Category Archives: president’s column

Mandela: a man whe taught us about Reconciliation

By Colin Chapman

Everyone remembers a red-letter day in their life, and one of those came late in January 1992 in Davos, Switzerland, when I joined others to shake the hand of Nelson Mandela.

While his serene and smiling face were compelling, I had to glance down at those hands. These were hands that for 27 years had broken rocks at he infamous Robbin Island, a grim prison off the coast of South Africa, where Mandela, a lawyer , and other members of the African National Congress, had been incarcerated because of their opposition to apartheid.

Mandela had been invited to join his former jailer, President F.W. de Klerk on the platform of the World Economic Forum by this august organization’s founder, Professor Klaus Schwab, who has established an reputation for bridge building.

As Mandela was to repeat many times in subsequent years, he said he could never forget, but he had forgiven those who had stolen so much of his adult life. In a memorable speech, I remember, particularly, the following passage, “we do not ask for pity. We do not face the world with a begging bowl. We look to the future with dignity. We know that we will eradicate poverty through our own skills and labour. We recognise that our country has, because of apartheid, gone through a traumatic experience, no less than the wars that have been fought in Europe and elsewhere.”

The whole speech is worth reading today, and there is a link to it below. But there was something else. Mandela talked of an investment strike by private enterprise, and called for nationalization of key part of the ecionomy.

Later, in Davos, after meeting world leaders, he was talked out of it. They convinced him the world would invest in the “New South Africa”, as everyone began to call it.

I was later able to play my own small part in the New South Africa. My then employer, the Financial Times Group, took a 50 per cent stake in the country’s main financial newspaper, Business Day and in the weekly Financial Mail. We started the African Business Channel, on radio and television, and I became its first chairman, a task which took me to Johannesburg frequently.

When Mandela became president, I was able to see him in action, and got to know some of his ministers, particularly Trevor Manuel, who was to become South Africa’s longest serving finance minister.

Despite the success of the early years of Mandela’s presidency – and the global goodwill towards him and his government, the new South Africa faltered after he left Pretoria. His successor, Thabo Mbeke, also a lawyer, held office for nine years, and president over solid economic growth engineered bhy Manuel, but was unable to fix other problems that became endemic, including corruption and crime. The current president, Jacob Zuma, has also watched problems mount, and few now talk of the New South Africa.

But Mandela will never be forgotten.

Interesting Tributes

From the editor of the New York Times

Mandela’s death leaves South Africa without itsmoral centre-  New York Times

From former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser.


Desmond Tutu on Nelson Mandela

A man who inspired the world – The Observer


Robbing DFAT to Subsidise Cars Australians do not Want


Dick Woolcott

NOTES ON THE NEWS: Richo – aka Graham Richardson, former Labor numbers man – certainly got his figures right last week. On Tuesday, he traded in the Ford Falcon he had been driving for the past three years and bought a Japanese-made Lexus.

Two days later, Ford announced it was ending motor manufacturing in Victoria, with the closure in 2016 of its plants in Melbourne and Geelong, bringing to an end the production of the taxi drivers’ friend, the Ford Falcon, Australia’s fastest depreciating vehicle.


The Ford Falcon

Had Richardson been getting rid of his Falcon this week, his trade-in value would probably have been thousands less, but he was only doing what most Australians do, which is to buy imported cars, mostly from Japan, South Korea and Germany. Jac Nasser, former worldwide boss of Ford, and now chairman of BHP-Billiton, rightly predicted just a few weeks ago that our car industry was unsustainable. Continue reading


NOTES ON THE NEWS: To the uninitiated the acronym TPP sounds like a nasty new medicine. Most people have never heard of it.  It certainly will not often be uttered by Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott in the election campaign now … Continue reading

COMMENT: Life and Death of Democracy at the University of Sydney

NOTES ON THE NEWS: How ironic that Professor John Keane, the distinguished head of Sydney University’s newly created Institute for Democracy and Human Rights should, wittingly or unwittingly, be damaging democracy on his own campus. Continue reading

COLUMN: Thatcher, and speaking ill of the dead

NOTES ON THE NEWS: The waiter in the 5-star restaurant hovered over Margaret Thatcher as she studied the menu. The occasion was a celebratory dinner with members of her Cabinet and other Tory party luminaries.

“What about the vegetables?” asked the waiter, with due deference.

“Oh, they’ll have the same as me”, replied the British prime minister, airily.

The story, surely apocryphal, but apparently not, says much about the former British leader, who died last week. She had both a mocking sense of humour, and often was contemptuous of some of her colleagues. And showed it. In fact Thatcher’s disdain for those she regarded as “wets” made Julia Gillard’s contempt for Kevin Rudd and his pals look mild, by comparison.

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COLUMN: Forget the domestic agenda – the Canberra Circus has damaged Australia’s global reputation

NOTES ON THE NEWS: The fall out from last week’s classic Canberra circus will be mainly domestic. There is no point in adding to the tens of thousands who have written about the future of the Gillard government.

But the circus has done considerable damage to Australia’s international reputation. That foreign minister Senator Bob Carr was distracted from his tasks at the United Nations Security Council was the least of it.

That unflattering phrase “banana republic” found its way into the Lexicon as former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McGibbon, writing from Washington, reported on the “extreme damage” that political uncertainty is doing to Australia’s international reputation.

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COLUMN: Shinzo Abe on the Trade, Defence and Reform

Obtained from Wikimedia Commons

Obtained from Wikimedia Commons

NOTES ON THE NEWS: It has become fashionable to argue that the theory of the tyranny of distance – the eponymous 1966 book by Geoffrey Blainey that argued Australia’s geographical remoteness shapes our identity and outlook – is outmoded. We have come to believe we are now a significant global player in Asia, and a valued participant in G20 and the East Asia summit.

Unfortunately this is myth rather than reality. We are still out on a limb. You have only to travel to the main Asian capitals or meet their opinion formers and decision makers to realise that Australia is not regarded as a particularly significant or important country, except for its boundless mineral resources and huge reserves of energy, though the government is making it harder and more expensive to exploit the latter.

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COLUMN: International Women’s Week – a tale of two speeches

PM GillardNOTES ON THE NEWS: Sunday was International Women’s Day, and I was out early, combing the markets for fresh vegetables. But then I tend to do the household shopping anyway. Still, it’s worth remembering that even in the 21st century, in many parts of the world, including much of Europe, this is seen as a predominantly female activity.

Julie BishopAnd as United States and our troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, the war abandoned, we leave many of that nation’s women to face a future that us at best uncertain and at worst fraught with danger and lack of fulfilment.

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COLUMN: Australia-Indonesia Dialogue – Exceeded Expectations

PRESIDENT’S COLUMN: Many over-hyped international meetings and reports turn out to be a disappointment, falling far short of expectations. The Indonesia-Australia Dialogue – held at Sydney’s Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday and Monday – did not fall into this category. It was possible to come away from it optimistic. Despite tricky issues often arising between Australia and our closest neighbour, there is the tantalising prospect of closer bonds that could serve both countries well in the Asian century.

The Dialogue, co-chaired by veteran diplomat John McCarthy and Dr Rizal Sukma, who heads the influential Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, and is named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s top 100 global thinkers, owes its success to the quality of the participants and the intensity of their participation. There was none of the drifting in and out that can be a feature of these meetings.

Senator Bob Carr, foreign minister, and Julie Bishop, his Coalition shadow, provided excellent keynote speeches. Space does not permit me to mention the names of all the academics and business leaders who were present, but the involvement of business is crucial on these occasions.

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COLUMN: Lessons from Obama’s State of the Union Speech

ImagePRESIDENT’S COLUM: Returning to The Australian after a long summer solstice, foreign editor Greg Sheridan dismissed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address as a “lame, dreary speech”.

I don’t agree, not least because we have had some more than our fair share of lame and dreary speeches in Australia this year. But the real benefit of the State of the Union address to Congress was that it served as a salutary reminder that the Australian in the Asian Century white paper and the hastily-constructed speech by the Prime Minister on national security strategy make questionable conclusions.

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