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Published: Australian Financial Review

The horrific bikie attack in the main hall of the Qantas Departure lounge has the head of the AFP, Mick Keelty, making a lame and none too intelligent excuse as to why violence amounting to terrorism went unchecked by his officers and the systems which he claims are in place to prevent this type of attack.

Keelty claimed the attack appeared to be well planned and that it occurred quickly, as reasons in mitigation of the failure of his officers to respond. I would have thought most terrorist attacks would have these characteristics as the hallmark of an attack.

Keelty is faced with a failure of his surveillance systems and the rapid response of officers charged with airport security. This failure is likely to be based on poor training and poor leadership. All of which are Keelty’s responsibility.

Keelty has been quick to bask in praise but very slow to accept responsibility when things go wrong, such as the Solomons, Haneef, failure to intercept the record levels of heroin coming into Australia and now this airport fiasco.

Keelty has done well out of the war on terror. He has built an empire on the back of it. But he is so blinded by his own formula for dealing with nasty middle-east terrorists that he quite overlooked any other form of danger to public safety including natural events.

He should be sacked.

Published online Canberra Times: Opinion

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/opinion/editorial/general/diplomats-need-to-practise-street-cred/1464850.aspx

The Lowy Institute study Australia’s Diplomatic Deficit, Reinvesting in Our Instruments of International Policy shines a light into some of the darker recesses of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is long overdue and the Government would do well to take its recommendations seriously.

It was a study undertaken by the Lowy Institute and chaired by Allan Gyngell, a former diplomat and now executive director of the Lowy Institute. The report is long-winded but does make some valid points. Australia does need to enhance its consular service, and giving it a separate director is a good idea.

In my opinion consular staff require particular and continual training. They need specific language training for the country they are to serve in, and they (and their spouse) need access to counselling on a regular, as needed, basis. All consular duties are difficult but they receive recognition only at a time of crisis. The role of consular officers needs enhanced recognition and perhaps a pay loading in particularly difficult posts, over and above hardship post allowances.

Public diplomacy is a waste of time and money. It is impossible to spin away nasty facts such as children in detention, the Northern Territory intervention, Aboriginal health, the Government’s failure to act on climate change and the Hanif affair.

For better or worse and it has been for worse foreign ministries are stuck with the stupidities of the government of the day. Save money, put it into language training.

The report makes a strong point about the inadequacy of language training for diplomatic officers. All DFAT officers should speak at least one foreign language. It is a disgrace when an agency such as the Australian Federal Police has more money for language training than DFAT.

Australia has too many posts in Europe and not enough in our areas of primary interest and responsibility. The report identifies these glaring weaknesses and, in view of the deteriorating international environment, they should be urgently.

Published: ABC Unleashed http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2499656.htm

For the past week or so the government has been softening up the Australian public for an announcement that it intends increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan. The pitch has not been enhanced by the death of an Australian soldier from 7RAR in Afghanistan on 16 March.

Sticking firmly to the Gallipoli principle, which is to send Australian troops overseas to die under another nation’s command for a campaign which cannot be won, Kevin Rudd, Stephen Smith and Joel Fitzgibbon have steadfastly refused to do their own thinking or take independent action. The war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not winnable by the conventional application of arms. The NATO and US troops cannot kill their way to ‘victory’ or into the hearts and minds of the people, particularly when the old, the women folk and children are increasingly collateral damage. And don’t believe the cover that the Taliban have been using these people as shields for their operations, they are not.

Obama has indicated a willingness to engage in talks with moderate elements of the Taliban. That is a start, but the only way progress will be made is by talking to the radical elements, no matter how distasteful that may be. Some commentators in Australia, no doubt out of sympathy with the long suffering people of Afghanistan, have urged that talks not be held and that military action be stepped up. The only effect of that will be the deaths of more Afghans and the radicalisation of the bereaved. It’s not rocket science but listening to policy makers and the academic cheer squad you would think it was.

The fear of being branded a cut and run advocate, has silenced the debate on alternatives. It is not cutting and running to hold discussions with those you are fighting and in the process try and ascertain what their aims and objectives are. It is crude and lazy to claim the Taliban are motivated by an extreme belief in their faith. One of the prime motivators of conflict in Afghanistan is poverty and it has been so for 200 or more years. There are not enough resources to go around. Religion is the opiate of the masses (no pun intended). It helps cope with the death of children and grinding poverty. It is also a vehicle and a network for action and assistance within and outside the country. The culture of violence and payback is long entrenched. Just ask the British and Russians.

The process of negotiation might be used to extract concessions, such as the right of girls to attend school and women to work. Future aid should be tied to objectives such as these.

But don’t expect miracles. Topography, climate, local knowledge and support and time are on the side of the Taliban. Not so long ago they were known as the Mujahideen and as such were the friends and allies of the US. Through the 600 plus CIA operatives, weaving a path either side of the border, the US encouraged the growth and sale of opium in order to put money in the pockets of the Mujahideen and thereby help the US defray the cost of the war against the Russians.

At that time, all through the eighties, it was an objective of the US to hold the Soviets on the ground and watch them bleed to death. They were in no hurry for the Soviets to leave, arguing the longer the war went on the more it would hurt the USSR – and it did.

It is feasible that might also be an objective of the Taliban with respect to the US and NATO. All the more reason to begin discussions, no matter how difficult that might be, with power and operations spread across a number of different groups and tribal organisations.

Some argue that the Taliban must be crushed as part of the process of crushing fundamental Islam (like crushing communism, remember when that was all the go) and that for as long as the Taliban roams free, Al Qaeda will have a protector. Al Qaeda exists more in the head than it does on the ground, a bit like the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa which had the police and army spooked for over 10 years.

Rudd and Smith have demonstrated a characteristic marked in Australian politicians; that they are most comfortable when being pushed around and told what to do by powerful friends.

This is a dud government. If people were not so frightened by the state of the economy, Rudd would be down in the polls. Like drowning sailors they are clinging onto him in the (vain) hope that he will save them. For the moment, with suspended belief, they have convinced themselves that together with his chief advisers they know what they are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. One has only to look at Wong and water or the complete fiasco on Carbon Trading, renewable energy, Alcopops, the risky and therefore dangerous first home buyer scheme to know that this is a government totally devoid of ideas, policy and courage. They lack common sense and the will to act; it should therefore come as little surprise that given their manifest weaknesses all they can do is respond to external pressure. Were it not for the Rudd clone, Peter Costello, wrecking the Liberal Party with his ugly self indulgence, Malcolm Turnbull might get the chance to point some of this out and give us the Opposition we deserve.

Link to article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/19/2520379.htm

The only effect of stepping up military action will be the deaths of more Afghans and the radicalisation of the bereaved. (AFP: David Furst, file photo)

For the past week or so the Government has been softening up the Australian public for an announcement that it intends increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan. The pitch has not been enhanced by the death of an Australian soldier from 7RAR in Afghanistan on 16 March.

Sticking firmly to the Gallipoli principle, which is to send Australian troops overseas to die under another nation’s command for a campaign which cannot be won, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon have steadfastly refused to do their own thinking or take independent action. The war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not winnable by the conventional application of arms. The NATO and US troops cannot kill their way to ‘victory’ or into the hearts and minds of the people, particularly when the old, the women and children are increasingly collateral damage. And don’t believe the cover that the Taliban have been using these people as shields for their operations – they are not.

US President Barack Obama has indicated a willingness to engage in talks with moderate elements of the Taliban. That is a start, but the only way progress will be made is by talking to the radical elements, no matter how distasteful that may be. Some commentators in Australia, no doubt out of sympathy with the long-suffering people of Afghanistan, have urged that talks not be held and that military action be stepped up. The only effect of that will be the deaths of more Afghans and the radicalisation of the bereaved. It’s not rocket science, but listening to policy makers and the academic cheer squad you would think it was.

The fear of being branded a cut-and-run advocate has silenced the debate on alternatives. It is not cutting and running to hold discussions with those you are fighting and in the process try and ascertain what their aims and objectives are. It is crude and lazy to claim the Taliban are motivated by an extreme belief in their faith. One of the prime motivators of conflict in Afghanistan is poverty and it has been so for 200 or more years. There are not enough resources to go around. Religion is the opiate of the masses (no pun intended). It helps cope with the death of children and grinding poverty. It is also a vehicle and a network for action and assistance within and outside the country. The culture of violence and payback is long entrenched. Just ask the British and Russians.

The process of negotiation might be used to extract concessions, such as the right of girls to attend school and women to work. Future aid should be tied to objectives such as these.

But don’t expect miracles. Topography, climate, local knowledge and support, and time are on the side of the Taliban. Not so long ago they were known as the Mujaheddin and as such were the friends and allies of the US. Through the 600-plus CIA operatives, weaving a path either side of the border, the US encouraged the growth and sale of opium in order to put money in the pockets of the Mujaheddin and thereby help the US defray the cost of the war against the Russians.

All through the 80s it was an objective of the US to hold the Soviets on the ground and watch them bleed to death. They were in no hurry for the Soviets to leave, arguing the longer the war went on the more it would hurt the USSR – and it did.

It is feasible that might also be an objective of the Taliban with respect to the US and NATO. All the more reason to begin discussions, no matter how difficult that might be, with power and operations spread across a number of different groups and tribal organisations.

Some argue that the Taliban must be crushed as part of the process of crushing fundamental Islam (like crushing communism – remember when that was all the go) and that for as long as the Taliban roams free, Al Qaeda will have a protector. Al Qaeda exists more in the head than it does on the ground, a bit like the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa which had the police and army spooked for over 10 years.

Mr Rudd and Mr Smith have demonstrated a characteristic marked in Australian politicians; that they are most comfortable when being pushed around and told what to do by powerful friends.

The Canberra Times – Online Opinion

There is probably not much that the Rudd Government can do to restore the health of the Australian economy in the face of the global economic collapse. The financial future is a guessing game, much like predicting the course and outcome of war. The pace and extent of the collapse has all the indicators of developing into a global depression. With this a distinct possibility, it behoves the Government, the Opposition, public servants, advisers, academics and the media to study all aspects of the Great Depression.

The study and analysis of history is not a strong Australian characteristic. History has been used to promote outcomes, prejudice, nationalism and jingoism at the expense of critical examination and understanding.

Last year I quoted Australian economist Dr C.B.Schedvin in relation to the developing recession. His research appears to me to be even more pertinent now. At the time his book Australia and the Great Depression was published in 1970, he was senior lecturer in economic history at the University of Sydney.

Schedvin’s book dropped off our radar in recent years, perhaps because we believed that a second great depression, like a second world war, was not possible. However it is timely to revisit his thesis.

Schedvin argues that, ”deliberate policy measures were comparatively unimportant in influencing the nature of the contraction or the speed of the recovery”. This is something the Government, Treasury and the Reserve Bank might examine.

Schedvin says, ”Contrary to the widely held belief about the high degree of control exercised by policy-forming instrumentalities during the Depression, it appears that policy merely followed the market in most instances.”

And here is the rub: ”… the massive withdrawal from the international economy that was forced during the early 1930s predicated the nature of the recovery process … it was on the basis of import replacement of manufactures that recovery was forged.

”Between mid-1931 and 1935 most aspects of policy retarded the process of recovery … The modicum of unemployment relief expenditure that was sanctioned was not only totally inadequate but was also distorted by an unrealistic insistence that expenditure be confined to ‘reproductive’ works.”