By Gideon Rachman
Australians of a nervous disposition should probably avoid reading the Chinese press and social media at the moment. A combination of tensions over the South China Sea and the Olympics has made Australia the target of wild invective by Chinese nationalists.
Australian politics is so cut-throat and brutal that it is easy to treat it simply as a spectator sport – without much wider international significance. But that would be a mistake. The fall of Tony Abbott and his replacement as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull may well herald a shift in Australian foreign policy that will be noticed in Beijing, Tokyo and Washington.
Put simply, Turnbull is likely to take a softer line on China. Abbott was a firm supporter of America’s pivot to Asia and the effort to push back against Chinese territorial ambitions. But Turnbull seems to be more sceptical. The evidence for his scepticism is set out, in this informative post from the Lowy Interpreter. It is interesting, in particular, that Turnbull has sympathetically reviewed the work of Hugh White, an Australian academic who has argued that the US should do more to accommodate a rising China – and that the alternative might be a catastrophic war. Read more
Satellite image of man-made islands in the South China Sea
This week I have had the pleasure of escaping from Europe’s obsession with the Greek crisis and travelling to Sydney for the Australia-UK Asia dialogue, which is taking place at the Lowy Institute – Australia’s leading foreign-policy think-tank. The idea is to bring together British and Australian experts to discuss trends in Asia – and, it is hoped, to form common views and approaches. But, after the first day of discussion, I was left wondering whether the “tyranny of distance” may ensure that the Brits and the Australians will struggle to form a common view.
It is not so much a difference of interpretation, between the two sides, as a gap in urgency. For the Australians, the rise of China overshadows all other issues and raises fundamental questions about the role and future of their country – as an outpost of the west in the southern Pacific, with a rising China to the north. For the moment, however, the British can still treat the rise of China as a second-order issue – while policymakers in London obsess about Europe and keep a wary eye on Russia and the Middle East. Read more
Ireland's Dustin the Turkey at the 2008 contest
Russian Babushki have invited Europeans to a “Party for Everyone”, four Swedes found their “Waterloo”, British airline attendants camped it up when “Flying the Flag”, and a girl band from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia pressed Financial Times readers’ buttons with a percentage breakdown of their amorousness (“I Love You 100%”). Read more
Media wars have regularly made great front page news down under, but Australia’s latest dust-up has been more personal than corporate.
James Packer, son of the late media magnate Kerry, and his old mate and best man David Gyngell on Sunday took their 35-year friendship to a physical level when – in true Aussie fashion – they slugged it out on a Bondi street outside the billionaire’s residence.
Local media have widely quoted tweets from Chris Walker, a Sydney resident who witnessed the brouhaha: Read more
By David Gallerano
♦ Edward Luce argues that Lawrence Summers has done everyone a favour by taking himself out of the running to be the next Fed chair.
♦ Alec Russell interviews Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and asks him about God, Mandela and Syria.
♦ James Blitz retraces last week’s main events in the Syria crisis, while the Wall Street Journal reports on Barack Obama’s conduct behind the scenes of the Syria crisis.
♦ Shadi Hamid points out that Assad was rewarded rather than punished for his use of chemical weapons.
♦ The New York Times’ Laura Pappano reports on Battishug Myanganbayar, a 16 years-old genius from Ulan Bator, Mongolia. “How does a student from a country in which a third of the population is nomadic, living in round white felt tents called gers on the vast steppe, ace an MIT course even though nothing like this is typically taught in Mongolian schools?”
♦ The Hewitts, a white South African family, left behind their comfortable life and moved to 100-square-foot shack with no electricity or running water. A notable experiment for some – just “poverty pornography” for others.
♦ The Royal Academy presents an exhibition of 200 artworks from the “vast and diverse nation” of Australia. Read more
♦ The ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ talks to the FT about dividing his time between the UK and Iraq.
♦ Edward Snowden has managed to stir up “the biggest bout of anti-Americanism since the Iraq war.”
♦ Edward Luce thinks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are wrong about US debt – “At 4 percentage points of GDP, the salient worry is whether it is falling too rapidly.”
♦ China’s government may be less fixated on GDP targets, but it still needs to sustain confidence in the economy.
♦ Chairman Mao banned golf in China as a bourgeois frippery and China’s first golf course is younger than Tiger Woods, but the game is catching on fast – Chinese wunderkinds are being incubated and some are infiltrating the game at the highest levels.
♦ A new language has been discovered – Warlpiri rampaku is spoken only by people under the age of 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village in northern Australia.
♦ Charles Pierce pens his furious response to the verdict over Trayvon Martin’s death: “Of course, black kids can’t win fights without getting shot through the chest. They are supposed to act very politely, speak when spoken to and, maybe, just get off the sidewalk when they come in contact with people like George Zimmerman”. Read more
Opposition leader Tony Abbott with his two daughers (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Earlier this year Australia’s prime minister couldn’t catch a break.
From the Australia Day “riot” to the scandal that enveloped the speaker of the House and the nocturnal activities of a backbench MP, Julia Gillard seemed to stumble from one omnishambles to another.
But the tables have turned, and it’s opposition leader Tony Abbott who is under the kosh.
On Tuesday Mr Abbott managed to single-handily undermine his party’s attack on the Labor government’s mid-year budget with some ill-chosen words that reignited Australia’s now infamous misogyny debate.
It all started when Treasurer Wayne Swan attempted to explain the government’s decision to cut the baby bonus from A$5,000 to A$3,000 for the second and each subsequent child.
“We believe that these changes to the baby bonus will bring it more into line with the actual costs of having children. After the first child you’ve already bought the cot, the pram and other items you can use again,” he said.
Enter Mr Abbott, a proud father of three girls. He attacked the move on breakfast TV with the following logic: Read more
In parliament on Tuesday, Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, launched into a lacerating tirade against the leader of the opposition, accusing him of misogyny and hypocrisy. Read more
Following the elimination of Lleyton Hewitt and a couple of compatriots in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon, there is no Australian man in the second round of the men’s singles. This is the first time this has happened since 1938. Gideon Rachman asks why. Read more