Episode 282 – Morrison is a bull in our China Shop

Australia needs a sophisticated, nuanced and savvy Prime Minister to lead us through a complicated but not impossible relationship with China. Instead, we stupidly elected a numbskull from Cronulla who is completely out of his depth and is being cheered on by anti-China hawks in his party and the Murdoch press.

Feedback from Episode 281
We will be taking a break
Dan Andrews and Gay Conversion practices
Argentinian Wealth Tax
China Australian Relations are at an all time low
The Tweet
WeChat censored Morrison
Chinese Citizens Told They Must Condemn Australia’s Human Rights Record, Or Risk Imprisonment
Stand in the other man’s shoes FFS
Blame Scomo
The Australia Japan Defence pact
Now we want rules
Now, according to some, Labor is soft on China
Some Recent History
That Extradition treaty
This is Orwellian.
Have Australians killed children?
Have Australians slit the throats of children?
Mungo MacCallum
We have a rum sponsor
Please Stop Listening
Afgham War Crimes
Prisoner Swaps
Remember the BS Mask article in the Spectator?
Humanists Australia
Decriminalise Drugs


Feedback from Episode 281

Hello Fist,

I’m just sticking my head up in response to yesterday’s episode. Seemed to be a lack of scientific skepticism in this one. Des is very charismatic and clearly enjoyed the platform to spruik his wares, with little to no challenge. The ketogenic diet stuff was particularly painful for me to listen to. Language such as “it’s all about you biochemistry”, “there is no good cereal out there, it’s what it does to your blood chemistry”, “body’s not in balance”, “mulitnodal effects, synergistic effects, entourage effects”, are meaningless words, because none of them were backed with reference to peer reviewed scientific papers. In fact, in regard to science, Des claimed that it would be too difficult to perform rigorous science on the matter, because you’d have to “lock the people up in a room”. This is a nonsense statement. The low carbs or Atkins diet has been around since 1992 and there is no reason why is can’t be studied. Why should we accept this statement? And if Des believes that the appropriate studies can’t exist, why is he so happy to preach this diet. And the laughable repeated statement that “cholesterol makes your sex hormones”, as if it’s supposed to mean something in the context of going on a ketogenic diet. Then Des really crossed the line when Don came on the call and he started telling him that he’d rather him eat egg and bacon, instead of a couple of Weet Bix. This is dangerous in isolation. Then he went on to speak jargon at Don for a couple of minutes, possibly confusing him when it sounds like he’s been doing a pretty good job under the guidance of his diabetes educator. How is making Don feel bad for eating a couple of Weet Bix helpful. Shouldn’t we be congratulating him for reducing meal portions and losing 13kg? Des has the potential to derail Don’s progress with his advice. Why is he giving him dietary advice when he knows nothing about his history, current medical status or risk factors? Fist, I could go on and on, but I will leave here. I do have a special interest in scientific skepticism, so my BS detector was on high alert in this episode. If you want good website for information on medical-based pseudoscience, I recommend quackwatch.com. quackwatch.org/research-projects/lcd is the link to low carb diets. Love your work. It’s a massive weekly effort.



And later … The main reason I wanted to message you again was that I did a little more digging into my memory banks and I remembered I had heard Mandy-Lee Noble (dietician based in South-East Queensland too) speak on keto diets on another excellent, little Aussie podcast called the Skeptic Zone (this podcast actually indirectly led me to your podcast, believe it or not). If you have a spare 10mins go to episode #532 to the 33min mark and you’ll hear Mandy-Lee speak on keto diets. She regularly contributes to the podcast and I’m hoping you’ll notice the difference in the way she speaks on scientific matters, when compared to Des.


Good points Matt. I’ll read part of it and put the link in next week’s show notes. Obviously, I couldn’t provide the counter arguments during the podcast (because I don’t know them) but, in my defence, I think I did say in relation to Cannabis and Keto that there would be plenty of medical people who would disagree and Des admitted the same (while suggesting they had selfish money interests for maintaining the status quo). I’m glad your BS detector was flashing warning signs. It sounds like it is in good order. From my point of view, I declared my friendship (and therefore possible bias) with Des and he declared his business interest (and therefore possible bias) so we were not pretending to give an independent overview of Cannabis and Keto. Yes, it was a platform for Des to spruik his wares but, given the full disclosure and the nod to the existence of counter arguments, I think his ideas were interesting enough to justify the interview. Cheers, Trevor.

We are taking a break

About 4 weeks. I need a holiday. I need to Facebook detox and read and paint and re-charge. Next year will be big. Satanic activism will be at the pointy end of the fight against religious privilege.

I have recorded one interview.

Speaking of religious privilege …

From The Australian

Scott Morrison urged to prioritise religious freedoms

Australia’s faith leaders are urging Scott Morrison to put the implementation of a Religious Discrimination Act at the top of his political agenda next year, warning their congregations would hold the Prime Minister to his election pledge once COVID-19 passes.

Mr Morrison’s commitments to deliver protections for faith-based businesses, schools, hospitals, aged care homes and community organisations have remained stalled for 12 months after the government was forced to prioritise its responses to the pandemic and bushfire recovery.

Catholic, Anglican and Muslim leaders told The Australian work on a Religious Discrimination Act must begin as early as February when federal parliament returned from its summer break.

Some religious leaders argue COVID-19 restrictions, forcing the temporary closures and caps on congregations at churches, mosques and synagogues, had made religious protections more vital than ever.

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the pandemic had shown parliaments and public servants were “ignorant” in their approaches to people of faith.

“I’m puzzled as to where this is going now. Matters of religious freedoms and protections are things that need to be grappled with by both major parties,” Archbishop Comensoli told The Australian.

“The time of COVID has shown at the level of parliaments, the level of the public service, there is significant ignorance around religious life. A number of decisions made in a number of states are some examples of that growing ignorance.”

As the nation entered COVID-19 lockdown in March, Attorney-General Christian Porter quietly delayed the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the framework of religious exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation. It was the second delay to the key Coalition election commitment, which was intended to legislate religious freedoms in the wake of the same-sex marriage vote.

Mr Porter on Sunday said the government was not focusing on an RDA until the pandemic was over.

“The government will revisit its legislative program as the situation develops, and bring the religious discrimination bill forward at an appropriate time,” Mr Porter said.

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies said the delays in Canberra had to stop.

“A religious discrimination bill is long overdue, and the federal government should make this a priority as soon as the parliament returns to normal operations,” he said.

Dan Andrews and Gay Conversion practices

According to Crikey

Labor has introduced legislation that would ban religious groups including churches using prayer to “change” LGBTIQ people. But some religious leaders say the laws are too far-reaching and are a threat to religious freedoms.

The issue will come to a head inside the Liberal Party today as MPs meet to decide whether to support the legislation. Already there are signs some are against the new law.

… Archbishop Comensoli told The Age that the laws are too far reaching. “Who I pray to, how I pray, what I pray for, and most particularly, who I pray with is not of concern to any government,” he said.

Find the legislation here

S.5          Meaning of change or suppression practice

(1)  In this Act, a change or suppression practice means a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent—

(a)  on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and

(b)  for the purpose of—

(i)  changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or

(ii)  inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), a practice includes, but is not limited to the following—

(a)  providing a psychiatry or psychotherapy consultation, treatment or therapy, or any other similar consultation, treatment or therapy;

(b)  carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;

(c)  giving a person a referral for the purposes of a change or suppression practice being directed towards the person.

(4)  For the purposes of subsection (1), a practice or conduct may be directed towards a person remotely (including online) or in person.


It seems that to create offence there must be an injury as a result of the practice


11           Offence of engaging in one or more change or suppression practices that cause injury

(1)  A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a)  A intentionally engages in a change or suppression practice directed towards another person (B); and

(b)  the change or suppression practice causes injury to B; and

(c)  A is negligent as to whether engaging in the change or suppression practice will cause injury to B.

Penalty:    In the case of a natural person, level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum) or a level 6 fine (600 penalty units maximum) or both;

In the case of a body corporate, 3000 penalty units maximum.



Argentinian Wealth Tax

From the BBC

Argentina has passed a new tax on its wealthiest people to pay for medical supplies and relief measures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Senators passed the one-off levy – dubbed the “millionaire’s tax” – by 42 votes to 26 on Friday.

Those with assets worth more than 200 million pesos ($2.5m; £1.8m) – some 12,000 people – will have to pay.

Those affected will pay a progressive rate of up to 3.5% on wealth in Argentina and up to 5.25% on that outside the country.

AFP news agency reports that of the money raised, 20% will go to medical supplies, 20% to relief for small and medium-sized businesses, 20% to scholarships for students, 15% to social developments, and the remaining 25% to natural gas ventures.

China Australian Relations are at an all time low

The Tweet

Now a tweet of a photoshopped image of an Australian soldier about to slit the throat of a young child with the caption

“Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace”

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, had demanded the Chinese government apologise and take down a “repugnant” foreign ministry tweet that depicted an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a civilian in Afghanistan.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra: “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.

“It is a false image and a terrible slur on our great defence forces and the men and women who have served in that uniform for over 100 years. There are undoubtably tensions that exist between China and Australia, but this is not how you deal with them.”

The Chinese cartoonist has read more of the Brereton Report than have those yelling at him.

We have admitted to war crimes, to killing unarmed prisoners, to killing children … and we are now getting affronted by a doctored image in a tweet that simply illustrates what we have already admitted to.

How dare China paint us in this light? FFS


If I was PM – Look … unfortunately, we have done enough horrible things that we admit to without China having to photoshop images.

WeChat censored Morrison

From the ABC

A message by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that was directed at the Chinese community and critical of an inflammatory post by a Beijing bureaucrat has been censored by a Chinese tech giant.

The statement on social media platform WeChat was published on Tuesday night. However, it has now been blocked because it “violates” the company’s regulations.

Mr Morrison had taken to WeChat to again voice the Australian Government’s disgust at Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiang’s tweet on Monday, which showed a fake image of an Australian soldier created by a Chinese artist.

The Prime Minister said in the WeChat post Australia was dealing with allegations of war crimes detailed in the landmark Brereton Inquiry in an “honest and transparent way”, which was how any “free, democratic and enlightened nation” would act.

Mr Morrison followed the swipe at Beijing with a promise the diplomatic spat would not diminish the respect and appreciation Australia had for the Chinese people.

On Wednesday, the WeChat post was no longer accessible.

A message from the social media platform was displayed in its place. It said the post was “involving the use of words, pictures, videos” that would “incite, mislead, and violate objective facts, fabricating social hot topics, distorting historical events, and confusing the public”.

Chinese Citizens Told They Must Condemn Australia’s Human Rights Record, Or Risk Imprisonment

From The Shovel

A directive from the Chinese Communist Party has obligated all citizens of the mighty and glorious nation of China to publicly criticise Australia’s record of human rights abuses, or risk life-long incarceration in a secret prison camp.

A Communist Party spokesperson said it was each citizen’s patriotic responsibility to speak out against other countries’ suppression of rights, and if they chose not to then there would be ample time to discuss their reasons why at a re-education facility in the country’s north west.

“We ask all people from this magnificent nation to publicly condemn Australia’s human rights record on a state-controlled social media platform of their choosing,” a spokesperson said.

“We know millions of citizens are appalled at Australia’s behaviour. We also know the specific citizens who are not appalled, thanks to our comprehensive surveillance and tracking program. We will be visiting them soon”.

The issue started when the Chinese government posted an image on Twitter – a platform it prohibits its citizens from using – which criticised Australia’s human rights record.


Stand in the other man’s shoes FFS

Have we lost the capacity to stand in the other persons shoes?

Please convince me we haven’t turned into arrogant cocky hypocritical assholes.

Or maybe we always were? …

Or maybe we are just plain fucking gullible dimwits who never learn.

The military industrial complex has been conning us for 70 years with imagined or overblown enemies.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me 6, 8 10 times …

Blame Scomo

Scomo has created this shitfight and nobody is holding him accountable.

We stirred the nest, they retaliated against us and now China is buying from the USA and other allies..

Six years ago Mr Xi addressed Parliament in Canberra. Today the Australian government cannot even get a phone call answered.

Calls for weapons inspector powers just after meeting Trump. Massive trade war ensues and what does he do. Go to Japan during a pandemic to sign a new defence pact with China’s most bitter enemy. China baits him with a tweet. He bites and makes it worse. FFS

After all that he calls for the resumption of ordinary trade and civility while at the same time making it impossible.


Now a 200% tariff on wine

From Niki Savva in The Australian

The tipping point is acknowledged by many experts to be the day in April when Foreign Minister Marise Payne, without warning or the cover of supportive allies, announced Australia would take the lead in pushing for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. It was popular domestically. People whose lives and jobs had been disrupted were rightly furious with China.

A few old China watchers vented at the time, believing there was too much politics and too little strategic thinking behind the government’s push. They saw it as the latest in a series of actions, some warranted, others gratuitous, that would certainly invite retaliation.

Others viewed it as a legitimate intervention with legitimate questions for China.

Former long-serving Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans listed the missteps in a recent article. “(There is) too much tone-deaf stridency in our language, starting with the way Malcolm Turnbull introduced the undue influence legislation in 2017; too much over the top behaviour, as in the ASIO/AFP raids on Chinese journalists; and too much unchecked offensiveness in parliamentary performances by Sen­ator (Eric) Abetz and his fellow Wolverines,” Evans wrote.

“Accompanying this, there has been a failure to fully factor in the risks — for a country of our economic vulnerability and at best middleweight — of not only irritating but hurting China, as we have done in not just joining but leading the international charge on Huawei, tough foreign investment restrictions and foreign influence laws.

“Again, too many of the stands we have taken — those just mentioned, and above all our operationally and diplomatically ill-prepared braying for an inquiry into China’s COVID response — have played all too readily into the United States ‘Deputy Sheriff’ narrative, and as such left us open to even heavier counter-punching. We are an easier and more vulnerable target than the US itself ever will be.”

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has a different take, dismissing criticisms of the government as another version of “shut up and take the money”. Jennings wholly approves of all the government’s actions to date. He says China is so different now that what made the relationship work in the 1990s no longer works. He says if Australia had caved on the list of 14 grievances Chinese embassy officials had given to journalists, “we wouldn’t be the Australia that I grew up in”.

Hugh White in the John Menadue blog

We will need to be clever, finding ways to achieve our aims in ways that cause the least ructions in Beijing. And we have to make compromises, giving way on some issues to make progress on others.

Sometimes it won’t be pretty, but that is the way international politics works when you are dealing with great powers.

It is not clear that Scott Morrison has understood this. He seems to think that Australia can set the terms of the relationship unilaterally. Again and again over the past few months, as things have plunged to new lows, he has told Australians that there is simply no choice but to defy Beijing the way he has done. Anything else, he says, would betray Australia’s interests and impugn our sovereignty.

This absurd oversimplification of such a complex and important issue is, frankly, an insult to our intelligence.

But we know why he does it. In the age of Brexit and Trump, Morrison is alive to the popular appeal of a leader seen to be standing firm in defence of our national independence and identity from interfering foreigners.

We do need to guard against Chinese interference in our politics, but we might talk less about how we are doing it.

Morrison has been happy to defy Beijing to present himself in this light. He has found plenty of flag-waving jingoists to encourage him. But now he finds that it is bad politics as well as bad government to trash this most important relationship for short-term applause.

The reality is that international relationships, like any other kind, always require a good deal of accommodation and compromise. Our national interests do not all lie on one side of the issue, and we need to balance competing interests that pull us different ways.

It is simply not true to say that doing this undermines our sovereignty or threatens our democracy. It is what we have to do as a sovereign nation to get the best outcome we can in a world where we cannot have everything our own way.



The Australia Japan Defence pact

From The Guardian

Australia and Japan say they have reached broad agreement on a defence pact that will allow their forces to train in each other’s territory, as both countries seek to navigate tensions with an increasingly assertive China.

Once it is finalised and then approved by Japan’s parliament, the agreement will mark the first time in 60 years that Tokyo has approved a deal permitting foreign troops to operate on its soil.

The in-principle agreement, reached during Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s lightning visit to Tokyo on Tuesday, is expected to pave the way for increased defence cooperation and joint exercises between Japan and Australia.

Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said the two countries shared fundamental values such as democracy and the rule of law and would “cooperate to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific”, Kyodo news reported.

Morrison told reporters at a joint press briefing late on Tuesday that Australia and Japan shared an alliance with the US and significant trading relationships with China. He said the importance of the new defence pact “cannot be understated”.

Other countries such as the United Kingdom have been awaiting the outcome of the RAA negotiations with Australia, given the deal is likely to be a model for future similar agreements between Japan and its partners.

Morrison is the first foreign leader to meet Suga in Japan since his long-serving predecessor, Shinzo Abe, quit as prime minister in September for health reasons – although Suga did travel abroad for talks with his Vietnamese and Indonesian counterparts last month.

Apart from finalising the RAA, Morrison’s visit – his first overseas trip since the coronavirus pandemic began – was intended to send a signal about increasingly close ties between the two countries.

The leaders met one-on-one alongside interpreters, before bringing in officials for a broader bilateral meeting. They were expected to discuss strategic issues, such as relations with China and the implications of the incoming Biden administration in the US.

Without naming China directly, the leaders’ joint statement raised “serious concerns” about the situation in the South China Sea and voiced “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral attempts to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region”.

Morrison and Suga also “shared their grave concerns” over the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong.

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing continue to be soured by the legacy of Japan’s wartime occupation of parts of China and a simmering dispute over the sovereignty of the Senkakus, a chain of islands in the East China Sea that are known as the Diaoyu in China. Japan administers the islands, but Chinese coast guard vessels frequently sail in waters near the islands.

But in a sign of thawing relations, China’s foreign ministry offered only a muted response to reports last week that Suga had secured a commitment from president-elect Joe Biden that the US was duty-bound to defend the islands under the countries’ bilateral security treaty.

In addition, Japan, China and Australia put on a show of regional unity last weekend when they were among 15 countries to sign up to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trading bloc.

Suga and Morrison underlined their desire on Tuesday for the trade deal’s early commencement. They also affirmed that “trade should never be used as a tool to apply political pressure” because such actions undermined trust and prosperity.

China and Australia have been at loggerheads amid a widening diplomatic dispute – inflamed by Morrison’s early calls in April for a global Covid-19 inquiry – that has seen Beijing impose a series of restrictions on Australian exports.

Morrison’s one-day visit to Tokyo was also designed to showcase the growing prospects for cooperation between Australia and Japan on hydrogen technology – something that may be a key plank in Suga’s plans to make the world’s third-biggest economy carbon-neutral by 2050.


Now we want rules

Suddenly, rules and international bodies are very important.

From Bernard Keane in Crikey

Fresh from an unexpected election win, having just visited his friend Donald Trump in the White House and seemingly with the world at his feet, last year Scott Morrison ventured a bold and positively Trumpian foreign policy perspective.

In an address to the Lowy Institute, Morrison attacked multilateralism and international institutions, which he characterised as “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” and “international institutions [that] demand conformity rather than independent cooperation on global issues”.

“We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community,” Morrison claimed.

… Morrison now sees “international institutions” as providing … “circuit-breakers” for international tensions.

From railing at “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracies”, Morrison has now moved to repeating, over and over, the importance of “rules-based solutions”, “rules-based order”, “agreed rules and norms”.

With China having to decided to ignore “a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community” and target Australian exports, Morrison’s conversion to supporter of rules-based order is unsurprising.

Now, according to some, Labor is soft on China

Some Recent History

From Bernard Keane in Crikey

… bilateral trade agreements produce little economic benefit, as the Productivity Commission (PC) has long pointed out — and certainly nothing like the absurd claims made for them by politicians.

The trade agreement with the United States concluded by the Howard government has actually been economically damaging to Australia, the PC found. And that’s before you get to the additional red tape burden required to try to access any benefits of such agreements — like labelling standards and country-of-origin rules.

That didn’t stop Abbott from wanting to sign pretty much any draft trade agreement he could find, no matter what its state, so he could wave the resulting document and claim, as he did about the Chinese trade agreement (ChAFTA), that it would bring benefits “to hundreds of thousands of businesses right around our country”. For Abbott, the entire future of the country rested on his handiwork:

Almost nothing that this government has done will make as much difference to the long-term future of our country as the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Again, I congratulate the minister for trade and investment for his extraordinary work. This free trade agreement will be good for jobs, good for consumers and good for growth, and it sets up our country for the future.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), however, was less enthusiastic.

Typically, it didn’t include much detail of exactly what benefits would flow from the deal — it relied on 10-year-old modelling to assess the impact, and when required to describe its benefits in the National Interest Analysis supposed to accompany the deal, could only conclude “ChAFTA will significantly boost Australia’s economic relationship with China, our largest trading partner, and elevate the standing of the bilateral relationship overall”.

But not merely did he laud the benefits of the deal with China, Abbott called those who opposed it — or objected to its labour market provisions allowing the importation of Chinese workers — racist.

“The CFMEU [is] going around trying to sabotage a deal that will set up this country for the future,” Abbott claimed in August 2015. “A campaign of xenophobic lies is being master-minded by the CFMEU and this leader of the opposition is silent in the face of racism.”

Next month he went further, describing Labor’s criticisms of the deal as “xenophobic at best, racist at worst, a campaign of lies being peddled, principally by the CFMEU, taken up by the ACTU more generally and being connived at by members opposite, being articulated by members opposite”.

It wasn’t just Abbott. Malcolm Turnbull told Sky News that Labor was being “aggressively anti-Chinese”.

And where the Liberals went, News Corp gleefully followed. The Australian declared Abbott “vindicated for standing firm against the misleading and xenophobic campaign run against ChAFTA”. The Oz’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan attacked Bill Shorten as “absolutely disgraceful” and said he had licensed “economic vandalism” and failed to speak out against “gross xenophobic paranoia from within the broader labour movement”.

And remember this was before the high farce of Turnbull’s effort to force through the long-dormant extradition treaty with China — which Abbott had promised the Chinese regime as quid pro quo for the trade deal.

The trade deal, of course, never posed the slightest hindrance to China’s campaign to intimidate Australia. And the idea that it led to any “elevation” of the bilateral relationship is farcical. Australia is now consciously trying to reduce its reliance on trade with China, not deepen it. And even Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has admitted that the FTA has been casually broken by China. There’s nothing to government can do about it.

And for that matter, many sections of the government, and News Corp, now can’t be anti-China enough — and Chinese accusations of racism are laughed off as propaganda.

That Extradition treaty

From Crikey

The issue of a treaty to send people to one of the world’s most brutal “justice” systems, which convicts more than 99% of defendants and executes thousands of people every year, first emerged in 2014. A treaty had actually been agreed between Australia and China by the Howard government in 2007, but never placed before parliament. In 2014, it was clear that an extradition treaty was a key demand from the Chinese for a free trade agreement. The Abbott government, which didn’t mind what was in such agreements as long as it could claim to have signed one, was eager to cooperate.

… 28 March 2017 … An unusual combination of the Greens, Coalition backbenchers, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi and Labor has killed the government’s desperate effort to push through an extradition agreement with China.

This is Orwellian.

From Bernard Keane in Crikey.

Five years after being assailed by News Corp and the Coalition for being too hard on China, Labor is now deemed too soft on China — while the Coalition’s complete reversal on hugging the panda is ignored.

Here’s a good example of something that fits that badly overused term “Orwellian” to the letter — and something else that we at Crikey have banged on about for years: no one in the national press gallery seems to have a memory longer than five minutes.

Anthony Albanese is now, by right-wing lights, officially Soft On China. The opposition leader’s crime has been to suggest that the government had handled its relationship with China poorly.

Except anyone with a memory that stretches back all of six years — to a dim, dark age when Tony Abbott was prime minister — should be able to remember that Labor’s crime back then was that it was too hard on China.

As Crikey has detailed this week, News Corp titles and the Abbott government swooned adoringly at the feet of Xi Jinping and feted the trade deal a desperate Abbott signed with the Chinese as, to use Paul Kelly’s grandiloquent phrase, signaling a “glorious future… this mutual self-interest is going to pull Australia far closer into China’s orbit in coming years”.

The official line from News Corp back then was that Xi’s China promised a wonderful new era for Australia — and Labor’s criticisms were simple racism.

The trade deal lasted a little longer than Abbott’s prime ministership, but delivered even less for Australia before Xi binned it in his war on anyone not bowing the knee to Beijing.

So Labor is both too critical of Beijing and too soft on Beijing — while a government that has gone from desperately seeking an overhyped trade deal to raging about the tweets of low-level Chinese functionaries is handling things brilliantly. We were, it seems, always at war with Eastasia.

Judging by the coverage yesterday and today, no one in the press gallery — which, as McGregor pointed out, reacted like Pavlov’s dogs to Morrison’s tirade about the tweet — seemingly recalls what they were writing about five years ago when things were exactly reversed.

Indeed, forget five years — bizarrely, just a fortnight ago, one Nine stenographer was reciting government talking points about how yet another new trade deal would be a “circuit breaker” with China.

Welcome to the age of disposable commentary, when it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the past. Each day is a blank slate on which to view the world afresh, unencumbered by what happened five years, or for that matter five minutes, ago.


Have Australians killed children?


That photo may be photoshopped but … Does anyone seriously believe that Australians troops have not killed innocent children in Afghanistan?

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.


Sarmorghab in Oruzgan Province in 2009

From NYT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five children were killed in predawn fighting on Thursday between Australian special operations troops and Taliban guerrillas in south central Afghanistan, the Australian military said, the latest episode of civilian casualties that have hurt support for American and NATO troops here.

The skirmish, which occurred in darkness in a village called Sarmorghab in Oruzgan Province, north of the southern city of Kandahar, was condemned by the provincial governor, Assadullah Hamdam, who said it would have a “negative effect” on relations between Afghans and foreign troops in the country. He offered a different casualty toll, saying three children had been killed and four wounded after a sustained firefight. He said provincial officials had already pleaded with troops not to carry out raids where civilians were present.

A statement by the Australian military Friday about the Oruzgan deaths said the Australian troops began shooting after they were attacked by Taliban insurgents. “A number of people have been killed and wounded during this incident,” the statement said. In addition to the five children, a “suspected insurgent” was killed and two children and two civilians were also wounded, the statement said. None of the Australians were hurt.

The Australian military said it had initiated an investigation but that its troops had operated “in accordance with the rules of engagement.” A senior Australian military official, Lt. Gen. Mark Evans, declined to answer questions from reporters about how so many children could die in one attack, or whether the children were killed by shots fired on the ground or whether they died from an airstrike called in by the troops. The military also provided no immediate information about the ages of the children.

Ala Balogh on the outskirts of the Uruzgan capital Tarin Kot in 2013

From the ABC

Human rights reports leaked to the ABC support allegations that some Australian special forces unlawfully killed an unarmed farmer and his child during a controversial raid in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.

In 2017, the ABC’s Afghan Files series reported that farmer Bismillah Jan Azadi and his young son Sadiqullah were shot and killed by Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) troopers in September 2013.

The report said they were sleeping in their village of Ala Balogh on the outskirts of the Uruzgan capital Tarin Kot when the Australian raid began.

The SAS troopers were later cleared by a military investigation, after the soldier who shot the pair told the inquiry Bismillah had pointed a pistol at him.

But in an interview with the ABC, Afghanistan’s top human rights official has contradicted this, saying her organisation’s investigation determined that the man was an unarmed civilian.

Oruzgan province in 2013

From News.com

DEFENCE force chief General David Hurley has offered his condolences to the families of two boys killed during an incident involving Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

But General Hurley says it is ”premature” to determine how the incident occurred or who was responsible.

Defence is working with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan authorities to determine the facts surrounding the deaths in northwestern Oruzgan province on Thursday.

Australian soldiers from the Special Operations Task Group were conducting a routine liaison patrol when the incident occurred, General Hurley confirmed in a statement today.

”We deeply regret that the International Security Assistance Forces were responsible for the unintended death of two young Afghan boys during the operation,” he said.

Australian personnel immediately reported the incident to Afghan government officials and military leaders in Oruzgan.

General Hurley said Defence takes the issue of civilian casualties very seriously, and soldiers operate under a strict set of rules to minimise unintended deaths and injuries.

Defence said no more details would be released while the incident was under investigation.

Officials said soldiers in southern Afghanistan shot the children, aged seven and eight, while tending livestock.



Kandahar Province in 2012

By ABC back in 2017

A secretive defence inquiry into the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan is examining the alleged killing of at least two children in separate incidents by Australian troops.

Key points:

  • Relatives of the boy said he was collecting figs when he was shot in the chest and legs
  • The ABC’s source said the killing of the child was never reported up the chain of command
  • The source described the killing as indicative of ‘ethical decay’ in special forces

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has confirmed to the ABC it is also considering whether to launch a full investigation into at least one of the incidents, in which the shooting of a boy in Kandahar Province in 2012 was allegedly covered up by soldiers.

Have Australians slit the throats of children?

From John Menadue

The Brereton report sheds light on the tweet posted by a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry of a digitally altered image depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to a veiled Afghanistan child.But I have not seen any of  our mainstream media do the obvious, publish the relevant extracts on alleged killing of Afghan children by Australian soldiers.

On p, 120-121 of the Report , the following references to throat-slitting appear in two paragraphs related to the February 2016 study by Dr Samantha Crompvoets, which helped to initiate the Brereton Inquiry. ‘

‘Squirters’ were in Special forces speak people who ran from compounds when our troops advanced on/attacked them.

  1. Clearance Operations. Dr Crompvoets was told that, after squirters were ‘dealt’ with, Special Forces would then cordon off a whole village, taking men and boys to guesthouses, which are typically on the edge of a village. There they would be tied up and tortured by Special Forces, sometimes for days. When the Special Forces left, the men and boys would be found dead: shot in the head or blindfolded and with throats slit.
  2. Cover-ups. A specific incident described to Dr Crompvoets involved an incident where members from the ‘SASR’ were driving along a road and saw two 14-year-old boys whom they decided might be Taliban sympathisers. They stopped, searched the boys and slit their throats. The rest of the Troop then had to ‘clean up the mess’, which involved bagging the bodies and throwing them into a nearby river. Dr Crompvoets says she was told this was not an isolated incident. In this context, Dr Crompvoets says she was told that Special Forces soldiers were committing unsanctioned killing in order to ‘get a name for themselves’ and to join the ‘in’ group. 

(No doubt Brereton refers to these incidents in detail but that would be in the 6 redacted volumes.)

Page 103 of the report, referring to the entirely redacted Chapter 2.50 comments:

“what is described in this Chapter is possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history, and the commanders at troop, squadron and task group level bear moral command responsibility for what happened under their command, regardless of personal fault.” 


Mungo MacCallum

In John Menadue Blog

From any perspective – military, economic, political, simple weight of numbers – Australia cannot hope to compete on a level playing field with our dominant neighbour.

And to pretend that somehow we should be seen as equal partners, as Scott Morrison is apparently urging, is a dangerous delusion. At best, we can never be more than a client trader – keen to deal with whatever China is willing to buy from us and what we are desperate to buy from it.

So when our deputy prime minister Michael McCormack trots out the old line about “China needs us as much as we need them” it is not only silly but provocative. Apart from being demonstrably untrue, (Chinese investment in Australia has fallen from $16 billion to $2.5 billion since 2016) it is a feeble attempt to give our most important customer the finger during particularly fraught times.

So it behoves us to tread with caution, and when Beijing warns us to back off, kiddies, it cannot be dismissed as just a bit of diplomatic chit chat, however much the backbench crazies might wish it to be.

Nor is it simply what Morrison calls a list of 14 grievances, more of the same old demands over things such as Huawei and a COVID inquiry. The complaints go deeper, to what is obviously seen as a conscious anti-China agenda on the part of the Australian government.

Ominously, China’s foreign ministry is now using the word “enemy” in communiques to and about Australia. But Morrison seems to think this is more of a challenge than a threat. His response remains that we are a sovereign country, our standards cannot be compromised, that we can bluff it out.

But Beijing is not just unrepentant, but positively proud of its relentless  imposition of totalitarian rule on its hapless citizens.

Detention without trial or charge, forced labour, strict censorship, repression of minorities and the politically incorrect, physical and mental torture are the norm. This cannot be condoned.

But as it is around most of the world, it can be and generally is ignored. And there are times when it is better to be tactfully silent than to shout futile defiance.

No one is suggesting we lower our standards, which may not be impeccable but are obviously far less abusive than those of the Chinese, the most tyrannous regime on the planet.

But our own record is hardly beyond reproach and the Chinese are not averse to pointing this out. They have already targeted Australia’s failure to redress the inequalities across the indigenous community  and now, of course, they have extra ammunition with the highly convincing evidence of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. This is not the best time to assume the high moral ground.

That does not mean that we have to negotiate on our knees. But as we have been repeatedly told, the relationship has to be managed with care. Respect is essential, and an acknowledgement of the manifest power imbalance.

Last week in Tokyo Morrison tried to secure an alliance of resistance with the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshishide Suga, and has been offered support from his stand by US heavy hitters like Marco Rubio. Our departing emissary, Arthur B Culvahouse Jnr, has provided a farewell cheerio. But all this only underlines Australia’s own impotence.

So when Morrison scrabbles for purchase, declaring that Australia’s actions should not be interpreted through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States, Beijing hears another message: “China noticed a Prime Minister Morrison’s positive comments on the global influence of China’s economic growth and China’s poverty alleviation efforts,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman noted approvingly. Tribute received and accepted.

And this is precisely the dilemma: Beijing obviously thinks we do have a choice and we have got to make it. We are either with them or against them – sitting on the barbed wire fence is not an option.

There is a lot of history in this. The Jade Empire has had a couple of centuries of having sand kicked in its face by the colonial bully-boys of Europe but now if it is not quite yet the toughest kid on the block, it is bloody close to it. Time to kick back.

And giving Australia a gob full is entirely appropriate – even karma. China’s own resources – economic, innovative, even spiritual – have been ruthlessly exploited by invaders. With Australia depending on China to do the exploiting and pay the bills, there is no better time to turn the screws.

So the news comes through that some 80 Australian coal ships have been held up indefinitely at Chinese ports. Environmental concerns, explains Beijing, in what is no explanation at all. And there may be an element of that, but no one in Canberra doubts that this is really all about ramping up the political pressure. And the same applies to the wine tariffs, imposed in retaliation for improbable allegations of dumping.

Morrison is looking for the old comforters: rules-based trade, nuance and accommodation, latitude and room to move. But his pleas are becoming more frantic.


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Afgham War Crimes

David William McBride (born 1963 or 1964) is an Australian whistleblower and former British Army major and Australian Army lawyer who from 2014 to 2016 made information (the “Afghan Files“) on war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan available to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who broadcast details in 2017.[1] In 2018, he was charged with several related offences, and as of November 2020 is awaiting trial. The allegations were reviewed in the Brereton Report.

In September 2018, McBride was charged with the theft of Commonwealth property contrary to s 131(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995; in March 2019 he was charged with a further four offences: three of breaching s 73A(1) of the Defence Act 1903; and another of “unlawfully disclosing a Commonwealth document contrary to s 70(1) of the Crimes Act 1914“.[11][12][13][14][15] As of November 2020, McBride, who pleaded not guilty to each of the charges at a 30 May 2019 preliminary hearing,[11][16] is awaiting trial. His legal team includes Nick Xenophon and Mark Davis.

There is a petition


It makes no sense that General Angus Campbell can acknowledge all those who spoke to the Inquiry, who helped expose these war crimes, yet at the same David McBride still faces 50 years in prison for sharing the same information. He should only be celebrated for his bravery, not prosecuted.

Prisoner Swaps

Are miracles … according to Morrison

The Guardian

Are they ok?

By Ian Permeter in the Big Smoke

After more than two years in prison, Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released for three Iranians. But will the successful exchange unleash a greater evil?

The three had been detained in Thailand since 2012 on charges of planning to plant bombs in Bangkok and assassinate Israeli diplomats there. One of those men had reportedly lost his legs when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely.

In a similar context, the release last year of two Australians being held in Iran, Jolie King and Mark Firkin, coincided with an Iranian research student at the University of Queensland, Reza Dehbashi Kivi, being permitted by Australian officials to return to his home country.

Dehbashi Kivi had allegedly been seeking to export radar equipment for detecting stealth planes in contravention of US sanctions. The ABC reported at the time the US was seeking his extradition.

We should do a prisoner swap with the UK to get Julian Assange back

There are 602 UK born prisoners in our jails. Surely we can trade a few?

Remember the BS Mask article in the Spectator?

From SMH

Thousands of people who caught trains between south-west Sydney and the CBD last week have been asked to self-isolate on Thursday after a worker at a quarantine hotel tested positive.

A woman who worked at two connected CBD hotels ended the state’s 26-day streak of no locally acquired cases and pushed NSW’s hopes of “eliminating” the virus into the new year.

“Please self-isolate, get a test and we will be back to you,” she said, adding it was “appreciated” that the woman wore a mask on her commute, placing her in a minority of Sydney commuters.

“But like all people that wear a mask, sometimes she adjusted it; nothing is a perfect guarantee,” she said.


Humanists Australia

Launching this week

Decriminalise  Drugs

From Crikey

I am highly concerned about the decriminalisation of drugs in countries overseas, and the message it sends to young people … So, I would strongly urge the cabinet to slow down and listen to some experts.

Kristina Keneally

As NSW considers introducing a warning system for low-level drug possession, the former premier and current shadow home affairs minister instead errs on that tried and true solution of the war on drugs.


Play Clip – Defending Chinese trade routes from China

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