October 13, 2004


Jane Perlez last week in the International Herald Tribune:

Most Australians like to think they have a healthy relationship with Asia, especially since the bad old days of the White Australia policy. They point to the presence of China's president, Hu Jintao, in Canberra a year ago, addressing Parliament a day after President George W. Bush. Hu outshone the American in substance and style: he offered new contracts to buy natural gas and iron ore, and he lingered long enough to see the sights. Bush offered little in the economic department. Unsociable, he rushed off after less than 24 hours.

Bush is condemned when he spends seven minutes reading to children, and hes condemned when he spends less than 24 hours in Australia. Man cant win.

But Hu also touched a chord among some Australians that illustrates the standoffishness, or shall we say, let's-have-Asia-on-our-own-terms attitude that has been a theme of Australia's stance to the array of countries and cultures to its north.

Well, excuse us. Were consumed with hedonism, you see:

The fight between the long-serving prime minister, John Howard, of the conservative Liberal Party, and the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, is about who can hand out the most money to maintain the hedonistic lifestyle to which many Australians have become accustomed.

The wildest hand-out was free health care to those over 75. Hedonism! Elderly folks getting state-financed minced prunes!

But Asia is a constant backdrop for Australian politicians and voters, even in a contented, inward-looking period like this one.

Inward-looking? We joined invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Were outward-looking, as Perlez next attempts to address:

Howard acquired his political philosophy from Sir Robert Menzies, the Anglophile prime minister whose campaign literature in the 1950s showed red arrows swarming southwards from Communist China. In this very different era, Howard has visited China numerous times to shore up the economic relationship.

Yet Howard has also promulgated a policy of pre-emptive strikes against terror threats in the region that many Asians see as harking back to Australia's true form.

Yeah. So often weve launched pre-emptive strikes on Asian countries. Its our "true form".

Posted by Tim Blair at October 13, 2004 02:27 AM

seems to me it's time you got back to that form, tim, especially in the places where the islamist bastards are holed up.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at October 13, 2004 at 02:40 AM

Perlez is a twit. A few months ago she called John Howard "patrician"! Son of a garage owner, patrician? In the same article she called Latham a socialist. She has no feel for Australia or its politics at all.

Posted by: trojan at October 13, 2004 at 03:44 AM

Codswallop, I lived in Oz for ten years and attended trade fairs/expos in China in the 70's and 80's....under both CLP and ALP governments...hardly isolationist trade policy.

Oh, I'm sure the Moonie Ponds Ladies Bowling League is still a tad jingoistic, but Perlez has to harken back to Menzies to reinforce her racist meme?


Posted by: feste at October 13, 2004 at 04:32 AM

and anyway why bag Menzies?...whose government was it that:

- opened most of Australia's embassies in Asian countries.
- signed the first trade agreements with Japan and Malaysia, and
- committed troops to the defense of Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Korea.

Certainly not the isolationist Labor governments

Posted by: mike.a at October 13, 2004 at 04:40 AM

oh yes I forgot the committment to the Columbo Plan

Posted by: mike.a at October 13, 2004 at 04:43 AM

dont worry about ms. perlez.
after Howards election victory (with Bush to follow), we all realise that these media people are actually quite funny, and not at all dangerous. like alan ramsay and dan rather.

Posted by: max power at October 13, 2004 at 05:43 AM

trojan --
Um, if "socialist" is not a correct term for Latham, what exactly is the correct term for the leader of a member party of the Socialist International?

You can qualify it with "backsliding" or "in name only" if you like, but Mr. Latham is a socialist.

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at October 13, 2004 at 07:14 AM

It is such a relief when the electorate gets it right and the chatterers look so inocuous after showing how out of touch they really are.I have greater confidence now in the wisdom of the American people after what has happened here in Australia.

Posted by: gubbaboy at October 13, 2004 at 08:00 AM

Does Perlez know that it wasn't Menzies who said "Two wongs don't make a white.", rather the Labor opposition?

Posted by: Quentin George at October 13, 2004 at 08:02 AM

The whole pre-emptive strike thing comes from a trick question some journalist posed, which basically says, "You KNOW there are terrorists hiding in another country who are about to launch an attack on Australia. If YOU HAVE NO OTHER OPTION do you launch a pre-emptive strike?"


"He admits it!"

Posted by: Quentin George at October 13, 2004 at 08:20 AM

Well, we did send our troops off to fight the Japanese long before the bombing of Darwin...

Posted by: Jorge at October 13, 2004 at 08:46 AM

I believe the IHT is based in the Avenue Charles de Gaulle , somewhere near Clarins in paris.
Enough said ?

Posted by: davo at October 13, 2004 at 09:05 AM

There's hedonism going on over there?

Jeez, I've got to get out of Illinois.

Posted by: Aaron at October 13, 2004 at 09:07 AM


Sounds damn fine to me.


Posted by: TFK at October 13, 2004 at 09:31 AM

Must be a great selling point for Australia in Asia, since so many will do anything to get into Australia by whatever means, legal and illegal.
Whats not to desire- free speech,,religious freedom,better health services-not dependent on ones income.In Asia the family have to even bring in food for the patients and do much of the nursing. Education for all not just for the wealthy-high home ownership- very very hedonistic.
Of course there are the evils of streets full of 'girly' bars teenage prostitution-children bought/stolen from our 'rural villages'to work in these places which make George Street and Collins Street very dangerous and hedonistic places, unsafe to walk, unlike Asia which is the epitome of morality mainly due to the deep religious principles of Islam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Rose at October 13, 2004 at 10:23 AM

Australia inhabited by the great unwashed is a constant theme for journalists whether they be domestic or international.

"hedonistic lifestyle" Australians work longer hours than Europeans and have less holidays..and hedonism is a bad thing?

The same "standoffishness" that keeps Australians holidaying and working in Asia. I thought the Bali bombings were caused by our lack of "standoffishness"?

I agree with Max. These journalists are to be pitied. They are proud of their ignorance.

Posted by: AussieJoe at October 13, 2004 at 10:38 AM

Jane Perlez last week in the International Herald Tribune, in her interpolative polemic on Australians' preference for ignorance about the neighbourhood and its history, found space to mention that the 'Chinese' admiral who might have 'discovered' Australia was a eunuch (perhaps she thinks this would have assisted him in pinpoint navigation?). She didn't mention he was an Arab in Chinese service, the mandarins of the era not being notable sailors. Kabar baik!

Posted by: Richard Laidlaw at October 13, 2004 at 10:48 AM

Wonder who Jane's been getting her information from.....????

Posted by: Jim at October 13, 2004 at 11:52 AM

Perlez pretty much follows the pattern of media commentators in Australia who were pissed off about the election result. Read the insults they fling at Australians. Perlez is only different in the milder tone of the comments and because she is writing outside Australia. A quick scan of the international media indicates most have tried very hard to totally ignore the Australian election. Visit the Guardian in the Uk where there is plenty of mention of the election in Afganistan, but little of Australia's, that occurred on the same day, although Australia is a much larger country in population, area and economy. Its obvious that by returning Howard with an increased majority the electorate has given the PC media a slap in the face, especially with respect to the coalition of the willing. We can expect a lot more belittling to come. For myself I have a long memory, certainly good enough to remember what these characters have said at the next election.

Posted by: Philip at October 13, 2004 at 12:07 PM

Oh, how I *hate* the "bash Australia because they are Western in Asia and they don't apologize enough for it" crap!


Posted by: KevinV at October 13, 2004 at 12:55 PM

I'm curious to know why being a eunuch was relevant to the Chinese/Arab who discovered Australia. Does this mean it doesn't take balls to get to Australia? Is there any other significance?

Posted by: mr magoo at October 13, 2004 at 01:05 PM

Oz has already done one pre-emptive strike. The East Solomons.
The Govt there was failing, and hadn't got the ability to take out the growing threat.
So we went in "pre-emptively", that is, before things got out of hand, before the situation could be a threat to us. That's what pre-emption means.

In this war, our ammunition isn't always Bombs and Bullets, sometimes it's Books and Ballots. Anyone who doesn't see that all four are neccessary isn't paying attention.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at October 13, 2004 at 01:09 PM

Hmmmmmmmmmm Excuse me!!! Who is this Jane Perlez.?

Posted by: LaVallette at October 13, 2004 at 01:10 PM

And here I though Bessie Bardot was Australia's "true form" when launching pre-emptive strikes...

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 13, 2004 at 03:15 PM

And here I thought Bessie Bardot was Australia's "true form" when launching pre-emptive strikes...

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 13, 2004 at 03:17 PM

The Singaporeans are more than happy to count Aussies as our friends and allies, never mind the hyperbole from the mdeia. Never can be too careful when surrounded by radical Muslims, I say.


Posted by: The Wobbly Guy at October 14, 2004 at 03:10 AM