Category Archives: Australia

Australia Begins ‘Unprecedented’ Pushback Against Beijing

I hope the Aussies don’t back down. mrossol

The Australian government is boldly pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—a newborn strategic position held by a government facing an increasingly hostile and antagonistic Beijing.

Recent aggressions by the CCP that in the past often failed to be directly addressed—are now being met with counterblows by the Morrison government, and it’s not just simply stronger rhetoric.

Australia was one of the first countries to call for an investigation into Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong over concerns around the new national security law. The country also is standing its ground against an escalating number of economic threats and intimidation from China.

Australian senators told The Epoch Times the resistance from the current government is in response to China’s growing contempt for international law, coupled with the gross mistreatment of its own people, and a seeping threat to the core values held by “Down Under.”

“China is starting to realise that not everyone will simply kowtow to their threats, be it geopolitical aggression, foreign interference or economic pressure,” Eric Abetz, a Liberal senator, told The Epoch Times.

“In all the circumstances, it is appropriate, indeed necessary, for freedom-loving countries to take a stand,” he continued.

Abetz said the “pushback” against the regime has been spurred by a number of pressing concerns, including “its ever-growing belligerence and bullying of its own people–Christians, Uyghurs, Falun Gong.”

China’s blatant disregard for international law through its South China Sea militarization is another concern, said Abetz, who pointed to Beijing’s intentional targeting of nations such as Australia that dare to seek accountability from China.

It started to take shape months ago, when Canberra called for an independent probe into Beijing’s handling of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Australia was one of the first countries that called for a travel ban from China.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who was first to signal the need for a transparent investigation, was soon backed by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In May, Morrison  told Alan Jones on 2GB Radio: “What the world over needs to know—and there’s a lot of support for this—is how did it start and what are the lessons to be learned?”

Australia’s inquiry has since drawn the support of the European Union and a coalition of more than 100 nations. The move sparked anger from the CCP, which has since imposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley and a ban on four red meat processing plants.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts said that although he’s pleased with the Australian government for making noise in response to the CCP, he will hold his assessment until after the media headlines subside. He said he was “doubtful the government’s actions will follow its words.”

“The [CCP] threat is enormous and affects every aspect of Australian life and lifestyles,” he told The Epoch Times.

“National security, economic independence, ownership of land and essential infrastructure assets, control of services, control over Labor and Liberal/National Party members of parliament and backroom powerbrokers to name just a few,” he said.

Roberts noted that the “world is awakening to the threat from the totalitarian CCP that has no regard for human life and freedom.” (India, one of the latest countries to crack down on Beijing, recently banned 59 mostly Chinese-owned apps over their border crisis, and plans to more heavily scrutinize foreign direct investments).

Meanwhile, Beijing also threatened to stop sending tourists and its students if Australia sticks to its call for a probe.

“We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global cooperation,” Payne said in a statement to The Australian.

She refuses to shy away when addressing China. In June, she criticized the CCP for creating “disinformation” amid the pandemic, adding that it “contributes to a climate of fear and division when what we need is cooperation and understanding.”

It’s been documented that the Chinese regime deliberately masked the total number of CCP virus cases in China in a bid to safeguard its image, both nationally and internationally. It has also been widely reported that China continues seeking to shift the blame away from its botched handling of the virus by launching a global disinformation campaign to manipulate narratives.

Andrew Phelan, an Australian-based medical technology entrepreneur who has spent most of his career in Asia, much of it representing U.S.-based medical technology companies (two of which have successfully prosecuted PRC nationals for IP theft), said he has never witnessed Australia respond to the CCP threat in the way it has today.

“I’m almost 54 and I’ve been following China since my first visit as a 21-year-old in 1988,” Phelan told The Epoch Times. “The current [pushback] situation is unprecedented … That courage has come with a cost and has put Australia in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s crosshairs.”

“The significance of the pushback is that it is happening so fast, it’s involving so many countries and they are coalescing and forming alliances,” he added.

The recent pushback stems from a process of Australia waking up to Beijing’s plans and ambitions, according to Phelan. He noted that Australia is in a unique position, as no other country globally has benefited as much from the rise of China.

Neither the prime minister’s office nor the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade immediately responded to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Beijing’s Influence Operations

More countries across the world are beginning to stand up to Beijing as it ramps up its global aspirations through avenues that include United Front operations, the Belt and Road Initiative, and Confucius Institutes.

The United Front unit coordinates with thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of other countries’ technology to China, according to a June report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Groups and individuals linked to that unit have attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny for their links to political interference, economic espionage, and influence on university campuses, the report stated. In Australia, businessmen who were members of organizations with close ties to the United Front Work Department “have been accused of interfering in Australian politics.”

The case of Huang Xiangmo was highlighted by the report’s authors as “one of the most informative cases of United Front-linked influence efforts.” Huang arrived in Australia “in near-total obscurity,” until “big spending and relentless networking behind closed doors has seen him swiftly ingratiate himself with Australia’s most powerful politicians,” the report stated, citing an article.

Huang was philanthropic and donated generously to universities, starting centers at two Australian universities. He also sought to mentor young Chinese Australians with political goals, organizing the Australia Young Leadership Forum for Chinese university students. His ACRI institute hosted a United Front official in 2016 and “also organized trips to China, supported by the Propaganda Department, for Australian journalists,” according to the report.

In one case, Huang reportedly withdrew a promised $400,000 donation to the Labor Party after its defense spokesman criticized China’s militarization of the South China Sea. Tim Xu, a former assistant to Huang, testified in 2019 that one of the councils Huang ran was a front for the CCP.

The Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) later concluded that Huang was “amenable to conducting acts of foreign interference.” Huang’s citizenship application was denied and his residency rescinded. However, Huang’s networks and—United Front networks in general—are still active in Australia, the report stated.

Through the Belt and Road Initiative, the CCP has begun more than 2,900 projects valued at $3.87 trillion. The BRI has been called a “debt trap” because Beijing’s predatory lending practices reportedly have left countries vulnerable to China’s aggressive influence campaigns.

In October 2019, Victoria formally signed onto the initiative under Premier Daniel Andrews and Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye; Victoria is the only state in Australia to have joined the initiative.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett told Sky News in a July 13 interview that the move would be the “undoing of this government,” labeling it as “an expansionist policy.”

Meanwhile, the Confucius Institutes located across Australia’s educational institutions have also attracted controversy. Late last year, the New South Wales Department of Education banned the program from being taught at the state’s public schools.

The institutes, overseen with heavy involvement from the United Front Work Department, have “generated controversy for more than a decade for their effects on academic freedom and influence on universities,” according to the Strategic Policy Institute report. China has claimed that the aim of the CIs is purely to strengthen Chinese language learning and culture.

The institutes aim to push a foreign policy goal of making the regime not only an economic superpower, but also a cultural one.

Abetz said unless the regime is brought to account early on, “they will continue their unacceptable practices until their domination becomes too reprehensible that conflict ensues.”

Australia’s pushback is “most certainly warranted,” says Casey Fleming, chairman and CEO of intelligence and security strategy firm BlackOps Partners.

“It is the canary in the mine for the rest of the free world and democracy,” he told The Epoch Times. “The CCP poses an extreme and ongoing threat to Australia’s values and national security. The CCP works under stealth cover, leverages intense espionage, and maximizes infiltration and subversion to destroy democracy.”Follow Bowen on Twitter: @BowenXiao_

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Tony abbot on trump

From a speech by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (2013-15) at the Heritage Foundation, Jan. 21: (and nicely done, I might add.)

Back in November of 2014, when Australia hosted the annual meeting of the G-20, it was by far the most important gathering of leaders ever held in my country; and it should have been a diplomatic triumph—but for President Barack Obama choosing to give a speech at the University of Queensland that was seen as an attack on my government’s climate policy.

At the time, there was pressure to rebuke him for discourtesy, but I chose not to, because it was the duty, I thought, of the Australian prime minister not to be critical of the leader of the free world.

Now, I have to say that on this trip to Washington, I’ve noticed that respect for the office of the president is not so common, even here in the United States itself.

That’s a pity, if I may say so, because he’s not just your president. As the leader of the free world—which the president inevitably is, by virtue of America’s singular strength and goodwill—in a sense he’s everyone’s president, and the world needs him to succeed almost as much as America does.

If the president is strong, America is strong. And if America is strong, Australia is stronger, Britain is stronger, Canada is stronger, and all the countries of the free world are stronger.

That’s why so many people outside of the United States follow each president’s triumphs and travails almost as closely as if we were ourselves citizens of this great republic.

And much to the surprise of many, given the dismay that greeted President Donald Trump’s election; indeed, somewhat to my own surprise, given my view then that Mr Trump was almost uniquely under-qualified for such an office, I think he’s been quite a success: his style sometimes grates, but he’s been a very good president.

Maybe it’s just been overtaken by Trump derangement syndrome, but for the first time in years the main narrative is not one of American decline.

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australia to protect free speach

Hear, hear!  Well done, AUS!!

== = = =

RICHARD SZABO  – The Epoch Times

The Australian government is setting up a task force to protect the freedom of expression at universities countrywide, amid concerns of foreign influence by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The University Foreign Interference Task Force will bring together representatives from universities, national security organizations, and the Department of Education, federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan said in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Aug. 28.

The new initiative will safeguard freedom of speech and academic freedom for all Australian university students and staff, Tehan said.

“Universities are at their strongest and most relevant when they provide a platform to a diversity of views and provide freedom from the pernicious threat of groupthink,” Tehan said.

“What is the value in freedom of speech if people are too afraid to say what they think? The sense that some students and staff at universities are self-censoring—out of fear they’ll be shouted down or condemned for expressing sincerely held views and beliefs, or for challenging widely accepted ideas—should concern us all.

“The test of our commitment to free speech is whether we are willing to tolerate the speech of others, especially those with whom we most disagree. We must foster the ability to listen to others’ viewpoints and encourage an environment where disagreement does not involve verbal attacks or threats.”

The task force will develop “bestpractice guidelines” to deal with foreign interference, against a November deadline. The team also will update the national Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey questions to seek student feedback as to whether they feel encouraged to voice “non-conformist opinions” and have freedom of expression on campus.

“I believe universities want to know if students and staff are afraid to discuss certain topics,” Tehan said. “It is only through diversity of thinking, perspective, and intellectual style that we get innovation and problem-solving. This is the kind of thinking that universities are there to encourage, [and] I ask the sector to also seek the views of their staff on this matter.”

Concerns About Chinese Communist Influence

Tehan’s announcement of the task force came on the same day that Charles Sturt University ethics professor Clive Hamilton expressed concerns that Australian universities are failing to set boundaries for foreign influence.

“We have yet to see one Australian university draw a line in the sand and make it clear that it is willing to take the pain in defense of our political freedom and free speech on campus,” Hamilton said at a public presentation held at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane on Aug. 28.

“A principle is worthless unless we are willing to make a sacrifice for it. Unless we are willing to make that sacrifice soon in defense of our political freedom, Australian universities will live under the ever-darkening shadow of Beijing,” he said.

Hamilton suggested that universities hadn’t acted sooner because they rely on revenue from China and are influenced by Beijing’s United Front groups that exist in part to protect the CCP’s image abroad.

“Corporatization of the tertiary sector and the extraordinary dependence of many universities on revenue from China, coupled with a sustained and highly effective influence campaign directed at senior university execu- tives by various United Front bodies, has meant that many vice-chancellors and other senior executives have lost sight of the actual meaning of academic freedom,” he said.

Hamilton said UQ Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj backed the appointment of Brisbane Chinese Consul-General Xu Jie as an adjunct professor of language and culture at the university on July 15, for a 2 1/2-year term without pay.

He said the Chinese consulate website had uploaded a story, which has since been removed, stating that UQ’s adjunct professorship is given to “very few scholars who play unique roles and make significant contributions … and to date are only given to a very few.”

“While defending the decision to appoint the consul-general, professor Hoj reassured us by saying professor Xu would not be doing any teaching,” Hamilton said. “Well, he is of sufficient authority to be a professor. Why can’t he give some lectures?”

Hamilton noted that UQ previously appointed then-Consul-General Zhao Yongchen as an adjunct professor in language and literature in 2014, and that Zhao gave a lecture at the university in 2015 on “China–Australian cooperation.”

Hamilton also pointed out that Hoj had recently been endorsed by Hanban, the Beijing-backed authority that oversees the controversial Confucius Institutes, which are hosted by universities around the world.

“In 2015, UQ news announced that professor Hoj had been honored by the Hanban as the outstanding individual of the year,” he said. “This prestigious award, as UQ called it, was in recognition of his contribution to the global Confucius Institute network. China’s last Vice Premier Madame Liu Yandong presented the award herself.”

Hamilton cited a recent example that illustrated the concerns regarding foreign interference, when several students who erected a mosaic wall on the UQ campus to show their support for the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong found their work had been damaged by pro-Beijing sympathizers who claimed to be protecting the Chinese consulate.

“A university security guard confronted a few men who were tearing down a Lennon Wall and then refused to show student IDs,” Hamilton said. “When the guard indicated that if they did not, he would call the police, the leader of the three men said, ‘I don’t care if you call the police, I will call the ambassador.’”

The test of our commitment to free speech is whether we are willing to tolerate the speech of others, especially those with whom we most disagree.

Dan Tehan, Minister of Education, Australia

RICHARD SZABO/THE EPOCH TIMES

Charles Sturt University Ethics Professor Clive Hamilton (R) at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, on Aug. 28, 2019.

ROHAN THOMSON/AAP IMAGES VIA AP

Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan at the National Press Club in Canberra, on Aug. 28, 2019.

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water. AUS style.

I had not hear about this from my AUS kids…  Hmm?

Dead kangaroos and a dying river are results of Australian system considered in the U.S.

Australia’s Darling River was once filled with fleets of paddle steamers carrying wool to ships bound for England. For nearly two centuries, it provided fresh water to farmers seeking to tame Australia’s rugged interior.

No longer. The Darling River hasn’t flowed for eight months, with long stretches completely dried up. A million fish died there in January. Kangaroos, lizards and birds became sick or died after drinking from toxic pools of stagnant water.

Australia’s water-trading market is drawing blame. The problems with the system, created more than a decade ago, have arisen as similar programs are being considered in the U.S.

“We’ve seen a complete market failure,” says Katharine McBride, whose husband, Rob McBride, is a rancher at Tolarno Station, along the Darling River some 700 miles west of Sydney. “It is becoming pretty clear that there is large-scale corruption and manipulation.”

Water crises are unfolding across the world as surging populations, industrial-scale farming and hotter temperatures deplete supplies.

Australia’s experience is a warning to the U.S., where Western states including California, Nevada and Arizona are looking at Australian-style water-trading plans to apply more market discipline to water usage.

Australia thought it had the answer: a cap-and-trade system that would create incentives to use water efficiently and effectively in the world’s driest inhabited continent. But the architects of water trading didn’t anticipate that treating water as a commodity would encourage theft and hoarding.

A report produced for a state resources regulator found the current situation on the Darling was caused by too much water being extracted from the river by a handful of big farmers. Just four license holders control 75% of the water extracted from the Barwon- Darling river system.

The national government, concerned that its water-trading experiment hasn’t turned out as intended, last month requested an inquiry by the country’s antitrust regulator into water trading.

Anticorruption authorities are investigating instances of possible fraud, water theft and deal making for water licenses. In one case, known as Watergate, a former agriculture minister allegedly oversaw the purchase of a water license at a record price from a Cayman Islands company cofounded by the current energy minister.

The former agriculture minister said he was following departmental advice and had no role in determining the price or the vendor. The energy minister said he is no longer involved with the company and received no financial benefit from the deal.

Water has been bought and sold in parts of the U.S. for decades. The Colorado-Big Thompson project in Colorado is one of the most active markets, but trading has never grown to make much of a difference in overall supply.

In California, some local authorities see trading as a way to comply with legislation that requires groundwater use to reach sustainable levels by the early 2040s. In Nevada, the state engineer approved a water- trading plan in January in the Diamond Valley, near the town of Eureka.

The Nevada plan is meant to change a system in which farmers each year use twice the amount of groundwater replenished by rainfall. Under the plan, which faces a court challenge from farmers and ranchers, water users would be allocated shares that they could freely sell, trade or bank, with each share representing a unit of water. Each

year, the number of water units decline, resulting in a reduction of use.

Since 2007, Australia has allowed not only farmers but also investors who want to profit from trading to buy and sell water shares. The water market is now valued at some $20 billion.

Putting a price on water was supposed to encourage smarter decisions. Farmers would grow crops that paid the highest returns, and local river systems would be nursed back to health because people would stop wasting cheap water. One benefit of the system has been that farmers who couldn’t plant during dry years could sell their water rights to others, saving many from bankruptcy.

But making water valuable had unintended consequences in some places. “Once you create something of real value, you should expect people to attempt to steal it and search for ways to cheat,” says Mike Young, a University of Adelaide professor.

Big water users have stolen billions of liters of water from rivers and lakes, according to local media investigations and officials, often by pumping it secretly and at night from remote locations that aren’t metered.

A new water regulator set up in New South Wales investigated more than 300 tips of alleged water thefts in its first six months of operation.

In 2018, authorities charged a group of cotton farmers with stealing water, including one that pleaded guilty to pumping enough illegally to fill dozens of Olympic-size pools.

Another problem is that water trading gives farmers an incentive to capture more rain and floodwater, and then hoard it, typically by building storage tanks or lining dirt ditches with concrete. That enables them to collect rain before it seeps into the earth or rivers.

David Littleproud, Australia’s water-resources minister, says 14% of water licenses are now owned by investors. “Is that really the intent of what we want this market to be?” he asks.

Even without theft and hoarding, the water market has changed Australia’s landscape. Because investors could secure large quantities of water, there was a shift from crops including wheat to the more water-intensive citrus, cotton and almonds, further taxing Australia’s limited supply. The risk is that a drought, rather than wiping out one or two wheat crops, will kill the nut and citrus trees, causing much deeper losses.

“When you push people to find the highest return, the system’s vulnerability is hugely intensified,” says Erin O’Donnell, a water expert at the University of Melbourne.

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