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India: Pursuing its National Interest in the Multipolar World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 3:55am in

The U.S. botches its India diplomacy as it fails to comprehend Delhi’s understanding of the new realities of the emerging multipolar world.

Morrison’s election bribes can’t disguise his budget failure on wages, aged care and climate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/03/2022 - 5:06pm in

Tags 

Australia

The Liberals have produced a budget full of short-term bribes for the election. But despite shovelling $8.6 billion into tax cuts and payments, tens of billions into the military and billions more into new business subsidies, spending on climate change has actually dropped and there is nothing to fix the crisis in aged care or hospitals exposed by the pandemic.

The government knows workers are feeling the squeeze with the cost of living and petrol prices rising. Inflation is expected to climb to 4.25 per cent by June.

Its response is a series of short-term measures, most of which kick in before the election is due in less than eight weeks. It will cut fuel excise to reduce petrol prices for six months, make one-off payments of $250 to pensioners and welfare recipients, and a one-off tax cut of $420 for low and middle income workers. But the money handed back in the tax cut, $4 billion, will be more than clawed back the year after, when the temporary low income tax offset ends, recouping $8 billion.

The cost of living is not just a short-term problem due to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic. It’s the result of years of stagnant wage growth, made worse by the Liberals’ attacks on penalty rates, public sector workers and union rights.

Since 2013 when the Coalition came to power wages have barely kept up with inflation. Last year workers copped effective wage cuts of 1.2 per cent, with those on the average wage losing around $800. This year will be worse.

When the pandemic began the federal government froze public sector wages for six months, and the state governments followed suit. Since then it has held them to the same level as average wage rises. This has helped push down wages across the board.

The budget optimistically predicts a turnaround in 2023, with wages rising to outpace inflation. This is just the latest in a series of projections that never came to pass. Casualisation and the decline in union power means workers’ bargaining strength is at a low ebb. The Liberals’ attacks on unions only make the problem worse.

Money for war

An appalling $575 billion is being poured into the military by the end of the decade. Defence spending next year alone will hit $48 billion. A spending spree on new weapons includes $50 billion on new frigates and destroyers, $10 billion for naval infrastructure, $3.5 billion for more tanks, and $6.4 billion on the existing Collins class submarines.

There is also $10 billion over ten years to fund a new cyber warfare centre. An increase in the size of the military, already announced, will cost $38 billion by 2040.

And the estimated $170 billion for nuclear subs has not even been budgeted for, with contracts and plans still being negotiated. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tried to justify this by declaring that “weakness invites aggression”. But this military buildup simply fuels the arms race with China and heightens tensions in our region.

The money being wasted on weapons could be used to fix the crisis in aged care and hospitals, build renewable energy, or end poverty level JobSeeker payments. This is a budget that fails to deal with any of the real challenges facing working class people, from housing affordability to insecure work or wages growth.

As the nurses’ union’s Federal Secretary Annie Butler said, the budget saw the Liberals, “ignore the plight of nursing home residents, nurses and care workers, by failing to implement the Royal Commission’s key recommendations—safe minimum staffing levels, increased wages for aged care workers and genuine accountability for taxpayers’ money.”

Unions are arguing for a 25 per cent pay rise to help retain aged care staff, in a case currently before the Fair Work Commission. UnitingCare Australia estimates this would cost $4 billion a year, a fraction of the new Defence spending.

Spending on climate change measures will actually decline over the next four years. But there is another $300 million to support gas developments off Darwin, alongside $50 million for pipelines and other gas infrastructure previously announced.

Scrapping the nuclear subs and putting $170 billion into a package of renewable energy and public transport could make a massive difference—and create thousands of new climate jobs.

Shocking

University funding is also being cut, with a 5.4 per cent decline next year and 3.6 per cent decline in the following two years, as a result of reduced payments for student places under the government’s Job-ready Graduates Program passed in 2020. This is despite the shocking 35,000 job cuts in universities last year.

There are a handful of positive measures, including 16,500 additional places for Afghan refugees over four years. This is a result of campaigning by the Afghan community and refugee supporters for an extra 20,000 places following the Taliban takeover of the country last August. There is $1.3 billion to tackle violence against women, including money for crisis accommodation and assistance.

But overall the budget should be seen for what it is—a short-term bribe designed to cover the fall in wages the Liberals helped create—and a transparent effort to win Scott Morrison re-election. We shouldn’t be taken in.

A concerted push from the unions could finish Morrison off. But so far, there has not been a strike or a rally called directed at the Morrison government. Nurses in NSW are striking again to break the Liberal state government pay cap.

But the only response federally from the ACTU is corflutes and billboards, which they called their “secret weapon”. But it’s no secret that workers’ real power is their industrial strength. A cost of living national day of action rally and strike could be the final nail in Morrison’s coffin, and shape the struggle ahead to win real wage rises. 

By James Supple

The post Morrison’s election bribes can’t disguise his budget failure on wages, aged care and climate appeared first on Solidarity Online.

The Flawed Logic of Extreme Australia Free Trade Deal Optimism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/03/2022 - 9:31pm in

Ben Ramanauskas critiques the outlandish ideas of influential Brexit economist Professor Patrick Minford

Several weeks ago, Professor Patrick Minford of Cardiff University – one of the most influential economists in pro-Brexit circles – claimed that the UK’s free trade deal with Australia would be worth £69 billion to the UK economy, the equivalent of 3% of GDP. These views have been parroted by the Daily Express, under the call for people to “stop moaning about Brexit”.

Minford bases this claim on a number of outlandish assumptions – not least that Australia will be able to provide all of the UK’s food, leading to a decrease in food prices by 2%, thus making UK farming unviable, leading to a drop in land values, and meaning that we start putting land to ‘better use’ by building houses and factories.

With all due respect to Professor Minford, this is absolutely bonkers. Primarily, he offers no evidence for these flawed assumptions other than his own economic modelling, which he expects us to accept as being more reliable than the analysis conducted by the Department for International Trade and other organisations.

Minford attempted a response to my initial critique last week. Although it was unconvincing, failing to address any of my points, the fact that he doubled down reveals that he doesn’t understand modern international trade.

Minford is either ignorant of how modern international trade works, or he has chosen to deliberately not believe it. The majority of his arguments as to why a free trade deal between the UK and other countries would bring huge benefits stem from an old-fashioned and rather simplistic view of the economics of trade.

Minford’s economic model is based on the classical understanding of economics and trade first elucidated by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. It was Smith who showed that the reason nations become wealthy is not the gold they hoard but because they engage in free trade, while it was Ricardo who developed the concept of comparative advantage.

Both Smith and Ricardo are correct, but this is not the full story. Comparative advantage is important, but as history has developed so has our understanding of trade and economics. When assessing the potential benefits of trade deals, economists use something called a gravity model – showing that, as with objects in space, size and distance matter.

Therefore, countries are more likely to trade in high volumes with countries or blocs that are large, and are close to them, than they are with countries that are far away and small. This is one of the reasons why the Government’s own analysis suggests that the deal with Australia will only offer modest economic gains.

Minford seems to have real issues with the gravity model as he seems to genuinely believe that it is a device that is biased in favour of the EU and is being used by ‘Remoaner’ civil servants to undermine Brexit and diminish free trade between the UK and non-EU countries.

A further sign of his outdated thinking is found in his response to my article in which he claims that the gravity model must be wrong due to the huge economic benefits which resulted from changes in trade policy. Minford is right, the end of the Second World War saw the dawn of the international rules based system and brought into being organisations committed to free trade and liberalisation, some of which were the earlier forms of institutions such as the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The reason why we saw huge economic growth in this period is precisely because of this liberalisation, with tariffs and subsidies replaced with free trade.

However, it is disingenuous to point to that era of liberalisation and compare it to a free trade deal with Australia. Tariffs on the vast majority of non-agricultural goods are already very low. As such, a free trade deal with Australia – or any other country for that matter – which simply lowers tariffs on a few products, is unlikely to bring huge economic gains. Minford is not the only person who has this outdated view of international trade, with Spectator political editor James Forsyth arguing that the Government should temporarily cut tariffs on non-agricultural products in order to tackle the cost of living crisis.

This is not to say that trade deals are not worth signing – far from it. We should just not expect deals which focus on tariff reduction to bring huge economic benefits. Rather, the UK should seek to tackle non-tariff barriers in trade negotiations and at the WTO. Dismantling other barriers to trade could bring significant economic benefits to the UK and the rest of the world.

Free trade is great – it has brought wealth and prosperity to the UK and many other countries around the world. The Government is right to want to strike new trade deals and promote free trade, but it should do so based on reality, not the outdated and fantasy economics of the likes of Patrick Minford.

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Bits and Pieces: The Week in the News.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/03/2022 - 4:39am in

 
Following the news delivered by traditional media can be surprisingly educative. Don’t believe me?

Read on.

The still above comes straight from a short video Blockade Australia posted yesterday in their Twitter account. Those protests were in the news this week. Sharon, 62 – the lady speaking – shot the video herself. Go to their tweet to watch it.


Uneasy and jittery as Sharon was, it turns out, that grandmother has more balls than NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, Minister for Transport David Elliott, and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns combined. In fact, it’s hard for me to tell who among those three buffoons is more despicable.

David Elliott (L), Paul Toole (C), Chris Minns (R).

The first two are bullies in top positions of authority: as ruthless and cruel with those below in the food chain as they are obsequious with those above themselves. Toole, Minister for Police, ordered armed cops to wage a war against harmless protesters (Sharon among them). Elliott adds to his customary mendacity (remember the Great Sydney Trains Meltdown?) his monumental stupidity: in this piece of shit pseudo democracy you can’t go around bossing the judges, cretin.

And yet, “separation of powers” notwithstanding, there are good reasons to fear judges will do as Elliott told them. God only knows the penalties Sharon and a handful of other protesters will get.

Gutlessness embodied, Minns is, in a way, the worst of the three. An opposition leader who refuses to oppose: his mantra is bipartisanship. He knows climate change protesters are right, he knows they aren’t hurting anybody, they are trying to force Toole and Elliott to do their jobs. And yet, he too condemns them, while trashing in words the very foundations of the democracy those two bullies trash in deed. He plays it safe, as the world around us burns and drowns. He is a coward.

You will die waiting for a climate election
 Look, I’m no philosopher, I’m just an old fart. But deep analysis is not required to understand what is evident: Australian so-called democracy is a sham, a legal bipartisan dictatorship of cowardly and mediocre asslickers of the rich; this kind of democracy seems incapable of handling climate change. That placard boils down to that. Our “freedom” reduces to choose between Pepsi (COALition) and Coke (Labor).

Everybody following the news knows it.

Everybody, that is, except the self-satisfied talking heads – many of whom are journalists – who live off by proffering inanities about democracy and autocracy on TV, as if it were divine revelation received from God at Mount Sinai.
----------
 
That placard (seen at the SS4C rally last Friday in front of Kirribilli House, Scotty from Marketing’s official Sydney harbourside residence) manages to be right and wrong at the same time. It’s certainly true that those 7 cockroaches are destroying the children’s future.

The problem is that our own present is already being destroyed: residents of northeastern NSW, who visited Scotty on March 20th, are witnesses of that.
(source)
The other thing is that the COALition may be much worse than Labor on climate change, but neither really intends to tackle the challenge. The placard forgets that but our future and that of our children demands we keep this in mind.

Let us remember what their climate change plans are. Assuming they fulfill those promises. COALition and Labor agree on a 2050 net zero target:  there’s no difference here. Score: COALition 1; Labor 1.

The COALition aims to a 2030 26-28% emissions reduction, while Labor aims to a better target: 43%. Score: COALition: 1; Labor 2.

The Labor plan is more credible and has the support of big business and “most smart economists”, while the COALition plan is merely emissions offsetting, including a 15% of the 2050 reductions coming not even from as yet unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage, but from unknown technologies that aren’t even in the drawing board or in anybody’s imagination. Score: COALition: 1; Labor 3.

So, yes, Labor is less bad than the COALition (or better, if you prefer their spin). The problem is that the IPCC requires the world as a whole to cut emissions by 50% (not 43%) by 2030 and rich countries, with the highest emissions per capita, to cut their 2030 emissions by 75% to give the world a fighting chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

An Australian attempt to achieve that may be “crazy brave”, as Jacob Greber says, but 43% is cowardly insufficient.

People seem to believe this is a matter of bargaining: it ain’t. I’ve seen Labor pollies calling climate change activists demanding 75% reduction “purists”. It ain’t our purism, it’s their ignorance. You may call that “climate justice” if you like (many climate change activists make the same error); I call it “survival”: to reduce the highest emissions per capita is the low-hanging fruit in climate change action. It’s not a choice, it’s an imposition reality places on us.
 I can’t be any clearer than that. Only the Greens, among parties represented in Parliament, has that goal (the Socialist Alliance also incorporates that intermediate goal). And they have no chance in hell of winning the election.
Cate Faehrmann with a Greens contingent

This was manifestly patent in the Kirribilli rally: only NSW Greens Cate Faehrmann (NSW Member of the Legislative Council) and several Socialist Alliance activists attended the SS4C call. Labor is too respectable for that kind of thing. I mean, can you really dream of them taking our side in this fight?

And Scotty sent NSW Police Force and Australian Federal Police officers, mounted police and a police helicopter to represent him. You know, in case a bunch of kids and old-timers try to overthrow his government.----------
 So, this is the situation. Either you hope against all hope that (1) a minority Labor government comes out of the next election and that (2) the Greens and/or Socialist Alliance can steer Labor towards a more decisive action and (3) whatever improvement achieved that way is sufficient to avoid climate disaster and (4) it outlives the usually short-lived Labor government or you appeal to civil disobedience.

If you are allergic to civil disobedience, preferential voting may be a long shot, but it’s the only shot left. You better learn how it works, if you are not familiar with it. This short ABC’s BTN video (endorsed by the Parliamentary Education Office) shows the basics (to be precise, for Upper House election):

 This SBS explainer is more detailed.  My suggestion? If in your seat Socialist Alliance, Greens and Labor are present, I’d give SA 1, Greens 2, Labor 3 and I’d put Liberals last. Remember: you don’t need to follow the instructions in the “how to vote” fliers party activists (most likely Labor or Liberals) hand out at polling stations.
----------
 The leak of a draft agreement between the governments of China and the Solomon Islands for military and security cooperation last Thursday generated considerable alarm among local commentators (see here and here as well).
(source)
(Incidentally, on geopolitical matters, the line between “leak” and “whistleblower” on the one hand and “espionage” and “spy” on the other is dangerously tenuous, as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning can bear witness).

Anyway, this is the text of the draft. The fear is that the Chinese military could gain a foothold in our own backyard and destabilise the region. Typically, the idea is the Chinese could close Australia’s sea lanes vital for our international trade (why would our largest trading partner want to do that, is something left unaddressed).

The more rational ones want more diplomatic action to revert what they consider threatening Chinese expansionism and reproach Scotty for his ineptitude (they may have a point there); the more hysterical ones are already calling for an invasion of the Solomons and government change.

Are these commentators overreacting or is this a serious threat? It’s for you to say. Frankly, I don’t really care that much.

What I’m really interested in is the fact the same gang of sanctimonious and hysterical agenda-pushers who speak of Putin’s feverish dream of a resurrected Russian Empire in Eastern Europe, do not say a word about an Aussie Empire in the South Sea Islands.

“NATO did not expand eastwards, the Eastern Europeans joined NATO”. Remember that? It was all about the Eastern Europeans. Now it’s all about China’s threat to Australia.
----------
 No, no, no. Don’t tell me. Let me guess. Your objection (particularly if you are an Aussie) is that the NATO-Ukraine-Russia situation is altogether different to the China-Solomons-Australia situation: Australia is a liberal democracy … while Russia is an autocracy. The fact you are an Aussie has nothing to do with that perceived difference, right?

South Australian vote shows Morrison’s on the ropes—strike back to knock him out and win real change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/03/2022 - 12:06pm in

The big swing against the Liberals in the South Australian election is another blow to Scott Morrison. He will now be even more panicked about his own re-election chances.

The South Australian Liberals lost government after one term, having presided over an Omicron wave debacle like that seen in other states in December and January.

Labor is consistently leading Morrison by a massive 55 to 45 per cent according to Newspoll.

The floods in northern NSW and Queensland have brought back memories of his smug indifference during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20.

Again he was far too late to act, and put marketing spin ahead of actually offering help.

It took ten days for Morrison to declare a “national emergency”, waiting until he could get to Lismore to make an announcement for the TV cameras. He carefully stage-managed his appearance, avoiding any locals to prevent any repeat of the angry response directed at him following the bushfires.

The scale of the disaster has re-focused attention on Morrison’s climate failures. The Coalition has rushed to start construction on the new gas plant it is funding with $600 million of taxpayers’ money at Kurri Kurri, and announced another $50 million for gas pipelines and infrastructure projects.

Morrison is taking every opportunity to expand the use of fossil fuels, using the war in Ukraine to promote Australian coal and gas exports as alternatives to Russia’s. But the surge in petrol prices has added to Morrison’s problems with inflation, which is now outpacing most pay rises and increasing the cost of living.

The Coalition have also seized on the war to increase Australia’s military and its sabre rattling against China.

Morrison will spend $38 billion to boost military personnel by almost one third to 80,000 by 2040. This will include expanding the navy to operate the nuclear subs the government is buying at a cost of at least $170 billion.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has also blamed China for “supporting” Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, labelling China as part of an “unholy alliance” with Russia.

But Australia’s military expansion makes conflict with China more likely. It can only fuel the regional arms race and see billions more wasted on weapons. The nuclear subs are designed to operate aggressively alongside US forces off the Chinese coast.

Morrison has joined other Western leaders in pouring weapons into Ukraine, announcing almost $100 million in military aid. Socialists oppose Morrison’s war-mongering in Ukraine and against China.

The billions going on the military could be funding hospitals and schools, or the urgent climate transition we need.

Don’t rely on Labor

Despite Morrison and Dutton’s efforts, so far, there is no sign that their militarism is winning electoral support. Labor leads the Coalition on who would better manage relations with China, by 37 to 28 per cent, according to Essential polling. But, shamefully, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has backed the government’s military expansion, supporting the nuclear subs and promising to raise military spending to 2 per cent of GDP.

Albanese’s small target strategy has seen him drop practically any promises of change, hoping that anger against Morrison alone will deliver Labor into office.

On climate, Labor’s emissions reduction target is less than the targets backed by the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council.

Albanese has even pledged his support for further “economic reform”, promising to “collaborate with business” and “take my lead from Bob Hawke and his successor Paul Keating” and even quoting Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott is singing Albanese’s praise saying, “what is good about Mr Albanese is he understands the fundamentals that to have a job, you need a boss, and to have a boss you need thriving business, and he gets that.”

More protests and strike action are what’s needed to help finish Morrison off. In NSW, nurses will strike again on 31 March, likely followed by public school teachers in term two. Teachers in Catholic systemic schools have also voted to strike and there is ongoing action planned by train drivers.

The national School Student Climate Strikes on 25 March are another chance to take the fight to Morrison. They need to be part of building an ongoing movement prepared to keep fighting regardless of the Federal election result. Activists should not fall into the trap of thinking Labor, independents or the Greens will deliver significant change through parliament.

It is only by building a union fightback and stronger movements on the streets that we can win the rights at work and pay we deserve, as well as fight for system change to stop the horror of war and climate catastrophe.

The post South Australian vote shows Morrison’s on the ropes—strike back to knock him out and win real change appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Labor’s small target strategy guaranteed not to deliver change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 2:21pm in

Tags 

Australia, Labor

Lachlan Marshall explains how Labor’s small target strategy could backfire, and why we need more struggle to get anything from Labor and win change

In February the Australian Financial Review called the federal election campaign the “Battle of the Boring”.

Labor under Anthony Albanese is trying to minimise its differences with the Coalition, with only a few exceptions like Labor’s commitment to give permanent protection to refugees on temporary visas.

The problem with this “small target” strategy is that it gives voters very little reason to vote for Labor apart from wanting to see the back of Morrison.

Labor could attack Morrison in the areas he is weakest on, defending the LGBTI+ community by opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill, supporting union demands for a 25 per cent increase to the wages of aged care workers, or pledging serious action on climate change and guaranteeing well-paid and secure alternative jobs for fossil fuel workers.

Instead, Albanese has only minor quibbles with the government over these major issues, offering Morrison a lifeline. Labor supported minor amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill before it was ultimately sunk by five Liberals crossing the floor of parliament.

Labor has dumped some of the progressive policies it took to the last election in response to Bill Shorten’s defeat. Albanese is desperate to show the capitalist class, and what Labor believes to be a conservative electorate, that it can be trusted as the alternative government.

Although Morrison is looking vulnerable there is no guarantee this will lead to election victory for Labor. Unless Albanese can convince workers that their lives will improve under a Labor government, there is a risk that voters will simply choose the status quo candidate rather than the imitation.

This was shown most starkly in the 2001 election. Labor under Kim Beazley thought it could cruise to victory on the back of hatred of the Liberals’ privatisation of public services and introduction of the GST, despite agreeing with large amounts of what the Liberals stood for.

Beazley supported the Liberals’ free market policies loathed by workers. In his budget reply speech in 2000 Beazley stated, “We all now largely agree on … the need for fiscal discipline, an independent monetary policy, deregulation of financial markets, the floating of the dollar, low inflation and a more open economy.”

The policies Labor took to the 2001 election didn’t even begin to undo the damage done to public services like health and education. Beazley committed to retaining the Howard government’s enormous subsidies for private health insurance and private schools.

Labor was leading in the polls until the Tampa crisis, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan totally changed the key political issues. Labor responded to these events by supporting John Howard lock, stock and barrel.

From 1999 racism against refugees became a defining feature of the Howard government.

In August 2001 a ship called the Tampa rescued a boatload of stranded refugees and planned to take them to the nearest port, Christmas Island. Howard sent the SAS to hijack the Tampa and stop its desperate passengers from reaching safety and urgent medical attention in Australia.

Beazley backed Howard so that Labor could not be accused of being soft on border protection. Shadow Immigration minister Con Sciacca said Labor was “as tough as, if not tougher than, the government when it comes to illegal immigrants”.

Following the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, Beazley joined Howard in uncritically defending the United States and its foreign policy, not daring to explain the attacks as a response to US support for Middle Eastern dictators, Israel’s oppression of Palestinians or the first war in Iraq.

Beazley described his position as “clear-cut support for Tony Blair and for George Bush and the struggle against terrorism”. When Australia sent troops to invade Afghanistan in October, Beazley announced that he stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Howard.

Labor was trounced at the elections in November, scoring its lowest primary vote since the 1930s.

Labor’s bipartisanship with the Liberals meant that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation won some workers’ votes , while on the left the Greens achieved an electoral breakthrough, winning over voters who were disgusted with Labor’s capitulations on refugees and war.

Jeremy Corbyn

A counter-example is the popularity of the British Labour Party during the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

In the UK the Labour Party had gone through a similar period of convergence with Tory policies, starting with Tony Blair. Disgust at Blair’s invasion of Iraq and embrace of “Third Way” neoliberalism led to a haemorrhaging of Labour members and votes.

But Labour’s long electoral decline was temporarily reversed when Corbyn, a self-declared socialist and anti-war activist, became party leader. Hundreds of thousands of new members joined and at the 2017 election Labour won a 9.5 per cent swing, pushing Theresa May’s Tories into minority government.

Far from being a “small target”, Corbyn campaigned on policies that offered an alternative to working class people, like increasing the minimum wage, renationalising the railways, building half a million new council houses and free university tuition. He pledged to pay for this by taxing corporations and the rich.

Crucially, Corbyn didn’t just have good policies on paper. He organised rallies that attracted tens of thousands of supporters, helping to create an insurgent mood and a sense that his policies could be won.

Corbyn was subsequently undermined by a media onslaught and internal attacks from right-wing Labour MPs, but the 2017 UK elections showed that left-wing ideas can be popular.

Reformism and elections

Labor’s small target politics reflect its focus on winning elections at any cost in order to get in to government, at the expense of the broader aim of changing society.

As a reformist party Labor does not seek to overthrow capitalism but aims to reform the system by running the state. This means Labor accepts the need to appease employers so they keep investing and sustain economic growth.

Their commitment to managing capitalism has seen Labor impose savage cuts to wages and public services in response to recession, in order to bail out business and restore their profits. In the 1930s Depression, instead of protecting workers the Scullin Labor government imposed huge cuts to wages, pensions and jobs through a 20 per cent cut in government spending.

The 1980s Hawke and Keating Labor governments imposed wage cuts through the Accords, along with privatisation and deregulation, with the aim of increasing profit levels.

Without significant pressure from below, through protests and strikes, Labor prioritises the needs of business.

For example, Albanese defended Labor’s new climate policy by saying it is “what business wants”, even though it is even less ambitious than what the Business Council of Australia wants. The anti-strike laws that shackle unions and keep wages low haven’t even rated a mention in this election.

Even under left-wing leadership Labor parties prioritise elections to parliament and the needs of business. At the 2019 UK election, on the defensive against the right within his own party, Corbyn ran a more conventional campaign than in 2017, aiming to prove that Labour was responsible enough to take government.

Corbyn caved to pressure from the Labour right and business to commit to a second referendum on Brexit. This allowed Boris Johnson to appeal to Brexit-supporting Labour voters with his clear message that he would “get Brexit done”. The result was a landslide majority for the Conservatives.

To gain as many votes as possible, Labor parties try to appeal to all sections of society, including the most conservative. This explains why Labor didn’t oppose Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill, out of fear that it would alienate the minority of homophobic and transphobic voters.

Even if Labor wins, a small target approach guarantees a conservative Labor government.

Albanese told business leaders he would adopt policies inspired by Hawke and Keating. He also quoted approvingly a line by John Howard on the need for relentless economic reform. All three prime ministers attacked unions and set Australia on a path to greater inequality and insecurity for workers.

Labor will respond to pressure to go further by saying it has no electoral mandate for change, insisting that people lower their expectations.

Struggle

Labor could stand on principle and try to win over more conservative workers through linking the need for change on issues like refugees and climate action to policies that appeal to their class interests, through boosting jobs, wages and services.

But in the absence of insurgent union struggles and social movements, Labor’s electoralism, that sees it chasing conservative votes, and its desire to manage capitalism pulls Labor to the right.
Labor’s small target is the result of it not being under enough pressure from below. This has been worsened by left support for lockdowns, which led most unions and social movements to put strikes and protests on hold for almost two years.

Ultimately it is the balance of class forces and the level of struggle outside parliament that determines whether there is any real change.

The massive anti-war protests in 2003, followed by the Your Rights At Work strikes and rallies against WorkChoices, put the Liberals on the back foot and showed that they could be fought. The refugee campaign pushed back Howard’s racism.

These struggles helped create the conditions for Labor to win a majority and Howard to lose his own seat in the 2007 election. Kevin Rudd wasn’t pushed hard enough to fully reverse the damage done by Howard and his anti-union laws. But it shows the difference that struggle makes.

Labor’s small-target strategy may yet fail again.

We need more struggles in workplaces and on the streets to kick out Morrison. But whoever wins the election we need to ramp up the campaigns for climate action, refugees, workers’ rights, and against war.

The post Labor’s small target strategy guaranteed not to deliver change appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Australian Space Agency To Send Manned Holden Kingswood To Dubbo By 2035

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/03/2022 - 7:51am in

Australia will be getting its very own space agency with plans to mount a mission to put astronauts on the surface of Dubbo within two decades.

“Due to the high cost of petrol and the dodgy radiator we will have to find crew members willing to undertake a one way voyage,” said astronomer Millicent Tang. “As far as we know the reality series Yummy Mummies doesn’t get broadcast in Dubbo so that should be enough incentive for us to get millions of volunteers.”

Technicians working to overcome the problem of providing enough bags of chips to keep the crew fed during the five hour voyage are looking into rerouting the craft to stop at the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath for a drink and that good hamburger shop in Orange for dinner.

“We learnt a lot from an earlier mission to Mittagong in the 1960s in a Datsun 180b,” said astronaut Paul Thomas. “Mainly we learnt that crew members must be supplied with more than one mix tape to listen to for the whole trip or else they’ll face severe psychological distress.”

An unmanned mission to Dubbo in the 1970s sent back several blurry images of the Western Plains Zoo and the old jail.

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

 

Friends You Can’t Depend On

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 12:00pm in

Resisting the wars our Anglo-allies are fomenting and how to institute peace

To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.

—Henry Kissinger

Australia‘s leaders are preparing to go to war, either against China or against Russia, or against both. All our American friends have to do is wink, nudge our conjoined hip, and it will happen. After years of grovelling rhetoric about mateship and how ANZUS guarantees our defence, the alliance now propels Australia towards disaster.

Since 2001 Australia has sold off such independence in foreign and defence policy as we ever had to the United States. We have plunged Australia into debt by subsidising the US weapons industry. Australia’s leaders have opted for illegal, expensive, expeditionary militarism, and turned their backs on lawful, economical, peace-seeking diplomacy.

In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, America has ceased to be the global hegemon, losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and backing down from confrontations with Iran and Syria. But confident of its military superiority, the United States still threatens those who challenge its dominance: Russia on the borders of NATO, and China in the East and South China Seas.

President Trump hated treaties with ‘free-loading’ allies and talked about breaking them. A Republican successor could carry out his threat. If a dangerously erratic US leadership cannot be relied on to keep its word to allies like Japan and South Korea, to former comrades in Afghanistan and Iraq, or to clients in Taiwan and Ukraine, how can we expect Americans to defend Australia? America’s enemies have become Australia’s, for no good reason. As Malcolm Fraser writes in Dangerous Allies (2014), our US ally, with its bases on our territory, creates the greatest threat to Australia.

Tricks and treaties

International law, a cumulative body of decisions, precedents, agreements and multilateral treaties, has been held together since 1945 by the UN Charter. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, nations have hammered out modern agreements to restrict war. The means include zones of peace, nuclear-free zones, pacts, and conventions, all aimed at prohibiting specific weapons and forms of aggression. Some signatories have sought ways around them, and as the record shows, the United States has refused to sign more of them than any other country, promoting in their place its preferred ‘international rules-based order’.[1]  

Australia and our allies demand that others observe international law, but we honour it in the breach when it suits us. Whenever Australian leaders invoke the ‘international rules-based order’, they fail to state that these rules are the Americans’, not ours, nor the rest of the world’s. Australia claimed when it was elected to the UN Security Council in 2013, and again last year at COP26, that ‘we do what we say’. That usually means doing ‘what the Americans say’. Emanuel Macron knew that when he called Scott Morrison a liar over the breached submarine contract. Since then, even members of the PM’s own Coalition have said the same about him.

Over a century ago, parties to the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes agreed to use their best efforts to avert war. Soon after, the Hague Convention of 1907 repeated that undertaking. It added provisions for mediation, for solving disputes in an International Commission of Inquiry, and for appeal if needed to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at the Hague. But the convention didn’t prevent the First World War, which was supposed to end all wars.

After the cataclysm of the ‘Great War’, hope for a new world order based on mutual cooperation and the peaceful resolution of international conflicts inspired forty-two states to form the League of Nations in 1920. Parties were required to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all other nations and to disavow the use or threat of military force as a means of resolving international conflicts. But apart from promising respect and disavowal, nothing prevented them pursuing their national interests at others’ expense. The fatal refusal of the US Congress to join the league was one in a series of ‘America first’ assertions that undermined later treaties.

Trying again, from 1928, all parties to the French-American Kellogg-Briand Pact were legally required to ‘condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another’. They undertook to seek settlement of disputes by ‘pacific means’. But that didn’t prevent the Second World War, after which, at the 1945 Nuremberg Trials, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was invoked to indict Nazis for waging a war of aggression, and for committing ‘Crimes against Peace’. The victors, despite killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, were not accused of such crimes.

The concerted attempt to make war illegal after the Second World War produced the UN Charter of 1945, which obliged its parties to settle their international disputes by peaceful means, not to endanger international peace and security, and not to threaten or use force ‘against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’. The requirement for peace and the ban on war have been elaborated over the years in successive UN resolutions.

War became illegal, but international law lacked any means of enforcement, apart from UN Security Council resolutions calling on members for active support. The military commission envisaged by the UN Charter was never realised, in part because member states were wary of what such an international authority might do. Among the exceptions found were those for defensive wars, ‘just wars’, war on terror, war in space, peace-keeping operations, and the responsibility to protect.

Since 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has had the ability, where it has jurisdiction, to prosecute the crime of aggression. The court and its special tribunals have tried African and Central European tyrants, but not those responsible for most of the wars of aggression in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, despite participating in the negotiations that led to its creation. Six other countries that have not signed it are China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Yemen. 

In 1949, members of NATO restated the UN Charter’s ban on threat or use of force. Yet they continued to prepare for wars against the USSR, and later Russia, which was NATO’s founding purpose. Some, because a threat to one NATO member is a threat against all, later joined in US wars.

Also in 1949, parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention endorsed non-violence against individuals not actively engaged in war, and undertook not to use collective penalties, intimidation or terrorism against them. Now not only do civilian deaths and injuries outnumber those of soldiers but civilians are also made targets of terror, both by drones and by suicide bombs. Citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty of 2014 barred arms transfers if parties know that the weapons will be used to attack civilians, or for such other war crimes as genocide. Yet nations continue to make these weapons, knowingly use them against civilians, and sell them to countries that do the same.

None of the states (United States, United Kingdom, USSR) parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1970 has honoured its commitment to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ towards ending the nuclear arms race at an early date and achieving effective, general and complete nuclear disarmament. Whether in good or bad faith, early or late, effective or general or complete, none of the ‘nuclear five’ members of the UN Security Council has kept its word about nuclear disarmament. They have also failed to devise a further treaty on ‘general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’. Of the other nuclear weapons states, India, Israel and Pakistan did not sign the NPT, and North Korea signed it but later withdrew.

Another significant, but breached, pact is the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC, 1976), which has been ratified by the ASEAN nations, Australia, New Zealand and more than thirty countries beyond the region, including Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Iran and the United States. The signatories have committed not to threaten the ‘political and economic stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity’ of other parties, and to refrain from the threat or use of force, settling disputes among themselves through friendly negotiations. The High Council includes all parties and has the capacity to deal with failures in negotiations, but it does not appear to have done so. Australia could constructively suggest that the United States and China should avail themselves of it.

That’s unlikely. Australia has usually steered clear of any initiative or agreement that smacked of independence, like the Non-Aligned Movement, the Zone of Peace Freedom and Neutrality in Southeast Asia, and even the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) that Australians initiated, and for which the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (.ICAN) won a Nobel Peace Prize. The TPNW came into force on 22 January 2020, and now has fifty-nine parties, while a further eighty-six states have signed but not ratified. The treaty makes it illegal for those parties to produce, transfer, receive, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, or to have them on territory under their control. Australia is among fifty-onenations that have not signed it, including all the nuclear weapons states.  

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) asserts that the TPNW ‘would not eliminate a single nuclear weapon’, and that it ignores the realities of the global security environment. In the government’s opinion, to join the treaty would be ‘inconsistent with our US alliance obligations’. Even if the Treaty’s entry into force does not create legal obligations for Australia, the US alliance apparently does.

Connivance and constitutions

Nations persistently find ways around their international undertakings, and use them to circumvent their own constitutions. Relatively recent constitutions usually cite the UN Charter, and either prohibit war, or impose restrictive conditions on it. Some countries have constitutional or legislated requirements for their parliaments to debate and approve any deployment of force, including in peace-keeping operations. Most states make exceptions for certain circumstances including emergencies, and some enable parliaments to debate and withdraw approval of a military deployment after the event.[2]

Anglosphere

In the last three decades, the only countries sending forces to expeditionary wars have been the United States and its allies, several of which—including Australia, Canada and New Zealand—have constitutions that, written under British imperial influence, are rarely amended, much less revised. In all three, the royal prerogatives persist, and no parliamentary approval is required in advance of the executive government deploying troops to distant wars. Nor are governments obliged to report to parliament on a war in progress or ended. Their constitutions do not prohibit war, nor do they mention the UN Charter or later treaties.

Under progressive governments in the twenty-first century, Canada and New Zealand have mainly stayed out of US wars, while conservative leaders in Australia have repeatedly committed forces to them. The Defence Act (amended 1975, section 8) gives Australia’s defence minister ‘the general control and administration of the Defence Force’, and this provision was used to send Australian forces to Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The executive’s decision to declare war and deploy forces overseas has always been taken before parliament has debated the issue, and usually with no debate at all.[3] The combination of statute law and royal prerogative makes an Australian prime minister more like an autocratic despot in a dictatorial country than the leader of a democratic, independent state, according to historian Douglas Newton.[4] Attempts by the Australian Democrats were made in 1985 and 2003 and by the Australian Greens in 2008, 2014 and 2021 to introduce legislation requiring prior parliamentary approval of any decision for war, but they lacked the support of both major parties. Others have proposed similar reforms.[5]

Compare another former British dominion. The president of South Africa has the power to declare war and to declare a state of emergency on the advice of the cabinet member responsible for defence. In both situations the president must inform parliament but does not need to obtain its approval .[6] But South Africa has not sent troops to twenty-first-century wars. Thabo Mbeki warned Prime Minister Tony Blair against invading Iraq.[7] South Africa ended its nuclear-weapons program in 1989, dismantled its bombs, and in 1991, acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). It has also signed the TPNW.

The United Kingdom, whose constitution is unwritten, relies erratically on convention. Since Iraq War II, a convention has developed that the House of Commons should debate in advance a proposal to commit troops abroad, except in an emergency. Tony Blair’s motion for war succeeded in the Commons in 2003; David Cameron’s proposal to attack Syria failed in 2013 but succeeded for ‘Northern Iraq’ in 2014; in 2018 Theresa May avoided putting the pre-planned Allied bombing of Syria in April 2018 to the Commons, claiming it was an ‘emergency’, and it went ahead. Despite repeated attempts to legislate war powers for  a modern parliament, British ministers can continue when it suits them to exercise the ancient royal prerogative in deploying troops and in issuing orders for hostilities.

The US Constitution of 1789 envisaged civilian militia being raised only in time of war, and repeated attempts to reform the War Powers Act (1973) have failed. Congress authorises war funding year after year, imposing few conditions on perpetual wars. These do not even require the clear identification of the enemy, or the purpose of the conflict. If an emergency is declared, the authorisations do not specify when it should end; some are more than twenty years old. Successive presidents have bypassed new congressional authorisation of military force (AUMF) by avoiding any declaration that a war has begun or ended. They have changed a war’s scope while it was in progress.[8] In the two decades since 2001, the AUMF secured by President Bush has been used to justify counterterrorism operations—including ground combat, air strikes, detention and the support of proxy forces—in twenty-two countries.[9]

Southeast Asia

The original five ASEAN countries’ efforts for security have mostly involved collective, regional initiatives such as the Zone of Peace Freedom and Neutrality (1971) and the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (1995). The defence forces of the Philippines and most other ASEAN countries have been intended more for internal security than for external operations, and the latest Constitution of the Philippines renounces ‘war as an instrument of national policy’. The TAC is credited with ending the threats or use of force that earlier occurred between them, but it has not banished all foreign bases. Martial law has been declared once each in the Philippines and Thailand. The revised Thai Constitution of 2017 states simply that the king is head of the armed forces, adding that no sort of accusation or action may be taken against Him [sic]. Vietnam, on the other hand, in its 2013 Constitution, the fourth since 1976, has a chapter on ‘Defense of the Fatherland’. It commits Vietnam to building the Revolutionary People’s Armed Forces and Public Security Forces, and to strengthening their national defence capability.[10]

After independence, Myanmar adopted three constitutions in 1947, 1974 and 2008. Under the latest Constitution, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) retain significant control of the government. A quarter of seats in the Parliament of Myanmar are reserved for serving military officers. The ministries of homeborder affairs, and defence must be headed by a serving military officer. The military also appoints one of the country’s two vice-presidents. Hence, the country’s civilian leaders have little influence over the security establishment, which can go to war if and when it wishes.

Europe

The Irish Constitution states, ‘War shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann’. Ireland has an All-Party Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution that actively considers the war powers. In 2003 a Private Members Bill sought to slightly widen this by including aid to foreign countries, and peacekeeping forces on UN missions ‘of a policing nature’, among proposals subject to a resolution of the Dáil Éireann. The Defence Act includes this provision.[11]

European democracies with the strongest parliamentary oversight of war powers are countries that have post–Second World War or post–Cold War constitutions, and minimal military forces.[12] In other European countries, constitutions provide for parliament to exercise war powers, with exceptions; some allow for parliamentary review of decisions already taken for war; while in others, parliament can investigate and debate the use of military force after troops have been dispatched.[13] The constitutions of Cyprus, France and Greece, however, require no debate or control by parliament relating to the use of military force.[14]

The postwar constitutions of Italy, Germany and Japan reject war but provide ways around it in deference to NATO, or in Japan’s case to the US–Japan Security Treaty. Italy’s Constitution explicitly limits national power in deference to the international rule of law. It gives parliament the authority to declare a state of war, to vest the necessary powers in the government, and to agree to declarations of war by the president and the Supreme Council of Defence. It provides for military tribunals in wartime, whose jurisdiction in times of peace is limited to crimes committed by members of the armed forces. In Germany, threats to peace and preparations for aggressive war are unconstitutional, and the manufacture, transport and marketing of weapons of war require the permission of the federal government. Germany’s Constitution, while it makes war illegal, provides for sovereign powers to be transferred by legislation to international institutions, and for Germany to join ‘a system of mutual collective security’, consenting to limitations of its sovereign powers in order to achieve peace in Europe and beyond. Those limitations include Germany permitting large US bases on its territory.

NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949, did not promote peace or disarmament, or impose limitations on war powers. Its three core tasks were and still are ‘collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security’, then against the USSR, now against Russia. NATO obliges all members to respond to an attack on one of them. The constitutions of some NATO members, including Albania, Czechia and Poland, stipulate that a war should be in response to aggression, actual or imminent. But like Germany’s, they mention a mutual obligation to defend other NATO members. This is one reason for some members’ opposition to Ukraine joining NATO.

Russia

The Constitution of the Russian Federation gives sweeping powers to the president (Article 87). He [sic] isSupreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In cases of aggression or a ‘direct threat of aggression’ the president is to declare martial law and immediately inform the Council of the Federation and the State Duma of it. Nothing is said about ending martial law. Russia’s only military bases outside the former Soviet states are in Syria.

Formed in 1993 by Russia and former states of the USSR, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has six members: Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and, at different times, Uzbekistan. In 1997 Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova formed their own GUAM group. The charter of the CSTO expresses the members’ desire to abstain from the threat or use of force, not to join any military alliances, nor allow any third country to establish a military base on any of their territories without all other members’ consent. They also declare that they ‘will not allow’ colour revolutions—such as the recent attempt in Kazakhstan—to be implemented inside their borders.[15] The members of CSTO in 2009 established a Collective Rapid Reaction Force to undertake peacekeeping operations under a UN mandate. Iran is considering joining CSTO, which has agreed to collaborate with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on security, crime and drug control.

These were no doubt discussed when President Putin met Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow. on 19 January 2022, just before a joint Russian-Chinese-Iranian naval exercise was held in the Gulf. If that was a threat of force, in breach of the CSTO, it was also a response to earlier operations there by American and British naval ships. No doubt China sees the current expansion of the US, UK and French presence in the South China Sea as a threat of force.[16]

Turkey

Under the 1982 Constitution (Article 92), the Turkish Grand National Assembly has the power to declare a state of war in cases deemed legitimate by international law, to dispatch the Turkish Armed Forces to other countries, and to allow foreign armed forces to be stationed in Turkey. In a situation of armed aggression or a state of emergency, when the assembly is not sitting, the president can decide to use the Turkish Armed Forces, and suspend fundamental rights and freedoms, ‘provided that obligations under international law are not violated’. Turkey has military and intelligence bases in ten countries, including Qatar, Syria and Somalia. In and around Iraq there are more than forty Turkish bases.

Northeast Asia

The people of Japan in their 1947 Constitution (Article 9) ‘forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes’ and military forces ‘will never be maintained’. The right of belligerency of the state ‘will not be recognized’. Yet Japan’s Self Defence Forces are now among the world’s largest, and in Japan the United States has twenty-three bases. Japan’s only offshore military base is in Djibouti. ‘Reinterpretation’ of Article 9 is a work in progress, and since 2014 Japanese forces have been allowed to defend allies in war. In January 2022 Japan and Australia signed a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), Japan’s first with any country, to allow the Australian and Japanese militaries to work ‘seamlessly’ with each other in defence and humanitarian operations.

Since 1953 for South Korea and 1960 for Japan, mutual-defence treaties with the United States have committed them to ‘mutual cooperation and security’ in the event of attack, and they allow for the presence of US bases in both countries. The United States undertakes merely to inform Japan if its forces there are to be deployed. Complaints by US politicians persist about ‘free-loading’, even though substantial costs are paid by Japan and South Korea for the privilege of hosting multiple US bases.

The 1948 Constitution of Korea was revised by both sides after the Korean war: five times in the Republic of Korea, and repeatedly in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To write a single new Constitution for a reunified Korea would be difficult if not inconceivable.

In South Korea, political neutrality is a convention of the Constitution, to which the military are committed, together with national security and defence. In North Korea, the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK states that the mission of the armed forces is to defend the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and the country, against foreign aggression.

The People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) is not a national defence force of the Western kind but an armed branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself. Its allegiance is not to the state or the Constitution but to the party. The PLA is obliged to follow the principle of the CCP’s absolute civilian control of the military under the doctrine of ‘the party commands the gun’. The Chinese constitution, however, follows the UN Charter In requiring that a war be a response to actual or imminent aggression, or to a common defence obligation. In January 2022, President Xi took charge of policy and decision-making for war and removed them from the State Council. As head of the Central Military Commission, he has absolute authority to mobilise civilian resources as required.

War by other means

Foreign bases

Several nations have constitutions that ban foreign military bases.[17] The United States has 800 bases around the world, and their presence is often contentious, not least in Japan and the Philippines. They were withdrawn from Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in 1992, but US forces returned in 2017 in response to a request by President Duterte to deal with a terrorist siege in Marawi. They were joined by an Australian deployment, and both continue, with Australian numbers reduced. The only other ASEAN countries that host foreign military are Myanmar (a Chinese naval SIGINT base), Malaysia (British and Australian air force and army presence at Butterworth under the Five Powers Defence Agreement) and Singapore (a RAAF Squadron, an Australian Army Aviation training group, and a British naval base). Singapore has access to two aviation training bases in the United States, and supports two operations (dating from Lee Kuan Yew’s time) for the defence of Taiwan.

Manymore countries allow foreign bases on their territory. For example, Turkey has established them in ten neighbouring states and Russia in thirteen. France’s fifteen overseas bases are mainly in African countries. British bases are distributed in sixteen states around the world, and American ones—often multiples—are in thirty-one countries. China has three: the intelligence station in Myanmar, a naval base in Pakistan and a PLA base in Djibouti. A tiny, impoverished state in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti hosts eight foreign military bases, which supplement its income. China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States all have bases in this territory, strategically located between the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. India and Russia reportedly plan to join them.

Neutrality and demilitarisation

One constitution, Costa Rica’s, has abolished the army as a standing military force. Fourteen other small nations do without military forces.[18] Some nations—Iceland, Monaco and Nauru—with no standing militaries or virtually none, have no recent wars, and their constitutions make no mention of war. The Constitution of Andorra simply mentions a desire for peace. A number of other nations’ constitutions allow only ‘defensive’ war, explicitly banning aggressive wars or ‘wars of conquest’.[19] Some impose other restrictions, depending on whether a president or a parliament proposes a war.

As well as committing states to non-interference in others’ internal affairs, some constitutions explicitly espouse permanent neutrality and non-alignment. Long-standing examples are Switzerland and Malta, while Austria, Ireland, Finland and Sweden, despite their strong ties to NATO, remain neutral and non-aligned. Less well known as neutral states are Belarus, Cambodia, Moldova and Turkmenistan; the latter’s Constitution commits the nation to ‘refrain from the use of force and participation in military blocs and alliances, and promote peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with countries in the region and all states of the world’. Cambodia’s Constitution states that the kingdom ‘shall be an independent, sovereign, peaceful, permanently neutral and non-aligned country’.

If armed or non-armed neutrality works for them, why should it not for Australia? If they can change their constitutions; why is it unthinkable for us? Several submissions to a Costs of War Inquiry by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) in 2020–21 endorsed an influential 1984 proposal by David Martin for armed neutrality in Australia. IPAN’s conclusions will be published soon.

Equivocation

Many of the ‘modern’ constitutions include references to peace, even while they accept emergency wars, defensive wars, wars at the discretion of the leader or wars that respond to treaty obligations. The oldest constitutions don’t even include these categories of war, nor do they mention peace. Significantly, most of them are constitutions of the Anglo-allies who have been fighting a continuous ‘war on terror’ since 2001. Far from banning war altogether, there are at least 107 constitutions that allow war without limiting it to defence or treaty obligations.[20] None requires a parliamentary vote.

A different example of this double-speak is provided by the Constitution of Bangladesh. It recites international law: respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes, and the UN Charter. It states that ‘War shall not be declared and the Republic shall not participate in any war except with the assent of Parliament’, and it opposes aggressive war by colonial powers. Yet it commits to support for wars of ‘national liberation’. So does the Constitution of Cuba. Ukraine’s Constitution bans political parties that promote war, which should help to defuse the current crisis with Russia. The Constitution of Haiti requires no war before ‘all the attempts at conciliation have failed’. In Chile a new Constitution is being written, and some Chileans are seeking to have a ban on war included.

That might set the world a good example when once again we face an existential choice between war and peace. For all our aspirations and promises in this century and the last, we still fight wars, with dire results. The leaders of the three Anglo-allies, all facing domestic political problems, are feverishly manufacturing consent (with the help of the Murdoch media) for wars of mass distraction against Russia and China. If the United States, United Kingdom and Russia risk nuclear war over Ukraine and a gas pipeline, that is bad enough; for Australia to join this insanity is worse.

But America always needs a coalition of willing allies for a war. Canberra’s bravest stand would be to make clear to Washington and London that we are not obliged by our alliance or our Constitution to join them, and that we do what we say.

[1] David Swanson, ‘Treaties, Constitutions, and Laws Against War’, World BEYOND War, 10 January 2022, https://worldbeyondwar.org/constitutions/; K. J. Noh, ‘The U.S. Makes a Mockery of Treaties and International Law’, Pressenzahttps://go.ind.media/e/546932/reaties-and-international-law-/mbrqqk/975855496?h=hf3zQtMYSD5E_521htg6ydzx_kW84DfnnQbKgZh9w-c.

[2] Douglas Newton, ‘Report to AWPR’, 22 August 2018; Claire Mills, ‘Parliamentary Approval for Military Action’, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper CBP 7166, 8 May 2018, p. 69; Sandra Dieterich, Hartwig Hummel and Stefan Marschall, ‘Parliamentary War Powers: A Survey of 25 European Parliaments’, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Occasional Paper No. 21, Geneva, 2010, p. 73.

[3] Deirdre McKeown and Roy Jordan, ’Parliamentary Involvement in Declaring War and Deploying Forces Overseas’, 22 March 2010,   https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/0910/

[4] Newton.

[5] See Clinton Fernandes, Island Off the Coast of Asia: Instruments of Statecraft in Australian Foreign Policy, Melbourne: Monash University Publishing, 2018; Alison Broinowski (ed.), How Does Australia Go to War? Canberra: AWPR, 2015.

[6] McKeown and Jordan, p. 158.

[7] John Matisonn, God, Spies, and Lies, Vlaeberg: Missing Ink, 2015.

[8] Swanson.

[9] Stephanie Savell, ‘The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: A Comprehensive Look at Where and How it Has Been Used’, Costs of War Project, Brown University, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2021/Costs%20of%20War_2001%20AUMF.pdf

[10] See Vietnam at https://constituteproject.org/?lang=en.

[11] McKeown and Jordan, pp 152–5.

[12] Austria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.

[13] The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden; Czechia and Slovakia; Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

[14] Sandra Dieterich and colleagues, 2010.

[15] Pepe Escobar, ‘After Kazakhstan, the Color Revolution Is Over’, The Cradle, 12 January 2022, https://thecradle.co/Profile/32?utm_campaign=The%20Cradle%20&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter.

[16] Cameron Leckie, ‘Ukraine Crisis Is a Pivotal Moment in History—For the US, Not Russia’, Pearls and Irritations, 31 January 2022, https://johnmenadue.com/ukraine-crisis-is-a-pivotal-moment-in-history-for-the-us-not-russia/

[17] They include Angola, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Ecuador, Lithuania, Malta, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ukraine and Venezuela.

[18] Andorra, Liechtenstein, the Vatican, Samoa, Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga and Tuvalu; the Federated States of Micronesia, the North Marianas, Palau, Haiti, Grenada and Panama: Laura Secorun Palet, ‘Nations that Survive Without Militaries’, OZY, 19 June 2014.

[19] These include Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar and the UAE.

[20]Among these ‘war-sanctioning constitutions’ are the United States, three Scandinavian countries, and six members of ASEAN. Swanson’s list is: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, Gabon, Gambia, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Scott Morrison’s Arc of Autocracy.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/03/2022 - 3:37am in

The news today was the spectacular anti-war protest by an editor employed by Russian state-owned Channel One.

 The editor, identified as Marina Ovsyannikova, interrupted a news bulletin while on air. She also released a previously recorded video denouncing state propaganda and calling the Russian population to protest against the invasion of the Ukraine.
 According to human rights groups cited by Reuters, Ovsyannikova was arrested and taken to a Moscow police station. Legislation recently adopted penalises such protests with up to 15 years imprisonment.

The Russian Federation is, as is well-known, and as Scotty from Marketing and all the soi-dissant adults in the room never cease to repeat, an autocracy.
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 Last November climate protest group Blockade Australia interrupted the rail line feeding coal to the Port of Newcastle, considered the world’s largest. Below is one of their protests.
(source)
There is only one person in that photo (an activist who identified himself only as Jarrah). However, according to the NSW Police Commissioner at the time, Mick Fuller:
(source)
Note well: up to 25 years imprisonment for putting one’s own life at risk. In Australia, a liberal democracy, protesters can get ten years more imprisonment than in Putin’s Russia, an autocracy.
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 So far, one Blockade Australia activist was sentenced to one year imprisonment. His crime? To climb on top of a train carriage, thereby presumably threatening the lives of “hundreds of people” – apparently.
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 Last year the Australian Federal Court ruled that federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a legal duty not to harm young people in Australia by exacerbating climate change when approving coal mining projects.

Overseas readers may find it hard to believe that ruling was received in Australia as something sensational. After all, one may wonder, would it take a Federal Court ruling for the Health minister to acknowledge his/her duty not to make Aussie kids sick? How about the Education minister? Isn’t it evident he/she has a duty to provide students with the best possible education?

In Australia, however, that ruling proved controversial and today, in an unanimous decision, the Federal Court overturned it: Ley, the judges ruled, has no duty to protect kids from climate change when assessing fossil fuel projects.

Madness? Australia is not an autocracy: here the law rules.
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 Leigh Sales interviewed today young Anjali Sharma, one of the students behind the duty of care case against Ley. As is her job, Sales did not spare Sharma any hard questions. My own impression, for what it is worth, is that Sharma gave very good answers, straight to the point. Judge by yourself.

Let me add something to one of Sharma’s answer: climate change will not spare kids in communities directly dependent on coal mining. Climate change does not work that way. It won’t forgive those who don’t believe in it or in some way contribute to it. In fact as we’ve been reminded recently, floods and bushfires often hit small regional communities harder than they hit big city people. That’s to say nothing of the direct effects of pollution coal-mining communities feel first-hand.
Ley was invited to appear, but declined.

Unlike in autocracies, in representative democracies the people’s representatives are accountable to the people.
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 True, in Russia high-profile dissidents and opponents of the regime have a disturbing habit of dying in mysterious circumstances (and I fear Ovsyannikova may have catapulted herself to that unenviable position: I hope she knows what she is doing). In Australia high-profile people in the legal opposition – strangely obsessed with bipartisanship – tend to die comfortably of old age. So, there is something to say for Australian democracy. That and the pusillanimous character of what in Australia passes for opposition. 

----------
 Quotable quotes:

Welcome to Afternoon Briefing this Tuesday [March 15th], Greg Jennett with you. (…) We’ll look at (…) an intriguing attempt by the US to engage with China in the midst of the war in Ukraine. Could the war be going so badly that Beijing’s thinking of walking away from its communist cousins in Moscow?

Will somebody tell Greg the Soviet Union does not exist anymore?

Australian Government Sanctions People For Sharing Unauthorized Thoughts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/03/2022 - 11:42pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/bad198ada7db244edfe0ace61befceaa/href

In the western world’s mad rush to ramp up censorship and dangerous cold war escalations against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the Australian government has done what it always does and raised the bar of authoritarianism a click above everyone else in the room.

“The Australian Government is sanctioning 10 people of strategic interest to Russia for their role in encouraging hostility towards Ukraine and promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda to legitimise Russia’s invasion,” reads a new statement from Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. “This includes driving and disseminating false narratives about the ‘de-Nazification’ of Ukraine, making erroneous allegations of genocide against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, and promoting the recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent.”

A report by the Australian Associated Press and the Daily Mail says that the men targeted with these new sanctions are “journalists, authors or Putin’s press officers.” This move follows earlier waves of sanctions directed at Russian government, military and financial institutions, as well as economic sanctions on the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine.

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Obviously a government in a purportedly “free” country sanctioning anyone for sharing any ideas anywhere on earth is outrageous, no matter how stupid or fictional they might be. Anyone on earth should be free to say that Ukraine is ruled by reptilian space wizards orchestrating a global conspiracy to steal the earth’s ivermectin if they want to without being sanctioned by the Australian government.

But the fact that the ideas cited by the Foreign Minister — de-Nazification, genocide of ethnic Russians, and independence for the DPR and LPR — are fairly common opinions that can be argued using facts and evidence makes this move a lot more disturbing.

I personally don’t find it truthful to claim that the invasion of Ukraine has anything to do with “de-Nazification” myself; that just sounds like the sort of thing you say to make a bloody invasion look noble, and Ukraine’s neo-Nazi issues would surely have been a non-issue for Putin if Kyiv was aligned with Moscow rather than Washington. But even NBC News is reporting that “Ukraine has a genuine Nazi problem” that cannot simply be ignored, and a recent report by The Grayzone details how intimately neo-Nazi militias are intertwined with the nation’s power structure. So this isn’t some preposterous conspiracy theory; it arises from known facts that people do need to talk about.

The claim of genocide in the Donbas may not be a consensus reality that has been firmly established via official channels, but neither is the claim of genocide in China’s Xinjiang province, yet we saw that assertion waved around as absolute fact by the entire western political/media class in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. It’s just a simple fact that 14,000 people have died in the fighting against Donbas separatists since a US-backed coup toppled Ukraine’s government in 2014, and that most of those deaths have been on the side of the ethnic Russian separatists. Whether or not this technically constitutes genocide has not been established, but it’s a debate that is both valid and worthwhile.

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The most egregious citation on Payne’s list is “promoting the recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent.” The idea that rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine should be recognized as independent republics is pure political opinion; the Australian government has no more legitimacy in labeling it “propaganda” than they would on people’s opinions about the morality of abortion. Yet it’s being cited as a justification for targeted sanctions.

This comes after Australian television providers SBS and Foxtel dropped RT in the frenetic push to expand censorship throughout the western world, a move Payne explicitly praised in the aforementioned statement with an acknowledgement that the Australian government is working with online platforms to censor unauthorized content.

“The Australian Government continues to work with digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to take action to suspend the dissemination of content generated by Russian state media within Australia. SBS and Foxtel have already announced the suspension of Russia Today and NTV broadcasting,” the statement says.

This is getting so, so ugly so very, very fast. Just the other day a young Australian-Russian man was ejected from the audience of the popular television show Q+A simply for expressing his support for Putin’s war, something we’ve never seen happen in any of the controversies about the insane American military invasions that this country has gotten itself involved in over the years.

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Whether you agree with these opinions or not, you’d have to be blind not to see the dangers of speech getting stomped out which doesn’t align with the authorized opinions of the government and the globe-spanning empire of which it is a member state. It is not valid to simply label dissenting ideas “propaganda to legitimise Russia’s invasion” and then shut them down; in a free society we’re meant to debate ideas and explain our positions to convince others that they are correct.

An ostensibly free and democratic nation labeling basic political opinions and ideas about points of geopolitical contention “pro-Kremlin propaganda” and implementing punitive sanctions in response has implications that are uncomfortable to think about. As an Australian who frequently disagrees with Canberra about unaligned foreign governments including Moscow, I am frankly feeling a bit nervous that I might myself be designated a person “of strategic interest to Russia” and penalized in some way for “disseminating false narratives”.

Securing more and more control over the ideas and information that people share with each other is an objective of unparalleled importance of the oligarchic empire loosely centralized around the United States. It is an intrinsically valuable goal; anywhere control of speech can be expanded is strategically useful for that expansion in and of itself, independent of the excuses made to justify it. Hopefully we all collectively find a way to unplug each other from the imperial narrative matrix before they can secure total control.

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