Realpolitik 101

Claims surfaced yesterday that former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin’s visa application could take at least a year to process, and Democrats have criticised the way the government is kowtowing to China by ignoring the issue in the risible non-sequitur that is the “human rights dialogue’ with one of the world’s most authoritarian and exploitative states.

It’s clear that Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has handled the Yonglin matter with her usual delicacy – and Downer has displayed the independent thinking that characterises Australia’s diplomacy.

The Australian Defence Association has some interesting comments on the case – with a crash course in realpolitik thrown in – in the latest edition of its Defence Briefs:

Australia continues to tiptoe unnecessarily around the competing but not necessarily mutually-exclusive economic, political, strategic and moral challenges of our growing relationship with China. Not least of these are that our geo-strategic, political, humanitarian and wider moral stances are generally the opposite of those espoused by the quasi-communist authoritarian regime currently in power in that country.

Against this background, the recent attempted defection by a Chinese consular official again reminds us of several old lessons from Intelligence 101. Defections are generally always messy, defectors usually try to sell themselves with some vigour and not a little imagination, and such matters are best handled swiftly and decisively before they escalate into contests of national pretence, international posturing and tit-for-tat retaliation.

Even at this juncture certain matters appear clear. The Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs bungled the initial approach and the follow-up. The man in question can never be sent back to China. The Chinese are putting some effort into spying on us but much of their activity is wastefully pre-occupied with attempts to counteract Chinese émigré groups. The best way to stand up to Chinese bluff and bullying is not by ducking the truth of the general and specific situations…

Pollies’ tatts: could Amanda Vanstone love Tassie that much?

We’re getting into hit and miss territory in our quest for details on political tattoos. One Crikey reader thinks that Graham Edwards has one. Could be. He was a soldier, after all.

“Somebody told me that Amanda Vanstone has a 1:2 scale map of Tasmania on her bum,” claims another. We’re a little more sceptical of this one. It might be like saying Kevin Andrews got a star tattooed on his wrist because he’s obsessed by Giselle Bundchen.

So let’s stop playing tatts lotto. There are 226 Senators and Members. There must be more, er, body art among that lot. Details to [email protected].

The Consulting Room

“Why do economic rationalists make so much noise about any Australian government ownership of Telstra, but don’t seem to mind the Singapore government owning Optus?” Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Christian Kerr is so absorbed ripping quotes out of his copy of Capitalism and Freedom working up a reply that he mightn’t even look at any more queries about what’s what in politics this week. Let’s put an end to his self indulgence. Deluge him with questions at [email protected].

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey