist threat.
The revelation in The Weekend Australian that about half of all Australians convicted or suspected of terrorist offences, including half of the 110 fighting for Islamic State or other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, are dual nationals, suggests this measure will open up a very wide front of action for the government.
Most analysts assume the new measure will be applied only to a small number of people. Britain has stripped only 27 of its nationals of citizenship under similar provisions over the past decade. However, analysts are almost certainly making the same mistake they made about Tony Abbott’s determination to turn around the boats. They thought it wouldn’t be done on a meaningful scale because no one had done it previously. And they thought it couldn’t be done because it would be too difficult.
They were wrong on both counts and I think they are wrong again. They underestimated the Prime Minister’s determination not to take no for an answer on a core matter of national security.
The controversy over the second proposal, possibly to strip citizenship from people who hold only an Australian passport but may be eligible to apply for another, misses the point. This is a foolish proposal and the cabinet rebels were right to resist it. But the way it has played out has made the dual-citizenship proposal seem more palatable and has helped ensure bipartisan consensus.
Most commentators seem to think in practice it will apply only to the worst terrorists operating overseas and it would simply mean they could not come home. But both the policy and political argument for the government to use this power much more aggressively will be substantial, probably overwhelming. All Western nations are groping for new ways to counter terrorism and if Australia ends up more forward leaning than most, that is hardly surprising if you’re really paying attention. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the power could be used “sparingly” but that is an elastic word.
Many commentators seem to think other nations would be unlikely to accept back their dual nationals if Australia wanted to expel them because of terrorist actions or support for terrorism. They think this checkmates the Abbott government. But here is where we get into boats policy round two. States have an obligation under international law to accept citizens who have been convicted of crimes overseas, or if they are otherwise unwelcome. Some states may have an incentive to get back citizens involved in terrorism for intelligence purposes.
If the Australian government decides that a dual national is too dangerous to remain an Australian citizen, and the other nation of his citizenship won’t take him back, that does not exhaust Canberra’s options.
If a person is stripped of their passport, they no longer have a legal right to be in Australia. In the case of illegal immigrants, the Abbott government has shown a willingness to detain people at length while they negotiate with the nation of their citizenship to take them back. If the prospect of indefinite detention is too harsh, or goes on too long, the government may give that person a restricted visa to remain at large in Australia while Canberra continues to try to gain access for them to their other country of citizenship.
There are ethical, as well as legal and political, reasons why this could apply more readily to dual citizens than to sole Australian citizens who have an eligibility for another citizenship. A dual citizen to whom this applied would have had to make two clear, voluntary decisions before this could even become a question. The first, and most important, is to become seriously involved in terrorism. The second is to maintain a foreign citizenship. This is an active choice. Most dual nationals hold a second, or even a third, passport for reasons of property or work rights in another country. There is nothing wrong with this and no ordinary, innocent person should lose any sleep over it. But holding a second citizenship does mean an Australian has decided, explicitly, to retain certain rights and obligations in another country. There is nothing wrong with an Australian government taking notice of this.
Abbott’s rhetoric in parliament — that those who take a knife or gun to Australians for terrorist purposes forfeit their right to be Australians — does not sound like it is coming from a leader who does not intend to use this power.
Of course, the government must handle this carefully. A government has to be extremely careful about tampering with the rights inherent in citizenship. But as long as it is handled with even a scintilla of political sense, the politics of it would have to benefit the government. It focuses people on national security and shows the government taking resolute action. The specific measure would have strong community support, it would be opposed by the Greens and it would distress at least part of the Labor Party. That is a formidable combination.
My bet is that if the government gets this power it will not be primarily symbolic and it will not be used rarely. Provided the legislation is drafted in a way that means the courts can’t muck it up, I would foresee a series of decisions and announcements along these lines indefinitely. It will become a big new factor in Australian politics and culture.
Army now run by special-forces officers
FOR the first time in its 114-year history the Australian Army is being run by an elite group of special-forces officers.
The new Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell was a senior officer with the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment.
His deputy Major General Rick Burr is a former commanding officer the SASR and Forces Commander Major General Gus Gilmore, who commands more than 85 per cent of the army’s warfighting capacity, is also a former CO of SASR.
There has always been tension between the “big army” and its special-forces units including the SASR and the Commando Regiments.
SAS soldiers were the first on the ground in Afghanistan in October 2001 following the attacks against the United States.
Major-General Gilmore led the initial push alongside the US Marines at a base called FOB Rhino south of Kandahar. He also had a stint as defence spokesman.
Major General Burr was the officer in command of the special-forces task group at Bagram air base in northern Afghanistan in 2002 and in western Iraq the following year.
He also has the unique honour of being the first foreign officer ever to be appointed as Deputy Commanding General, US Army’s Pacific Command.
Both SAS and Commandos conducted most of the fighting against Taliban forces in Afghanistan and special-forces units suffered the highest casualty rates with 21 of the 41 dead coming from Special Operations Command.
All three army leaders graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon between 1983 and 1985. After numerous command jobs Lt General Campbell left the army in 2005 and became the deputy National Security Adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under another ex-SAS officer Duncan Lewis who now runs ASIO.
He returned to the fold in 2010 and was appointed commander of Australian forces in the Middle East in January 2011 before becoming head of Border Protection Command and promoted to Lieutenant General and finally chief of army.
Program Director at the US Studies Centre at Sydney University and former army officer James Brown said the three generals would bring a unique perspective to the top of the army.
He said they knew each other very well and would make a strong and cohesive team for the next three years. “They have a full-spectrum view of the world and are used to considering unconventional options,” Mr Brown said. “They will also have respect for good ideas and will be very good change managers.”
Former Army General and NSW Liberal Senate hopeful and possible future Defence Minister Jim Molan welcomed the appointment of three men with extensive combat experience across the spectrum.
“The only good armies are those that fight regularly and in Australia it is the special-forces that have most combat experience.”
Immigrant ambassadors open doors for Australia across Asia
Asian migration has been an important source of skilled migrants and students for building a prosperous Australia since the launch of the Colombo Plan six decades ago.
A new report launched by Australia’s Chief Scientist on June 5 suggests that skilled migration from Asia and the Pacific is also having a game-changing impact on the nature and intensity of Australia’s relations with the region. Indian-Australian and Chinese-Australian immigrants in particular are helping to integrate Australia with the economies, societies and cultures of the region in ways that were barely imaginable in the past.
The report offers compelling evidence that skilled migrants from India, China and neighbouring countries are increasingly leading Australia’s scientific and cultural relations with the region. They are building pathways for innovation, growth and better understanding between Australia and their homelands.
Building digital and research links
Recent patterns of migration and settlement, bolstered by high levels of digital connectivity, are constantly linking Australia’s universities and lounge rooms with Shanghai and Mumbai.
The links are clearly apparent in research collaboration. Asia is leaping ahead globally in scientific research. Expenditure on research and development in Asia already exceeds that in North America. China is likely to overtake the US as the largest producer of research articles within the decade. India is fast catching up.
The report finds that Australia’s research collaboration with China is largely driven by Australian-based Chinese diaspora researchers. Universities and research organisations could do more to acknowledge and harness the networks that their diaspora researchers are building to extend collaborations more broadly. This would embed Australia further in regional research networks.
Enhancing cultural understanding
Intensive diaspora networks are also framing Australia’s cultural relations with the region. The report highlights a facet of “multiculturalism” often overshadowed by celebrations of cultural diversity within Australia – the increasingly important role that Asian and Pacific Island Australian artists play in representing Australia in their original homelands.
It might surprise many Australians to learn that the performers and artists who entertain them at multicultural festivals during summer offer similar performances in the winter season, as Australians – but in Suva, Manila and Hong Kong.
The report estimates that Australian culture is represented informally in the region through self-funding diaspora artists on a scale comparable to mainstream performers supported by cultural diplomacy programs. Artists and performers capable of relating directly with their homeland communities, through the trusted voices of their own languages and the familiar idioms of local cultural practices, have high media exposure and impact in their countries of origin.