China, Hu and Rudd:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “China will do whatever it likes. Hu knew” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane was too quick to throw in the towel when he wrote there’s nothing we can do about freeing Stern Hu. Let’s assume he is a political prisoner. Kevin Rudd loves 10 point plans. Try this one for programmatic specificity:

  1. Kevin Rudd should pick up the phone to Hu Jintao. The guy who got duchessed has to pay for the call. Them’s the rules established by the Brits.
  2. Say sorry, Kev. It worked for the Aborigines and they are descended from the Chinese. Say it in Mandarin and repeat it in Cantonese so there’ll be no misunderstanding.
  3. Send a hostage negotiator to Beijing. Matthew Mitcham is the right man for this job. A series of free exhibition dives should engender some goodwill. Help to break the ice.
  4. Offer to exchange Stern Hu for another hostage, say Albert Tse. Jessica might get a little upset but there is a lot riding on this.
  5. Shift the blame onto the Brits. They are the ones who control Rio Tinto and they were the ones who shafted Chinalco. Blame shifting worked a treat for John Howard. You just need to offshore it.
  6. Pay a ransom. Give them Woomera. Throw in a satellite dish.
  7. Make Rio Tinto offer the Chinese 40% off last year’s iron ore price or you’ll imprison Tom Albanese in The Lodge and put Anthony Albanese in charge of Rio.
  8. Invite Madame Fu to sit beside you for a joint interview where you both get stuck into Paul Skinner.
  9. Scrap the FIRB and just take the Chinese investment money in the future. Business is business. Wayne Swan made a bad call by extending the Chinalco review process by 90 days.
  10. Disendorse Michael Danby for seeing the Dalai Lama and give Penny Wong his seat in the lower house next election and then make her the treasurer instead of Wayne Swan. The Chinese regime will trust her more.

Les Heimann writes: I remember as a young kid playing rugby and being introduced to the other team. “Geez there big,” I thought. Well it’s true: China is big and we are little but so what?

Bernard Keane tells us to get over it. China is just a great big bad bully and if you want to play with China be prepared to get belted, thrashed and stomped on. Well Bernard if you don’t play to win you are guaranteed to lose. I’d like to think we play to win.

When your opponent is a big bruiser you’ve got to earn respect — even if it means getting hurt in the process. We have to earn some respect from China. We earn this by standing on our digs and punching to the kneecap if that’s all we can reach but we must not lose face in the process.

Now is the time of Machiavelli. We must seek to best our opponent but in a clever way. In this there may be sacrifices and we need silence to succeed.

Terry Mills writes: The political argy-bargy over Stern Hu focuses on the fact that, from an Australian legal perspective, he is an Australian citizen by virtue of Australia’s recognition of the concept of dual citizenship and this excites our diplomatic and political interest and involvement in the matter.

However, from the Chinese perspective, Stern Hu is a Chinese citizen, born and resident in China and subject to Chinese law; China does not recognise dual citizenship for any Chinese national and thus Australia’s intervention is not only unwelcome but is legally irrelevant and an interference in domestic Chinese affairs.

This conflict of international law is the nub of the problem and for China to even recognise an Australian interest in this matter would be a diplomatic concession that can only be achieved by delicate diplomatic negotiations, not tub-thumping by the federal opposition.

Vincent Burke writes: This may be an “Emperor has no clothes” comment — or total naïveté on my part — but in all the confected indignation from the Federal Opposition and some media quarters that the PM has not despatched the gunships to rescue Stern Hu, I haven’t noticed anyone seeming to even consider the possibility that he may actually have broken Chinese law — wittingly or otherwise.

Let us not jump too hastily to Confucians.

Alan Thomas writes: Could someone from the Liberal Party please explain to me the difference between Stern Hu and David Hicks and why we should intervene in the case of the former and not the latter?

David Hand writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I found the Yes Minister quote pretty funny yesterday, but the rest of your editorial and Bernard Keane’s effort was the sort of weak, left wing, apologist, hand-wringing drivel that has become all too predictable from your publication — with the usual gratuitous diatribe against the Coalition thrown in last Friday as you do your bit for Kevin.

The colonial racist straw man is pathetic, as if anyone who is offended by what even you admit is Chinese commercial thuggery has Belinda Neal-like pretentiousness and needs to, how did you put it, “get used to it”. If you paused for a moment, even you might work out that it is the hysterical media coverage you are reacting to rather than the average Australian you so often insult. And the media has form, with the Jackson orgy and the swine flu PANDEMIC. Crikey merely adds to the shallow depressing banality of it all.

There will be consequences out of the events for both China and Australia, none of them good but I think Australia does have options and I am optimistic that the government has the knowledge and political smarts to exercise them.

A bit of thoughtful analysis about this would make Crikey a more positive experience.

Rob Duckworth writes: I just wanted to say I totally agree with yesterday’s editorial comment. Keep telling it like it is and I will keep subscribing!


Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Xinjiang: more than just ‘ethnic tension’” (yesterday, item 15). Charles Richardson argues that the Xinjiang conflict is about imperialism rather than simple “ethnic tension”. But this distinction relies on sympathy not analysis. None of the comparisons he makes is clear-cut. While he might see the Serbo-Croatian conflict as “context-free ethnic rivalry”, the combatants wouldn’t. Moreover, both sides have depicted themselves as victims of imperialism. Nor would he receive universal agreement for his description of Irish nationalism as an “anti-imperial struggle”.

In Xinjiang, he describes the Han Chinese as colonists, but internal migrants would be more accurate. They have not come from a different country; they have not carved out their own enclave; they have not received special status. On this view, his statement that the Uighurs “are protesting against the threat of becoming a minority in their own land” casts their grievance as anti-migrant. The savage attacks on civilians give credence to this.

However you characterise it, the Chinese activity in Xinjiang is, from historical standards, relatively benign. There is no “colour bar” enforced against the Uighurs as in the British Empire, nor is there repression of their ethnic identity as in Tsarist Russia. Of course, there is a Uighur separatist movement, but this should not automatically be accorded support not given to others.

Richardson’s reluctance to describe separatist bombings as terrorist is not about being “fair” to the Uighurs but being biased against China.

Sydney airport:

Michael Byrne writes: Re. “Sydney airport at Richmond? So funny it might not be serious” (yesterday, item 13). Ben Sandilands puts focus on the absurdity of neglecting the Badgery’s Creek site for Sydney’s Second Airport (SSA) in favour of a site tucked away in the north west of Sydney at Richmond. A site requiring at great cost extensive works to link with existing transport infrastructure to make it work.

The move away from Badgery’s Creek as the SSA is the result of opportunistic politics at the cost of the many 100’s of thousands of people in Western Sydney who would benefit from it. It delivered a “cause” for opportunistic and short sighted politicians to “fight for their people”. Local Councils formed an outfit called Western Sydney Alliance who manufactured an anti airport campaign that became a handy promotion of their own political interests. This rag tag outfit road on the back of a wave generated by the activist hysteria of the inner city Councils that so successfully exploited the Third Runway at Mascot for their own promotion and cause.

Of course, the inner city is well endowed with the political activism of the comfortable set who live and work within their close city environs. Not so in western Sydney. The struggle is to generate numerous permanent employment to the west of Liverpool to save the daily trek east. And north. Badgery’s Creek as the SSA will deliver permanent job and transport infrastructure to local people.

So where are our civic leaders? The reality is Western Sydney has been represented by local members, in the main Labor Party, who lack vision, energy and courage. Civic leaders, such as Mark Latham, are rare beings. Notwithstanding matters at the top of the hill, locally he stood out as an advocate for what is right and good for Liverpool. Latham supported Badgery’s Creek and as such Liverpool City Council withheld from membership of the aforementioned Western Sydney Alliance. Western Sydney has long been represented by Local Council boofheads who would never let a large real benefit to the public get in the way of political benefit to themselves or their Party.

Mark Latham’s support was well positioned. The City of Liverpool, at the site where Governor Macquarie established the town 199 years ago, is equidistant from the existing Sydney Airport at Mascot and the proposed SSA at Badgery’s Creek, which is in its City boundaries. Even Liverpool’s extended suburbs are some 15 kilometres from the SSA site.

Liverpool is one of the nurseries of Australia’s population growth hosting many new child rearing families, migrant families and refugee families. Its citizens are lower on the income scale of the Sydney average but almost on par with housing loan repayments. The majority of Liverpool households are families with children. They are poorly serviced with public transport and therefore rely on car ownership and associated costs. And they travel east to work.

Liverpool is Infrastructure City — it has within its boundaries the M5/F5, the M7, the main Southern Rail Lime, the East Hills (west to east) Rail Line, the route to Kingsford Smith Airport and potentially to Sydney’s Port in Botany Bay. The location of SSA at Badgery’s Creek will be the impetus to gain the highest return on all of these public assets and provide an easier east to west work trek for local workers.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd can, in one fell swoop, display leadership and deliver real benefit by asserting his authority in placing Badgery’s Creek and all of its benefits as the SSA site before the people of Western Sydney. There would be a strong positive response to counter the inner city type town hall political opportunists. Civic leadership is the only antidote to the fear mongering that feeds on disengaged people in the absence of the full facts.

Michael Gawenda:

David Clemson writes: Michael Gawenda’s admission that after all his years in journalism, including more than six years as editor-in-chief at The Age, he had been amazed to find out that there were interesting stories at the University of Melbourne perhaps explains the loss of reputation of that newspaper since the 1980s.

It was ironic that his thoughts were revealed to readers of The Age courtesy of the University, which paid for the Voice liftout where they appeared and which is now Gawenda’s employer as Director of the University’s Centre for the Study of Advanced Journalism (a concept deserving investigation).

The University is to be commended for its contribution through this supplement to the debate on newspapers and their future. Two of the suggestions made by Gawenda and others are worth comment.

First, although it is undeniable that the business model which supported Australia’s quality newspapers is collapsing, this is not solely the reason for their decline and loss of status. The pursuit of the trivial may have reflected a general movement in society, but it has undermined their purpose and value.

Second, it is a myth that quality journalism (and its high salaries) will be preserved courtesy of a low-circulation, high-cover price print publication. None of the attempts to operate such a publication in Australia over the past 20 to 25 years have succeeded. Journalism has rarely been sold at its unsubsidised cost and is unlikely to find a market prepared to pay for it now.

The Ashes:

Chris Pearce writes: Terry Slevin (10 July, comments) wrote romantically of the BBC “depicting, not exploiting” stereotypes in its Ashes coverage. The only problem being that, as I am reliably informed, the BBC is doing no such thing. SBS’s Ashes coverage is courtesy of Sky Sports. The BBC does not hold the TV broadcast rights to the Ashes, rather, the footage was from big bad capitalist BSkyB channel Sky Sports 1.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Tamas Calderwood writes: Jim Catt (yesterday, comments) dismisses the satellite temperature record (which shows recent cooling) and says “masses of data” contradict it. Yet the Argos Buoy Program also shows slight cooling of the oceans since measurements began in 2003. Taken together, Argos and the satellites are the most accurate instruments we have to measure global temperature and they show cooling. Their measurements can’t be dismissed simply because they contradict the doomsday warming hypothesis.

If global warming is such a crisis then we need to see some warming. So where is it?

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