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Published: Crikey

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As Prime Minister, Rudd was the de facto Minister for Foreign Affairs. Stephen Smith was appointed to the job on the basis he would not challenge Rudd, and he did not.

Rudd cast him the crumbs and the crap and he became in effect the Minister for Consular Affairs. His department is not enthralled with his grasp of complex issues nor his intellectual capacity, although he is regarded as decent if not somewhat bad tempered from time to time, who wouldn’t be having Rudd steal your oxygen.

Rudd’s foreign policy experience was limited and it showed. His Middle East policy was badly balanced. Israel offers little to Australia, except intelligence of dubious value, resting, as it does, within an ideological framework. The value of trade with the rest of the Middle East is $13.5 billion per annum. With a more balanced foreign policy this trade would rapidly increase.

When he should have been firm over Stern Hu, Rudd dived for cover, not a form of diplomacy that the Chinese respect.

Rudd was wrong over Afghanistan. He offended the Indonesian President with his clumsy request for intervention over the Sri Lankan asylum seeker vessel holed up in the port of Merak. The request exposed, for all to see, the limitations of Indonesian Presidential power.

He visited China and not India and reacted poorly to attacks on Indian students, managing, as a result, to badly damage the relationship with an important trading and strategic partner.

He offended most South East Asian countries with his self indulgent proposal for an Asia-Pacific Community. The idea flew like a lead balloon and is now dead, some in ASEAN look askance at Australian diplomacy.

He pushed for a seat on the UN Security Council, spent a lot of money on the quest, when in light of Australia’s relations with the Middle East, Africa and India, there was little prospect of attracting even enough votes to save face.

Rudd was weak on human rights, ceasing the processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers, on whaling and climate change.

He interfered in a senior diplomatic appointment, on the basis of a personal grudge. There are few in the department who respect him.

His foreign policy forays were not successful.

Julia Gillard has the opportunity to draw on considerable but hitherto unused or under-utilised talent in the form of Combet, McKew, Gray, and Shorten. Combet has the skill and intelligence to make a very good Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Published: Online Opinion

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I have just returned from a week in South Africa. I lived there from 1976 to 1979. I ran a training program for black South Africans from 1990 to 1993 and I have visited a number of times since.

The Rainbow Country is defined by race and racial attitudes, even though Apartheid ended 16 years ago. There are 11 official languages. People still speak of themselves as White, Black, Coloured, Indian and Asian and within those categories as Afrikaner, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Pedi, Venda and Sesotho. But now the reference is that of identification rather than separation.

Yes there is violent crime but it is colour blind. Theft and the sometimes accompanying anger is directed against those who have.

Can an unequal distribution of wealth and resources cause or entrench racial disadvantage? I believe it can. There are now Black Madams, along-side White, Coloured and Indian Madams, but there is still only one serving class and that is Black.

Officially South Africa is home to around 2 million refugees; unofficially the figure is closer to 10 million. These other Africans are discriminated against. In a country where the Black rate of unemployment is 35/40 per cent, resentment has coalesced into violence against outsiders, who are seen to have taken jobs from locals.

But there is no sense of subterranean racism in South Africa; what you see and hear on the street, in pubs restaurants and lounge rooms is what you get.

There is nothing underhand or furtive in relation to issues of race and racism in South Africa. There are no codes or Masonic signals surrounding and defining racism as there is in Australia.

Former Prime Minister John Howard used racism for political ends while denying its existence. It was nudge and wink racism in public, encouraged more blatantly behind closed doors. It went hand in glove with the secrecy that Howard fostered in response to the fear he sought to engender and use in response to what he termed international terrorism.

This has seen Australian Army operations in Afghanistan conducted behind a wall of secrecy, hiding the deaths of civilians, who don’t count in the same way that Vietnamese civilians did not count during our involvement in Vietnam.
And worse, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has vilified Afghan asylum seekers saying, even before their claims were heard, that he did not believe them. Incredibly, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he declared that the situation in Afghanistan was improving and conditions right for their return. That is base racism. The lives of Afghans do not count. He said the same about Tamils from Sri Lanka. With recruits like Rudd you can see why the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs is in such bad shape; although lack of leadership by their Minister, Stephen Smith, contributes.

Sneaky, subterranean racism rises to the surface in sulphurous, surprising bursts. Recent vitriolic musings in club surrounds from AFL and NRL luminaries give a glimpse into what some select sub-groups consider acceptable if not normal in their social discourse. Such as, “Mate let me tell you, in my experience blacks are lazy boozing bastards and I don’t care where they come from they are all the same”.

This is the same racism that assumes in the course of a conversation with a Naval rating in an airline queue, that after identifying myself as having been in the army, that I will appreciate looking at SMS jokes about Aboriginals a mate has sent to him.

Is this type of racism used as a bonding thing amongst mates? Is it similar to the flag draped racism of Howard, where the language and symbolism of his peculiar brand of jingoistic nationalism was deployed to devastating effect against refugees and Muslims and Rudd did nothing to change it? Is it the same racism that elicits a sly smile at an Old Boys lunch or rural political party gathering?

Howard’s Mal Brough instituted a major attack on the rights and self respect of Aborigines for the same political purpose as Children Overboard and Jenny Macklin has perpetuated the offence through lack of imagination and courage. Pedestrian and paternalistic at best, she seems unable to comprehend that her policies are offensive and racist. No respect, no dialogue; it’s us up here and them down there, separate development, Bantu Board solutions in 2010 Australia.

Howard’s AFP acting on the many cues signalled by him and magnified by a loyal and zealous Kevin Andrews highlighted, for the world to see, the depth and official tolerance of Australian racism and xenophobia when they detained and harassed Dr Mohamed Haneef. Evidence against him was fraudulently concocted. He has never received an apology far less compensation. AFP police chief Keelty continued to conduct inquiries into Haneef long after he was found to have been vilified and wrongly detained. The treatment of Haneef may have encouraged attacks on Indian students.

Long after all support for Keelty, as head of the AFP, had evaporated Rudd continued to back him.

Australian racism is sneaky, it is practised in a way that mostly is deniable. Quite often its practitioners know it to be wrong, but they do it anyway. Why? Is it a way of expressing and releasing fear, of reinforcing and consolidating group membership? Howard and Rudd used it for political ends and by so doing condoned, if not encouraged a particularly perverse form of subterranean racism, surfacing from time to time in football clubs, Coogee, the Todd River and Palm Island.

The challenge is before the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, not to use or condone this potent political force. She might move to end the intervention and look for processes of empowerment for Aborigines. She might send out an early signal by processing Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers and pouring scorn on the shrill whinging and childish fears of the border protectionists.

However, her past record, when Opposition spokesperson on Immigration, and more recently as a member of Rudd’s kitchen cabinet, does not engender much confidence.

Bruce Haigh answers questions from high school students relating to the motivation for undertaking certain activities in South Africa.

Q1. What were some fears that you encountered while fighting for justice?

Answer: The biggest problem in taking on issues, particularly if they are not popular, is handling the enmity of family, friends and perhaps employer. Of course in some situations there will be physical fear, but I found the hardest to deal with was exclusion or the fear of exclusion from comfort zones. Being alone and wondering whether the cost of lost relationships was worth it and indeed whether I was right. It is always easier to go with the flow.

For instance in Australia and America it is difficult to take up the cause of Palestinian rights or euthanasia. The first thing I find is to decide within yourself what are the merits of the issue you are faced with. What are the rights and wrongs. Nothing is ever really clear cut, their are always arguments for and against, or at least when you first get involved in an issue; the more you get into it and the more you get involved the clearer it seems to get. However, that can lead to a loss of perspective, a loss of balance as you become convinced of the absolute justice of your position.The position and actions of the other side might drive you to distraction, but at the end of the day you are dealing with people and people have many flaws and many strengths, it depends always on how you view your enemy!

For instance soldiers sometimes shoot prisoners and women and children. Why? What drives or allows people to do these things? Particularly when years after most will regret their actions. In a situation like South Africa under Apartheid it was necessary to keep talking to and maintain a working, if not strong dialogue with the ruling Afrikaner elite.

It is necessary to keep talking to the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka even though they have behaved appallingly to the Tamils. Talking with should not amount to agreeing with but often people fall into that trap in order to maintain their comfort zone. It can be difficult to disagree with someone when you have accepted their hospitality. However by the same token their can come a point that you have to get up and leave if you are being bullied, no matter how politely!

I guess it is much harder to have moral courage than physical courage. We live in countries where physical courage is placed ahead of moral courage. It always amazes me when someone has been rewarded for feats of bravery and they subsequently turn out to have feet of clay. We often see this in our military leaders, “we had to destroy that village in order to save it.”

The Taliban are terrorists, so we will not talk or negotiate with them. The war cannot be won by military means, so if we will not negotiate, what is the end game? What does the Taliban want? What are their aims? Is their any ground for negotiation? What is Pakistan’s role? What does their army and intelligence services want? And so it goes on.

In South Africa, my Department, Foreign Affairs, expressed itself against Apartheid but not for black rights, so I had to work alone and quietly whilst at the post. And do the same when I got back to Australia. Lobby politicians and others of influence to try and bring about change as well as differences in our policy, which sometimes were the same thing. My parents did not share my views, so that was difficult.

Q2. When you were trying to help Donald Woods escape, were you afraid? Were there any other moments in your life that you felt afraid while fighting for justice?

Answer: Yes. Donald was not the only one. With these sorts of things, you make a plan and go over it, refine it and try and cover all the things that might go wrong and once ‘satisfied’ wait, and that’s the hardest part.

Once things are underway it’s OK and problems and the unexpected can be dealt with on the run so to speak.I have felt afraid of a lot of things, exams, getting into trouble at school, being judged at work, riding horses, motor bikes, sailing, in the army, I think the thing for me was learning how to handle and cope with fear – the fear of failure, looking stupid, just the fear of fear. It is a constant battle, but handling it has made it easier the next time. Mental toughness is the answer. Helping people when you know or believe other people will mock and criticize you. Self belief, self knowledge – it is leadership of another sort and not always learnt in police or military academies.

I felt afraid in Afghanistan, in Kabul. Taking photographs of Russian soldiers and installations and waiting for rocket attacks. I felt afraid when I challenged my employer, the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Q3. How accurate was Cry Freedom historically?

Answer. The film was fairly accurate, but all films highlight some things and marginalize others. They can never illustrate all the complexities of personalities. That is why some people prefer documentaries.

Q4. Is there a particularly special story you could share about Biko &/or Woods that was not in the movie that could shed even more light on who they were?

Answer: Donald Woods was irreverent, a cowboy, a congenial loner, a maverick with a strong belief in justice and a great love of people. Steve Biko was a natural leader. Tall and good looking, smart and charming, he was the sort of person you would naturally elect to be student president. Women had difficulty resisting his charms. He was sensitive and courageous, but did not chase risks. He understood the mind of his oppressor and could therefore deal with them as people.

Q5. In the movie, the “scoop” is phoned in before the Woods family departs Maseru. This seems to get the South African government upset. Was this just for a dramatic ending to the movie, or did you really alert the South African press before they departed?

Answer: I haven’t seen the film for awhile. I had it as a video but haven’t got it as a DVD. I can’t remember the ‘scoop’, but the press did not find out about the escape until Donald and his family were safely in Lesotho and then they turned up from Jbg. and Cape Town to interview him. That was important from the point of view of protection for Donald. There was a possibility that the SA security police might have tried to kidnap and take him back to SA.

Q6. While working with Biko, were you ever worried about what was going to happen to you or your family?

Answer: Always a bit worried, that a rogue security policemen might have done something silly. There were a number of incidents, but nothing serious. Also it was always a bit of a worry going into the black townships, particularly Soweto, as a white man.

Q7. In the 1970s, did you have any idea at the time how impactful your actions were on South Africa, and for that matter the world?

Answer: Well I don’t think I had much impact, but certainly Donald and Mamphela did.

Q8. What was the most “mind-blowing” experience that you ever witnessed?

Answer: Most people will say it, but the birth of my children and the day I realized that my step son and I were as close as all my other children. But mind blowing. I’d like to be able to say the day Australia became a Republic, but it hasn’t happened yet! It is a very good question because some of the best mind blowing things to have happened are simple things with the kids or friends or around the farm. But I know what you mean. I guess sailing with lots of sail up in a very strong breeze. Benazir Bhutto being elected Prime Minister. Seeing the Rolling Stones live on stage in 1963 with Roy Orbison. Meeting Nelson Mandela.

Q9. Did you ever have any “doubts” regarding your career path? Did you ever lose hope?

Answer: I have had a great life and wouldn’t change much, but doing what I did or rather being who I am was not great for my formal career in Foreign Affairs, but for the real life aspects of that career it was great.

Q10. What was it like to travel to Afghanistan and report on the war and other aspects of the Soviet Union?

Answer: Maybe I have covered this question above. Afghanistan is a ruggedly beautiful country. It has not been kind to invading armies from Alexander on. I used to go to Afghanistan for ten days at a time. The embassy had a permanent lease on a house in the middle of town. Staying overnight in New Delhi and catching an early morning flight to Kabul. To avoid the Stinger Missiles the pilot of the Indian Airlines 737 would extend his flaps at 6,000 feet and spiral down very quickly to the runway. I once sat in a seat going back to Delhi which was very wet, the previous occupant on the flight in had let go of his bladder!

I made a point of talking to diplomatic representatives from eastern bloc countries. Once talking with the Polish Ambassador I noticed the attache in the room with us had something square under his jumper – the conversation was being taped but very crudely! I invited people for drinks to the house. The Polish and Czechs were very critical of the Russians. This was 1988. It wasn’t too long before The Wall came down. Russia was on the back foot. When back in Delhi and out of the war zone I would celebrate with a really nice meal and before going in would do the same and call it the last supper.

Q11. What advice do you have for kids interested in becoming active agents for social justice? In other words, how can kids get involved?

Answer: By asking that question you are on the road to getting involved. Some people, maybe a lot of people, believe that Democracy is set in stone and as a result can take a lot of neglect and abuse, it cannot. It is a fragile thing and requires constant nurturing and care, like the environment. To get involved empower yourself. When things annoy you or when something needs to be done, write a letter to the paper, ring the radio station and try and get on air, particularly if it is a nasty right wing shock jock. Ring and write to your local, state and federal politicians; be polite, be persistent, don’t be fobbed off. Know you facts, present your case. Be passionate but not a pain, although there are times when that might not be a bad thing.

Has Bill Gates made a difference? Could he have done it without his Billions? Has Ralph Nader made a difference? I would venture to suggest you do not need billions to make a difference – you need strength of character and that needs to be developed just as surely as fitness for the sporting team. You are lucky to have a teacher who has that it mind. Not many teachers would go to the trouble that Mr. Hjelmgren did with this topic including tracking me down.

All the best with your collective futures, I know all of you in different and positive ways will make a difference.

Bruce Haigh
Last Updated ( Friday, 11 June 2010 )

Published: Canberra Times

Kevin Rudd, like John Howard before him, has embarked on the path to political self destruction, although he has managed to shorten the time frame.

His Ambassadorial style of leadership deprives him of the capacity to listen to other views and opinions and has become his biggest legacy. He has no friends in his party, no one to use as a sounding board other than sycophantic advisers and dishonest rivals.

Rudd is not a practical man, he has sought to micro manage without the life skills to back his autocratic style. The failure of the insulation program and the schools program are testament to that. Basic questions were not asked as to implementation and accountability and the desire to push money into the economy became badly entangled with spin.

People sent to advise shy away from Rudd’s bullying and shouting, something it must be said he hasn’t yet done in church.

He is driven by an ambition which translates into a strong desire to be re-elected and behind that desire is a fear of defeat, of rejection. So palpable is that fear that it skews his judgement, manifested in an over-reaction to the GFC, which saw billions squandered. Claims that this spending saved the economy are not quantifiable and as such weaken Rudd and Swans argument that it prevented recession.

Fear of criticism, fear of losing the election drove Rudd to impose a 40% resource tax on the mining industry without consultation. Few disagree with a tax, but the size and arrogant implementation have driven most away.

Fear of the criticism that his profligate deficit was a demonstration of poor economic management had him seek a quick solution. The consequences were not foreseen, by him, the sycophants and not articulated by the calculating rivals. The decision has proved a policy disaster and lined the pockets of the Opposition with mining gold. How silly in an election year.

As if his judgement were not already in need of careful management, the sycophants and smugly callous rivals allowed him to score a spectacular own goal by overturning his own advertising guidelines and in the process outraging every fair minded Australian.

Rudd sought power in order to gain respect; in failing that he has tried to engineer it with his obsessive control of process and contrived personality. The harder he tries the more he is undone.

His departure may not be at the hands of the electorate; the chances are he will flop over the line and that will be his undoing. There are a number of people in his party that want his job and most could do it better than Rudd.

The only thing Rudd has going for him is the weakness and stupidity of the Opposition. Who advises Julie Bishop? We kicked out an Israeli diplomat or Mossad agent to preserve our national interest. As the Chief Executive of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Robert Newton said last week, trade with Arab countries is worth $13.2 billion and growing. Abuse of Australian passports by Israel has the potential to impede trade by imposing restrictions on Australian passport holders which currently do not exist. Firm action by Australia demonstrates a commitment to protect the integrity of our passports and the ability of Australian traders to maintain their ease of access to Arab states.

The inability of Bishop and Abbott to understand the ramifications of the Israeli action helped underscore what many feel about the Coalition; it is immature, unworldly, unsophisticated and lazy. Couple that with Hockey’s unwillingness or inability to do his homework as shadow Treasurer and the voting public is left with the impression that Abbott has a B grade team trying to play in the A league. Robb is a tryer without talent, Dutton is not a team player and lacks ability and no-one else in the shadow cabinet gives the impression of having mastered their portfolio. Abbott does not present as a prime ministerial material; a showman, a post adolescent attention seeker, but not the leader of a country with great potential and significant problems.

The Opposition have played the man with respect to asylum seekers and Rudd followed. Both sides have trashed human rights without political gain. Rudd lost support as a result and Abbott gained none, in a low game where both were prepared to use the plight of asylum seekers as an election football. In the last few days Rudd has softened his rhetoric in the hope that he can attract back lost support to the Greens. He has learnt nothing. The electorate is sick of listening to him. They trust nothing he says.

Rudd has a couple of months at most in which to learn that action speaks louder than words. If he wants people to listen to him he must reverse his decision on not processing Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers, quickly process claimants on Christmas Island and desist from housing traumatised people in remote locations.

Re-election will not solve Rudd’s problems, it will add to them. Next year is shaping to be a bad year. Europe’s economic woes will impact upon Australia and indeed the rest of the world. Rudd’s inability to institute fundamental economic reform will exacerbate the knock on effect in Australia.

Panic by Rudd and Treasury in the face of the GFC saw billions spent with no underlying benefit to, or strengthening of the economy. As a result of poor political and economic management Australia has no financial reserves to meet a future economic crises, but nor does it have the leadership.

Julia Gillard is not a pragmatist, she is a political opportunist. Creative solutions are not her forte. Good man though he is, Tanner has lost his way, and who wouldn’t working within Rudd’s vacuum. Combet on the other hand is a man of the real world. He has ability and a belief in issues to make a good leader.

Rudd’s fears are causing imbalance and his imbalance is starting to affect us all. We can’t afford him. He is moving out of control. Ministers who had programs of reform have given up. His caution and fear will not allow for change. In giving up they are waiting for him to go.

Published: ABC the Drum Unleashed

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Julie Bishop was right, intelligence agencies manufacture documents to provide cover or cause trouble. Nothing remarkable in that.

In fact any organisation or individual wishing to evade detection will use false documents. The most acceptable in more recent times have been members of the anti-Nazi resistance and escaping prisoners of war.

Criminal gangs, drug couriers, and members of international crime syndicates all use false documents. They come into Australia using a combination of false documents and bribery.

Foreign agents seeking secret information, seeking to hide information gathering activities, seeking to establish networks to provide information, money or other items of use to their managing organisation, which in most instances would include their home government, would use false documents including passports. These can be manufactured or stolen. Not all governments know what their intelligence agencies are up to at any particular time. However the degree of political risk will usually determine the level of disclosure.

Escaping asylum seekers and others wishing to evade death, torture and terror use false documents, if they can obtain them. False documents cost a lot of money, the better they are the more they cost.

International terrorists use false documents, again if they have access to large amounts of money they will obtain high quality documentation. Intelligence agencies spend a lot of time and resources tracing the origin of these documents. Depending on the source they might be able to use them to make documents for an operation, that, should it go badly, will be traced to an organisation that sits on the other side.

The subterranean world of the production and use of false documents is messy, complex and sometimes dangerous. At times there is a cross over between intelligence and criminal organisations, particularly in the manufacture of documents, transport of people and goods and the use of laundered and counterfeit money.

Intelligence organisations can organise, promote and assist terror operations, such as that by Pakistan’s ISI in Mumbai at the end of November 2008. As part of that assistance false documentation was provided.

Russian agencies have carried out assassination attacks in Chechnya and Chechen rebels have carried out attacks in Russia involving false identity. The United States has eliminated fundamentalists in Karachi, using agents with false documents.

Mossad carried out a terror raid in Dubai in February 2010 against a member of Hamas. To do so they used false documents including Australian passports. The fact that many in the West, including Australia, agreed with the action does not make it any the less illegal or criminal.

The crime, if you like, was being caught. Mossad and its agents were careless. Passports and other documentation fell into the hands of the Dubai police who quickly identified the operation as Israeli.

How many other operations has Mossad carried out using Australian passports? Some may have been done with Australian consent and assistance. The United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Australia all share a common concern to eliminate Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and terrorists. They all work closely with Mossad and share intelligence. All had passports of their nationals involved in the attack. Was Australia in any way involved? It is possible.

Prior to the expulsion of the Israeli diplomat, the head of ASIO, David Irvine, went to Israel. Why? Was it to keep the intelligence relationship intact? Explain and smooth ruffled feathers? We have an Ambassador to do that. What was Irvine up to?

After the existence of the passports was revealed several AFP officers were dispatched to Israel to find out what they could about the use of Australian passports in the assassination. Surprisingly they found nothing, but disgraced themselves, and us, by getting involved in a hit and run accident in Tel Aviv.

There were suggestions around the time of the Haneef fiasco that a document linking Haneef to al Qaeda had been manufactured in Australia. SBS ran the original story, but the document contained inconsistencies relating to time and place and was of poor quality, not sufficient however to prevent the AFP trying to get some mileage out of it.

Julie Bishop made a fool of herself. Her naivety and flippancy do not auger well. Who will keep a watch over the activities of Australian and foreign agencies if the Coalition should be handed power by Rudd?