“John Howard is staying as Prime Minister for
the next four to five years,” which may see him pass his political idol
Robert Menzies as Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, says
Michael Costello in The Australian. But if his treatment of the
Nationals over the last week is anything to go by, then he may find the
next five years even tougher than the first 10. Unlike Malcolm Fraser,
“for whom the Coalition marriage was true love,” for Howard it is a
marriage of convenience. His “smug, complacent and arrogant treatment
of the Nationals” over the past few days will make it interesting to
see whether the Nationals finally decide “enough is enough,” or whether
they’ll continue to tow Howard’s line.

Beneath the woolly words of John Howard’s Australia Day address the
implicit message is: “Australians, regardless of where they or their
parents migrated from, are expected to completely integrate into
mainstream Australian society,” says Sushi Das in The Age. “So,
multiculturalism is out and assimilation is in.” Individual freedom,
egalitarianism, tolerance and sexual equality are not uniquely
Australian values, as the PM would have us believe but when they’re
“wrapped in the
Australian flag, patriotism, or even its ugly brother, nationalism,
become the overriding messages.” We were once embarrassed to show
patriotism, but now its all hand-on-heart, flag-waving love for the
country. “If you really love your country, maybe it’s patriotic to
be unpatriotic.”

Competition law will dominate the business news headlines this year,
says John Roskam in The Australian Financial Review. But what is
absent, says Roskam, is any principle of “good law making” because, to
put it simply, our competition law fails the “basic tests of common
sense and consistency.” It’s obvious that the best way to run a cartel
these days is to get the government to run it for you – just like
Qantas, who get the government to restrict who flies between Australia
and the US, and actually pushes prices up. Just like Adam Smith argued in The Wealth of Nations
so long ago, the best regulator of collusion is the consumer, and not
the government. Because “government regulation of business reduces, not
increases, the welfare of the community.”

“China’s ruling regime has perfected the science of controlling what
the
Chinese can read or write on the Internet to such a degree that it has
become the envy of tyrants and dictators the world over,” says Frida Ghitis in the Boston Globe.
But Google’s
decision to help censor web content to China is not only a threat to
Chinese freedom – it’s a “threat to every person who ever used Google
anywhere in the world.” Google save every search and probably know more
about us than any intelligence organisation ever could. “The
often-stated desire to ”do good” and make the world a better place
was one of the traits that endeared Google to the public,” but that’s
now gone. And the pious sounding rhetoric has made the betrayal even
more hurtful. “We’ve long known about China’s disdain for individual
freedoms. But Google, we hardly knew you.”

Hamas’ victory creates a “thorny issue” for Israel, the European
Union and the Unite States, says Efraim Karsh in The New Republic. But
there may be a silver lining after all: “Hamas’s win might trigger a
widespread disillusionment with the mirage” of a peaceful and
democratic Palestinian government. “By leaving no doubt about its true
nature
and raising no false expectations of imminent peace and democracy, it
helps expose the deep malaise of the Palestinian political system and
the attendant need for its fundamental overhaul.” And for the Israelis,
Hamas’ win may have the “virtue of creating clarity in their political
debate.”

The competition between India and China to become the world’s fastest
growing superpower may be hotting up, but for India food and shelter
are more important than a burgeoning economy, says Sunanda Kisor
Datta-Ray in the South China Morning Post (subscription required). “Political India baulks at
privatisation, because of fears of the retrenchment that would occur
when massive state undertakings were sold off,” and the idea of
increased productivity at the expense of people’s lives and well-being
is just not an option. “Ultimately, reform is not about making the rich
richer, but lifting millions out of poverty.” Globalisation will win
far more supporters when it can provide the essentials – bread,
clothing and a house.

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