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Bruce was born on 6 August, 1945. He attended Christ Church Grammar School from 1956/62. He rowed in the First Four, played rugby for two years with the First Fifteen and was a warrant officer in the cadets. He left school without matriculating and went Jackarooing in the Kimberley. He also worked on an oil rig on the edge of The Great Sandy Desert and drove a taxi in Port Hedland.

He was conscripted for service in Vietnam in January 1966. He was a tank gunner, radio operator and M113 crew commander. He volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967 but his unit was not sent until the following year.

While in the army he studied for his mature age matriculation and attended UWA from 1968/71. He obtained an honours degree in politics and history. He played rugby for UWA and was Arts Union President, a Member of Guild Council and Senior Student of St Georges College.

He was recruited as a Diplomat and commenced with the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1972. He was posted to Pakistan as Third Secretary.

In 1976 he was posted to South Africa as Second Secretary. The racially based system of government known as Apartheid was at its height. Bruce was appalled at what he witnessed. He decided to do what he could to help those who’s well-being or lives were at risk.

He gave black activists protection in his home from the security police. He helped students from Soweto to sanctuary across the border and he assisted prominent newspaper editor, Donald Woods, to flee the country from injury and possible death. His role was portrayed by John Hargreaves in the Sir Richard Attenborough film, ‘Cry Freedom’.

He is the only Australian Diplomat to have been portrayed in a feature length film. He also took prominent attorney, Shun Chetty, across the border. Shun feared for his life. He had defended the interests of the Biko family at the inquest into the death of black activist Steve Biko in prison. Bruce knew Steve.

Bruce maintained an extensive range of contacts with activists and artists. In 1997 he was invited as an official guest to the unveiling of a statue of Steve Biko by Nelson Mandela. Bruce met Mandela on several occasions, as well as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and a Director of the World Bank. He remains friends with her.

Bruce took support money from the World Council of Churches to the dependents of political prisoners on Robben Island. The WCC was banned in South Africa and the money had to be smuggled across the border.

It was only after the release and screening of ‘Cry Freedom’ that the Department and the Minister became aware of the activities of Bruce in South Africa, which they approved and embraced.

In 1990 he founded and ran The South African Training Trust until 1993 bringing sixty black South Africans to Australia training.

In 2003 he established ‘Ifa Lethu’, an organisation based in Pretoria, to repatriate and curate black works of art taken out of the country during Apartheid. He began the collection with works he purchased from 1976/79. It now has over 700 pieces of work repatriated from around the world. A major exhibition was held in London at the time of the Olympics. He appointed Dr Ramphele to chair the Board which included musician Hugh Masekela.

In 1982 he was posted to Saudi Arabia as First Secretary and in 1983 was Charge’ at the Australian Embassy in Tehran for several months at the time of the Iran/Iraq war.

In 1986 he was posted to Pakistan as Counsellor. Shortly after arrival he met Benazir Bhutto who had just returned from exile in Britain. He was the first Diplomat in Islamabad to do so. The diplomatic community were wary of meeting her, fearing the wrath of President Zia who had murdered her father. Bruce and Benazir became good friends. He introduced her to other diplomats including the Indian, Russian and British Ambassadors. He attended her wedding in 1987. After she became Prime Minister in 1988, she bought wheat, second hand Mirage aircraft from Australia. Trade improved as a result of the relationship between Bruce and Benazir.

The Embassy in Islamabad was accredited to Afghanistan, which was under occupation by the USSR. Bruce offered to take photos of Russian soldiers and materiel when he was in Kabul. He was provided with specialist cameras by agencies in Canberra.

In 1994 he was posted to Sri Lanka as Counsellor where he came to understand the suffering of the Tamil people.

In 1995 he was appointed a Member of the Refugee Review Tribunal with the powers of a Magistrate. It was an independent body and appointments were made by the Governor General. Bruce was a productive Member of the Tribunal. He refused to undertake the directions of the Minister for Immigration who had no authority over the Tribunal. Minister Ruddock sought to limit the number of positive decisions made by Members to 20% of cases heard. It was illegal for him to do so. Nonetheless some Members complied and got reappointed.

Bruce served until 2000. Since that time, he has advocated on behalf of Refugees, East Timorese and Tamils. Refugees have been illegally held offshore for domestic political advantage. The Australian Government pays (bribes) officials in Indonesia and Sri Lanka to keep people off boats.

Bruce has written articles and opinion pieces on international relations, human rights, Refugees, domestic politics, water and climate change. He has appeared on radio and TV and was a regular guest on The Drum until a change of management at the ABC.

He has appeared before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in relation to Human Rights in 1993 and Peacekeeping also in 1993, East Timor in 1999, Migration in 2003 and a parliamentary meeting in relation to the massacre of Tamils in 2009. In 2015 he was flown to Bremen to advocate on behalf of Tamil refugees before Judges, specialist lawyers and academics sitting in judgement on the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. They found that the government of Sri Lanka had committed genocide against the Tamil minority.

Bruce has written two books, ‘The Great Australian Blight’, a study of Australian foreign policy and ‘Pillars of Fear’, a critical examination of Australian regional defence planning. Both published by Otford Press in 2001.

Bruce farmed grapes, olives and sheep at Mudgee from 1997 to 2015.

As published in Independent Australia on 28 April 2020 and Pearls and Irritations on 1 May 2020

The Liberal National Party is not strong on foreign policy, preferring the United States to take the lead and provide direction; were it not for trade Australia under the LNP would have a weak relationship with China.

Australia followed the United States into war in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and is prepared to follow them into war against Iran. It has sought confrontation with China over their claim to the South China Sea. The US led confrontation has not deflected China and short of war is not likely to. Confrontation has gained nothing but hostility. I am not arguing appeasement but rather a change in tactic. China will act with stubbornness and aggression if forced into a corner or suffers a loss of face.

The United States has handled the Covid19 crisis badly. The President, Donald Trump, has made an even greater fool of himself with crazy prevention pronouncements all of his own creation. His push to get businesses open is likely to prolong the spread of the virus, further undermining the US economy, thereby prolonging recovery time around the globe. He has behaved badly, more so than Chinese leader Xi Jinping who failed to inform the world of the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan for some weeks and supressed the voice of concerned doctors.

Trump needs to be called out. He is proving to be a dubious ally. That has not prevented the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, from playing to Trumps ego and pledging loyalty. Loyalty to what?

The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, not content with shirking his responsibility for the spread of the virus in Australia, through the unauthorised docking of the cruise ship Ruby Princess in Sydney, has sought deflection by seeking an enquiry into the cause and spread of the virus. His remarks were clearly directed at China and have drawn an angry response from them. Dutton style bullying should not be a tool of diplomacy particularly with regard to China.

China is embarrassed. It is conducting its own investigations in its own way. It clearly wants to prevent anything like this happening again. Dutton has gone off less than half cocked. He has done more than muddy waters. Had he or his department consulted DFAT he might have been cautioned to desist or given a more appropriate course of action.

As it is, he may well have brought an end to Chinese students studying in Australia. China may move to prevent the trade in students. Morrison has been an echo chamber for Dutton’s crude and ill-advised foray into foreign policy against Australia’s largest trading partner. He has been unbelievably foolish. Has consideration been given to China sourcing minerals from elsewhere and restricting terms of trade if she feels attacks are politically motivated, i.e. at the instigation of the US?

Australia’s unwillingness to look after foreign students stranded in Australia will not have gone unnoticed. India might well follow China in banning their students from studying in Australia. We have undermined our international standing with a further display of our mean spiritedness.

In another exercise in deflection Trump waded into the WHO. Morrison followed believing he has some international standing because of the low number of Covid19 cases in Australia. It is typical Morrison spin. It is too early to say if Australia has avoided a bullet. Covid19 could come back to bite and Morrison would be flat on his face.

Trump is trying to blame anyone but himself for his Covid19 stuff up. There are issues with the management of WHO just as there are with other UN agencies. Short comings generally revolve around insufficient funding, which see these organisations dancing to the tune of major donors in order that funds are forthcoming. But there is also corruption and nepotism. By all means call for an enquiry, but money has to be put where the mouth is and not in the middle of a pandemic.

Australia’s neglect of the Pacific has seen China take advantage and push aid on our near neighbours. In case there is any doubt about what is going on, after the recent devastating cyclone in Vanuatu, China managed to fly in assistance to the stricken country before Australia, blocking the runway and forcing an RAAF plane with supplies to turn back to Australia. Hard ball. The US will not stick it’s neck out for us in the South Pacific.

China will come out of Covid19 better than America. It will be China that repatriates regional and African debt. It will be China that steps in to provide medical help should it be required in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and perhaps Indonesia. Australia has dropped the ball in those countries where its aid contribution is half what it was ten years ago and our voice was lost with Downer’s axing of Radio Australia. They can be expected to assist African states should it prove necessary. Australia has a limited presence and profile in Africa.

The outcome of the virus will likely see Chinese power and influence increased and that of America diminish.

The Labor Party should be seeking to contain Dutton and Morrison. They should be putting an alternative narrative to China. They should display the courage and skill of Whitlam when he was amongst the first of the Western countries to recognise China shortly after coming to power in December 1972. It was a relationship enhanced by Hawke and Keating without damaging the relationship with the US.

The LNP set the tone of their relationship with the US with the embarrassing catch cry, “all the way with LBJ”, who was the President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, during the visit of Prime Minister, Harold Holt, to Washington in June 1966. They haven’t changed, but they must. The LNPRW, right wing research institutes and think tanks, sections of the MSM together with the IPA must be marginalised in order that Australia has a respected and influential place in the region.

It must be Diplomacy not Dutton.  In terms of our relationship with China and America the boat must be balanced if Australia is to get through the uncharted and rough waters ahead.

Just as I was about to send this article, China was reported on the ABC, 2pm, 27 April, as threatening to cease buying Australian beef and wine if Australia refuses to withdraw its calls for an enquiry into the causes of the spread of Covid19. What dills we have for political leaders.

 Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired Diplomat.

As published in Independent Australia on 15 April 2020

With the world in the grip of the Covid19 virus there are already lessons to be learnt and changes to consider.

Methods of dealing with the Covid19 virus vary little from the methods adopted to deal with the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the world from January 1918 until December 1920, causing the death of 50 million people. There was no vaccine to deal with that pandemic, just as there is currently no vaccine to deal with Covid19.

There have been two subsequent pandemics. SARS, from November 2002 until July 2003, spread to twenty countries killing 774 people. The Swine Flu pandemic ran from April 2009 until August 2010 causing 570,000 fatalities amongst the 1.4 million affected.

The Spanish Flu has been referred to as the forgotten pandemic, the same might be said for SARS and the Swine Flu. It seems that once a pandemic is past the collective inclination is to sweep the memory of it away. We know of the social changes brought about by the First World War but we know little or nothing to changes wrought by the Spanish Flu. Perhaps many of the social changes ascribed to WWI were in fact brought about by the Spanish Flu. Maybe historians of the time had an axe to grind or a narrative to embellish about war and the Flu did not fit that narrative. The Australian war historian, C.E.W Bean hardly mentions the Flu, yet many Australian soldiers were stricken with it, including my grandfather, and a number died, some in the North Head Quarantine station within sight of Sydney after an absence of four years.

Neither the Swine Flu nor SARS saw substantial change in the international or domestic organisational approach to managing pandemics. Expunging past pandemics from public memory did not assist in developing policy to deal with the next viral outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) prepared an interim protocol, updated in 2007, for the management of pandemics. However, there is no compulsion to adhere to it and some countries including initially Australia and more recently the United States ignored the recommendations. Donald Trump, who is as mad as George III, is threatening to withhold funding to the WHO because he claims it has given incorrect advice.

There is a need for reform. Protocols should be negotiated and implemented in a binding International Agreement with provision for strategic stockpiling, Inspectors, compulsory intervention by trained medical teams, ongoing research, lock down procedures and airline responses.

Neocon xenophobes such as Trump, Morrison and Johnson, despite denigrating the UN and other international agencies, have been forced to deal with them in seeking a means of control, containment and supplies of vital equipment. Covid19 has brought the international community closer together in cooperating over an urgent and common problem. It should serve as a blueprint for cooperation over climate change.

Covid19 underlines the need for strong and focused aid programs to reduce the gap between haves and have not. In the current circumstances aid repayments should be waived from the poorest countries. The haves have nothing if the have nots drag them backwards as they will with respect to this pandemic. India and Africa illustrate this. Perhaps long after Australia, Europe and even America are on top of the virus, international trade and relations will be patchy and constrained until the virus has been extinguished in every part of the world.

As Michael Bartos, Honorary Associate Professor in the department of Sociology at the ANU, said in an article, ‘Not so lucky this time’, published in ‘Inside Story’, on 4 March 2020, ‘New epidemics inevitably carry the burden of fear, prejudice, conspiracy theories and misinformation. But the brute reality of virus spread can be salutary. It creates an evolutionary pressure towards pragmatically effective responses, and heightens the stakes for the sifting of good information from bad…To the extent that the virus is brought under control it will be because of global cooperation, open and accurate communication, and development of widely accessible “public goods”, in this case vaccines and treatments. It seems like we might still need the “global community” after all.

Just as the pandemic has highlighted the need for reform in the international community so it has in Australia. Initially Morrison reacted slowly stupidly and with self-interest. A Hillsong get together appeared to govern his declaration of a gathering of 500 as acceptable. It was quickly changed to 100, 10 and then 2, following the intervention of the States. Morrison in a show of macho bravado said he would attend a football match only to be forced to back down by the weight of public opinion.

Under pressure he initiated a National Cabinet consisting of State Premiers, but in a predictable act of partisan pettiness, not the leader of the Opposition. The National Cabinet unofficially led by Victorian State Premier, Daniel Andrews, soon moved to pin back Morrisons ears, leading to a national sigh of relief by all but the IPA. Long queues at Centrelink panicked the government into the realisation that many were LNP voters who would change to Labor if something was not done to alleviate their distress.

The National Cabinet decided to implement regular Jobkeeper payments to workers who had lost jobs. They increased the Newstart allowance and took over funding childcare centres. They refused to extend Jobkeeper to casuals in employment for less than 12 months, backpackers and temporary visa holders, despite all three categories paying tax. How they are meant to house and feed themselves did not worry Morrison or other responsible ministers. Presumably beg, borrow or steal and if caught to be transported to Christmas Island. Dutton, came out of Ruby Princess isolation, to announce measures would be put in place to deal with the inevitable rorting of the Jobseeker allowance. He understands how the criminal mind works.

Morrison has been talking of ‘snap back’ after the virus has been beaten. It seems to mean a rapid return to the status quo pre Covid19. It demonstrates the limitations of his imagination which governs his lack of understanding of the crisis. Snap back has the imagery of being dumped by a wave, thrown to the surface and riding it to shore. It will not be like that. Most people will either be washed or stagger to shore and some will not make it. It will take time to recover breath. Assistance will be needed.

Morrison’s enforced adoption of Keynesian solutions to the crisis highlighted the lack of social justice in Australian politics for the last twenty years. However, for many, including the army of youngsters advising LNP ministers, they know nothing different. Intervention and assistance by the state in the means of production is quite foreign to them.

Not for my generation. Not only are we familiar with state intervention we appreciated the role it played in underpinning productivity, particularly in a country of vast distance and sparse population. Cities now contain a greater percentage of the population than they did at Federation. The tyranny of distance has been exacerbated by privatisation of regional communication. But before looking to the future let’s look at where we have come from.

Politically, socially and economically, prior to the Covid19 virus, Australia was in a bad place, without the leadership to turn itself around. It is debatable where the decline began. As a student of history, I could pick a number of points and argue a case; let me settle on the former Treasurer Paul Keating’s sale of public assets in the 1980’s and 90’s. He did this because he believed it would be in the nation’s best interests. The prevailing belief was that government owned assets would be more efficiently run if privatised. Passing public assets into private hands made many of the expanding middle class and the top end of town rich but increased costs and charges for the rest of the population, including workers, who the Labor Party claimed to represent and champion.

Keating became Prime Minister. At the time of his departure from politics in 1996, following his electoral defeat by John Howard, the negative effects of his reforms were not apparent.

Howard grasped Keating’s privatisation agenda with both hands. It fitted the political philosophy of LNP backers such as the H.R Nichols Society, the IPA, the Sydney Institute, the Business Council of Australia, the Mining Council of Australia and the Australian Stock Exchange. The benefits to the people of Australia not been apparent. Costs have risen to the average home as a result. Higher energy costs being an example. Privatised water has been badly managed, with LNP supporting cotton croppers rewarded by what can only be described as a rort.

Howard ushered in an era where mediocrity, meanness, greed, cruelty and selfishness became part of the political fabric. Rudd and Gillard were unable to break away from the Howard framework and suffered as a result. The Howard political philosophy encouraged corporate Australia to plunder the country for profit. Together with the LNP they stole generations of social investment. They killed TAIF, they undermined Medicare and Centrelink with a view to sale. Being anti-science, they defunded the CSIRO and research at universities. They ran down state funded institutions with the exception of defence, intelligence and their own parliamentary privileges. They increased funding to private schools and sporting institutions in their electorates.

Howard demonised refugees for political purposes. Deterrence was achieved by payment to overseas politicians, officials, police and defence officers; locking refugees in detention centres was a smoke screen. The Murdoch dominated MSM believed Howard and the Labor Party didn’t have the courage to oppose him. Australia was in a place of kitchen renovations and cruises. It still is. But reality is beginning to dawn. The Covid19 virus is causing a rethink of past political practice.

The LNP/IPA governing elite have displayed no notion of the common good. As an approach to governance it can’t be allowed to continue. The State must exist for the benefit of the people.

Let me remind. The Commonwealth once:

Built ships,

Supported a car industry and agricultural manufacturing industry  

Owned two airlines, Qantas and TAA

Owned the Commonwealth Bank, which set interest rates and established best practice

Owned the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, producing vaccines.

Fully funded the CSIRO, universities and TAIF

0wned and operated Telstra

Owned and operated airports and ports

Owned and operated the Commonwealth Oil Refinery

The States once:

Owned and operated insurance companies and rural banks

Produced and distributed electricity and water

Built and operated trams, trains and buses

Built roads, bridges and railway lines

No doubt there was more, the foregoing is what I remember. There was a vigorous private sector engaged in manufacturing, agriculture and retail. Commonwealth and State enterprises underpinned and supported the private sector. It was a productive arrangement, it worked.

It will be difficult for Morrison to back track on measures already put in place to cope with the economic effects of the virus and more government financial assistance can be expected before ‘we are out the other side’. The fragility of the economy will require nurturing by the state for some time to come. The funding of child care, universities, increased funding of Newstart will not be easy to reverse even when the economy is stronger given likely voter resistance. It will give the Labor Party a platform.

The crises has focused attention on Australia’s dependence on goods manufactured overseas. Using cheap renewable energy now coming on stream Australia should look to import replacement particularly in manufacturing.

Writing in The Guardian on 1 April, the Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, set out what I thought was an excellent blue print for change. He eloquently argues the case for social justice through reformed economic policy involving greater state intervention.

The Commonwealth and States have ceased to function for people. Change is overdue.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

As published in Pearls & Irritations on 16 April 2020

‘With the world in the grip of the Covid19 virus there are lessons to be learnt and changes to consider. The pandemic has brought nations together who were eschewing the value of international co-operation. It has highlighted the need for reform. There is no International Agreement covering pandemics, one needs to be negotiated. The pandemic underlines the need for reform of the Australian economy and the way we practice politics’.

Methods for dealing with the Covid19 virus vary little from the methods adopted to deal with the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the world from January 1918 until December 1920, causing the death of 50 million people. There was no vaccine to deal with that pandemic, just as there is currently no vaccine to deal with Covid19.

There have been two subsequent pandemics. SARS, from November 2002 until July 2003, spread to twenty countries killing 774 people. The Swine Flu pandemic ran from April 2009 until August 2010 causing 570,000 fatalities amongst the 1.4 million affected.

The Spanish Flu has been referred to as the forgotten pandemic, the same might be said for SARS and the Swine Flu. It seems that once a pandemic is past the collective inclination is to sweep the memory of it away. We know of the social changes brought about by the First World War but we know little or nothing to changes wrought by the Spanish Flu. Perhaps many of the social changes ascribed to WWI were in fact brought about by the Spanish Flu. Maybe historians of the time had an axe to grind or a narrative to embellish about war and the Flu did not fit that narrative. The Australian war historian, C.E.W Bean hardly mentions the Flu, yet many Australian soldiers were stricken with it, including my grandfather, and a number died, some in the North Head Quarantine station within sight of Sydney after an absence of four years.

Neither the Swine Flu nor SARS saw substantial change in the international or domestic organisational approach to managing pandemics. Expunging past pandemics from public memory did not assist in developing policy to deal with the next viral outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) prepared an interim protocol, updated in 2007, for the management of pandemics. However, there is no compulsion to adhere to it and some countries including initially Australia and more recently the United States ignored the recommendations. Donald Trump, who is as mad as George III, is threatening to withhold funding to the WHO because he claims it has given incorrect advice.

There is a need for reform. Protocols should be negotiated and implemented in a binding International Agreement with provision for strategic stockpiling, Inspectors, compulsory intervention by trained medical teams, ongoing research, lock down procedures and airline responses.

Neocon xenophobes such as Trump, Morrison and Johnson, despite denigrating the UN and other international agencies, have been forced to deal with them in seeking a means of control, containment and supplies of vital equipment. Covid19 has brought the international community closer together in cooperating over an urgent and common problem. It should serve as a blueprint for cooperation over climate change.

Covid19 underlines the need for strong and focused aid programs to reduce the gap between haves and have not. In the current circumstances aid repayments should be waived from the poorest countries. The haves have nothing if the have nots drag them backwards as they will with respect to this pandemic. India and Africa illustrate this. Perhaps long after Australia, Europe and even America are on top of the virus, international trade and relations will be patchy and constrained until the virus has been extinguished in every part of the world.

Just as the pandemic has highlighted the need for reform in the international community so it has in Australia. Initially Morrison reacted slowly stupidly and with self-interest. A Hillsong get together appeared to govern his declaration of a gathering of 500 as acceptable. It was quickly changed to 100, 10 and then 2, following the intervention of the States. Morrison in a show of macho bravado said he would attend a football match only to be forced to back down by the weight of public opinion.

Under pressure he initiated a National Cabinet consisting of State Premiers, but in a predictable act of partisan pettiness, not the leader of the Opposition. The National Cabinet unofficially led by Victorian State Premier, Daniel Andrews, soon moved to pin back Morrisons ears, leading to a national sigh of relief by all but the IPA. Long queues at Centrelink panicked the government into the realisation that many were LNP voters who would change to Labor if something was not done to alleviate their distress.

The National Cabinet decided to implement regular Jobkeeper payments to workers who had lost jobs. They increased the Newstart allowance and took over funding childcare centres. They refused to extend Jobkeeper to casuals in employment for less than 12 months, backpackers and temporary visa holders, despite all three categories paying tax. How they are meant to house and feed themselves did not worry Morrison or other responsible ministers. Presumably beg, borrow or steal and if caught to be transported to Christmas Island. Dutton, came out of Ruby Princess isolation, to announce measures would be put in place to deal with the inevitable rorting of the Jobseeker allowance. He understands how the criminal mind works.

Morrison has been talking of ‘snap back’ after the virus has been beaten. It seems to mean a rapid return to the status quo pre Covid19. It demonstrates the limitations of his imagination. His enforced adoption of Keynesian solutions to the crisis highlighted the lack of social justice in Australian politics for the last twenty years.

On becoming prime Minister in 1996 Howard embraced the privatisation agenda of British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It fitted the political philosophy of LNP backers such as the IPA. The benefit to the people of Australia not been apparent. Costs have risen.

Howard ushered in an era where mediocrity, meanness, greed, cruelty and selfishness became part of the political fabric. He encouraged corporate Australia to plunder the country for profit which continued under Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. The State should exist for the benefit of the people.

There was a time Commonwealth and State enterprises underpinned and supported the private sector. It was a productive arrangement, it worked.

It will be difficult for Morrison to back track on measures already put in place, to renege will give the Labor Party a platform.

The crises has focused attention on Australia’s dependence on goods manufactured overseas. Using cheap renewable energy now coming on stream Australia should look to import replacement particularly in manufacturing.

Writing in The Guardian on 1 April, the Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, set out a blue print for change, arguing a case for social justice through reformed economic policy involving greater state intervention.

The Commonwealth and States have ceased to function for people. Change is overdue.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

As published in the Canberra Times on 22 April 2020

Methods for dealing with the Covid19 virus vary little from the methods adopted to deal with the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the world from January 1918 until December 1920, causing the death of 50 million people. There was no vaccine to deal with that pandemic, just as there is currently no vaccine to deal with Covid19.

The Spanish Flu has been referred to as the forgotten pandemic, the same might be said for SARS and the Swine Flu. Neither the Swine Flu nor SARS saw substantial change in the international or domestic organisational approach to managing pandemics. Expunging pandemics from public memory has not encouraged the development of policy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) prepared an interim protocol, updated in 2007, for the management of pandemics. However, there is no compulsion to adhere to it and some countries including initially Australia and more recently the United States ignored the recommendations. Donald Trump, who is as mad as George III, has said he will withhold funding to the WHO because he claims it has given incorrect advice.

There is a need for reform. Protocols should be negotiated and implemented in a binding International Agreement with provision for strategic stockpiling, Inspectors, compulsory intervention by trained medical teams, ongoing research, lock down procedures and airline responses.

Neocon xenophobes such as Trump, Morrison and Johnson, have been forced to deal with the WHO, the UN and other international agencies and institutions in seeking a means of control, containment and supplies of vital equipment to handle Covid19. The virus has brought the global community closer in attempting to contain in a health crisis.

Covid19 underlines the need for strong and focused aid programs to reduce the gap between haves and have not. In the current circumstances aid repayments should be waived from the poorest countries. The haves have nothing if the have nots drag them backwards as they will with respect to this pandemic. India and Africa are indicative.

Just as the pandemic has highlighted the need for reform in the international community so it has in Australia. Initially Morrison reacted slowly, stupidly and with self-interest. A Hillsong get together appeared to govern his declaration of a gathering of 500 as acceptable. It was quickly changed to 100, 10 and then 2, following the intervention of the States. Morrison in a show of macho bravado said he would attend a football match only to be forced to back down by the weight of public opinion.

Under pressure he initiated a National Cabinet consisting of State Premiers, but in a predictable act of partisan pettiness, not the leader of the Opposition. The National Cabinet unofficially led by Victorian State Premier, Daniel Andrews, soon moved to pin back Morrisons ears, leading to a national sigh of relief by all but the IPA. Long queues at Centrelink panicked the government into the realisation that many were LNP voters who might desert if something was not done to alleviate their distress.

The National Cabinet decided to implement regular Jobkeeper payments to workers who had lost jobs. They increased the Newstart allowance and took over funding childcare centres. They refused to extend Jobkeeper to casuals in employment for less than 12 months, backpackers and temporary visa holders, despite all three categories paying tax. How they are meant to house and feed themselves did not worry Morrison or other responsible ministers. Presumably beg, borrow or steal and if caught to be transported to Christmas Island. Dutton, came out of Ruby Princess isolation, to announce measures would be put in place to deal with the inevitable rorting of the Jobseeker allowance. He understands how the criminal mind works.

Morrison has been talking of ‘snap back’ after the virus has been beaten. It seems to mean a rapid return to the status quo pre Covid19. It demonstrates the limitations of his imagination. His enforced adoption of Keynesian solutions to the crisis highlighted the lack of social justice in Australian politics for the last twenty years.

On becoming prime Minister in 1996 Howard embraced the privatisation agenda of British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It fitted the political philosophy of LNP backers such as the IPA. The benefit to the people of Australia has not been apparent. Costs have risen.

Howard ushered in an era where mediocrity, meanness, greed, cruelty and selfishness became part of the political fabric. He encouraged corporate Australia to plunder the country for profit which continued under Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. The State should exist for the benefit of the people.

It will be difficult for Morrison to back track on measures already put in place, to renege will give the Labor Party a platform.

Australia has allowed its manufacturing base to collapse. It imports more than is strategically wise. Using cheap renewable energy now coming on stream Australia should look to import replacement particularly in manufacturing.

There was a time Commonwealth and State enterprises underpinned and supported the private sector. It was a productive arrangement, it worked.

The Commonwealth once built ships and ran a shipping line, it owned two airlines, it owned the Commonwealth Bank which served to keep the other banks honest. It owned Telecom (Telstra), ports and airports, it built small arms for the ADF and funded universities, TAIF and the CSIRO and it underpinned the car industry. It owned and operated the Commonwealth Oil Refinery (COR). It owned a health fund which like the bank served to keep the other bastards honest.

The States distributed water and produced and distributed electricity. They owned and operated insurance companies and rural banks. They built and operated trams and trains. They built and ran schools and hospitals. The privatisation of both (significant funding of private schools) has not been in the public interest.

The Labor party ought now to be developing a blue print for the future. We are not going back to the past. The future will be different and the Labor Party ought now to be developing socially progressive options as part of new policy to take to the next election. It is not too early. Part of those options should be state intervention for greater equity and efficiency.

Promisingly, the Labor Party is arguing that the government should take an equity share in Virgin Airlines rather than a bailout or letting the airline fail.

Labor should be planning to end the more unfair aspects of the private sector and ending rorts such as those relating to water. They need to be bold. The principles need to be socially democratic. They can afford to do so. Morrison has nowhere to go. Electorally he can’t take back what he has already given. The Labor Party has some excellent foot soldiers in the form of Chalmers, Wong, Leigh, Burke, Plibersek and Bowen. Albanese gives no confidence that he has the boldness, courage, imagination or leadership to embrace and implement such change. His team, if they stick with him, will need to lead the way and hope that he can follow.

We cannot go back to the past. We need to recreate ourselves with boldness, vision, optimism and courage. Are we up for it?

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

The Seventieth Celebration for the foundation of the Peoples Republic of China held in Tiananmen Square on the 1 October gave an appearance of organised energy. A country on the move. A country that knows where it is going and what it wants. That was the intention.

President Xi Jinping embraced the legacy and memory of Chairman Mao Tse Tung. It is understandable that he would; Xi’s authoritarian vision for China’s future draws on the mindset of Mao and the mythology now allowed to surround him.

At the parade in Tiananmen Square Xi said, ‘No force can ever stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward.’ This was intoned as tanks, rockets and troops passed in an incredible display of military discipline and new hardware.

In 1935 Mao said, ‘We the Chinese nation have the spirit to fight the enemy to the last drop of our blood, the determination to recover our lost territory by our own efforts and the ability to stand on our own two feet in the family of nations.’  

Like invisible ink those words were on the page of Xi’s speech. The sentiment was there, the intent was there and many observers picked up on it. Xi’s message was clear. China is powerful, China is wealthy, China is a major actor on the world stage, we demand to be taken seriously.

China is pushing. Into new areas of trade, technology and territory. China has extended itself into South East Asia, Africa and the South Pacific. It is funding research and study in South Africa and Australia amongst many other countries. It has inserted itself into the political process of Sri Lanka. It is pouring money into Cambodia and Laos.

Last month I observed the Chinese presence in both those countries. The rail line being built from Beijing through Laos. The Chinese workers and tourists, the Chinese owned hotels and condominiums. China does not need to invade; it will capture through the power of investment and corruption. Like Rome all roads will lead from Beijing if they don’t already, including the ambitious $900 billion, New Silk Road, designed to link Europe and Asia to Beijing. It is part of the Belt and Road Action Plan, which incorporates the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, capitalised to $100 billion.

China has turned its revolutionary zeal, almost lost during the Cultural Revolution, into the creation of wealth, including off shore wealth which is being transformed into influence and power. China is single minded in this quest much to the annoyance of the US and its allies including Australia. From the eighties many assumed that this quest for wealth was benign, that is now being questioned.

It has pushed its armed forces into the South China Sea, claiming and reclaiming islands and atolls in dispute by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. It has displayed determination and aggression in defending these claims. The US, Britain, France, Japan and Australia have carried out naval patrols to protect the international right of passage for shipping to little effect. No one wants to go to war over the South China Sea, China has called the bluff.

China is developing relations with countries in the South Pacific. It is spending money. It is providing soft loans. If the loans move into default China takes over the project or facility. China has more money to spend in the Pacific than Australia and it will do so. China believes in climate change. This gives it a huge advantage with Pacific countries. Current Chinese leaders no doubt learnt Mao’s dictum, ‘When we look at a thing, we must examine its essence and treat its appearance merely as an usher at the threshold, and once we cross the threshold, we must grasp the essence of the thing, this is the only reliable and scientific method of analysis.’ 1930.

Australia has thrown away influence in the Pacific with arrogance and notions of racial superiority. China has listened to the complaints and is seeking to take advantage. Downer threw away a significant diplomatic tool with the axing of Radio Australia.

China has conducted and continues to conduct sophisticated cyber-attacks against foreign governments and institutions, including Australia. Some call it warfare. Mostly the reasons for these attacks are to gain information. However, some of the information gained is of low quality and the presumption must be that they are designed to intimidate, to get scarce resources spent on counter measures and protection and to demonstrate that they can. A power play.

China’s drive and methodology in seeking to influence has been exposed in Australia over the past two years with revelations of large unauthorised payments to the major political parties and no doubt to individuals by state supported players. A Chinese government surveillance and control program of Chinese nationals studying on Australian campuses has also come to light, together with attempts to intimidate Australian Chinese students into spying for Chinese agencies.

The exposure of these activities has led to a xenophobic and racist backlash from right wing politicians and media. The activities have been condemned by Australian intelligence agencies who appear to share the concerns of right-wing commentators. There is no evidence to suggest that the Chinese intend to curtail these activities more likely they will become more circumspect and sophisticated.

China has always looked askance at America. They never understood the US imperative to fight in Vietnam nor to invade Iraq. While America has expended trillions of dollars on waging unnecessary wars over the past fifty years China has concentrated for the last forty years in building industry, infrastructure and making money.

China does not agree with America’s claims to world leadership. They see America as erratic, unreliable and a resource to be exploited for ideas and innovation to bolster their expanding economy. American arrogance and xenophobia have prevented them from seeking meaningful co-operative arrangements. They see China as a hostile military rival and by doing so may bring it to pass. At the moment there is little evidence to support that view. China is a determined and aggressive rival for whom America has no answer other than sanctions.

Trump has caused them to look even more askance at America along with much of the rest of the world, with the notable exception of Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

The Chinese play the long game, sanctions must be endured until Trump is gone. Meanwhile America shoots itself in the foot as China engages in import replacement which is a by product of sanctions, ask the Iranians.

As it’s power wanes America lashes out, bewildered at how it could have squandered such a large inheritance. It is hurt that the rest of the world, with the exception of Morrison, no longer tugs a forelock.

America is more of a threat to Australia’s long-term interests than China. America has a military base in Darwin where a Division of troops are based and rotated. We host the aggressively configured Pine Gap facility designed to spy and conduct hostile activities in American interests. Our intelligence agencies are close and, in some areas, integrated. We rarely if ever undertake a major foreign policy initiate without first seeking their approval and we often follow their foreign policy initiatives even though they are not in our interest. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently confronting Iran in the Gulf.

Australian and American business interests are close, America is a major investor in the Australian economy. American methods of business are promoted through our universities.

We are a captive of American ‘culture’ through the absence of an Australian film industry, we don’t and can’t tell our own stories, and through the Murdoch dominance of our media industry.

China continues to appal through the detention of one million Uighur’s in the Xinjiang region for the purposes of ‘re-education’ and for their attempt to undermine the legal system of Hong Kong which is the subject of ongoing demonstrations. Hong Kong highlights the fallibility of Beijing; it was a bad decision. Xi is being forced to wear the consequences. Nonetheless he feels the need to be tough to impress his rivals. He has to be tough but not too tough. Xi is resented for his declaration of life time Presidency, they await his downfall.

So, it is between these two less than perfect major powers that we must make our way forward. We need to understand who and what we are dealing with. We must develop the capacity to balance our relations with these competitors. Vilifying China and suck holing to America will not achieve that.

Bruce Haigh

Is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison appears out of his depth with foreign policy. There is a readiness to follow Donald Trump. From the Middle East to China and the Pacific, Morrison gives the appearance of not having done his homework and of not much enjoying the subject.

Whatever else might be said about Scott Morrison he is not astute. He is out of his depth in a number of policy areas particularly Foreign Policy. This he shares with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

There are substantial and complex international issues none more so than the crises of climate change; there are also the confected confrontation with Iran, China seeking to secure regional power and control trade routes, Russia elbowing to be a world player, US fearing a loss of power and influence, the prospect hastened by its erratic leadership, Britain’s Brexit conundrum and the crisis of refugees, food and water shortages.

Morrison and his advisers appear to have scant understanding of the Middle East. His decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel flew in the face of years of Australian diplomacy which sought a balance between Israel and Palestine. It was made in response to a similar decision by Trump, which was equally ill advised. He has not condemned Saudi Arabia for it’s cruel bombing attacks in The Yemen, the abuse of Saudi women within the Kingdom and the state murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

He has demonstrated no understanding of the issues surrounding the US withdrawal from the treaty governing the Iranian production of enriched Uranium. Not for him the sophistication and understanding of the European signatories to the treaty appalled at Trumps precipitate action. Instead he seems drawn to Trumps dangerous bellicosity. The Trump administration push against Iran is led by an eager and hawkish White House security Adviser, John Bolton. The US appears keen to have a crack at Iran. A short sharp military action to teach Iran a lesson, to make it understand it’s place in the region and to demonstrate American military and political dominance.

In light of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan such thinking demonstrates that America has learnt nothing. They are on the same song sheet. Entry into the war in Vietnam was engineered through a contrived attack against an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin by a North Vietnamese patrol boat. Except it never happened. The incident was made up. America is attempting the same in the Gulf of Hormuz. Claims that the Iranians have detonated explosive devices against foreign oil tankers are patently nonsense. Why would the Iranians attack a Japanese tanker while the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran conducting trade talks? It makes no sense. More likely the tankers have been hit by drones with explosives devices fired from the UAE, who along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Israel and the United States wish to see Iranian influence diminished.

Morrison has not ruled out joining the US in any conflict they might engineer. That would be a mistake to say the least. Trump says he was ready to bomb nuclear installations in Iran but pulled back because of the thought of injuring or killing 150 or so Iranian workers. Rubbish. Trump has no empathy. More likely what happened was that US intelligence operatives spelt out to him the extent of Iranian retaliation. The UAE would be targeted, bringing to a halt Emirates Airline and perhaps prevent them from operating for some time. American and other expats and workers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Dammam and Kuwait would be killed along with many local nationals and oil installations damaged. And that remains the case. Any small attack would quickly escalate into a major confrontation. One in which China and the Soviet Union would offer help to the Iranians.

Morrison, along with advisers and public servants hang their hats on the United States coming to Australia’s assistance in the event we get attacked, presumably by the Chinese or Indonesians. The US will not. Surely, we have learnt by now that America only protects its own interests. If our interests coincide so be it, but then if that’s the case what is the need for a one-way alliance?

Morrison and the Australian government grapple with what they see as the difficulty of ‘balancing’ the relationship between the US and China. Both countries need to be pushed back. China over its surveillance and attempts to control key members of the Australian/Chinese community, its hacking of Australian academic institutions, intelligence and government organisations and its purchase of strategic assets such as water and infrastructure. America needs to be pushed back over its assumption that Australia is compliant to the point of complacency, from Pine Gap to the basing of marines in Darwin to lazy statements of support for whatever the US might contemplate, including war against Iran.

China is asserting control over the South China Sea; America is resisting and exhorting countries in the region to join it with mixed success. Australia has been active in patrolling but has avoided confrontation. Singapore has just signed a defence agreement with China. Indonesia may follow.

China is active in the South Pacific, building infrastructure on island states some which has a defence application. They discuss the climate crises with island leaders. There is no debate in China about the crises, they accept climate change as a reality. Pacific leaders like what they hear. Morrison and LNP appointed intelligence chiefs fear what they term the encroachment of China into our region. Our region for heavens sake. We have studiously avoided the Pacific states for decades, we have ignored their pleas on climate change, we have short changed them on aid, we have patronised and talked down to them and in the case of PNG we have used them for our own political ends. It’s a bit late the horse has bolted.

Last year Morrison announced a mixed bag of $3 billion in aid for the Pacific and a further $250 million was announced this year in aid to the Solomon Islands. Australia has thrown down the gauntlet in a bidding war for the hearts and minds of Pacific Islanders that it has no hope of winning. China can out bid Australia and it will do so. A better strategy might be to enter into partnership arrangements with China to further the needs of the people in the region. But that is not the game. If Australia wants to regain lost influence and respect it needs to listen and respond to local leaders and opinion. However, the chances are not good, if it can’t do that at home with the Indigenous population how can it do it overseas? White superiority writ large.

Morrison will not lead on climate, nor on water, Morrison will stick to the narrow precepts of his church and the IPA.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and former Diplomat.

As the Howard regime progressed through time it perfected the art of smoke and mirrors, reaching the art of the ridiculous under Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Abbott and Turnbull made notable contributions.

Over this twenty three year period the politicisation of the public service and associated institutions has aided and abetted the show business of the LNP and to a lesser extent the Labor Party. We have seen the trashing of truth for political ends. As an example, sustained pressure from Howard saw the Bureau of Statistics decide that one hour of work a week constituted employment. By what flight of common sense did that become accepted? It is nonsense intended at the time to boost the LNP’s political fortunes.

I deliberately include the Labor Party in the Howard era, because of their supine adoption of Howard’s policies toward refugees, poverty, border ‘protection’, Iraq, Afghanistan, water, energy and the AFP.

And it is the AFP I wish to examine with a hope of reform, better accountability and improved leadership.

The AFP has demonstrated an ideological affiliation with the LNP and their obsession with border protection and terrorism. They bought into Howard’s use of terrorism as a political tool and means of control, much as Menzies did with Communism (Reds under the bed and Vietnam).

Encouraged by Howard the former Commissioner of the AFP, Michael Keelty, ran a strong anti-refugee and terror campaign. The AFP was active off shore in Indonesia disrupting people smugglers with threats and inducements with the aim of preventing the arrival of boats in Australia. They bought into turning back boats as a deterrence when in fact a better policy would have been to process refugees in Indonesia as part of a regional policy.

With his illegal incarceration of refugees and the pursuit of terrorists Howard put little in writing, operating with a wink, a nod and peripheral language.

On 2 July 2007 an Indian doctor, Mohamed Haneef, working at a Gold Coast hospital was arrested as he attempted to depart Australia for India on a one way ticket. He was arrested under the 2005 Terrorism Act which closely resembles the terrorism act in place in Apartheid South Africa.

Haneef told the AFP that he was going home to see his six day old daughter. He was not believed. His SIM card had been found in a vehicle belonging to men accused of bombing Glasgow Airport on 30 June, 2007. He was distantly related to the men. He had given one of them the card on his departure from UK some months earlier. He had bought a one way ticket to india because of insufficient funds.

With excellent lawyers the case against Haneef began to fall apart, as it did so false and misleading information was leaked to the press as an attempt to discredit Haneef. All charges against him were withdrawn on 27 July and he returned to India. He later received a considerable sum of money as compensation. The Indian Government was considerably exercised over the gross miscarriage of justice and made a number of representations.

I wrote on the matter. ‘Why did it come as no surprise to see a document linking Dr Mohamed Haneef to Al Qaeda enter the public domain via the SBS Dateline program on Wednesday 1 August?

…The alleged Indian Police dossier put before us by SBS cannot be identified as such. There is nothing which says it is a police dossier…

The photograph of Haneef which appears on the first page of the dossier is the same photograph which appeared in the Australian and British media immediately following his arrest, it appears to be a passport photo…The time line on the compilation of the dossier indicates that it was prepared after Haneef was in custody.

…the Indian Police interviewed Haneef on his return to Bangalore and said he was not a person of interest. On 3 August the Police Commissioner of Bangalore, Gopal Hosur, dismissed as false the report that Haneef had links to Al Qaeda.’ Keelty continued to claim otherwise.

I said, ‘In view of this statement (by Hosur) Dateline needs to provide more information on the status of the document they used as the basis of their story alleging Haneef had links to Al Qaeda.

We also need to know why the AFP gave credibility to allegations contained in the dossier in light of the statement by Commissioner Hosur…The way this investigation has been conducted and politicised has done harm to the Australia/India bilateral relationship…

The incompetence, spinning and partisanship of the AFP has exposed them as a second rate police force.’

The dossier which was available on line had all the hallmarks of having been manufactured.

In 2008 I wrote, ‘The AFP is very much a product of the Howard government. In the symbiotic relationship that developed between Howard and Keelty, the latter was given his head in developing…policy in relation to federal policing issues.

Under the umbrella of the Australian overblown war on terror the AFP increased its powers, budget and numbers. It now reaches into every major government department… however it increased its power and influence without change in the level of parliamentary scrutiny. The ubiquitous war on terror does not require the degree of secrecy and compliance that Keelty claims necessary for the AFP to carry out its duties.

Keelty has revealed much about himself by continuing to criticise the release, by defence lawyers, of the AFP record of interview with Dr Haneef and by claiming a need to continue with the investigation. These statements are made without explanation why Haneef remains a person of interest.

Is it the AFP or the government who have authorised this course of action?

Given the damage that Keelty and the AFP have already caused to Haneef and Australia’s relationship with India it would seem advisable for an appropriate Minister or the Prime Minister to make future statements relating to Haneef.’

By 2009 Keelty was gone, said by some to have been pushed by Rudd.

But the culture Keelty infused in the organisation remains. The current Commissioner Andrew Colvin appears comfortable with the closeness of the AFP to the LNP. On becoming Prime Minister, Tony Abbott declared that he was going to sleep in AFP barracks in Canberra. Colvin was lucky to have escaped a knighthood.

In 2010 pursuing a case against three Australians of Tamil descent for allegedly supplying funds to the LTTE the AFP relied on information provided by the Sri Lankan government. This emerged at the trial in the Victorian Supreme Court before Justice Paul Coghlan. He described the AFP’s methods as outrageous and a fundamental departure from principals that should govern interrogation and the gathering of evidence. The three were released on bonds.

In 2011 the AFP established a presence in the Australian High Commission to assist the Sri Lankan authorities turn back boats carrying Tamil refugees. All aspects of the turn around process in Sri Lanka were corrupt.

In 2012 the AFP dropped an investigation of war crimes against the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe. Perhaps the perceived need to keep the Sri Lankan government on side over boat arrivals may have played a part; in any case Samarasinghe had been assessed by the UN as a war criminal.

In 2015 Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in Indonesia as a result of information relating to drugs given to the Indonesian authorities by the AFP.

In October 2017 the AFP raided the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the AWU. The raids were instigated as a result of information provided to the AFP by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), an organisation established by the LNP to break the power of the unions. With this in mind the AFP might have shown a little more restraint. As it was the press was at the scene before the AFP. To many it looked like the Minister for Education, Michaelia Cash, the ROC and AFP were in an unholy alliance to embarrass the AWU with early bird photographs and poor publicity from the Murdoch press. Cash has expressed herself as no friend of unions.

The Labor Party called the raids a witch hunt and an attempt to smear, the government’s response was to claim that ‘the AFP is completely independent of government.’ A strange and unnecessary statement if the AFP is independent of the LNP government.

In January 2019 an Australian, Hakeem al-Araibi, was arrested when transiting Thailand for an act of terrorism when he was a national of Bahrain. The AFP was blamed for wrongly informing Interpol who in turn informed the Thai authorities. The AFP ducked for cover blaming Border Force. Hakeem was released and returned to Australia after a local and international outcry. Had he been extradited to Bahrain, who sought his arrest, he may have met the same fate as Chan and Sukumaran.

Most recently the AFP has claimed its powers have been reduced by being placed under the authority of Border Force. There is a strong case to break up Border Force, but as part of that process the AFP needs a thorough investigation, reorganisation and appointment of a leadership cadre with strength of character, intelligence and an understanding of the role of a police force in a democracy.

And now that Border Force has cracked a mention it would be worth pointing out that under Dutton and the public servant who heads that ‘department’, Mike Pezzullo, BF has been shaped as a para military force, much as Keelty wanted to do with the AFP prior to his retirement, when his plans were modified and shelved.

Dutton’s and Pezzullo’s plans would create a force worthy of a police state. BF will have the power of detain and arrest and will be heavily armed. A central operations centre is being constructed at Canberra airport which mirrors Defence’s Joint Operations Command.

Where did the money come from? From money siphoned from border protection, Manus and Nauru? Who knew this was happening? In any case Australia does not need such a force and it should be dismantled. Immigration, Customs, ASIO and the AFP should go their own way but not before there has been a Royal Commission into Immigration and an enquiry into Customs as well as the AFP. There is much for a new government to do.

Bruce Haigh is a former diplomat and political commentator.

The more things change the more they remain the same.

It is imperative that the Morrison government not be returned at the forthcoming election. It is devoid of ideas for the future. It denies climate change. It is corrupt. It is self serving. It is racist. It has no moral compass.

For these and for a range of unaddressed social justice and environmental issues, including mining, the Barrier Reef and refugees the Labor Party must be elected. But the election of a Labor government will not bring the type of fundamental change that is so overdue.

Both major parties conduct their politics within the same framework. One exists on the Right the other on the Centre Right. There is no Left in Australian politics. In light of the Murray Darling Basin debacle and climate change the Labor Party is not proposing to nationalise water resources, they haven’t even committed to a Royal Commission and Tony Burke has been attempting to defend his flawed MD Plan from his time as Minister for the Environment. The framework is defined by a lack of moral courage within people designated or who see themselves as leaders.

The Labor Party is not proposing a Banking and Financial Services Act to regulate greed and protect customers, it is not proposing to nationalise the energy industry and it supports a distortion in funding to religious schools. It has not proposed taxing religious organisations. It has not proposed regulating the fees charged by medical specialists nor has it proposed fundamental reform of Medicare and private health insurers. Other than vague references to a Republic it has no firm plan to ditch allegiance to the British Crown.

It has no policy toward a national housing scheme for the homeless, or the empowerment of Aboriginal people. It has no policy toward refugees other than deterrence. It has no plans for managing climate change, no announcements of a ministry to co-ordinate responses to significant natural disasters in Australia and the region and no plans to conduct training exercises between the ADF, SES, fire authorities, ambulance services, and hospitals.

It has no plans to scrap the ludicrous plans to build new submarines that will be obsolete before the first of the proposed twelve are launched.

By its very nature climate change will require increased government intervention to deliver and maintain essential services including the production and distribution of food. Governments will increasingly be required to take and carry the risks associated with climate change.

In my opinion Australia adopted its present restrictive and right leaning political framework when it decided to go to war on the side of Britain in 1914. It was a looser framework then than it is now. Until Australia embarked on what was to become a major national disaster it was set on a path of putting together a very progressive state. It had undertaken extensive infrastructure reform with railway construction, roads, bridges, harbours, hospitals and schools. In 1902 the Commonwealth Franchise Act gave women the right to vote and sit in the federal parliament. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904 established the basis for industrial relations until the 1990’s.The 1907 Harvester Case established the terms for a ‘fair and reasonable wage’ for the average working man.

The union movement was strong and progressive and gave birth to the ALP. This should be central to who we are as a nation not the Boys Own story of WW1.

WW1 drained the nation of manpower, money and self confidence. It wasn’t just the dead and injured, which numbered some 200,000, it was the fact that many men who had served on the front line returned to Australia with shell shock now known as PTSD. The effect on the nation through friends and families has largely gone undocumented. The waste and futility, carried by the soldiers, has largely gone undocumented the associated guilt swamped with jingoism. However there was enough fight and decency left in the nation to oppose and defeat the introduction of conscription for the war proposed in the form of a referendum by Prime Minister Hughes in 1916 and 1917.

Optimism, innovation and creativity were dealt a further blow by the Great Depression and WW11, the ending of which saw the social blight of WW1 repeated and reinforced by large numbers of refugees and migrants from war torn Europe. Of course it was not all gloom and doom, but it was dull and conservative as people sought to rebuild their lives. And conservative Prime Minister Menzies took full advantage of a cautious electorate to tighten the restrictive framework of the state.

Menzies defeated Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, in 1949 after he tried to nationalise the banks. Events played into Menzies hands. The Cold War gripped the major powers, communism was the scourge of the West and Menzies used the fear associated with it to further cower and corral the little Aussie battlers. Labor had no narrative particularly after it split in 1955 leading to the formation of the breakaway right wing Democratic Labor Party which had close ties to the Catholic Church. Menzies also rode the wave of sustained economic growth fuelled by wool, wheat and mining.

Menzies committed the country to war in Vietnam in 1965 without telling the country and introduced conscription without telling the people that the conscripts would fight in that war. The Labor Party did little to oppose the war and conscription until public opinion moved substantially against both by mid 1969. It proved to be a vote winning issue for Labor leader Gough Whitlam at the 1972 elections.

Gough tried to dismantle the framework. He moved fast, far too fast in the face of a deteriorating economy. He was sacked by the Governor General in November 1975. That act, which had been engineered by Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser and endorsed by the Queen, saw the framework back in place. Bob Hawke defeated Fraser in 1983. He saw his chances of being elected dependent on maintaining the status quo, which meant the framework and his successor, Paul Keating, did likewise pushing the envelope to the right with a program of privatisation and detention of refugees.

John Howard came to power in 1996 and within four years had taken the country back to the Menzies era, including a sham love of cricket, the sport which roundly rejected his attempt to become world president. The Howard regime was racist, royalist, misogynist, militaristic, jingoistic and elitist. Anzac Day and Australia Day were turned into pseudo iconic national events. Refugees and Aboriginals were demonised and no government that has followed his defeat in 2007 has changed that, including the Labor governments of Rudd and Gillard.

Howard sowed the seeds of intolerance and vilification toward Muslims which found ready disciples in Abbott, Morrison and Dutton and which some are saying, and I agree, reaped a vile harvest in the ghastly Mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March, when an Australian right wing devotee shot dead 50 worshipers and wounded another 39.

Abbott in 2013 was a shrill and nastier version of Howard’s government, Turnbull in 2015 was a failure to himself and the nation and Morrison in 2018 a caricature of all that went before him. All maintained the framework; perhaps believing it was a structure that fostered stability. It has not. Howard like Menzies before him secretly took the country to war in Iraq.

For me the framework is defined by how an Australian government approaches questions of race, distribution of income, the fairness of the tax and education systems, jingoism and how greed is being managed, in other words what the fairness graph is reading. To move out of the framework, the fostering of innovation would need to take place together with nurturing the aged, the disabled, disadvantaged the environment.

Shorten is shuffling. He will win the election because Morrison and his moronic muppets will lose it. He shows no interest in challenging or even trying to bend the framework, from refugees to water, banking to defence. He will see off a corrupt, stupid and morally bankrupt government, but he will not oversee creative, constructive and long overdue change. Sadly he is comfortable in our constraining and constricting framework forged as a result of the failure of war.

He condemns us to the turnaround of the hour glass.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and former diplomat.

The collapse of the Darling River system and with it Murray/Darling Basin Authority and the much vaunted Plan is an awful example of all that is wrong with Australia at the moment.

I say at the moment because there is an expectation that the Labor Party will be in power within twenty weeks and it will begin the process of repairing the damage wrought by the LNP over the past twenty three years.

Stake holders along the Murray/Darling River system have known for some time that it was in a bad way and that irrigation practices were unsustainable. They knew that water was being taken illegally, but no one in authority at the State and Federal level would listen to complaints or undertake action against the perpetrators. That led to a culture of water theft.

The incoming Labor Party is expected to institute a Royal Commission into the Murray/Darling Basin. In this they will be supported by a new Labor state government in NSW. The RC is expected to have wide ranging terms of reference. It will overshadow the discredited LNP Royal Commission in South Australia.

The National Party, which claims to represent the interests of rural Australia, have in fact done most to wreck the sustainability of waterways. The former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, pushed the terms of the National Water Commission Bill, 2004, which separated water from property rights allowing for the trading of water. Along with corruption that decision has done more to undermine the river systems than any other undertaking. Many hope that the role of Barnaby Joyce, another former Deputy Prime Minister, in aiding the alleged illegal diversion of water for friends and donors amongst northern cotton growers will be fully examined by a Royal Commission.

In 2016 Joyce was reported by the ABC to have said that he did not have a brief to protect water, it was a resource to be exploited for economic benefit. “Water is wealth and a dam is a bank, any essence of wealth is connected to water and water infrastructure, as they say you can make money out of mud but you can’t make it out of dust.”

I have been writing about water, salinity and land degradation since 1980. My awareness comes from having lived and farmed in WA and NSW. In 2008 I wrote, “The components of the water crisis in Australia are environmental, managerial and political. Southern catchment systems and rivers are degraded through greed and mismanagement, with the latter centred on inappropriate agricultural practices such as flood irrigation…However debate so far has been conducted within the narrow and selfish framework that the market knows best. Essentially this is expressed as the market will establish the true cost of water and water will flow to those who pay this cost.

This is to be achieved through the sale of water licences, too many of which have been issued for the amount of water available, and by the sale of water by licence holders. To compound this problem water and licences can be sold from one geographic area to another with little regard for the amount of water available to meet those transactions.”

Webster Ltd., has a water portfolio of $300 million.

Later in 2008 I wrote, ”I fail to see how rational policy decisions relating to water can be made in the absence of a national audit of water availability and use. I have argued before for a National Water Institute to undertake such an audit and to manage the process on an ongoing basis. Both the Murray/Darling Basin Authority and a National Water Institute should answer to a Senate Water and Sustainable Land Use Committee…In attempting to restore the Murray/Darling River System the government is in the impossible position of having to purchase water. It is unfortunate that a vital, essential and irreplaceable commodity such as water can be traded. The river and those that live along it have been turned into mendicants. They are forced to compete with some large and vested interests. If the government is serious about solving the problems of the System it will need to nationalise and control all of the water which comes into that System.”

I urged that as an initial step the Federal Government purchase Cubbie Station at the head waters of the Darling, which was up for sale. Penny Wong was at that time the Minister for the Environment. I can only assume she was poorly advised for she declined.

In 2008 the Northern Basin Alliance of NSW (big cotton growers) argued that the Northern Basin which includes the Namoi Valley Catchment should be removed from the jurisdiction of the Murray/Darling Basin Authority. They wanted a Northern Basin Commission to manage the Darling and its tributaries. These are the growers egged on and supported by Joyce. Hostile from the outset to the MDBA, they have sought to bend the rules and where possible to flaunt them.

I stood as an Independent for the seat of Parkes in 2007. Following a radio interview in which I canvassed many of the issues in this article I was rung by the CEO of an irrigation company based in Narrabri. He told me in no uncertain terms to back off. He indicated the company would put money into another Independent who supported the irrigation industry

In November 2018, northern cotton grower, Anthony Barlow, was charged with water theft from the Darling, sentencing will be in February. Another grower, Peter Harris, is fighting separate charges.  They arose as the result of an ABC Four Corners investigation in mid 2017.

David Harris the head of the government department, Water NSW, has argued that grower’s water usage data should be protected. Illustrating how weak the advocacy for the environment is from the NSW government and its agencies.

On the 8 January two senior executives from Norman Farming, a cotton growing conglomerate in southern Queensland appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with defrauding the Commonwealth of $20 million intended for water savings on the Murray/Darling.

Despite the protestations from major cotton growers and peak industry bodies that these cases are exceptional one gets the impression that they are the tip of the iceberg! and that as climate change rubs against the profit margins of big growers increased gaming and rorting will increase unless fundamental change is implemented.

In 2018 Maryanne Slattery, a Senior Water Researcher at the Australia Institute and whistle blower formerly with the Murray/Darling Basin Authority, noted, “Implementing the Plan for political expediency without transparency or accountability by the MDBA has resulted in a fraud of a Basin Plan. It has benefited big irrigators at the expense of everyone else including Aboriginal people, regional communities, flood plain graziers, small irrigators and the environment…Its implementation has been a betrayal to all Australians, who deserve to be angry.”

Billions of litres of water purchased for the health of the system has instead found its way to growers.

My guess will be that as the Royal Commission progresses, cotton farms will come onto the market. There will be calls for compensation and government buyouts as the market declines.

In 2010 I wrote,

“The management of water resources worldwide should become a priority of the United Nations. Just as we have a United Nations High Commission for Refugees, we should have a United Nations High Commission for Water, engaging in studies and dialogue on best practice and use of water…the management of water should not be left to markets where the pursuit of profit has water abused, devalued and often powerless with respect to sustainability. Water needs a voice and a value beyond the market. At the moment it comes a very poor second in calculations relating to its use, agriculture and industry have the upper hand and water is required to comply…

In terms of the productive use of water in Australia much of it might be likened to child labour. Water is the cheapest input into the production chain. It does not have a defender powerful enough to modify the behaviour of the big exporting agro industries. When we export many of our irrigated products we export cheap water, well below its real value…”

When developers are planning a high rise or a subdivision they are not required to submit estimated water usage as part of the approval process. How is that good water management? It defies common sense.

In 2016 I wrote,

“Water is vital for a sustainable future, particularly in Australia. To survive, and therefore for all of us to survive, water needs all the care and compassion it can get. Not so in Australia.

The new and brash head of CSIRO, Larry Marshall, recently announced plans to get rid scientists from the Land and Water Division. Apparently there has been a judgement that they do not have the capacity to make money for the organisation…

Abbott was and remains a Luddite with respect to scientific research particularly climate change, land and water. He axed the National Water Commission as well as the National Climate Commission. The braying acolytes that are coyly referred to as his supporters share his attitudes to science in the public good. They are against it. Marshall is their man, he was appointed during Abbott’s prime ministership…”

How little has changed. Will the Labor Party be able to turn things around? Will it be able to right past wrongs?

Bruce Haigh is retired diplomat, irrigator and public commentator.