It is 9am on a chilly March morning. Delegates from across the world have assembled for an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s main decision-making body. The main item on the agenda: an update from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe on Russian escalations in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, to determine NATO’s response.
No one doubts the gravity of the situation. Russian forces are moving west to occupy parts of Ukraine beyond the Donbas region and the Crimea. There have also been severe Russian cyber attacks on German infrastructure, while Vladimir Putin has threatened to invade Estonia. NATO’s secretary general has asked one of his predecessors, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, to join the meeting and share advice.
Do not adjust your set: this meeting took place, but it was a simulation – set in a very near future in which the Ukraine has joined NATO and the UK has left the EU.
These kinds of exercise are conducted regularly by NATO and national armies to anticipate what might happen in the “fog of war”. Standing in for the NATO headquarters in Brussels on this occasion was the University of Stirling in central Scotland. The delegates were students on the university’s masters programme in international conflict and cooperation, and the doctorate in diplomacy.
Lord Robertson was the only person playing himself. He briefed delegates under Chatham House rules on his time chairing NATO, including the historic decision on September 12, 2001 to invoke collective defensive action under Article 5 of the founding treaty.
Immersed in NATO’s engine room, our delegates had to strike a balance during two days of negotiations between countries advocating conflict resolution and those inclined to deterrence – if not pre-emptive action. As well as informing the students’ learning, it produced the following insights for the real world.
Delegates had to assess Russian defensive capabilities using real-life data. They concluded that while Russia looks strong on a country-by-country comparison, its armed forces remain stretched and are sometimes poorly equipped. Russia would probably not be able to sustain a war with NATO troops over several months, and would likely be challenged by fighting on two fronts.
Having said that, the country’s forces have recently modernised, making them more effective than a few years ago. Russia is also closer than most NATO powers to Ukraine and the Baltics, so could mobilise more quickly and potentially gain strategic advantages.
NATO action in Ukraine would be complicated by a low bridge that Russia has opened connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland. This makes it difficult for larger ships to move between Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and the Mediterranean. Russian expertise in cyber attacks and creating confusion by spreading fake news could also create disunity among NATO members.
Takeaway: the Russian bear is frail but can still bite.
Countries in our simulation negotiated according to national interests. The multilateral negotiation splintered into smaller discussions as mini-alliances emerged. For example, Turkey – with its improving relations with Russia and exposure to potential refugees – was so conciliatory to Moscow that its NATO membership became questionable.
On the other side of the spectrum, Ukraine and also Romania, which feels threatened by Russian aggression in the Black Sea region, sought immediate offensive action. Alliances like these weren’t always visible to the outside world. They complicated negotiations, especially when such countries had essentially non-negotiable aims.
Takeaway: things are not always what they seem, even within a negotiation. Try and stay flexible, and don’t rely on media reports about counterparts’ interests.
Just like in real life, our delegates had to keep monitoring an internal news feed. In one announcement, Russia began mobilising after hard-line statements from certain NATO members leaked to the media on day one of the negotiation. Several times, discussions had to start from scratch as delegations changed priorities and strategies.
Takeaway: constantly ask yourself how events affect your own position and those of your counterparts.
With full military intervention and occupation of Ukraine by Russia on the cards by the middle of day two, NATO allies had to deploy ground troops or risk ceding ground to Moscow. Issues agonised over the day before became less relevant as delegations were forced to compromise in the interests of collective action.
Takeaway: time pressure can make decision-making hot-headed, but can lead to clarity of purpose. Negotiators who understand this can use it to their advantage.
As EU members of our fictional North Atlantic Council discussed issues among themselves, we witnessed how the EU has become a geopolitical actor with “state-like” qualities. Before committing to security actions through NATO, EU members negotiated with each other and sought a coherent position.
One important dimension in the real world is the EU’s Russia sanctions, which are slightly different to US sanctions. With Ukraine now also party to an EU Association Agreement, the EU is demonstrating its capability to project power abroad.
Takeaway: the EU is developing its own geopolitical and security role in Europe, with potential consequences for NATO.
Within NATO, the UK has generally mediated between the US and usually softer EU positions. Our simulation showed that after Brexit, despite its important role as a nuclear-armed NATO member, the UK will likely feel squeezed between the US and EU.
Takeaway: the implications of Brexit for the UK in NATO deserve more attention.
In our simulation NATO members closer to Russia, such as Poland and Hungary, were particularly worried that military action in Ukraine would lead to a large number of refugees – with potentially serious domestic political consequences.
Takeaway: we don’t always take enough account of the linkages between military and human security.
When the BBC war-gamed a similar scenario several years ago, the UK got drawn into a nuclear war. Our fictional delegates managed to avoid such awful outcomes by using what deterrent power they had. They combined mobilisation with the offer of talks in such a way that Russia backed off. Despite some hawkish pressure, the situation was mostly defused by dominant countries such as the US as well as conciliatory EU voices.
Takeaway: On March 18, on the fifth anniversary of annexation, NATO reiterated its view that Crimea is Ukrainian territory. Meanwhile, hostilities continue in Donbas. The apparent stalemate in Ukraine could change overnight – not least with the presidential election at the end of March. If so, NATO members will have to make a choice, despite the fact that Ukraine is not currently a member of the alliance. As became clear to our participants, the one thing you can’t do in a moment of international crisis is to refuse to act if your interests are at stake.
Scott Morrison faces a major Liberal party crisis after Malcolm
Turnbull moved to torpedo the Prime Minister’s plan to protect the
preselection of controversial rightwing backbencher Craig Kelly.
Morrison wants the NSW Liberal executive to re-endorse sitting NSW
federal members so Kelly does not have to face a ballot in which he would be defeated.
Kelly has threatened to run as an independent if he loses preselection
and also at times has left the way open to go to the crossbench.
The Coalition is already in minority government after the loss of
Wentworth and last week’s defection of Julia Banks.
Kelly has lost the support of his local branch members, and the
moderates have the numbers to remove him. His preselection opponent,
Kent Johns, has been under pressure to pull out of the race – as he
was persuaded to do before the last election to save Kelly.
Kelly was one of those who scuppered the National Energy Guarantee, in
the party meltdown that ended Turnbull’s leadership. He is a constant
presence in Sky and used his appearances to undermine the Turnbull
position on energy.
After hearing of the save-Kelly plan Turnbull immediately began
lobbying moderate executive members not to agree to the
cross-factional deal. When his lobbying reached the media, he took to
In a series of Sunday night tweets he said: “Today I learned there was a move to
persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal
candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words
to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their
He said he had spoken with “several State Executive members to express
my strong view that the Party’s democratic processes should operate in
the normal way especially after such a long debate in the NSW Liberal
Party about the importance of grass roots membership involvement.”
“It is time for the Liberal Party members in Hughes to have their say
about their local member and decide who they want to represent them.”
“It has been put to me that Mr Kelly has threatened to go to the cross
bench and “bring down the Government”. If indeed he has made that
threat, it is not one that should result in a capitulation. Indeed it
would be the worst and weakest response to such a threat.“
Turnbull said he was “strongly of the view that the normal democratic process should proceed.”
The Australian reports that Turnbull told one executive member, NSW Minister Matt Kean, that if Kelly moved to the crossbench it would “force Morrison to an early election and that will save the Berejiklian government”.
Turnbull had said that when he was PM he and Morrison had agreed to a
March 2 election – before the state poll later in March – but Morrison
The Liberals believe that whichever government faces the people first
in NSW will get a double whack from angry voters. Morrison indicated
last week that the election would be in May after an April 2 budget.
Another NSW rightwinger, senator Jim Molan is arcing up over his
dumping to an unwinnable position on the Senate ticket. Molan is also
looking to Morrison to do something about his position.
“Let’s see what he does, but I’m not here to be taken for granted,”
Molan told 6PR on Sunday.
“I would make the arrogant statement that the Liberal Party needs me
more than I need the Liberal Party.”
The NSW Liberal executive has voted to save the preselection of rebel
MP Craig Kelly after Scott Morrison personally lobbied key executive
Morrison, who only landed in Canberra on Monday morning after his trip
to the G20, rang several executive members to appeal to them not to
follow Malcolm Turnbull’s strong urging to veto a deal to endorse Kelly.
The key four executive members to be persuaded to abstain were moderates Wayne
Brown, Harry Stutchbury, Chris Rath, and Sally Betts.
It is understood that Morrison said that while he wanted them to
support the motion for re-endorsement, if they couldn’t do so they should abstain for the good of the government.
The government feared that Kelly – who was among those who destroyed
Turnbull’s energy policy and his prime ministership – would run as an
independent at the election and go to the crossbench in the meantime
He had left the way open to do so.
Kelly, who would have lost an ordinary preselection because he did not
have local support, was part of a job lot of federal members endorsed
by the executive after Morrison’s efforts on Monday.
In a statement, a spokesman for the NSW Liberal party said it had “re-endorsed John Alexander OAM MP as our candidate for Bennelong, Jason Falinski MP as our candidate for Mackellar, Craig Kelly MP as our candidate for Hughes, and Lucy Wicks MP as our candidate for Robertson.” It did not mention Craig Laundy who is still making up
his mind whether he wants to recontest. All other NSW MPs have been re-endorsed.
Earlier Turnbull, after intensive private and public lobbying on
Sunday, said on Monday it would be “the antithesis of good government”
to give into Kelly’s threats – if he had made them.
But assuming he had made threats “that is the worst and the weakest
reason not to have a preselection process”.
He said even if Kelly went to crossbench the numbers would not be
there for a successful motion of no confidence against the government.
Turnbull said he had planned to have an election on March 2, ahead of
the NSW election later in March.
Many NSW Liberals believed “it would be in the party’s interest for the federal government to go to an election before the NSW government’s set election date of 23 March. “He described the Berejiklian government as “outstanding”.
If the Morrison government faced the people first Berejiklian could
“go to the polls and be judged on her record rather than being hit by
the brand damage that arose from the very destructive, pointless,
shameful leadership change in Canberra”.
“I know there’s been this proposition put around that no one’s really
interested in the leadership change or the internal machinations of
the Liberal party. The fact is they are and it has done a lot of brand
damage to the Liberal party.
“That’s something the party is going to have to work through. But
there’s no point being mealy mouth about it or pretending that that
damage hasn’t been done”.
Tonight ABC’s Four Corners will air the first of a two-part investigation into the often shocking treatment of the elderly in aged care homes around Australia.
The timing coincides with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s weekend announcement of a royal commission into Australia’s aged care system. The prime minister said poor standards had led authorities to close one aged centre per month since the Oakden aged mental health home scandal.
South Australia’s Oakden facility closed nearly a year ago, following revelations of abuse and neglect dating back a decade.
While the terms of reference are yet to be determined, the royal commission will likely look into issues already raised by previous inquiries into the sector. These include the changing demands of Australia’s ageing population, staffing ratios, funding levels and the mental health, well-being and safety needs of nursing home residents.
Below are five articles in which our experts have previously explored the complex aspects of Australia’s aged care system, drawing on research which has exposed where the problems are, and have been for some time.
Our ageing population, and the focus on helping the elderly stay at home for as long as possible, means by the time people enter aged care they are older and sicker than before. Around half of people living in aged care today have dementia, depression, or another mental health or behavioural condition.
In fact, the proportion of older people requiring high care for complex needs, which includes assistance with all activities of daily living such as eating and bathing, has quadrupled from 13% in 2009 to 61% in 2016.
Yet there is no legal requirement for all aged care facilities to provide 24-hour registered nursing care. In the article below, Jane Phillips, David Currow, Deborah Parker and Nola Ries explore how today’s nursing home residents have minimal access to quality medical care.
In a separate piece on health care in nursing homes, Sarah Russell has also written:
nursing home providers looking to cut costs are bypassing registered nurses and employing less-skilled personal care attendants (PCAs) who aren’t adequately trained for the job.
Research consistently shows more people want to stay in their own homes as they age. In the 2018-19 budget, the government announced an extra A$1.6 billion over the next four years for an additional 14,000 Home Care Packages. These deliver an agreed set of services to meet the specific needs of aged Australians who want to remain at home.
The government also subsidises a number (currently around 283,000) of residential care places for older people unable to continue living independently.
Aged care subsidies are allocated through a ratio, which aims to provide 113 subsidised care places for every 1,000 people aged 70 and over. This ratio will increase to 125 places for every 1,000 by 2021-22. Within the overall number of places, the government also sets sub-targets for the numbers of Home Care Packages and residential care places.
The government is aiming to amend the ratio in favour of more home care packages. By 2021-22, the target for home care packages will increase from 27 to 45 per 1,000, while the residential target is to reduce from 88 to 78 per 1,000.
But as Professor of Health Economics at University of Technology Sydney, Michael Woods has written, this still won’t be enough to meet demand.
Older Australians living in nursing homes represent one of society’s most vulnerable populations. More than 50% of residents in nursing homes suffer from depression compared to 10-15% of adults of the same age living in the community.
Recent research conducted by Briony Murphy and Professor Joseph Ibrahim from Monash University’s Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, found around 140 Australian nursing-home residents took their own lives between 2000 and 2013.
The authors found nearly 70% of those who took their own life were male, 66% had a diagnosis of depression and nearly 80% were experiencing one or more major life stresses, such as health deterioration. Around 43% were experiencing isolation and loneliness, and nearly 30% had trouble adjusting to life in a nursing home.
The small proportion of adults over 65 living with depression in the community shows that depression is not a normal part of the ageing process… the much larger figure of those suffering depression in nursing homes raises some serious questions.
Stories of abuse and neglect in nursing homes have also highlighted the issue of poor nutrition and oral health. In November 2017, the dire state of this was shown in a report of a nursing home resident in NSW who was found with maggots in her mouth the day before she died.
Researchers have long highlighted people living in aged care have substantially poorer oral health and three times the risk of untreated tooth decay than people living in the community.
Bronwyn Hemsley, Andrew Georgious, Joanne Steel and Susan Balandin collated a list of ways family members can help ensure their loved ones’ oral health is adequately looked after. This includes visiting your family member around mealtimes
…or helping the person to eat… Ask the resident permission to look into her mouth to check if she is swallowing or removing leftover food promptly.
Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at Malcolm Turnbull, accusing him of “pulling the scab off” Joyce’s personal life and interfering in National Party affairs.
As the crisis within the Coalition over the Joyce affair deepens, Joyce held a news conference to respond to Turnbull’s Thursday denunciation of his personal behaviour.
Turnbull – who has announced a ban on sexual relationships between ministers and their staff – accused Joyce of a “shocking error of judgement” over his affair with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, who is now his pregnant partner.
Turnbull also said Joyce should “consider his own position”, in effect flagging he would like the deputy prime minister to stand down.
Joyce on Friday said Turnbull’s comments were “inept” and “unneccessary”.
“I listened to it and thought that it was completely unnecessary – all that is going to do is basically pull the scab off for everyone to have a look at.”
In regard to the National Party, “there is nothing that we dislike more than implied intervention into the party processes”.
“We are our own independent political unit – we make our own decisions, especially around those who are the office-holders.”
That outside interference “locks people in … behind the leader. So I would not be making comments or implied comments about the leadership of the Liberal Party, and we don’t expect to get implied comments about the leadership of the National Party.”
The plunge in relations between the two leaders is now threatening Coalition unity, with uncertainty about how the situation will play out. While Turnbull is putting pressure on Joyce to go, some Nationals predict it will be counter-productive, as Joyce is saying.
Visiting Tasmania, Turnbull told reporters: “Joyce has my confidence as deputy prime minister”.
But he also said: “Barnaby has been considering his position and I do not think there is any question about that, but I have not called on him to resign. I have not asked him to resign – he has to form his view on his circumstances.
“He has a lot to reflect on given what has happened, and I say again, he has made some big errors of judgement and he acknowledges that.”
Turnbull dodged attempts to pin him down on when he first learned of Joyce’s affair with Campion. “I can’t recall when I first heard rumours but I can say to you that he did not say to me that he was having an affair with this woman – I’m not going to go any further than that.”
Joyce said that he was intending to make sure his relationship with Turnbull “get backs onto an even keel”.
He again made it clear he has no plans to resign.
“My colleagues support me. This was a personal issue – a personal issue that has been dragged into the public arena and I don’t believe that people should be resigning in any job over personal issues.”
Later Friday, Turnbull, obviously alarmed about the increasing fracture between the Coalition partners, told reporters he had not sought in any way to influence the deliberations of the National Party.
“Neither I nor my colleagues have made any criticism of the National party.”
He said criticism of Joyce’s conduct was not criticism of the National Party.
The citizenship crisis is politics at its worst, has been unresolved far too long, and is a distraction from much more important issues. That’s the view from the real world, reflected by voters in focus groups this week.
As Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten play politics over a disclosure motion to be put to parliament, these ordinary people are baffled and impatient with the whole affair.
While the four groups of “soft” voters (two each in Brisbane and Townsville) were part of a Queensland election study for the Institute for Governance’s research at the University of Canberra, the dual citizenship imbroglio was raised unprompted and the comments give an insight into ordinary Australians’ thinking about the fiasco engulfing the parliament in general and the Turnbull government in particular.
People are mystified by the fallout from the High Court decision, especially when citizenship of Britain, Canada or New Zealand is involved. As one participant put it: “It’s not like they’re aligned with some enemy”.
For many, the Constitution is out of date, failing to reflect modern Australia, and should be changed. “Australia is a young country so we’re going to have a mixed bag,” said a female flight attendant from Brisbane.
There’s also concern about money. “This business of saying you’re going to have to quit parliament – it’s going to cost a bomb,” a retired Brisbane woman complained.
People do differ, however, about the substance of the issue. Some think the consequences have been too severe, or invite ridicule. “It’s making Australia the laughing stock of the world,” said one.
A few were judgemental, taking the attitude the law is the law and candidates should have checked they met the rules. A retired Brisbane man was blunt: “We wouldn’t even be in this situation if they weren’t negligent”.
In terms of MPs rectifying their status, some voters thought the inadvertent dual citizens should be allowed to correct their situation without having to resign – “just renounce their citizenship and go on with it”, as one put it. If only it were so easy – unfortunately, that path is no answer constitutionally. The test is a person’s eligibility when nominating.
Some people favoured definitive action, such as a comprehensive audit or a fresh election. A Townsville retiree believed “they should have a full, complete audit of all federal politicians, of current and future ones, to make sure you comply with Section 44”.
There was much cynicism about Turnbull resisting a full audit. A young Brisbane voter opined that it was “probably because he’s hiding people”; another said the prime minister had not got a big enough parliamentary margin “to be sure that he’s going to keep the power”. More generally, a Townsville health worker condemned “a lame-duck federal government not achieving anything”.
The bottom line is that voters want the matter fixed quickly. “We don’t want this distraction to stretch for another two months. It’s just dumb,” declared a Brisbane engineer, while a young female occupational therapist from Townsville said: “I’d like them to get it finished and done with so they can look at other issues. … Let’s just finish it”.
Given the paralysing effect of the crisis, with multiple names now being tossed into a cauldron of uncertainty, tactical skirmishing can only become increasingly unacceptable to the public. Yet even if the games were put aside, this nightmare can’t be resolved fast, despite the voters’ frustration.
It demands both short-term and permanent solutions.
Most immediately, bipartisan agreement is required on the disclosure regime, with parliamentary decisions before Christmas on whatever High Court referrals are to be made. The leaders have been fighting and posturing over the detail but agree on pre-Christmas action.
Any MPs in obvious breach should resign at once – the recent cases have set benchmarks with brutal clarity. If that happened with lower house members, court referrals wouldn’t be needed. If senators quit, the court would formalise their disqualifications and order recounts to fill their seats.
But when cases are arguably more murky – MPs who have renounced their foreign citizenship but only received their confirmation after nomination, such as Labor’s Justine Keay and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie – High Court clarification surely would be needed. In light of the potential extent of the debacle, it’s just possible the court might decide their efforts were sufficient.
Assuming there are some dual citizens in the lower house, the timing of byelections will depend on when resignations and/or court decisions come.
There is no way of knowing whether the process will be catastrophic for the government, or something less. It would all depend on the ownership and margins of the seats hit with byelections, and what attitude the voters took in them.
What about the long term?
Despite all the difficulties involved, it’s increasingly looking like the best course would be a referendum to attempt to change the Constitution’s Section 44 (i), which prohibits dual citizens sitting in parliament.
The objective should be to capture the broad intent of the provision, and facilitate candidates meeting that intent.
Turnbull is right when he says that, despite our multicultural makeup, people would not vote for a change that permitted dual citizens to sit.
But if there was bipartisan support, there surely would be a reasonable chance – perhaps no more than that – of passing new wording saying that a candidate must have only Australian citizenship and that a sworn declaration was sufficient to renounce any other citizenship.
The High Court judgement in effect makes federal MPs – and so the federal parliament – hostage to changes in other countries’ laws. This is unacceptable. New constitutional wording would stop that.
I must admit to altering my view on this matter. I’ve previously thought voters are so angry at politicians they wouldn’t want to make things easier for them. But in view of the chaos, it may be that people would be persuaded by the need to instil clarity.
Anyway, it would be worth a go, because while a defeat would be bad, it wouldn’t have the sort of negative consequences of, say, the loss of a referendum on Indigenous recognition.
If this course were taken, the commitment to a referendum could be made soon, but the vote could then be held with the election, to prevent an argument about cost.
There has been speculation that perhaps the situation could be sorted by a change to citizenship legislation. But constitutional expert Anne Twomey, from Sydney University, doubts this – given the court’s indication that determining issues of dual citizenship involves the laws of other countries over which Australia has no control.
Twomey – who doesn’t advocate constitutional change – also points out that if the citizenship part of Section 44 were to be tackled, it would only be prudent to also clarify the parts of the same section that disqualify from parliament anyone who holds an office of profit under the crown or has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth.
This makes sense, although admittedly it could complicate the task of selling a referendum.
But let’s stand back. If our politicians, and we as voters, can’t update a troublesome section of this more-than–century-old document, what does it say about all of us?