China

AN IMAGE PROBLEM

The Chinese embassy in Canberra has alleged that the “misreading of and overreaction” to a Twitter post by diplomat Zhao Lijian by Australian politicians and media is an attempt to deflect public attention from Australian war crimes, blame China “for the worsening of bilateral ties”, and, in the accusation probably closest to the mark, an “attempt to stoke domestic nationalism”.

The comments come as the ABC reports Scott Morrison has turned to Chinese social media platform WeChat to again press his government’s position, while political computer graphic artist Fu Yu aka Qilin has put out a video explaining he created the image because he was furious over revelations in the Brereton report and called on the prime minister to put his “attention and effort on his domestic affairs”.

Elsewhere, The Australian ($) reports that Australian embassy officials have met Chinese counterparts in Beijing to seek a formal apology over the image, while The Guardian reports the French and New Zealand governments have joined Australia’s criticisms.

Finally, lest the debate over war crimes in Afghanistan be side-tracked by state-sanctioned trolling and horrific images that perhaps are not altogether different to News Corp cartoons, The Guardian has uncovered a photograph of an Australian soldier drinking beer out of a dead Taliban fighter’s prosthetic leg in a special forces bar.

PS: In another example of international solidarity, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a group of 200 global MPs, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), has launched a campaign for Australian wine after the sector was hit with tariffs of up to 212% by China.

BORDERS START TO REOPEN

As the ABC explains, the Western Australian government yesterday announced plans to lift its borders to Victoria and NSW from 12.01am Tuesday December 8, although it still considers South Australia a “medium risk” state and will continue to require 14-day quarantines until at least December 11.

Premier Mark McGowan labelled it a “remarkable achievement” for Victoria to pass WA’s benchmark of 28 days without community spread, and he expects New South Wales will reach the same milestone on Friday.

The announcement came as South Australia, which has now clocked in two days of no new cases, opened its border to Victoria.

PS: While America’s FDA will now consider both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccine candidates for emergency approval in mid-December, meaning drugs could be rolled-out by Christmas, The Sydney Morning Herald explains that it will still be months into 2021 before anyone in Australia gets a shot.

A SAFE DEBT?

The Australian ($) reports that pandemic budgets will see state government debt more than double to nearly $500 billion within four years, a level that exceeds the peak rate of borrowing as a share of GDP seen in the early 1990s recession.

The figures, which the paper notes leaves states exposed to credit rating downgrades, came after Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick handed down a budget that will see debt increase to $130 billion by 2023-24 amid increased borrowings and falling revenue. In a reminder that not even a pandemic can shake deficit anxiety, Dick emphasised the figures are still lower than NSW and Victoria.

Finally, while the budget joins eastern neighbours in going hard on “renewable energy zones“, market analysts speaking to The Guardian have labelled the state government’s forecasts that the volume of coal and petroleum exports will rebound and grow as “delusional”.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

State against state, debt against debt.

And whichever way you run the debt numbers, Queensland’s come out lower than New South Wales’.

Cameron Dick

While Labor is traditionally on the receiving end of bad faith deficit ads, the Queensland treasurer gives it a red hot go by turning pandemic-era spending into a State of Origin meme.

CRIKEY RECAP

Australia shocked, SHOCKED to discover China is a brutal regime

“For decades, and in the face of evidence, Australian policymakers have told themselves they could compartmentalise when it came to Australia’s relationship with China: the grisly, brutal nature of the Communist Party’s tyranny could be put to one side as a ‘difference of values’, as something to be overlooked in the focus on its extraordinary success in lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, while we got on with the business of making as much money as possible from the huge Chinese market.”


Beijing scores a direct hit. Australia loses out to China’s ‘shitpost diplomacy’

“The post had plenty of irony — China having a crack at the Special Air Service’s behaviour in Afghanistan in spite of its own appalling human rights record. It also contained a kernel of truth — lest we forget, amid all the sabre-rattling, our troops are in fact accused of slitting the throats of Afghan children — it’s all there on page 120 of the Brereton report.

“But what puts this squarely in the realm of shitposting was how it was so obviously designed to piss off Canberra. And it worked, drawing a full-blown display of defensive Team Australia hyperventilating from both sides of politics and the press gallery (they’re largely a United Front when it comes to China). “


Dispute over medals reveals more powerful networks behind Australia’s special forces

“Less than two weeks after the release of the shocking Brereton report that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, the political resolve to confront one of the country’s most shameful chapters has already started to shift.

“Despite the defence force (ADF) initially backing the report in full, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have now intervened in a key recommendation to strip all 3000 Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers who served in that war of their medals.”

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THE COMMENTARIAT

PM needs a cool head to deal with Beijing ($) — Paul Kelly (The Australian): “The China that Australia must manage is a profoundly dysfunctional entity riddled with contradictions — an economic powerhouse but a Communist Party autocracy, arrogant yet vulnerable, projecting strength yet betraying weakness, exploiting Western openness but addicted to internal tyranny, a leadership obsessed with gaining international legitimacy whose behaviour casts a permanent shadow over that aspiration.”

We need to use the pandemic to confront the weakness in our safety netSally McManus (The Sydney Morning Herald): “We know our institutions held up during this crisis — but we must not forget the people who got us through. Cleaners, healthcare workers, transport workers, supermarket and warehouse workers. It was the workers in our post offices, electricity and water workers keeping the lights on and the water flowing.”

Our national culture of denialBobuq Sayed (Meanjin): “The population of Afghan-Australians, some 50,000 or more, have been erased in this coverage, further emphasising the disposability with which we are treated here and abroad. It is this very disposability that feeds into the culture of war crimes among ADF soldiers. My humble attempt to centre the innocent victims of the Brereton Report was met with a spate of hate baiting attack articles in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Much of the rhetoric, including a claim that I was ‘driven by an animosity towards the Australian way of life’, is much the same that other people of colour have endured for daring to speak out publicly on injustice.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • ACTU Secretary Sally McManus will deliver “The Australian Social Contract: What has COVID taught us?” at the National Press Club.

  • The High Court is expected to issue a judgment on healthcare in offshore detention.

  • Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe will deliver her first speech to parliament.

  • Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe will appear before at an economics committee hearing.