John Garnaut, author of The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo, talks to AIIA NSW president Colin Chapman and Professor Kerry Brown,director of the China Studies centre of the University of Sydney.
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Dr Anthony Billingsley talks with the President of AIIA NSW, Colin Chapman, on the crises in Egypt and Syria and ongoing talks between Iran and the United States. Dr Billingsley is a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of NSW. He has a doctorate in Arab constitutional law and is a former officer with the Office of National Assessments. He is just back from a six-month spell in the region.
This is a featured designed to help you catch up with some of the headline and other significant issues that you may have missed. Your comments are welcome.
The United Nations now says it has enough evidence to lay war crimes charges against those involved in both sides of the Syrian conflict.
Much of the reporting in the Australian media about Indonesia tends to be all about asylum seekers, with little coverage of the impending national elections. So you might want to read an excellent editorial in the Jakarta Post headed “The Circus Begins”.
It’s not just Indonesia that’s upset about being spied upon. The Israelis are attacking their American allies for doing the same, and have asked them to stop.
The events in Ukraine and Crimea turn one’s thoughts back to the Cold War; the New York Times demurs, but agrees it’s decidedly chilly in Eastern Europe.
According to the well-informed Pawel Swieboda, Poland holds the key to Ukraine’s future.
Question: Who has the biggest reserves of shale gas? Australia? Wrong. The United States? Wrong. The US government says it’s China. Read the free article from STRATFOR.
A former editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald argues that the tension in North Asia is, at least partly, a battle of wills.
Finally, listen to a discussion on poverty in the Pacific Islands where the World Bank estimates one in five live below the poverty line. But then 16 million in Europe and Central Asia are living on less than $2.50 a day. Not enough to book a passage with a people smuggler!
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.
Thirty years ago Sarah Tisdale, a clerk in the British Foreign Office, was jailed for leaking photocopied United States plans to deploy cruise missiles in Britain to The Guardian newspaper. Her action was only discovered after the then editor, Peter Preston, complied with a High Court decision that it should hand over documents.
It is a long established journalistic mantra that you never disclose your sources – a necessary code if we are to have a free press – and Peter, to quote his own words, “was hung out to dry and got a good pasting” from colleagues and critics for letting Ms. Tisdale pay the price for his newspaper’s scoop.
His successor, Alan Rusbridger, faces no such conundrum over the source of shedloads of stolen classified documents received last May in electronic form. He has a team poring through them to discover those that , if published, can cause maximum embarrassment to the British, Australian, Canadian and United States governments. And the source is now a household name, Edward Snowden, a contractor to the Central Intelligence Agency, now living comfortably in Russia under the protective supervision of President Vladimir Putin.
Putin, a former colonel in the KGB, can be confident his own murky past will not feature in Snowden’s gift to The Guardian. We can also be reasonably sure that Chinese espionage will not feature. However, according to The Australian’s Greg Sheridan, the Abbott government is bracing for a new series of disclosures about this country’s intelligence activities, including those against China and other Asian neighbors, and our own citizens.
This is to be expected, and you cannot expect either Guardian Australia or the rest of the media to ignore the revelations, or to heed calls to respect the national interest.
Those who think otherwise should remember the dictum of John Delane, one of the more famous editors of The Times in London, who addressed criticism of his publication of intelligence in a thundering editorial on February 6 1852:
“The press can enter into no close or binding alliances with the statesmen of the day, nor can it surrender its permanent interests to the convenience of the ephemeral power of any government. The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. … The press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times: it is daily and forever appealing to the enlightened force of public opinion. … The statesman’s duty is precisely the reverse.
“For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world.”
A good editor will frame this tract, and follow it. Bad editors, and journalists, will allow themselves to be sucked into elitist groups, and because of this privileged position will allow themselves to be used by governments, party politicians, business leaders and others to betray their role as reporters by “trimming” stories or becoming partisan commentators. Many of the Canberra lobby correspondents in the Gillard-Rudd period fell into this trap, as do those who accept free trips from airlines and others to report so-called “news” from exotic locations unrelated to the subject matter.
Despite the duty of disclosure, the recent brouhaha over the illegal phone tapping of the Indonesian president’s mobile phone, and those of his wife and other aides does give rise to some concerns abourt media behaviour.
One is the news management, or ‘spinning’ by Guardian Australia and the ABC themselves. It is clear they did not follow Delaney’s dictum of publishing “instantly”. The Guardian had been sitting on the material for some months.
Guardian Australia editor, Katharine Viner, claims not to have seen the documentation relating to the SBY phone tapping until “a few days” before publication. That may be true, but as Rusbridger’s number two it’s likely she was aware of its existence. Given that the Rudd government authorized the phone tapping, was publication deliberately delayed until after the election of an Abbott government? It is a question that cannot be brushed aside as casually as did columnist, and former Media Watch host, Jonathan Holmes.
There is then the role of the ABC in what Tony Abbott has described as the national broadcaster acting as an “amplifier”of The Guardian story. That is putting it mildly. Although it had no role in obtaining the documents from Snowden, the ABC actively and very deliberately cooperated in the news management of this story, and planned its release on a high profile television program.
It is perfectly legitimate for the ABC to report the story – indeed it would be negligent not to do so – but that is different from conspiring with a foreign publication to promote its wares by agreeing to joint publication, especially when you have had no part in its origination. Kate Torney, the ABC’s news director, cleverly ignores this aspect of the argument in her feisty defence of her decision to partner with The Guardian.
Torney is, however, right to argue that the Australia Network had no choice but to publish, once the story was in the public domain. This DFAT-funded network, created as ‘soft-power diplomacy’ to promote Australia’s interests overseas, particularly in Asia, would lose all credibility if it had ignored the issue. And credibility, in the world of international broadcasting, is all.
That said, those who have called on the government to retract the ABC’s contract to operate the Australia Network, have a case, but not because of publication of the SBY phone tap. The more obvious reason is that Senator Stephen Conroy, the previous government’s communications minister, broke all the rules of corporate governance two years ago by awarding the contract to ABC, after an independent panel charged with investigating the bids had twice concluded and recommended it be given to Sky News.
A second reason to revoke, or at least re-examine the contract is that the Australia Network is a very poor channel, which fails woefully to carry out its assigned task of presenting Australia to the world. Compared with similar networks coming from other nations, it needs proper scrutiny, and a major overhaul.
It’s not unusual for the ABC to be the subject of criticism, some of it deserved, some not. I personally think it wrong that high profile correspondents should be proffering their own personal views on The Drum, when their time might be better spent on in-depth reporting and analysis. I don’t think frontline presenters like Fran Kelly should be airing her political views on Insiders, or offering advice to Tony Abbott (or Bill Shorten) on how to handle the spying issue, as she did last Sunday.
But management decisions over cooperation with The Guardian, though flawed, hardly justify the onslaught against the ABC from The Australian. This newspaper’s daily attacks on our national broadcaster have now reached absurd proportions.
For instance, foreign editor Greg Sheridan attempted to claim that by publishing the SBY story, the ABC could be held partly responsible for future deaths. His argument was that more boat people might die at sea, following the decision by Indonesia not to cooperate with Australia. (It is Indonesia’s responsibility to protect the safety of boats in its own waters, and if it is not interested in doing that, it is cupable, along with its people smugglers.) Sheridan also argued Australians on death row in Indonesia might be executed rather than afforded clemency because of Jakarta’s unwillingness to show warmth to our countrymen. This argument, by any standards, is a bit of a stretch, and damages Sheridan’s own credibility, as well as that of his newspaper.
Colin Chapman is president of the AIIA in New South Wales.
Charteris Oration 2013: Peter Varghese on Challenges for Australia’s Foreign Policy Australia faces big challenges in foreign and trade policy, says Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary, Peter Varghese, and how well we address them will be crucial to our … Continue reading
Following the 40th Annual General Meeting of the AIIA (NSW) on 1 October 2013, we have a number of new members on our Council! Have a read of their bios and say hello at our next meeting!
LONDON: There are three reasons for this. The first is that – unthinkable as it sounds – an increasing number of people believe it possible that the Scots could vote to leave the United Kingdom when the referendum takes place next year. Secondly, despite pressure from the Obama administration in the United States and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, there is still a real prospect that a referendum on British membership of the European Union, could lead to the UK’s withdrawal. Business people and political observers I’ve met this week believe either or both would be a disaster for Britain. Continue reading
Members of AIIA NSW have elected a new team to run the Sydney-based institute over the next 12 months – and for the first time the balance between the sexes on the 13-strong board are even.
The president, Colin Chapman, and vice president Richard Broinowski were re-elected unanimously, as was secretary Jennifer Sayle.
Newcomers include Kalley Wu, appointed as treasurer to replace Mohit Sharma; Alice Populous, who takes responsibility for NSW’s cultural program, Criminologist Dr Duncan Chappell, business woman Carol Lamerton; Sasha Sevtsova, a NSW government policy adviser, and academic Michael Sutton, a former councilor who recently returned from a decade in Japan and Washington. Continue reading
EVENT – 6pm Tuesday 15 Oct 2013: This year the commander of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, called climate change the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific. The security challenges posed by climate change are multiple. Some are traditional -like the prospect of wars over water- and some non-traditional –like the displacement of persons. Continue reading