Author Archives: Shaun Whittaker\'s notebook

Why business chiefs can’t run countries

MEMBER VIEWPOINT Jonathan Tasini in The Australian

THE barrage against Mitt Romney’s record as the chief executive of a hedge fund is head-shaking. Not because it isn’t legitimate to probe his record of job creation or destruction while at the helm of Bain Capital. Rather, there is a more fundamental question: why would anyone think a business executive is qualified to run a country?

This is a common choice voters are being offered around the world. Unemployment is high, governments appear incapable of charting a course for economic security and people feel afraid.
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Are we getting a one-eyed view of Australia in the Asian Century?

We may know what we think about Asia, but what do the Asians think about us? Is Australia really part of Asia, or is what the government calls ‘Australia’s integration in the region’ a mirage, pursued mainly by big banks, resources companies and universities desperate to attract foreign students?

It’s been fashionable to talk about “punching above our weight”, but is our presence in Asian capitals being really felt? Do we need more missions? Are our competitors more proactive?

The Australian Institute of International Affairs has assembled an informed group to tackle the most burning issue of our time – Australia’s future in Asia. The discussion will be about truths, not platitudes.

This group includes authorities from China, Japan, South East Asia and India, who are coming here as our guests to participate in the debate with leading Australian thinkers. They include Dr Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, one of Beijing’s leading thinking tanks that works closely with the Communist government. Dr Zongze is one of the most articulate thinkers on China’s role in the modern world.

There have been suggestions that Australia has neglected its relationship with Japan, because of a strong focus on China, and we will welcome Ambassador Yoshiji Nogami, president of the Japan Institute for International Affairs.

Other participants include associate professor Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; John McCarthy, AO, national president of the AIIA, who has served as Australia’s envoy in India, Indonesia and Japan; Professor Peter Drysdale AM, a member of the Asian white paper task force; Advisory Panel, White Paper Taskforce; HE Biren Nanda,high commissioner of India; Dick Woolcott AC, former head of DFAT; Linda Jakobson,East Asia director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy: Professor Amitabh Mattoo, director of the Australia-India Institute, University of Melbourne; Professor Richard Rigby,director, China Institute, at the ANU and many others.

These two events are for everyone. They are not big ticket functions in a smart hotel affordable only to those on business expenses. They are free, open to everyone. All you need do is reserve a seat.

The main event will take place in the chamber of the Legislative Assembly of the New South Wales Parliament at 6 Macquarie St in Sydney, starting at 8:45 am on Friday August 24. It will conclude at 4:30 pm. To reserve a seat and obtain a full program please telephone 02 6282 2133 or email us.

On the previous evening there will be a public meeting on Australia in the Asian Century featuring the major participants. This will be recorded for broadcast and start at 6:30 pm on Thursday August 23 at The Glover Cottages at 124 Kent St, Sydney. To reserve a seat please email us.

These are free, open events, but reservation is essential.

Putin’s Geopolitical Logic

COMPELLING READ: In his latest assessment of the Russian president, Robert D Kaplan says Putin is not a monster like Stalin or some of the other Bolsheviks, nor is he a modernizer with a sense of idealism like Czar Alexander II or Mikhail Gorbachev. The West wants leaders everywhere according to its own philosophical and cultural model, leaders it can applaud at fancy conferences. Instead, in Putin, they get Russia.”

By Robert D. Kaplan
Chief Geopolitical Analyst STRATFOR

The Western media love to hate Vladimir Putin. His cynicism and unalloyed thuggery make him vilified in a way that the worst tyrants are not. Tyrants who kill millions or at least hundreds of thousands are well known to history and are consequently seen as impersonal forces of nature, like hurricanes or tornadoes. But the dislike of Putin is quite personal. He is not a mass murderer, but he gets under the skin of Western elites in ways that mass murderers do not.

Even Syria’s notorious dictator, Bashar al Assad, is always nattily dressed in a suit and tie. Not so Putin, who sometimes wears a leather jacket and occasionally rides bare-chested on a horse. Putin flaunts the mores and conventions of the global elite. A black belt in judo, he affects the appearance of a manly bully in a world where high culture is increasingly cosmopolitan and feminine.

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Reality Check on India’s Rise

COMPELLING READ: Defence minister Stephen Smith says India’s role in Asia has been under appreciated. He should take a trip there and look at the infrastructure. Two weeks ago half the country – some 680 million people – were without electricity for two days because the system failed. So how ramshackle is India’s overall infrastructure and what impact will this have on the country’s development? Get the facts from this interview by AIIA NSW president Colin Chapman with vice president of global analysis at STRATFOR, Reva Bhalla.