How Australia’s political ageism may be robbing us of our best leaders



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Australia’s unspoken antipathy to experience is not new, but contrasts sharply with the attitude found in other countries such as the US.
Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Nancy Pelosi is back. Back throwing her weight around. Back in charge.

As the newly-elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives – arguably the most powerful position after the president – the top-ranking Democrat is suddenly the closest thing America has to an incumbent “opposition leader”.

Not before time. Last week, after Pelosi forced President Donald Trump into a humiliating retreat from his partial government shutdown, a former administration official texted Axios reporter Jonathan Swan with the words: “Trump looks pathetic… he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi”.

For astonished Australians, the mercurial Trump’s adolescent theatrics merely underscore the value of our Westminster parliamentary tradition.

This is the “oppositional” system in which an alternative prime minister, with a fully-formed shadow ministry, is not only appointed in plain view, but also goes about releasing detailed alternative policy. All while holding the government to account.

However, comparisons to the US are not always so kind. Pelosi’s late-career revival at the age of 78 highlights a cultural point of difference somewhat less flattering to Australia.

It’s a difference that hints at a corrosive ageism in Australian public life that is so normal it goes unremarked — a tendency to over-value the new and reward hyper-ambitious individuals while squandering the wisdom amassed through years in service.

It is a mentality that:

  • short-changes the electorate by failing to extract full value from its investment in seasoned representatives

  • elevates MPs before they are ready and discards them when they are

  • works disproportionately against women, by making the early to mid-career years — during which women typically require time away for childbirth — the crucial ones.

Is it merely coincidence that the two most successful women in recent Australian leadership on each side, Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop, did not weather such career absences? Or that some of the bigger names on the rung immediately below them did not either — think Penny Wong, Michaelia Cash, and going back further, Amanda Vanstone?


https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/209531/embed


Remember the Howard and Costello years?

This unspoken antipathy to experience is not new. Nearly 20 years ago, John Howard purchased an internal truce by flagging his voluntary retirement as early as 63. Sure, it was designed to hold off the rising Peter Costello, but the deal flew because it rang true. Of course the PM would hand over in his mid-60s. Who would credibly seek high office beyond that?

Howard told the ABC in July 2000:

I have said before that if the party wants me to lead it to another election, which will be at the end of next year, I am happy to do so. After that obviously one has to recognise, I’ll then be in my 63rd or 64th year, and you start to ask yourself and that’s fair enough. And nothing is forever.

How odd this seems in light of Pelosi’s game-changing return. Still active in the Liberal Party, Howard is only fractionally older than the American.

How about Paul Keating?

Labor’s Paul Keating, the man Howard succeeded in 1996, is younger than both of them. At 75, this former PM is still a force in business and public policy discussions, despite being officially retired from politics for nearly 23 years.

Yet when Trump lines up for his second term late next year, he’ll be just a year shy of what Keating is now.

His Democratic opponent could conceivably be older.

Among the bigger names frequently mentioned are Hillary Rodham Clinton, who would be 73 at election time – an entry age all but unimaginable in Australian politics.




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Another is the former vice president, Joe Biden, who will be 78 in November 2020.

Or the Democrats could turn to the man Clinton bested in the last primaries, Bernie Sanders, knocking on the door of 80 come his inauguration.

Even the new kid on the Democratic left, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, will be 71 by polling day.

Then there’s the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn

It’s not just in the US that age presents no automatic barrier to high office.

British Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is mysteriously popular with the party’s younger membership despite his flaccid opposition to Brexit. Odds on to be the next British PM, Corbyn is already 69 and will be seeking to commence his prime ministership (if the beleaguered May government runs to full term), the same month he turns 73.

Again, these numbers simply don’t scan in the Australian context – a country where premiers, prime ministers, and their mandarins are routinely hurried into a post-public twilight between 50 and 60. And where High Court Justices have to retire at 70, regardless of their legal mastery.

Of course, the causes and circumstances of individual retirements are unique. But taken together, we see the outlines of a particularly Australian perspective on age and authority.

How about pollies who ‘retire’ early?

These outlines get even sharper if we consider the early departure of some of the leading lights in Australia in recent times – names that had been pencilled in as future leaders.

It is a long list, but among them is the former attorney-general Nicola Roxon, who upped stumps on a stellar career at just 46.

Craig Emerson is another leading Labor light who still looks young having pulled the pin on a senior ministerial career at 59.

Former Labor minister Kate Ellis (41) will depart at the election, and just days ago it was the turn of Human Services Minister, Michael Keenan (46) to announce the same intention.

And of course, there’s Gillard who rose to the very top but was gone at 52.




Read more:
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Only last week there were calls for the return of Peter Costello with some dubbing the country’s longest serving treasurer, “the best prime minister we never had”.

Costello left Canberra shortly after the 2007 loss to Kevin Rudd’s Labor, and is still just 61.

Yet in Australia at least, that’s old. Indeed, the Liberal former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett used the recent resignation of Kelly O’Dwyer (at just 41) to call on MPs of Costello’s vintage to make way for new talent.

Among those he identified were Kevin Andrews and Julie Bishop. The two Liberals have little in common besides being fitter than most younger MPs due to daily cycling and running.

But at 63 and 62 respectively, they would be young leaders in some countries.




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Pelosi is not infallible but she is vastly experienced, and it has already paid big dividends. As a counterpoint to a vainglorious and dangerously naive president, her election serves an obvious national interest.

At 78, she is just getting started (again). Make that 79 in March.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Does the G20 summit really make a difference? World leaders reckon it does



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Leaders pose for the official G20 family photo at their 2014 summit in Brisbane.
Andrew Taylor/AAP

Adam Triggs, Australian National University

“The secret to success is sincerity. Learn to fake that, and you’ve got it made.”

So goes an old gag. Many might be wondering something similar about this weekend’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Each year the leaders of 20 of the world’s largest economies get together and make a lot of promises about working together to make the world a better place.

Are those promises kept? Are they just committing to do things they would have done anyway?

In short, does the G20 summit really make any difference?




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To find out, I interviewed dozens of politicians and officials from every G20 country about the influence and importance of the annual gathering since its first meeting in 2008.

My analysis shows most G20 promises are kept, and the forum really does exert a positive influence on its member nations.

Cooperation or coincidence?

Before I started my research I had reasons to be sceptical.

For example, at the G20’s second meeting, in London in 2009, the assembled leaders committed to fiscal stimulus packages worth a combined US$5 trillion in response to the 2008 global financial crisis. Central banks, like the Reserve Bank of Australia, also committed to aggressively cut interest rates.

The data shows they did what they promised. But didn’t countries have an incentive to do what they did anyway? What role did the G20 play?

Similarly in 2010, at the G20 meeting in Toronto, spooked by the European debt crisis, leaders promised to halve deficits by 2013 and stabilise debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016.

Many countries achieved this. But weren’t many countries, such as Australia, already on the “back to surplus” bandwagon? Did the G20 have any influence?

More than just a talkfest

Was the G20 a real influence, or were countries just promising to do what they would have done anyway?

To find out, I interviewed a total of 63 senior politicians and officials from every G20 country.

They included former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, former Australian treasurers Wayne Swan and Joe Hockey, US Federal Reserve chairperson Janet Yellen and her predecessor Ben Bernanke, former US Treasury secretary Jack Lew, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, and Bank of England governer Mark Carney.

I asked them whether they believed the G20 had influenced their and other countries’ policies.

The answer was yes – sometimes.

It depended on the country, the policy area and other things, like whether there was an international economic crisis. But the influence was definitely there.

According to Kevin Rudd, who oversaw the Australian government’s successful response to the global financial crisis:

The G20 played a positive role in the quantum of Australia’s fiscal stimulus.

Politicians from ten other countries said the same thing – verified with data, where possible.




Read more:
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Sharing experiences, shaping thinking

What about the G20’s influence on central banks?

These banks have domestic mandates. The Reserve Bank of Australia can’t refuse to change interest rates because it annoys New Zealand, for example. It must do what is best for the nation. What room is therefore left for G20 co-operation?

My research suggests the G20 does influence the thinking of central bankers and, through them, central bank policies.

“There is a lot of exchange of views in the G20 which I think is influential,” Ben Bernanke, who chaired the US Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014, told me.

Mark Carney, who was governor of the Bank of Canada before heading the Bank of England, said the G20 was “a useful forum in which central banks can explain the reasons for their policy decisions”.

What about those 1,000 structural reforms?

According to Joe Hockey, Australia’s treasurer from 2013 to 2015:

The G20 growth strategy process absolutely resulted in countries doing things differently, particularly by learning from one another.

US officials agreed, confirming they got the idea of an asset-recycling initiative – where governments lease existing infrastructure assets to private companies and invest the proceeds in new infrastructure projects – from Australia through the G20.

A place to learn

German officials said because of G20 commitments their government developed a financial literacy and education program to better equip Germany’s citizens, particularly young people, in their engagement with the financial system.

Russian officials said Vladimir Putin embraced their 2017-2020 reform agenda on female economic participation after learning about the benefits through the G20.

The G20 has also prevented nations embracing “beggar-thy-neighbour” policies that improve the country’s relative economic position by harming others. It has pressured members not to devalue their currencies in pursuit of competitive trade advantage. It has helped countries resist resorting to trade protectionism. It has defused tensions around controversial policies such as quantitative easing, and improved the communication of central banks on future policy changes.




Read more:
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Janet Yellen, former chair of the US Federal Reserve, said she “genuinely took to heart” concerns expressed at the G20 about aspects of US policy.

There are exceptions

The G20’s influence is not universal. Large countries are less influenced than smaller ones. Said a former senior US official:

Most Americans, and many in Congress, are proudly indifferent to what the rest of the world thinks.

Jacob Lew, US Treasury Secretary from 2013 to 2017, agreed:

There can be a backlash in the United States if you make the argument that you are doing something to comply with international rules.

The full results have been published by the Brookings Institution (available here).

So if commentators complain about the G20 being a pointless talkfest, just remember there is evidence to the contrary. It might not grab the headlines but the G20 plays an important role behind the scenes. We will be relying on it now, more than ever, to calm global tensions.The Conversation

Adam Triggs, Research fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Two past coup leaders face off in Fiji election as Australia sharpens its focus on Pacific



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Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama speaking at a trade forum in Brisbane in July last year.

Dominic O’Sullivan, Charles Sturt University

Fiji faces a general election on Wednesday, just as Australia’s main political parties devote more attention to the western Pacific, driven by worries about China’s growing influence in the region.

For most Australians, the nation is a handy holiday destination – closer than Bali or Thailand. Last month, its palm-fringed beaches were in the global spotlight when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex took a trip to the former British colony.

Anyone with a longer memory will perhaps associate Fiji with coups – two in 1987 and one in 2006. There was also a putsch – a civilian overthrow of the government – in 2000.

This week’s general election is only the second since Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, who often goes by the name Frank, appointed himself prime minister after the 2006 coup. He was eventually elected in 2014 and is expected to be re-elected this week.




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For Australia, the strategic importance of the western Pacific is coming into sharp focus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $3 billion in infrastructural spending in the region. He has committed the Australian Defence Force to military training in Pacific nations.

Australia has an abiding interest in a south-west Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute last month, Bill Shorten committed a future Labor government to an independent foreign policy with a strong Pacific focus. It would support Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga to develop their military capabilities.




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On Fiji, he said:

We want to mend the relationship with the RFMF [Republic of Fiji Military Forces], to ensure that the ADF [Australian Defence Force] is best-placed to develop the Fiji military’s professional capabilities and to ensure Fiji’s security needs.

For Fijian voters, the military is never far from politics.

Bainimarama insists the election will be free and fair . However, the electoral system is unnecessarily complicated. Critics argue this is a deliberate strategy to disenfranchise voters.

However, as he disliked the Constitution put to him by an independent review in 2009, Bainimarama decreed his own in 2013. Section 131 (2) of that Constitution gives ultimate political authority to the military:

It shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all Fijians.




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The military has tended to be the arbiter in national affairs since the first coup in 1987.

As Bainimarama put it before the 2006 coup:

[Prime Minister Laisenia] Qarase is trying to weaken the army by trying to remove me … if he succeeds there will be no one to monitor them, and imagine how corrupt it is going to be.

The coups and the putsch were ostensibly statements of indigenous nationalism – indigenous Fijians asserting their rights over the generally wealthier and better educated descendants of Indian indentured labourers brought to Fiji by British colonial authorities between 1879 and 1916.

However, Fijian politics is vastly more complicated than an indigenous non-indigenous binary. The contentious point, according to Professor Brij V. Lal of the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, “is not really about having a Fijian head of government,” but rather which Fijian leader would be acceptable to a particular group of Fijians at any given time”.

The prime minister’s main rival clears legal hurdle

Bainimarama’s main opponent is an indigenous former prime minister and coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. Bainimarama is also an indigenous Fijian.

Rabuka faced electoral fraud charges that could have seen him declared him ineligible to stand at the election. Rabuka’s acquittal in the Magistrate’s Court was appealed by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, and dismissed by the High Court only on Monday afternoon. At his campaign launch in 2018, Rabuka ominously remarked:

I am here to do what I can for as long as I ever can for the good of the country.

However, indigenous nationalism and how the right to self-determination might be played out is important. It is interwoven with class, religion and an urban/rural divide to add to the fragility and complexity of Fiji’s conditional democracy.

Just as it did in 2014, Bainimarama’s Fiji First is campaigning on a range of issues including the building of a multiracial society. Practical measures to improve access to education and healthcare are also important to Fiji First.

Land ownership and rental returns are key political issues

Rabuka’s Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) argues for the restoration of distinctive indigenous voice in public life. It seeks the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs and of chiefly influence over the distribution of rental incomes.

SODELPA will also begin extensive public consultation on the drafting of a new Constitution.

Ultimately, indigenous prosperity depends on the strength of the national economy. This, in turn, depends on political stability. Contemporary Fiji enjoys neither. While there are signs of improving economic growth, the Fijian people face two obstacles in ensuring that the outcome of Wednesday’s election reflects their collective will.

Firstly, registering to vote then casting a valid and informed vote is difficult. Secondly, as Fiji’s history since 1987 shows, and as the 2013 Constitution confirms, the election’s outcome is ultimately subject to military approval. It may not, then, be in Australia’s best interests to support a stronger Fijian military.

Democratic stability serves Australia’s interests. In Fiji, democracy can be strong only when the military is weak.The Conversation

Dominic O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Just a regular Joe (or Bill or ScoMo): how our leaders work hard at being ‘ordinary’



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Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Is it sufficiently dignified to call a prime minister, as distinct from an immigration minister or treasurer, ScoMo? Is this part of Scott Morrison’s “ordinary bloke” persona? It does sound a bit like Joe Shmoe, which Wikipedia tells me means “no one in particular” and “is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American English”. But it also sounds a bit Hollywood, evoking JLo.

So it may well be the kind of game that virtually every politician with serious leadership aspirations has to play. They need to convince us that they are not so far above us that they are out of touch. (“How much is a litre of milk, Prime Minister?”) Yet when they do present themselves as just like us, we can’t really take them seriously. We do, in the end, expect our leaders to be different.

Each leader plays the game differently. William Shorten is, of course, Bill – who tweeted about doing the shopping with his young daughter on Father’s Day.

Minus the shopping trolley, Robert Menzies and Robert Hawke were both Bob, and William Hughes and William McMahon were Billy. Curtin was Jack to his mates but John to the public. Chifley was Ben to all, and the unassuming Lyons was happy enough with Joe. It was hard to do much with Gough or Paul, and Malcolm Fraser only became Mal when he was being ridiculed. Everyone knew he was no Mal, and nor was Turnbull. “Johnny Howard” was almost never complimentary, especially when preceded by “Little”, and Kevin might have been from Queensland and here to help, but he never became Kev – not even when worrying over the shaking of sauce bottles – any more than Julia became Jules.

Politicians have long fretted over these matters. When Stanley Melbourne Bruce became prime minister in 1923, he issued a note to the press:

Mr Bruce would be very glad if the newspapers would not refer to him by his Christian name, as Mr Stanley Bruce, but always as Mr S.M. Bruce.

Today’s journalists, cartoonists and comedians – to say nothing of one’s political opponents – would be in raptures if a newly minted prime minister issued such a notice. And it was clearly unthinkable that the golf-playing, spats-wearing Bruce would be just plain Stan.

Here is a reminder that there is more than one way of performing the role of Australian prime minister. The late political psychologist Graham Little used to give a set-piece lecture on political leadership at Melbourne University, whose major details I can still recall 30 years later – so it must have been good.

Little thought there were broadly three types. Margaret Thatcher was a “strong leader” – the children’s TV program that demonstrated the style was Romper Room. Boys wore boys’ clothes and looked like boys. Girls wore girls’ clothes and looked like girls. Miss Helena dressed conservatively and had a mirror through which she could keep an eye on us at home. Moral codes were strictly defined, with the help of Mr Do Bee (“Do be an asker. Don’t be a help yourself”). Good conduct included being able to walk around with a basket balanced on your head.

“Inspiring leadership” was exemplified by Gough Whitlam – and Play School. Each, in turn, went out of their way to demonstrate good, inclusive citizenship, and creative, inclusive play, yet without pretending to become an ordinary citizen, or an ordinary child.

Like Miss Helena, Play School leaders were grownups. But unlike her – and like Whitlam – they spoke to their audience of children as intelligent equals, dressed a bit like kids (possibly in overalls, not skirts, for women) and played along with them rather than laying down the law. Big Ted was a more gentle soul than Mr Do Bee – who presumably had a sting. Gender differences are more frankly acknowledged, but explored rather than taken for granted.




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And then there were “group leaders”, like Bob Hawke – and Humphrey B. Bear. Humphrey, seemingly male yet somewhat ambiguously defined, runs around without trousers (any resemblance here to an Australian prime minister, living or dead, being purely coincidental). He is also a child, not an adult, and to this extent he shares a common identity with his audience. But they are not entirely deceived: Humphrey’s not really the same as the kids watching at home. In short, he’s rather like Hawke, who at his best convinced us that he was one of us even while being unmistakably “special”.

Not all have even attempted this balancing act. Neither Bruce nor Menzies ever pretended to be everyman, although Menzies occasionally pointed to his humble origins as the son of a country storekeeper. Keating barely made the effort; his adoption of Collingwood Football Club when he became prime minister was widely ridiculed for its cynicism, coming as it did from a man whose interests ran more to classical music and French clocks.

Malcolm Turnbull’s leather jacket, never entirely convincing, did not survive his elevation to prime minister. His persona in the job more resembled a Renaissance Florentine merchant-statesman – albeit without the art or culture, which may well have been Turnbull’s major concession to the common folk.

Like Keating, the very Sydney-ish Morrison is looking south for an AFL club, and he has cultivated what journalist Phillip Coorey calls a “daggy ordinariness”. But his everyman act is already running up against his evangelical Christianity. The classic Australian plain man is not an evangelical.

Russel Ward sketched the “the typical Australian” most influentially in The Australian Legend 60 years ago. He is, Ward writes, “sceptical about the value of religion and of intellectual and cultural pursuits generally”. The latter certainly fits Morrison, but not the former.




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That said, he leads Shorten as preferred prime minister in Newspoll. It is worth pausing to ask why Shorten, former Australian Workers’ Union leader, has never been able to break through as a personally popular figure. He has clearly modelled aspects of his career on Hawke, but no one would ever accuse him of possessing Hawke’s charisma. He will never approach his stratospheric approval ratings. Perhaps there are too many stories around of his cosy relations with filthy rich businessmen.

He became a national figure on the back of his media profile during the Beaconsfield mine disaster and rescue in Tasmania in 2006, and he campaigned most effectively in the 2016 election. Yet he often seems wooden in front of a camera, as distinct from when talking with ordinary voters. On the couple of occasions I’ve witnessed him deliver prepared speeches, he was engaging if not magnetic, and improved as he warmed to the message he was delivering.

Hawke moved in similar business circles to Shorten, and had his deficiencies as both a public speaker and parliamentary performer. But he was brilliant if unpredictable in a TV interview, before he cut the drinking and learned better to control his temper. His media image in the 1970s, while ACTU president, overwhelmed any popular suspicion that he was in the pockets of the top end of town, although there was a growing chorus of complaints about rich mates during his prime ministership.

Shorten, much more than Hawke, has been damaged by the perception of backroom dealing; with bosses, while a union leader, and over the internecine warfare within the Labor Party. Voters might have a sneaking respect for his doggedness – think John Howard – but they don’t love him and probably never will. Nonetheless, they may well elect him.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Party leaders need to address federal parliament’s intolerable workplace culture: Phelps


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

High-profile activist Kerryn Phelps, who is considering whether to join the battle in the Wentworth byelection, has condemned federal parliament’s toxic political culture and called on all major party leaders to address it.

As the fallout from Liberal MP Julia Banks’ condemnation of bullying continues, Phelps told The Conversation: “Some of the behaviour in the Australian parliament of late would not be tolerated in any other workplace”, saying it seemed to have gotten worse. This made for an unhealthy workplace which was ill-suited to getting the best performances from MPs.

Phelps, a City of Sydney councillor who was very active in the same-sex marriage debate, practices as a GP in the Wentworth electorate, and could be expected to attract a substantial vote if she ran as an independent.

The seat, formerly held by Malcolm Turnbull, who had a strong personal vote, is on a 17.7% margin but the Liberals are worried about a big protest vote.

The fallout from the leadership coup is already being felt there with Turnbull’s son Alex encouraging people to donate to the campaign of Labor candidate Tim Murray.

The younger Turnbull tweeted: “Best bang for the buck you’ll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it.”

While the focus in the bullying debate last week was on women, Phelps said some men suffered equally and “don’t perhaps get recognised in terms of the emotional cost [to them].”

She said the “toxic nature of parliament as a workplace” needed to be addressed, and she rejected the message sent by some Liberal players that people should toughen up or, in the words of backbencher Craig Kelly, “roll with the punches”.

If any business leader said “just toughen up”, they wouldn’t be there for long, Phelps said.

She said that a quantitative improvement in the political culture had to be generated by the leaders of the large parties. “You have to have the leaders of the major parties draw a line in the sand,” and say that bad behaviour would not advance people’s careers. At present, the opposite seemed to be the case, she said.

Earlier on Sunday, Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil said “there’s a level of aggression, of conflict, of egocentrism that dominate parliament house and I think that that is quite hard to handle”, in particular for women.

O’Neil, spokeswoman on financial services, told the ABC her experience as an MP was “that there’s increasingly a culture in Canberra and in parliament house that feels really toxic”.

Attention is coming on the Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, who issued a general statement last week condemning bullying, to take a stronger stand. O’Dwyer is expected to say more this week.

Some current and even former Liberal MPs women are reluctant to speak out for fear of blowback.

Labor has had its own controversy centred on one of its female MPs: Emma Husar has said she will not run again, after allegations of her bullying staff and other misbehaviour. A Labor inquiry upheld some allegations but not others.

Labor’s spokesperson on women, Tanya Plibersek, said that while the way parliament worked was adversarial, debates should be conducted with decency and respect.

“A positive culture is critical, and each one of us has the duty to help foster that both within parties and across the parliament.

“I believe the closer the parliament reflects our community – a more equal representation of women and men, and a greater diversity of backgrounds – the better that culture will be.

“I actually think something that really helps is more people working on issues in a bipartisan way, for example on committees,” Plibersek said.

Meanwhile, Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, has dropped out of the race for Liberal pre-selection for the Wentworth byelection.

She said in a statement the commentary about her candidacy “has focused on the suggestion that it was a proxy for division within the Liberal party. That is not the case, but to avoid any such perception, I will be standing aside and giving my full support to the successful candidate.”

Forster had not been regarded a frontrunner in the contest, which is considered to be between a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, and Andrew Bragg, who was briefly acting Liberal federal director.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As an historic nuclear weapons treaty is reached, G20 leaders miss the mark on North Korea



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In North Korea’s eyes, its nuclear program is the only guarantee of regime survival.
Reuters/KCNA

Joseph Camilleri, La Trobe University

Over the weekend, more than 120 countries adopted a treaty at a UN conference that prohibits the production, stockpiling, use or threatened use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Australia was a notable absentee. So were the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons.

While the UN conference was taking a major step toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, the US and its allies – notably Japan, South Korea and Australia – were hoping to use the G20 summit in Hamburg to focus attention on the danger North Korea’s nuclear ambitions pose.

However, the declaration issued at the end of the G20 does not even mention the issue. We can now expect a UN Security Council resolution that condemns North Korea’s latest missile test and applies slightly tougher sanctions.

The glaring contradiction between the boycott of the nuclear ban negotiations and the preoccupation with the North Korean nuclear threat does not seem to have dawned on the US and its allies.

Kim’s misguided provocation and Trump’s futile bluster

In North Korea’s eyes, its nuclear program is the only guarantee of regime survival.

North Korea’s apparently successful intercontinental ballistic missile test last week is widely seen, and portrayed by the regime itself, as part of a relentless drive to develop a reliable long-range nuclear weapon capable of striking the US.

The US responded to the latest test by declaring the policy of “strategic patience” is now over. In a speech delivered in Poland prior to the G20, US President Donald Trump warned he is considering “some pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s “very, very bad behaviour”.

Donald Trump’s pre-G20 speech in Warsaw.

Yet America’s options are limited. In the first five months of his presidency, Trump’s strategy was to cajole China into taking a more confrontational stance with North Korea. But there are limits to what China is able or prepared to do.

Trump then intimated the use of tougher sanctions against North Korea, possible financial or trade sanctions against China for failing to do more, and even the direct use of military force.

However, resorting to these coercive tools is unlikely to have the desired result. History tells us harsh economic sanctions are often counter-productive. They impoverish economies, strengthen dictatorships, and drive dissent underground.

As for a military strike on North Korea, it could well lead the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to launch a devastating strike against America’s allies, – notably Japan and South Korea. This might include the use of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons. Such a turn of events may even drag China into the conflict.

More promising is the policy of strategic caution advocated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, which they reiterated in their separate meetings with Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Both Russia and China argue North Korea can be persuaded to halt nuclear and missile tests if, in return, the US and South Korea suspend their joint military exercises. This would be a prelude to the resumption of talks involving the US and North Korea that could lead to undertakings for all sides to refrain from the use of force or other aggressive measures.

This more pragmatic stance is close to the position of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who argued in Hamburg that the focus should be kept on further sanctions and dialogue.

Why the treaty?

Nothing said at the G20 summit will resolve the North Korean crisis, for it is but a symptom of a deeper ailment.

The US and Russia, which between them account for 92% of the world’s nuclear weapons, are clearly intent on preserving and modernising their nuclear arsenals. They and other nuclear-armed countries have steadfastly resisted repeated calls for nuclear disarmament – even though Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires them to do just that.

The nuclear weapons treaty that has just emerged is a direct response to the morally and legally culpable inaction of the nuclear-armed countries – something the G20 summit did not and could not do.

Put simply, the treaty is a comprehensive effort to bring the rule of law to bear on all aspects of the nuclear assault on the planet. It designates a nuclear-weapon-free world as “a global public good of the highest order”, on which depend:

… human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and the health of current and future generations.

The treaty’s provisions are robust and thorough. In addition to prohibiting production, possession and deployment, each party to it undertakes never to test, transfer or receive from any recipient any nuclear weapons or explosive devices, and never to assist anyone or receive assistance from anyone to engage in any such activity.

Countries are further prohibited from ever allowing nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to be stationed, installed, deployed or tested in their territory, or anywhere under their jurisdiction or control.

But there’s more to the treaty than this. It specifically acknowledges the unacceptable suffering and harm caused to the victims by nuclear weapons, as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons, in particular indigenous peoples.

The treaty also reinforces the legal obligation of relevant countries to provide appropriate remedies to the victims of nuclear testing, and effective repair of environmental damage.

Those who have been busy drafting and redrafting the treaty have taken great care to make room at a future date for those countries that have not participated in the negotiations – in particular nuclear-armed countries and their allies. A well-crafted set of procedures allows for the progressive, transparent and carefully verified dismantling of their nuclear activities.

Nothing said at the G20 summit will resolve the North Korean crisis.
Reuters/Kay Nietfield

Australia’s negative role

The dramatic events of the last week raise troubling questions for the future direction of Australian foreign policy. Why is it that Australia has been absent from the negotiations leading up to the adoption of this treaty?

More than that, why has it done all in its power to thwart the initiative?

The reasons are not hard to find. There is within Australia a firmly entrenched but dangerous mindset that America’s military might, including its nuclear arsenal, underwrites Australia’s national security.

The Australian government’s opposition to the nuclear ban treaty is the logical consequence of its subservience to US strategic objectives and priorities. It is the extension of longstanding policies that have led Australia to entanglement in protracted, costly and unwinnable wars – in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.

It is the result of Australia’s psychological insecurity, and the tendency of governments to try to demonstrate at every opportunity that we remain America’s most faithful ally.

Yet there are other options. Australia has much to gain from actively supporting efforts to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, and from collaborating with like-minded countries and international organisations to develop an effective long-term nuclear disarmament agenda.

Such a process would create immense possibilities for easing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region – not just in the Korean peninsula, but in China-US and China-Japan relations, and in the South China Sea.

The ConversationPublic support for such a transition is greater than many would think. The nuclear ban treaty is the beginning, not the end.

Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

As Britain reels from another terror attack, political leaders wobble towards an election


File 20170605 20586 1kwux6o
Floral tributes near an an anti-Islamic State poster near Borough market, London.
AAP/Andy Rain

Jim Middleton, University of Melbourne

Legitimate questions certainly arise from the weekend outrage in London, but they are not those immediately provoked by Pauline Hanson or Donald Trump.

The US president’s impetuous reaction was to tweet that the attack on London Bridge and the Borough Market proved that American courts should “give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” Note the exemplary use of the exclamation mark. However, Trump did have the grace eight minutes later to offer a form of condolence to the British people – “WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

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The capitals presumably mean either that he was shouting or that he really means it. Not so the One Nation leader, who chose to use Twitter to desecrate the warning from the British authorities for people to “run, hide and tell” by declaring that it was time to “stop Islamic immigration before it is too late”.

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Labor’s Penny Wong rightly declared Hanson’s eructation “irresponsible and crass”. One of Australia’s foremost counter-terrorism experts, Greg Barton of Deakin University, went further, telling me that what the One Nation leader was saying was “downright dangerous” on at least two counts.

One, in this age of postmodern terrorism, Islamic State operates as the first metaphysical nation with no dependence on physical territory or traditional communication to wield its power. In that environment, the security authorities rely on tips from the communities from which impressionable operatives emerge.

Maligning those very communities, Barton says, tends to make its members turn inward, reducing their trust in the authorities and diminishing the likelihood that they will report the wayward behaviour of people they know. Witness the bizarre spectacle of the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, praying loudly in the street.

Second, it encourages the very sense of alienation, the feeling that they are stigmatised outsiders, that leads people to lose their sense of belonging. That makes them more vulnerable to the brutal siren call of murderous extremists.

Hanson either does not know this or does not care, because it is likely that her anti-Muslim message, basically a reworking of her initial hostility to Aborigines and then to Asians, appeals to much of One Nation’s base. What more would you expect from a person who over two decades has used the public purse to turn politics into a highly successful small business?

There are legitimate questions, though, about this latest attack in the UK, the third in as many months. One is whether Britain has a peculiar problem when it comes to these apparently autonomous acts of ghastly violence. The other is whether the London Bridge/Borough Market attack had anything to do with the UK election, now only days away.

The answer to the latter is probably not. As Barton points out, if the perpetrators had wanted to influence voters, they or their sponsors would have made a statement to that effect in some form, either direct or allusive.

That is not to say that the violence of Saturday night won’t affect the result of Thursday’s poll. Conventional analysis has it that assaults on security tend to favour the incumbent, especially if they are from the centre right.

Theresa May’s Tories consistently poll as “better for” national security than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But this has not been a conventional UK election campaign and there are also questions about whether a sense may take root within the electorate that the government is failing to protect the community, following two fatal acts of terrorism in just a fortnight – Manchester and now London. May was, after all, home secretary, responsible for domestic security, for six years before she became prime minister.

She has not had a good election. Gone are the days, less than two months ago, when it looked as if she could gain a majority of 100 in the House of Commons, knocking Corbyn for six. Her refusal to engage with Corbyn was seen as arrogant, and UK voters are sick of going to the polls (three times in less than two years). There was also her blunder on a “dementia” tax, essentially a proposal to make the elderly contribute to their health care if they have combined assets of more than £100,000.

Immediate public outcry forced a U-turn, but the damage had been done. As campaign managers would say, May had gone “off-message”. The election was no longer a plebiscite on her managing of Brexit, but an argument about health and welfare, traditional Labour turf.

It was a surprising mistake, especially given that as a political up-and-comer May warned the Conservatives back in 2002 that it had become the “nasty party”. Its base was “too narrow” and on occasion so were its sympathies, a sermon this child of the manse had clearly forgotten delivering.

On the question of security, the message from the voters is decidedly mixed. In the wake of the Manchester attack Corbyn boldly, but deliberately, stated:

Many … professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported … and terrorism here at home.

From the G7 summit, May went thermonuclear:

I have been here with the G7, working with other international leaders to fight terrorism. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn has said that terror attacks in Britain are our own fault.

Corbyn was “not up to the job”, she said. He also faced criticism from within his own ranks, but it seems May’s decision to play the security card was not as effective as she might have hoped, because the opinion polls continued to tighten in Labour’s favour.

None of this means May will lose when the votes come in on Thursday. Rather, it shows that national security is a more complex issue in the UK these days, after a decade and a half of unpopular wars and years punctuated by regular, fatal terrorist attacks.

The ConversationIt is not clear whether the story is the same in either the United States or Australia. It is possible this is one way the UK is grimly unique.

Jim Middleton, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How changing times made Australia’s political leaders more disposable


Rodney Tiffen, University of Sydney

Politics in 1950s Adelaide was a gentlemanly affair. The premier, Thomas Playford, and Labor’s Mick O’Halloran faced each other in four election campaigns between 1950 and 1959. More surprisingly, they dined together each week to discuss Playford’s future plans for South Australia, and often praised each other publicly.

O’Halloran remained Labor leader until he died in 1960. Playford wept openly when told of the death, and was a pallbearer and speaker at O’Halloran’s state funeral.

To contemporary eyes it is not surprising that the victorious Playford – the longest-serving party leader in postwar Australian history – remained leader, but more unusual that O’Halloran also remained leader without serious challenge through four losing elections.

In the decades after the second world war, losing an election was not necessarily grounds for a leader being replaced or challenged. Federal Labor leaders Bert Evatt and Arthur Calwell and Victorians Clive Stoneham and Clyde Holding all lost three successive elections while remaining in place. In contrast, only one party leader since the 1980s (Rob Borbidge, Queensland Nationals) has survived to suffer three or more electoral defeats.

Until at least the 1970s, the major route to party leadership was through seniority, and patience was considered a virtue. When Harold Holt became prime minister in 1966, he proudly told his wife:

I climbed over no-one’s dead body to get here.

In Western Australia, Charles Court “desperately” wanted to be premier, but he was “unbelievably patient”, waiting until his long-reigning predecessor, David Brand, retired for health reasons.

Brand’s successor as premier, Labor’s John Tonkin, did not become leader until he was 63, having been deputy for 15 years, and then became premier when aged 69. Some of his junior colleagues suggested he might step down for someone younger, but he neatly deflected them, and open challenge did not occur to them.

The emphasis on seniority and patience had its costs. It denied some of the most able people their chance to lead.

Leadership is increasingly temporary


New South Publishing

The way times have changed is exemplified in the frequency of party coups against sitting prime ministers.

Robert Menzies was the first prime minister to be overthrown by his own party, in 1941. It was another 30 years before it happened again – when John Gorton fell in March 1971 – and then 20 years until Paul Keating defeated Bob Hawke in December 1991.

So, in the century up to 2010, three sitting prime ministers were victims of party coups. Then, in just five years, three more followed – Kevin Rudd was defeated by Julia Gillard in June 2010; Rudd then defeated Gillard to resume the prime ministership three years later, in June 2013; and most recently Malcolm Turnbull defeated Tony Abbott, in September 2015.

The pace and pressure of contemporary society is one reason for the greater turnover of leaders. Of the 17 postwar leaders who led their party continuously for 12 years or more, ten became leader in 1960 or before, and only three (Bob Carr, Mike Rann and John Howard) became leader after 1980.

The fact that leadership has become more precarious and conditional is starkly confirmed by trends in length of tenure. Those who became party leader before 1970 averaged eight years and six months in the role, while those who became leader from 1970 on averaged just under half that: four years exactly.

Similarly, those who became leader before 1970 fought 3.0 elections, on average. Those from 1970 on averaged just 1.2 elections as leader. Some states have moved from a three-year to a four-year election cycle, but that is only a very small part of the explanation.

The more temporary nature of party leadership is clear from these figures, but they only start to capture the greater ruthlessness. A successful leader can still lead the party to several elections, but an unsuccessful (or not likely to be successful) leader is much more quickly disposed of.

In recent decades, fewer than three in ten losing leaders led their party into the next election, in contrast to six in ten in the 1950s and 1960s.

Challenges became increasingly pre-emptive: among those who became leader from 1990 onwards, one-quarter (20 of 78) were ousted by their colleagues before they had fought a single election.

Of the 55 post-war leaders who became leader before 1970, their leaderships finished predominantly for personal rather than political reasons. Almost one in five (ten) actually died in the role, the last such death being Queensland Country Party Premier Jack Pizzey in 1968, the second-last being Harold Holt, who drowned the previous December.

If we combine those dying in office, those who retired as a result of old age, those who resigned because of a medical reason or for personal reasons, the total is 55 per cent of all the pre-1970 leaders. Since then, all those reasons combined account for just 10% of leaders’ departures.

The rise of partyroom coups

The reasons for leaderships ending in recent decades are much more political. 30% resigned either after an election loss or because of poor electoral prospects, compared with 15% of the earlier group, while almost half were forcibly displaced by their own party.

Of leaders whose tenure began after 1970 and finished by 2016, almost half (68 out of 138) were victims of party coups. It has become the single most-common means by which leaderships end.

Taking just the two major parties at federal and state level (plus the Queensland Nationals, which were the major party in that state), there were no successful leadership challenges in the 1960s. But since 1970, there have been fully 73, and the rate has been accelerating. In the 17 years of this century there have already been 32.

The increasing frequency of leadership coups has not made them any less disruptive. In process, they are often fraught by uncertainty and crisis and sometimes these, the most personal of political conflicts, produce enduring legacies of bitterness and internal division.

Despite having their roots in parties’ greater electoral pragmatism, the majority are followed by electoral failure rather than success.


This is an edited extract from Disposable Leaders: Media and Leadership Coups from Menzies to Abbott, published by Newsouth Books.

The Conversation

Rodney Tiffen, Emeritus Professor, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Roman Catholicism – The New Pope & Evangelicalism


The link below is to an article that suggests that ‘most’ Evangelical leaders are excited about the new pope – Pope Francis. I would expect that this depend on your definition of ‘Evangelical,’ for most Evangelicals with a solid Biblical stance would still regard the Roman Catholic Church as an heretical cult and would not be closely associated with it.

To read the article visit:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march-web-only/why-pope-francis-excites-most-evangelical-leaders-bergoglio.html

Latest Persecution News – 26 March 2012


Parents, Islamic Extremists Beat Young Woman in India

The following article reports on a young woman (Rekha Khatoon) who gave thanks for her healing being beaten by both her parents and Islamic extremists in West Bengal state.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/india/article_1454450.html

 

Christians Targeted in Sudan’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

The following article reports on how Christians are being removed from the Nuba Mountains region, along with black Africans in an attempt to appease other Islamic states.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/sudan/article_1454719.html

 

Parents Torn Over Loss of Daughter in Nigeria

The following article reports on the disappearance of the daughter of a Roman Catholic couple in Nigeria. They received a phone call from someone claiming to have killed their daughter in September 2011 and nothing has been seen of their daughter since then.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1457986.html

 

Salafist Leaders Celebrate Death of Coptic Pope in Egypt

The following article reports on the celebrations of Egyptian Salafist Muslims following the death of Coptic Pope Shenouda III.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1459396.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an
indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.