Sunday, June 15, 2008

Australia's Labor Govt: Free-thinking or Unthinking?

I was amused to read P.S.Suryanarayana's 'Australia: a free thinking ally of the U.S.' today. The general tone appears quite laudatory of the Australian labor party PM Kevin Rudd. Why the great enthusiasm for his leadership? For two reasons it appears: his willingness to stand apart from the US and his desire to put his country's relationship with China on a special footing.

This is the same guy who pointedly indicated before his election that his government would under no circumstances sell uranium to India. True to his word, he has reversed the previous conservative government's position and since then stuck to the view that India would be entitled to the standard benefits of the NPT provided it signs up as a non-nuclear member state, something it would obviously never do. He has also clearly indicated that he values the relationship with China far more than India. He has been anxious to involve China as an active dialogue partner in all economic and security related matters in South East Asia. He has also shown a decidedly lower level of enthusiasm in bringing India into those equations, something that stands apart from the previous John Howard government's attitude. Some of these facts also happen to be mentioned in this article.

Yet, he is described as 'free thinking'. One could ascribe to him the quality of being a thinking PM if he did something novel or principled such as standing up for a cause of some kind even at the risk of acquiring the ignominy of others. I see absolutely nothing of the kind here - he has simply sought to revert his country back to the classical European world view that it has long held before George Bush's ascent to power. Non-proliferation dogma, appeasement of China, pro-environment/anti-climate change, faith in a multipolar world (read that as reigning in American unilateralism) - all of these are standard leftist talking points that every European PM adheres to. With the decline of the Bush administration's power, he has simply taken the opportunity to return Australia, long a bastion of European political correctness to its former ways. Refusing to meet the Dalai Lama, failing to recognize India's unique situation vis-a-vis proliferation and rejecting the promotion of democracy as a worthwhile foreign policy goal are all gospel for socialists and are neither new nor particularly principled and certainly cannot be termed 'free thinking' - indeed, parroting the same positions does not amount to thinking at all.

He says that Mr. Rudd is anxious to cooperate with Japan which 'has taken a leadership role' in create a planet-sustaining environment. Japan was actually a hold-out at Kyoto for quite a long time and is still strongly opposed to any curbs on whaling, a practice it continues to engage in often covertly under the guise of research efforts on whales. Greenpeace has had a long running battle with Japan on this issue. I agree that Japan is an important industrialized power that needs to be taken along for climate change efforts to succeed but leadership would not be a word I would use for a country that has been anxious to water down hunting regulations. Mr. Suryanarayana is obviously so excited that Australia is actively making efforts to build alliances such as China and Japan even if it is not particularly keen on including India within its calculations that he is probably willing to overlook such minor things that might run contrary to his thesis of a 'free-thinking' nation on the move.

7 comments:

Dirt Digger said...

Pilid,
Insightful post there. You are right in your analysis that the writer seems quite happy to kiss up to Kevin Rudd primarily for his conciliatory focus towards China and therefore slight distancing away from the US.
The overall ideology of Chindu has been to laud anyone who makes a minor statement against the US or makes a pro China statement.
This sort of infantile thinking based on sheer servitude towards a Chinese regime is laughable.
The point about Japan's environmental issues are not known to many people and it might help if you could do a detailed post on that topic.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, this is garbage post. Suraya Narayan has written quite a good analytic construct of the new Aussie govt and what it means, and how, actually, India must negotiate its way around the quartet of Aussia, Jap and China and America. and not assume axis of demcoracies will fall into the place. You are only showing you bigotry and hatred for Hindus.

Pilid said...

DD,

Thanks for your comment. There is not a lot more detail about Japan's environmental policies that I am aware of to write about. I simply happen to know that Japan was one of the last to accede to the Kyoto protocol a few years ago. It was alleged that the reason for this was American pressure. I do not know if this charge is true but whatever the reason, being one of the last entrants does not make it a leader.

As for whaling, several years ago, the international convention decided to bar whaling because of the diminishing number of whales. I think this applied specifically to some species more than others. In any case, an exception that previously existed for those countries which practiced whaling as a traditional occupation, notably Japan and Norway was curtailed amidst their protests. However I think they were permitted to continue the practice but only for research purposes. Environmentalists documented how Japan was using this exception to kill whales and the meat happened to find its way into choice Japanese restaurants. If I remember correctly, this led to additional restrictions on the practice. Greenpeace boats have, on several occasions, disrupted Japanese fishing trawlers to attract international attention to Japan's egregious whaling practice.
Anyway, as far as whaling is concerned, Japan is by no stretch a leader of sustainable environmental practices.

Anon,

Thanks for your comment. No one assumes that an axis of democracies will fall into place. The question is whether promoting democracy as a goal is a good idea or not.

That India needs to negotiate with other countries is a cliche. The author does not say anything specifically about this at all - that is not the theme of this piece - but how the priorities of Australian foreign policy.

I am not sure what you mean by my 'showing bigotry and hatred for Hindus'. This is not a post on religion or bigotry at all.

socal said...

I wonder if the Chindu columnist would ever suggest taking lead from McCain's plan to create a council of democracies, or applaud Robert Kagan for that--an idea gaining ground in foreign policy circles in US.

Chindu's eyes must have lit up when Australia, hitherto hitched to US, took a diversion towards a course that has delighted fatherland's dictators no end. Australia is suddenly the good guys. Perhaps this will affect their cricket commentary too. I remember there was a post here about Australian sledging and how it comes naturally to them etc. Chindu typists pick up fast.

socal said...

I think the anon was referring to C'Hindu' not "Hindus."

Pilid said...

Good point socal. I do not know though to what extent ideological opinions affect sport commentary. Do we see a leftist slant in sportstar? I have not read that magazine in a while.

RM said...

Fortunately, sports news in Chindu is free of the usual Ram-ism. (One guy who actually try to bring in his political views to sports writing is Mukul Kesavan. Incidentally, he was one of the sigantories in the letter of protest to ram about his Tibet articles)
All those who want to see the perfect blend of sports and politics should watch out for the upcoming Olympics in the Fatherland. Chindu will surely praise the Chinese authorities for organising the best olympics in history in a time of natural calamities. And it will celebrate every chinese medal.
Regarding the recent Australian tour of Indian cricket team: The conduct of Australian team and media has been so arrogant and pathetic that even Chindu had to condemn it.