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The national political editor of The Daily Telegraph, Sharri Markson, has been nominated for the Sir Keith Murdoch award for excellence in journalism for breaking the story on the sordid Barnaby Joyce/Vikki Campion affair, published in her paper on 7 February.

The problem is that she did not break the story, credit for that is due to Serhan Ozturk the editor of True Crime News on 24 October, 2017. This was followed three weeks later by David Donovan, editor of Independent Australia, with a story by Ross Jones on 19 November, 2017.

Joyce stood in a by election in the seat of New England held on 2 December, 2017. Dates are important. It is alleged, and it certainly seems that way, that the embedded main stream media held off on the story until the seat, critical to the governments hold on the lower house of federal parliament, had been secured by Joyce.

But even then they cut him slack; it was only when Joyce’s new partner, Vicki Campion, was obviously pregnant that the main stream media could no longer sit on the story. Markson threw discretion to the wind and published. She gave no credit to those who had earlier broken the story

She raised the dust in the press gallery paddock. She was in fine fettle and top form – she was well placed to win the cup. She was pursued by other sections of the media impressed with her audaciousness, overlooking the fact that she had published an article defending Joyce on 20 October, 2017.

When Paul Barry of ABC Media Watch chose to credit Markson with breaking the story Dave Donovan took issue with the fact that the normal courtesies of acknowledgement had been denied.

Rather than admit their mistake Jason Whittaker of Media Watch combatively took Donovan to task. “David, we’re well aware stories were in circulation earlier…we didn’t rake over…tweeting/gossiping/blogging/reporting. The Daily Telegraph offered photographic proof of the staffer’s pregnancy and confirmed that… Joyce was the father, clearly this has triggered a wider investigation…Nothing that came before had managed to do this.” David Donovan is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery.

And as we have seen over the past week the ABC and other sections of the MSM have been prepared to accept what BuzzFeed has said about Emma Husar but were not prepared to do the same with Barnaby Joyce when True Crime News and Independent Australia ran with facts concerning Joyce’s flouting of the law. BuzzFeed ran with rumours relating to Husar, Independent Australia ran with facts, different treatment of two politicians on opposite sides of the fence and two journals who covered the stories.

What Whittaker appeared to saying was that Independent Australia and True Crime News were not serious political journals and that they dealt only in gossip and innuendo implying that the Daily Telegraph does not. He refused to countenance the notion that they could break a story.  He should be reminded that before it was closed down by ABC Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, the ABC on line magazine, The Drum, broke many stories, which the Daily Telegraph refused to run.

If the ABC were not so elitist and a little more open to considering non mainstream information, facts and opinions it might not be constipated from the constant LNP/IPA diet. Sugar hits are not part of the diet of intelligent and concerned citizens seeking the truth. They comb the net, referencing and cross checking sources that put the Daily Telegraph and Media Watch to shame.

At a time when The Australian and The Daily Telegraph have become the Volkischer Beobachter and Der Sturmer, are the equivalent alternative voices in Australia to  La Libre Belgique, L’Humanite’ and Sztuka i Narod to be scoffed at and overlooked? I would suggest at peril to democracy.

Sharri Markson is engaged on an exercise of deception. The truth behind the Joyce cover up goes to the heart of Australian journalism and all that ails it. The fact that the prize in this instance is the Sir Keith Murdoch Award is apt. Murdoch denigrated the great Australian General, Monash, by claiming that he was unfit to lead the Australian Corps in France because he was a Jew. He lobbied General Haig to have the appointment overturned. Fortunately he was ignored. All the Australian senior officers supported Monash, who went on to successfully change the face of battle on the Western Front.

Markson should graciously acknowledge the truth and give credit where credit is due. She will be a better person for it.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat.

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The South African Government has said that it is

‘ … offended by the statements which has been attributed to the Australian Home Affairs Minister and a full retraction is expected.’

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has gratuitously and outrageously interfered in the internal affairs of South Africa.

His comments on what he termed “the horrific circumstances” relating to white South African farmers, at the urging of white right-wing extremists, has done great harm to finely balanced race relations in South Africa and to the relationship between the two countries.

Had he sought a briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) he would have discovered that the situation relating to the “persecution” of white farmers bears no resemblance to his ill-informed remarks. The Australian High Commission in Pretoria keeps DFAT very well informed.

I feel well qualified to comment. As a young diplomat posted to South Africa at the height of apartheid, 1976-79, I chose to assist those opposing the regime. There seemed little point in helping it to survive. Apartheid was not something to be observed, like the fundamental evil of fascism, it had to be destroyed. For me, there was no other option. I sheltered people running from the police in my home, I delivered messages for people who were banned and could not use phones for fear of interception and police brutality, and I took people to safety in neighbouring countries under the protection of my diplomatic immunity.

I got to know many activists including Steve BikoZwelakhe SisuluDr Nthato MotlanaDr Mamphela Ramphele and Donald Woods, whom I assisted in leaving South Africa. This escape was portrayed in the Richard Attenborough film, Cry Freedom. Together with my predecessor, Di Johnstone, I helped found Ifa Lethu, which, among other things, assists with the education of youngsters in black townships.

No independent observer will deny that attacks on farm properties have occurred. The reasons vary. South Africa has a population of 56 million. In 2016-17, 19,000 murders were committed of which 74 occurred on farms — of these, 60% were white farmers, their families and/or friends, 34% were black workers and 5% were of Asian origin. There were 49 deaths in 2015-16. 72% of agricultural land is owned by white farmers with whites comprising 8% of the population. South Africa ranks tenth in the world in relation to violent deaths, Jamaica ranks sixth and Brazil 16th — with a population of 200 million there were 65,000 murders in 2012.

Black violence is endemic in South Africa with blacks living in poverty are the most likely to be affected. Fatal violence associated with theft also affects whites in the suburbs. Black violence is a sad legacy of apartheid, which relied on the use of state-sponsored armed force to exist and maintain the segregation of blacks from whites. The system was cruel and ruthless and the response to it was often violent.

Some white farmers have not accepted change. They continue to support the notion of apartheid of which they were a primary beneficiary. They are often right wing and often treat their black workforce badly — showing little respect, with some resorting to violence as a means of enforcing their will. Some still fly the old South African flag. They live in the past. It is these sad and divisive characters that Dutton has chosen to support.

Land redistribution was not addressed by the corrupt former President Zuma. The new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has put it back on the agenda, much to the annoyance of white farmers who are alleging persecution. Ramaphosa, who I know to be a good person, is seeking to act in the interests of all of South Africans. Reform is overdue — it is 25 years since apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became President.

How dare Dutton seek to nurture white supremacy in South Africa? As a nation, Australia was at the fore in seeking to end apartheid. Dutton is trashing a legacy that was difficult to achieve and hard to build. Former Prime Minister John Howard did nothing to help — he did not lift a finger to oppose apartheid and nor did Abbott or any of those who have followed in his right-wing Coalition.

I know the South African Government is deeply offended and angry and will not let the issue rest until there is redress to the insult. Dutton – and for that matter, Turnbull – have no idea the harm that has been done to the relationship.

The South African Government has said that it is

‘ … offended by the statements which has been attributed to the Australian Home Affairs Minister and a full retraction is expected.’

In offering fast-track visas to South African farmers, Dutton had the temerity to state that they were being offered protection in a “civilised country”. The dumb arrogance of that statement has left not only South Africa gobsmacked but many other states in Africa and Asia. They are asking in what way does Dutton consider Australia civilised, in light of his policies toward refugees?

Left unaddressed and unrepented, Dutton’s tirade will affect trade, business, sporting and educational relationships. I have been informed by the Australian High Commission that there are currently 52 Australian travel agents touring South Africa as guests of the South African Tourism Commission. It can be expected that if relations deteriorate further, these exchanges will end. Last year, 10.3 million tourists visited South Africa.

Dutton needs to eat humble pie. This is a major diplomatic gaffe, by a man steeped in ignorant hubris. He has brought shame to Australia. Nothing short of a full apology will suffice.

It is my opinion that the right wing of Australian politics is destructive, negative, cruel and shallow; it has brought nothing of value to the country. I am sick of them.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired Australian diplomat. Among his many diplomatic postings, he served in South Africa from 1976 to 1979. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @bruce_haigh.

Photo:AP

Duterte talks the Language of the people, he says what they want to hear.

The Philippines is undergoing unprecedented growth, last year said to be 6 per cent, fuelled by remittances and foreign investment, mainly from China and South Korea.

Traffic in the major cities is congested and the single biggest inhibitor to productivity improvement, a point made recently by the World Bank. Duterte has threatened to remove the ubiquitous Jeepney from the roads, but owners have bravely pushed back, prepared to face the gun-toting law-enforcing cowboys who pass for police.

The vigilante pogrom against the drug trade has its origins in a gun culture inherited from the United States during the 60 years it was colonial overlord. Stung by domestic and international criticism including the Catholic Church, human rights groups and the EU, which is withholding aid, Duterte announced new policing measures against alleged drug dealers, which seems to be to ask questions and shoot rather than shoot and then answer questions. He has scoffed at reports that the International Criminal Court will begin a preliminary examination of extra judicial killings associated with the drug trade. 

Duterte is popular with the people, even down to his crude and sexist ‘‘humour’’. They see him as down to earth in a Barnaby Joyce sort of way. The Philippine people have not been served well in terms of leadership over the last 70 years, with one ruling family replacing another, serving only self interest on the back of grinding poverty bolstered by large families which has the support of the church. 

Duterte talks the language of the people, he says what they want to hear; they believe he will deliver. It will not take much to convert this populism into a dictatorship, although the military remain wary of him. Nonetheless they were pleased with the extension of martial law in the province of Mindanao in January for a further 12 months. They are worried about his flirtation with China which had him claim in early February that he would not mind if the Philippines became a province of China. 

In 2012 the UN recognised the Philippines’ claim to the 13-millionhectare undersea plateau known as the Benham or Philippine Rise. A Chinese research vessel, Ke Xue Hao, recently concluded a month-long scientific survey along the rise apparently under the auspices of a secret agreement negotiated with the President’s office. China is seeking naming rights to a number of undersea features within the Philippine Basin including a ridge ‘‘discovered’’ by the Li Siguang Hoa in 2004. 

At the conclusion of the Chinese research mission Duterte announced that he would allow no more foreign exploration of the Rise, his domestic critics are cynical believing that he has rolled over to the Chinese who have not offered to share their research and Duterte has not pressed them to do so. The Philippine foreign office said contentious issues were raised at the second meeting of the six monthly Philippine-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism held in Manila on February 13, however there was no communique. 

At best, Duterte has been half hearted in opposing Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea which, with the construction of bases, is seen by most Filipinos as a fait accompli. There is concern to maintain sovereignty over territory claimed by the Philippines but there is none of the paranoia expressed in the media, national dialogue or by politicians towards China that exists in Australia. 

Concern at Chinese attempts to extend their domestic influence, and measures to contain or prevent unreasonable interference should be crafted, focused and routine but observed from a distance. Australia’s response appears mildly hysterical, racist and driven by the Murdoch press but Rupert has an axe to grind with China. 

The regional response to China has been firm and reasonable however the United States is allowed far more latitude than it deserves or has earned. Its influence is neither benign nor altruistic; as with China everything it does is designed to advance domestic interests. Through surveillance, financial expenditure, bribes and soft diplomacy it has infiltrated major institutions in Australia, particularly defence, large corporations and the political process where they intersect with US interests and requirements. 

Duterte is holding the United States at arm’s length, which is viewed favourably by the average Filipino. Ninety years of American involvement in Filipino politics has left a negative legacy. From 1944 until 1991 the US had a major military presence centred on Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base (The US is applying pressure to reopen the base). 

The US translated its power and influence into supporting corrupt ruling families who gave rise to corrupt presidents and politicians who in turn supported the US presence in the Philippines. 

The United States recently deployed the carrier USS Carl Vinson with support vessels to the South China Sea, causing international flights to be diverted. 

Australia, Japan, France and Britain have all undertaken port visits to Manila. This modern gun boat diplomacy is useful in asserting a presence and interest in the region but it hasn’t caused China to change step. 

This demonstrates an admirable commitment to the Philippines. However trade and investment lags where it should be thriving in a country where English is widely spoken. Australia needs to build closer institutional ties with the Philippines as well as enhance student and people to- people ties. Incredibly there are no direct flights from Perth to the Philippines, despite both being in the same time zone. Business opportunities go begging. 

Duterte, like Trump, is thin skinned. He hates criticism, particularly relating to his appalling human rights record; however there is more to the Philippines than Duterte. 

If Malcolm Turnbull can get along with Trump, he should be able to find enough common ground to strengthen economic, educational, diplomatic and security ties with the Philippines. 

Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat 

Former diplomat Bruce Haigh has just returned from Mindanao, where he has been investigating the ISIS insurgency and the Australian response.

PHILLIPINES President Rodrigo Duterte predicted on 12 July that ISIS backed Abu Sayyaf rebels, who seized the central business district of Marawi on 23 May, would be evicted in 10-15 days. It is now mid-September and there is no sign of the Philippine Army loosening the rebels grip.

 

Perhaps military commanders and the President are seeking to limit politically unacceptable casualties, confident that the rebels will sooner or later run out of food and ammunition. But there is no sign of that and the suspicion must be that they are being resupplied. How? Who knows in a chronically corrupt Philippines?

The Australian Government, together with other regional governments, have taken the view that a prolongation of the siege is giving encouragement and confidence to Islamic extremists in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines to undertake further high profile military action. Australia has deployed two P3 Orion surveillance aircraft to Mindanao to provide intelligence to the Philippine Army.

On the 8 September, Minister for Defence Marise Payne announced the deployment of Australian troops to the southern Philippines to assist in training. Australian troops are more acceptable to Duterte than American troops and, depending on which regiments they are drawn from, may be able to undertake “active” or “live” training.

Sidney Jones, Director of the Jakarta-based, Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict, believes Marawi has heralded in a new phase of regional Islamic militancy. She fears more moderate groups in the Philippines such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been marginalised. Negotiations that might once have taken place between them and the government over the future of an autonomous or independent Islamic region on Mindanao are less likely in the face of the growing influence of Maute-led, Abu Sayyaf militants now backed by overseas ISIS fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. One of my interlocutors in Davao City last month claimed that the army had found 100 Indonesian passports in a recaptured part of Marawi.

Journalists and academics that I spoke to in Davao are critical of the government in Manila. They claim Marawi is a result of policies imposed on the region that lack understanding of local complexities. The genesis of the problem dates back several centuries to Spanish and American colonial occupation and exploitation of independent Islamic Sultanates. If there is a parallel the frustrations and aspirations of the Moro people might be compared to the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

However, what now considerably complicates an autonomy dispute is the presence of foreign ISIS fighters and operatives who have ingratiated and grafted themselves onto Abu Sayyaf, until now an indigenous militant group. Compounding this is the funding provided by Saudi Arabia through fundamentalist NGOs in Marawi and other parts of what is termed the Autonomous Region of Mindanao.

The Saudi’s adhere to a fundamentalist Sunni belief known as Wahhabism within a broader framework of Salafism, both advocate violence toward opponents of those religious strands. The Saudis export Wahhabism through the funding of madrasas (schools) and NGO’s in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines (Mercy Centres), even Australia. Other Sunnis and Shias condemn Wahhabism, which has been linked to the promotion of extremism and directly to the development of ISIS. Activities associated with institutions funded by Wahhabi (Saudi) money should be banned throughout the region. It is an exercise in guilt and self-delusion, as many in the ruling Saudi royal ruling regime observe rigid Salafi beliefs in the breach, preferring venality, misogyny and mendaciousness. The Saudi’s have strong protectors in the form of the U.S. government.

Some weeks ago, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop undertook to give $20m over four years to the reconstruction of Marawi. It is chicken feed. One of the reasons, if not the primary reason for the acceptance of the Wahhabi fundamentalist message is the anger and frustration engendered by poverty and the indifference, corruption and greed amongst the ruling elites in the aforementioned countries. Poverty and anger are the ingredients for radical politics — once Communism, now fundamentalism.

Australia needs to focus its aid budget at the grass roots in Asia. Stability, and therefore business and trade, depend on the maintenance of social cohesion and consensus. However misguided and misconceived, calls for the creation of a caliphate fall into the category of an attempt at social change, in much the same way as the early Communists, who unleashed rivers of blood and mayhem to create Elysium. Whatever Australia does with respect to fighting and addressing violent fundamentalism in the region it should with circumspection. It was a mistake for the head of ASIS to allow publicity with Duterte and for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence to bang a drum over defence co-operation with the Philippines. All such displays do is to heighten the security risks to Embassy staff who of necessity must get out and about in the country. Risks are also increased to Australian aid workers, business people and tourists.

Finally, in my opinion, the question of joint naval patrols to interdict arms and ISIS personnel in the archipelagic waters separating Indonesia and the Philippines should be revisited.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat. He has served in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and run the Indonesia section. Bruce still visits the Philippines and Mindanao from time to time and was last there a month ago. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceHaigh2.

Australia’s interests are strongest in our region, so why do we prioritise events in the Middle East, Europe and America? Former diplomat Bruce Haigh reports.

AUSTRALIA’S INTEREST in the politics and prosperity of South East Asia is stronger than that of the United States — however you might think that was not the case by the priority Australia gives to events in the Middle East, Europe and America.

Australia is inextricably linked to South East Asia through geography, trade, education and population. It is where the greatest expansion in our trade will take place. Close or linked time zones make business easier. Shorter air and shipping routes enhance contact and productivity.

Why, then, does Australia expend so much money, lives and time trying to crush the Taliban and ISIS in Iraq and Syria when we have a potentially bigger and more complex problem emerging on our door step?

For decades, the radical Muslim organisation, Abu Sayyaf, has fought the Philippine army and police in an attempt to establish a caliphate on the island of Mindanao. They have recently been joined by ISIS fighters forced out of the Middle East. Their route to Mindanao is through Malaysia and Indonesia by boat.

On 23 May, fighting broke out between the Philippine Army and Abu Sayyaf in the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi on Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf is led by Isnilon Hapilon, a man with a US$5 million bounty on his head. He has joined with the Maute group led by two brothers and both groups have been bolstered by ISIS fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya.

The fighting, which was predicted to be over in a week, looks set to drag on into a second month. This attests to the skill and experience of the ISIS fighters, who have deployed resources, including strategically placed snipers, on the basis of local knowledge provided by Abu Sayyaf. They occupy the business district of Marawi.

The Philippine Army has used armoured vehicles and conducted air strikes. The U.S. has deployed a small group of special forces personnel and are providing intelligence through Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance. The President of the Philippines, Rodrego Duterte has denied knowledge of U.S. involvement.

Mawari had a population of 200,000 many have fled the fighting, some are being held hostage by the fundamentalists. Around 400 civilians, soldiers and radicals have been killed, with around twice that number wounded, including children and ABC journalist, Adam Harvey.

Abu Sayyaf was connected to the 2002 Bali bombing. Extremism and membership of extremist groups is growing in Indonesia and Malaysia, and the presence and influence of ISIS is expanding.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have reacted to the threat with joint naval and air patrols of the Sulu Sea, through which ISIS fighters pass. The patrols began in mid-June. Singapore has undertaken to share intelligence processed through the Changi Naval Base.

Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is aware of these regional developments. In January, she warned of the possibility of ISIS fighters returning from the Middle East seeking to establish a caliphate on Mindanao. As it transpired her intelligence was good.

Until recently, Australia had not sought to act or get involved. On the contrary, reacting to U.S. pressure, on 29 May, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a further 30 Australian troops would be sent to Afghanistan to help counter and fight ISIS.

On 23 June, it was announced that Australia would undertake surveillance flights over the southern Philippines. Whilst useful this is not enough and doubles up on what the U.S. is already doing.

Australia’s border protection regime seeks to maintain a maritime cordon in the waters north of Australia and south of Indonesia. The aim is isolation. It ignores the reality of Australia’s extensive involvement and interaction in the region.

Many Australians live, work and have holidays in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines. Airports, CBD’s and holiday resorts, such as Bali, Penang, Palawan and Panglao, to name but a few, are increasingly vulnerable to well planned and organised ISIS attacks. Australian interests and Australians extend well beyond their shores; the mentality that feels secure behind a naval cordon is both limited and myopic.

The Australian elite, particularly the political elite, is paranoid about asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Internal displacements of people due to ISIS and associated radical activity are inevitable unless this activity can be addressed and contained. Internal displacement might well translate into cross water movement of asylum seekers, perhaps on a large scale and difficult to contain unless unacceptable brute force were to be used.

Aircraft surveillance is useful when hostile ground activity occurs. What would be far more useful is for foreign ISIS fighters to be prevented from joining local Islamist groups. For this, naval interdiction is the key. Australia should join with its regional counterparts in undertaking this essential activity.

ISIS is a threat to Australia with its growing involvement in the region; Australia should be engaged and active in containing and eliminating this threat.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat. He has served in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, run the Indonesia section and visits Mindanao. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceHaigh2.

Australian foreign policy should be just that, Australian — not American, Chinese or European. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten need to do a bit of lateral and original thinking.

They need to consider which part of the world they live in and the dynamics of what is unfolding on our doorstep. They should seek to embrace the region more fully. They should show and undertake leadership.

At the end of May, foreign IS fighters joined with local militants in besieging the southern Philippines city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao. Eyewitnesses said a number of the IS fighters had pale skin and long noses. A media report said they included men from Saudi Arabia, Chechen, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia. President Duterte has placed Mindanao under martial law.

The Philippines army and police continue to try to break the siege, in which IS fighters, soldiers and a number of civilians have so far been killed. The IS fighters have gratuitously and viciously murdered a number of Christian men; women and children have been killed in the fighting.   

The only way IS militants can get to the Philippines is by boat. I argued in an earlier article that Australia should be conducting joint patrols with regional navies to interdict these terrorists. Joint naval patrols should also seek to prevent local Abu Sayyaf rebels raising funds by on-water kidnappings.

IS militants and other radical Islamists are on the move between Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines; they are also moving arms and money.

The Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar have separatist Muslim movements. In the former, these are being taken over by radical extremists. However, it is their infiltration and possible control by IS that is of concern. Minimising their influence, if not eradicating them, should be a foreign policy objective of regional governments, including the Australian Government.

The separatist movements have a legitimate basis, much as the Tamils in Sri Lanka do — through religious belief, the absence of educational opportunities and poverty. Addressing the latter might take some of the appeal away for the strident proponents of separatism. Increasing militancy within these separatists’ movements will cause the displacement of people, the creation of refugees and will undermine economic activity — causing further poverty and lack of opportunity.

The Rohingya of Rakhine State in Myanmar are not radicalised, but with ongoing repression from the state, it is only a matter of time. In the southern Thailand provinces of Satun, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, a separatist insurgency has been waged for some time. Hardline Jihadis who are funded from overseas have marginalised the moderates. These Jihadis, like their counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are influenced by hardline Sunni Wahhabi teaching which emanates from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis actively push Wahhabism through the funding of Mosques and Madrassas religious schools. Schools funded by the Saudis teach within a Wahabi framework. Paradoxically, the Saudis are funding radical Islam. Many of the IS proponents of direct action or terrorism appear mentally unstable, charged with the same motivation as mercenaries, soldiers of fortune and the French Foreign Legion. They are often social outcasts and misfits, seeking fortune and fame, and enjoy killing and cruelty as part of the package.

Around 500 IS fighters are from Indonesia and between 200-250 from Malaysia, which has a population of 31 million (eight times smaller than Indonesia with 263 million) perhaps indicating a greater radicalisation of Muslims in Malaysia than was previously thought. Radicalisation has been aided by the powerful Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) and the National Civics Bureau (BTN) which fall under the Prime Minister’s office.  

The United States is drifting, with a seriously troubled president at the helm, it cannot be relied on to address the regional issue of IS and the growing radicalisation of separatist movements. Whatever focus the U.S. has remains on China and North Korea. In any case, President Duterte will not have a bar of Donald Trump and wants no U.S. help in handling his local insurgency. Indonesia is co-operating with the CIA, FBI and AFP in uncovering radical activists, but clearly more needs to be done in light of the IS siege of Marawi, which included Indonesian terrorists.

Following an attack on a casino in Manilla, which has the hallmarks of a revenge-fuelled undertaking rather than a terror attack, President Duterte looks set to impose martial law over the whole of the Philippines. It was probably the excuse he was looking for.

Australia, through its sound diplomatic representation in the region, should begin a process of bringing together states most affected by the activities of separatist extremists, like Abu Sayyaf and returning IS fighters. It should take a lead, perhaps institutionalising an approach looking at not only containing violence, but also at the appeal of radical Islam. It might examine poverty and the paucity of educational opportunity as a motivator in separatist sentiment that has played a part in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. It might rethink its regional aid policy. Guns alone will not stop the emotional and intellectual adherence to a cause.

Australia might also give thought to the radicalisation its refugee “policies” may encourage among those affected by brutality on Manus Island and Nauru, and those left to rot in Indonesia. A little thought and compassion might save many lives.

In view of China’s restless ambition – and American distraction –ASEAN ought to be taken more seriously by Australia, writes distinguished former diplomat Bruce Haigh.

DONALD TRUMP has turned himself into a lame dog president. For the time being, the United States is of no use to Australia or anyone else.

The internal battles to unseat the usurper will occupy Washington for the next two years and the U.S. economy will continue to lag.

In the meantime, China will push to enhance what it regards as its natural sphere of influence — the South China Sea.

But its ambitions extend further, it wants to dominate world trade and it wants greater influence over international affairs. It is playing its cards carefully, but playing them nonetheless, particularly in Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In view of China’s restless ambition – and American distraction – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ought to be taken more seriously by Australia.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has sought to play off China and the U.S. He has partly succeeded. He has held the U.S., but not entirely China, which pushed back. Nonetheless, they have promised aid for infrastructure, soft loans and fishing concessions. Chinese investment in the Philippines is burgeoning, particularly in the property sector. American investment is stagnant.

Duterte hosted and chaired the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, 26-29 April, the theme of which was a rules-based, people oriented and centred ASEAN. In the chairman’s statement, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and ‘full respect for legal and diplomatic processes’, including respect for international laws. However, apparently after pressure from China, the chairman dropped the affirmation of respect from the section on the South China Sea.

Existing guidelines for hotline communication were endorsed while a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea will soon become operational.

The activities of Islamic extremists remain a problem within ASEAN — in particular, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Weeks before ASEAN Ministers were due to meet in Panglao on the island of Bohol, Abu Sayyaf militants carried out an attack against local police. To safeguard ministers, delegates and officials, the Philippines deployed 26,000 police and soldiers.

It is this security issue, together with issues associated with poverty, that should be exercising the minds of Australian policy makers. Several months ago the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishopclaimed that returning ISIS fighters from the Middle East – perhaps up to 600 – would seek to strengthen the militant Islamic presence in the southern Philippines and as part of the process, establish a “caliphate”. The leader of the Philippine terror group, Abu Sayyaf, has recently declared himself an Emir.

These militants will not enter the Philippines through airports. They will travel to the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao by boat from Malaysia and/or Indonesia. Recently the spokesperson for Indonesia’s Directorate of Immigration, Agung Sampurno, said that checkpoints at Miangas and Marore Island were unable to effectively screen seaborne movements between Sulawesi and Mindanao.

Bishop is right to be concerned and Australia’s intelligence agencies have been working with their counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to address the threat — however, more is required. Border protection is more than bullying and terrorising asylum seekers. The best way for Australia to protect its border is through regional co-operation and that should be done through joint naval patrols. Australia has participated in such arrangements in the Gulf.

At present, Australia deploys vessels in the region for a variety of tasks including naval exercises and showing the flag.

Some express squeamishness at the prospect of co-operation with Duterte in light of his poor human rights record. Any such relationship might not last long. He is said to have pancreatic cancer and. in light of that, to be grooming his daughter, Sara Duterte, to succeed him. She is currently mayor of Davao City, Duterte’s old power base.

To be evenhanded, that squeamishness might extend to Malaysia, with its corrupt political system and Indonesia as it buckles to Islamic extremism. As flawed as some of our neighbours may be, that should not override our national self-interest, nor allow us to overlook our own poor human rights record with respect to asylum seekers and corruption within our own major institutions.  

What is proposed in this article is a permanent Australian patrolling presence in the region to be undertaken in conjunction with Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino and Singaporean naval assets, and rotational home porting in those countries. Greater and more aggressive naval patrols should aim to deter the flow of arms and fighters between the targeted countries.

By engaging in regional maritime security, Australia would also be signalling a broader and deeper interest in the region — no bad thing in the absence of U.S. leadership.

Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, along with other world leaders, are due to attend a summit of ASEAN leaders in Manila in November. On present form, if Trump attends, he will be a figure with form and without substance — an embarrassment. The chances are he will not attend. Under the circumstances, Australia should be seeking to raise its profile with ASEAN and within the region.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat, who has recently spent time in the Philippines including Mindanao. 

Donald Trump has turned himself into a lame-dog president; for the time being at least, the United States is of no use to Australia or anyone else. The internal battles to unseat the usurper will occupy Washington politics for the next two years. And the US economy will continue to lag.

In the meantime, China will push to enhance what it regards as its natural sphere of influence: the South China Sea. But its ambitions extend further. It wants to dominate world trade and greater influence over international affairs. It is playing its cards carefully, but playing them nonetheless, particularly in Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In view of China’s restless ambition, and American distraction, Australia ought to take the Association of South-East Asian Nations more seriously.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to play off China and the US. He has partly succeeded. He has held the US but not entirely China, which pushed back. Nonetheless, China has promised aid for infrastructure, soft loans and fishing concessions. Chinese investment in the Philippines is burgeoning, particularly in the property sector; US investment is stagnant.

Duterte hosted and chaired the 30th ASEAN summit in Manila last month, the theme of which was a rules-based, people-oriented and centred ASEAN. In the chairman’s statement, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes and “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes”, including respect for international laws. However, apparently after pressure from China, the chairman dropped the affirmation of respect from the section on the South China Sea.

Existing guidelines for hotline communication were endorsed while a “code for unplanned encounters at sea” will soon become operational.

The activities of Islamic extremists remain a problem within ASEAN, in particular Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Weeks before ASEAN ministers were due to meet in Panglao on the island of Bohol, Abu Sayyaf militants attacked local police. To safeguard ministers, delegates and officials, the Philippines deployed 26,000 police and soldiers.

It is this security issue, together with tackling issues associated with poverty, that should be exercising the minds of Australian policymakers. Several months ago, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said returning Islamic State fighters from the Middle East, perhaps up to 600, would try to strengthen the militant Islamic presence in southern Philippines and, as part of the process, establish a “caliphate”. The leader of Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf recently declared himself an emir.

These militants will not enter the Philippines through airports. They will travel to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao by boat from Malaysia or Indonesia. Indonesia’s immigration spokesman, Agung Sampurno, said recently that checkpoints at Miangas and Marore Island were unable to effectively screen seaborne movements between Sulawesi and Mindanao.

Bishop is right to be concerned and Australia’s intelligence agencies have been working with their counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to address the threat. However, more is required. Border protection is more than bullying and terrorising asylum seekers. The best way for Australia to protect its border is through regional cooperation and that should be done through joint naval patrols. Australia has taken part in such arrangements in the Gulf.

At present, Australia deploys vessels in the region for a variety of tasks, including naval exercises and showing the flag.

Some express squeamishness at the prospect of cooperating with Duterte in light of his poor human rights record. Any such relationship might not last long. He is said to have pancreatic cancer and, in light of that, to be grooming his daughter to succeed him. She is mayor of Davao City, Duturte’s old powerbase.

The best way for Australia to protect its border is through regional cooperation and that should be done through joint naval patrols.

To be even-handed, that squeamishness might extend to Malaysia and its corrupt political system, and to Indonesia as it buckles to Islamic extremism. As flawed as some of our neighbours may be, that should not override our national self-interest, nor allow us to overlook our own poor human rights record with respect to asylum seekers and corruption in our own institutions.

I propose a permanent Australian patrolling presence in the region, undertaken with the Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino and Singaporean navies and rotating the home ports among those countries. Greater and more aggressive naval patrols should aim to deter the flow of arms and fighters between the targeted countries.

By engaging in regional maritime security, Australia would also signall a broader and deeper interest in the region, no bad thing in the absence of US leadership.

Bruce Haigh is a commentator and retired diplomat, who recently spent time in the Philippines, including Mindanao.

At what point did perceptions of a clear sighted, can do American start to change? Was it with the assassination of President Kennedy, Vietnam, with Johnson/ Nixon, Afghanistan with Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush, Iraq and the GFC with Bush, or with Trump? Whatever the point it has happened, and in foreign policy terms, America’s role in world affairs is about to be redefined.

I was recently in the Philippines and spoke to a cross section of people including businessmen and women and journalists on local papers including the ‘Philippine Daily Inquirer’, one of the more respected papers in the Philippines.

The general consensus was that the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, would have moved toward China irrespective of who won the American Presidency. Duterte was described as a cunning and clever politician, who should be judged on his actions not his words. He has been very rude toward Obama, although quite conciliatory in his remarks about Trump. It was put to me that he believes he has Trumps measure.

All my interlocutors were critical of the activities of his death squads. At the street level people are pleased that neighbour hoods are ‘safer’, but no one believes it will last. The drug barons are untouched and protected by wealth and position. They will bide their time. Drug pushers and couriers can easily be recruited with grinding poverty providing a very strong incentive.

That aside Duterte has made his play clear. He wants an understanding with China that allows trade and economic activities, such as fishing in disputed waters, to take place. His recent visit to China was regarded as a success and he claimed aid and investment projects were promised amounting to US$32billion.

US officials in the Philippines were reported as playing down any major rift in the relationship, claiming that the US and the Philippines had historic, deep and abiding ties that would overcome any temporary hiccups. The US wants to ramp up its use of the Subic Bay naval facility and Clark air force base as part of its containment of China.

Duterte has turned his back on the recent adverse ruling of an International Tribunal at The Hague on China’s claims in the South China Sea. As a result China has allowed Pilipino fisherman to enter the waters around Scarborough Shoal for the first time since 2012. Chinese patrol boats although present have not interfered with fishing activities.

The Filipino President has made recent visits to Vietnam and Malaysia and according to senior journalists Duterte is seeking to pull ASEAN states together in order to collectively deal with China and the United States. They claimed Duterte would attempt to play the major powers off against one another and that he was looking for other states in the region to do likewise. Duterte also paid a recent visit to Japan which the local media claimed was a success.

Many of those I spoke to said there was a growing expectation that regional states would be able to increase trade and other opportunities through the foil of playing off China and the US, but also Japan and Russia if they showed an inclination to be independent players in the region. There was a belief that benefit could accrue to smaller states if they handled the diplomacy involved with alacrity.

Australia is seen as a possible participant in this developing dynamic, although recent, ‘all the way with the USA’ statements from Australia’s governing LNP, following the Trump victory, were seen as naive.

Australia has the opportunity to become a regional player and participant with ASEAN states and it should do so. It should seek to play our major trading partner off against our old ally. An ally who has demanded and received a lot more than it has given, from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan to the FTA and expensive defence purchases, at times of dubious strategic value.

It is right to have reservations about aspects of China, but it is the major player in the region and reality demands that it be dealt with as such. And it has been a major presence in the region for thousands of years. It is from this perspective that it perceives its growing power and its place in the region. That is the new reality and we need to deal with it; has the US the maturity to do that. And would Australia really use it’s yet to be built submarines against its major trading partner? (Or against what might then be its rogue former ally!?) Why wouldn’t China seek to defend its trading partners and its trading routes with them?

Australia is changing, but it is in the grip of reactionary forces intent on hanging onto the past and as a result politics is dominated by white, mostly male conservatives. They are not inclined to be inclusive, innovative or imaginative. They will either go down screaming and kicking or with a whimper, hopefully the latter. However in the meantime they are denying the country opportunities.

Australian diplomats are capable of rising to the challenge; they should be encouraged to do so.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat.

I went to a Chautauqua in Greensburg, Indiana in the Fall of 2015. It was held in the auditorium of the Greensburg Community High School on the 5th and 6th of November. So what, you might ask, is a Chautauqua?

Chautauqua was a movement to bring speakers on a variety of topics to rural and remote America. It was founded in 1874 on the banks of Lake Chautauqua in New York State. It was a feature of American life until the 1930’s when cars and radio undermined the need. It aimed to educate and put before communities people and ideas they would not otherwise be exposed to. It was strong on social justice and science but operas and jazz bands also toured as part of the mix.

The movement still exists in America but on a much reduced scale. Nine years ago a mid-west history teacher, John Pratt, revived the tradition and in conjunction with his high school has run a bi-annual Chautauqua, each with a different theme.

John brings to Greensburg celebrities, adventurers and reformers from around the world. Most forego fees in keeping with the philosophy of altruism and fostering of the public good embodied in the notion of Chautauqua and embraced and encouraged by John. It saves fundraisers and donors money and makes possible the holding of a really dynamic event in a small community. With respect to the Chautauqua I was lucky enough to participate in the guests, having agreed to donate their time, entered into the spirit of the undertaking.

The theme of the 2015 Chautauqua was, “Based on a true story”. There were eight participants all of whom had been portrayed in feature length films. David Paterson was depicted in ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ adapted from his mothers book about David’s life. Sister Helen Prejean, a long term and fearsome advocate of the abolition of the death penalty in the US was played by Susan Sarandon in ‘Dead Man Walking’. Benjamin Mee, was depicted in ‘We Bought a Zoo’, he still runs the zoo in Dartmoor, UK. Dr Jeffrey Wigand was portrayed in, ‘The Insider’. He was a whistle blower with respect to the tobacco industry in the US. He was played by Russell Crowe. John McLaughlin, a policeman who led first responders into the World Trade Centre. He was buried for 22 hours when the building collapsed. He was in an induced coma for six weeks and was operated on 27 times. Nicholas Gage played him in the Oliver Stone film, ‘World Trade Centre’; and myself, portrayed by John Hargreaves in the Richard Attenborough anti-apartheid film, ‘Cry Freedom’.

There was also a local baseball hero, Bobby Plump, from the 1954 Milan Indians championship game, shown in the film ‘Hoosiers’ and Daniel Diaz, a Mexican/American who pulled himself out of poverty through his success at running. He was depicted in the film, ‘McFarland USA’ starring Kevin Costner. Each of the guests was allocated an hour and a half, with half the time given over to questions. I had the furthest to fly and was the first to arrive. My time was not wasted as I spoke to many classes in the host school of over 1000 pupils. It was great fun.

Guests at other Chautauqua’s included Susaye Greene, a member of the Supremes, Ron Rosser, Korean War Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Ed Asner star of the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’, Nancy Nevins, lead singer of ‘Sweetwater’, John Stokes, original plaintiff in Brown v Board of Education, Dr. Terrance Roberts and Carlotta LaNeir of the Little Rock Nine and Jill Wine-Banks, a member of the Watergate prosecution team.

Funding is from local businesses, government and school fund raising. Each Chautauqua has its own theme and John says, “It is something big, something that changed or saved lives.” High school students volunteered to look after the guests for the period of their stay. I was lucky to get Adrian Hunter and Lauren Koester, well mannered and bright as buttons; they took me under their wing and showed me all there was to see including the piggery where Lauren worked after school. Greensburg bases its wealth on agriculture, corn is grown but most cattle are now sadly raised in feed lots. Because of this there were not many fences. The students, town and beyond turned up in droves for the sessions. The Greensburg Library hosted a Q&A with some of the guests.

The concept of a Chautauqua could be applied in Australia, particularly in rural Australia. The idea is to open students and the town to the wider world, to let them hear and interact with guests who have had unique experiences and contributed positively to humanity.

At the cost of covering expenses John has said he would be happy to come to Australia and help communities get a Chautauqua or an Australian equivalent off the ground. John can be contacted on, jopratt@greensburg.K12.in.us

Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat and political commentator