The Pacific: Australia blindsided by Beijing’s strategic reach


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Peter Hartcher has again hit the nail on the head (Comment, 19/4). A lack of strategic understanding and intent has seen the Morrison government blindsided by China’s emerging influence in the Pacific. Cuts in foreign aid, the preparedness of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton to antagonise our major trading partner and their willingness to try and wedge Labor on China, have all contributed to Australia now facing major longer-term security threats.
In the lead-up to the election Foreign Minister Marise Payne uses obfuscation to try and reassure us that all is well with the relationship with Honiara. Pollyanna indeed. One cannot imagine this happening on the watch of former foreign minister Julie Bishop. For the sake of our future it really is time for Penny Wong to become foreign minister.
James Young, Mt Eliza

Concerted effort needed to thwart influence
Peter Hartcher sums up with ″⁣complacency in the face of crisis″⁣. This government says it’s strong on security, however Australia is now more vulnerable than ever to China, due to the government dropping the ball over the Solomons signing a security agreement with China. And for all we know, other Pacific nations. Australia is vulnerable if it continues to ignore this crisis. What it needs now is a concerted effort to replace China’s influence in the Solomons and the Pacific, even if it takes massive investment. Failing that, do we then need to resort to a military invasion of Honiara?
Jeffrey Kelson, Prahran

It should be our sphere of influence
The Solomon Islands are twice as far from China as they are from Australia. Apparently this should make those islands part of our sphere of influence, not China’s. America does not even require nearness in its enormous sphere of influence .There are more than 800 US overseas military bases around the globe. Perhaps that gives some people comfort. To me it gives only cold shivers down the spine.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

Our complacency may cost us
Peter Hartcher exposes the Morrison government’s dangerous strategic complacency in its dealings with the Pacific region. His point about Australia in 2022 ignoring the lessons of its own history is telling. In not referencing the continuing relevance to our nation of the famous WWII battle with Japan involving the strategically crucial main island of the Solomons, Guadalcanal, our government’s vital Pacific defence access to the US is now in 2022 potentially imperilled. As Hartcher suggests, Marise Payne’s, and by extension, the Federal government’s complacency is now aiding China’s naval port ambitions in the Solomons. Anthony Albanese should be highlighting this egregious security failure in his election campaign.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

All these things are relative
Peter Hartcher, it’s time you stopped stressing over China’s modest efforts to exert control in its region in the face of the US and its allies’ massive array of bases ringing the world. And good luck with trying to put China back in its box.
William Puls, Mentone

A beginning has been made
Peter Hartcher is correct about the urgency of taking serious and sensitive action in Australia-Pacific relations. At last, in March 2022, a reasonable, bipartisan report was finalised, outlining some key areas in which Australia can work with the Pacific Islands, ″⁣Strengthening Australia’s relationships in the Pacific″⁣. It’s the beginning; a lot more is needed. The matter is not of marginal importance. Whatever government we get in May, this work must be continued and acted on. No more fluffing about.
Jane Crawford Munro, Main Beach, Qld


Hold to account
Contrary to Scott Morrison’s statement that independents will “create chaos” if elected to parliament, their raison d’etre is to hold whichever party wins office to account. Each independent has made clear their priorities – real action on climate change, establishment of an anti-corruption commission with teeth and equality for women. Why commit to either party until they are guaranteed action will be taken on their issues. Negotiation starts after the election not before it.
The two-party system is irrevocably broken. We need more independent voices in parliament. I will be voting for my independent candidate and I hope many Australians do likewise for the independents standing in their electorates. Only then can we begin the process whereby future governments act with integrity for all Australians not just some.
Irene Wyld,
Cape Schanck

Vote by the letter
Peter Cook’s outstanding letter (19/4) highlighting the current intergenerational inequality should be printed out and included with the voting ballot papers on election day. One can only hope that the apathetic and selfish voting demonstrated at the last federal election by the middle and older age generations is not repeated.
Paul Jurkovsky, Ferntree Gully

Matter of priorities
Peter Cook brilliantly highlights the growing inequality in Australian society. Baby Boomers like Peter and I can sit smugly in our million-dollar houses and spend time at our negatively geared beach houses while young people struggle to buy a house or live in abject poverty paying exorbitant rents and neither of our major political parties dares to tackle the issue due to media and voter backlash.
We have the money to address inequality and the shortcomings in our aged care and child care systems as well as tackling the major issue of our time – climate change. It’s all just a matter of priorities .
Graeme Lechte, Brunswick West

Date with tipping point
The evidence is all around us that the climate tipping points that were foreshadowed decades ago are now activating. But societal tipping points can be positive eg, the decline in smoking has had enormous health benefits. Just ahead is the May 21 election, the outcome of which will determine the direction of change in subsequent societal tipping points. As Descartes almost wrote: I think, therefore I vote.
Jim Spithil, Ashburton

More than truth
″⁣All we want for the election is the truth″⁣ (Editorial, 19/4). Actually we want more than the truth. We want to reclaim the demise of our democracy. We want to have trust in our politicians and institutions. This election must be more than an auction, where the highest bidder gets the keys to the Lodge. For too long decay has been setting in and alienating much of the population. Changes need to be made to the way we are governed eg, rorts to mates. Clearly we have become an unequal society. The big issues of the day are often trivialised by three-word slogans. This election is an opportunity to change direction,especially if a number of independents are elected.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading

Time running out
The editorial opining that “all we want for the election is the truth” rather than the “fake news” circulated by social media platforms and for the politicians themselves to “tell the the truth”, is highly unlikely based on the evidence thus far. Cherry picking the facts, truth embellishment and/or distortion (ie, lying by omission) is par for the course.
Regrettably, the core underlying problem in the hot race to gain the levers of power is that criticism is being conflated with falsehoods. Social media juggernauts aside, it’s a throw as much mud as possible (under the guise of constructive criticism) and hope that it sticks strategy to tarnish your political opponent.
But although the truth can never be supplanted with fiction (ultimately), we’re all worse off in the long run for the missed opportunity by the leaders of our country to tackle housing affordability, how to raise productivity and create jobs, climate change action and mitigation, aged care and mental health, restoring integrity in politics.
Namely, all of the issues that matter to people, and that time is running out.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Forget personalities
At elections, we like to pretend that we know what we’re voting for and why. One of the unfortunate consequences of compulsory voting is that it tends to emphasise who we’re voting for, at the expense of the what and why. It’s time we realised that the world will only be a better place if we can persuade candidates to abandon personality politics and concentrate on the important issues instead.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Damned statistics
Cushia McNamara (Letters, 19/4) makes the important point that even the barest minimum of work – one hour a week – counts as being employed for statistical purposes. There’s also a catch with official unemployment figures: people who’ve tried and failed to find work over a long period may finally give up and stop looking. But if a person isn’t either in work or looking for work, they are not counted as being in the workforce, so these discouraged people won’t be counted as unemployed. This is a possible reason why the unemployment rate is currently so low.
Freya Headlam, Glen Waverley

AFL kicks behind
The AFL’s fascination with new rules has caused confusion and furore with inconsistent application of the rule. Like many of the game’s rules, umpires’ discretion appears to be the main issue. Surely for a penalty to be applied, abuse should be verbal in nature and offensive in content. Raising one’s arms is a paralinguistic reaction and nothing more. It is the ultimate in self-control in a game that must be played on the emotional edge.
Will the AFL be banning demonstrative celebrations as they cause offence to opposition players? Will the traditional flapping of arms when standing on the mark be penalised for distracting the goal kicker?
While umpire abuse needs to be stamped out of the game, some degree of emotional reaction must be considered both necessary and appropriate given the nature of the high-octane effort of the game’s athletes.
Andrew Dowling, Torquay

Panic attacks
Isaac Percy’s outlined experience of a panic attack (19/4) does suggest an important clue as to what triggered it; he was in an unhappy relationship. Not a small detail.
Unfortunately this article later states threats can be ″⁣objective″⁣ such as about to be attacked by a dog, or psychological ″⁣where you’re overestimating a danger″⁣. This is quite misleading as the inference is ″⁣psychological″⁣ could only mean it’s inherently an ″⁣overestimation″⁣.
By way of Percy’s experience it could very well be whatever may be underlying his unhappy relationship is a very accurate and real danger to his mental wellbeing and should not be automatically relegated to a ″⁣psychological overestimation″⁣.
The theory and practice of psychodynamic psychiatry takes into account these factors and helps a person to explore and understand their inner and interpersonal worlds. Real threats come in many different forms. It would be a fundamental error to assume anybody experiencing a panic attack is ″⁣overestimating danger″⁣. In my experience patients are having panic attacks for very important reasons that deserve careful psychological investigation.
Dr Larry Hermann, South Yarra

Luck of the draw
The critically endangered spotted tree frog has been thrown a lifeline (“The race to save a bushland battler”, 18/4).
Department of Environment personnel in NSW are collaborating with Victorian scientists to monitor progress of captive-bred frogs released into the wild after the devastation of Black Summer. Future tadpoles could help control algae in waterways.
But some species are not so lucky. Two of the eight duck species traditionally shot for sport in Victoria were not protected until classified as “threatened” last year. The critically endangered plains-wanderer – a delightful quail lookalike – is at risk from quail-hunters allowed to shoot in poor light, without passing any test for shooting accuracy or recognition of species.
Perversely, the birds’ future is in the hands of the Game Management Authority – a taxpayer-funded agency that actively promotes hunting. Fox in charge of the henhouse?
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Unshackle the chains
Bravo, Nicholas Reece (Comment, 19/4) for spelling out the need for Victoria to unshackle from a federation dominated by the two north-east crescent states. That the realistic choice for prime minister at this election is either a Sydney male or another Sydney male says it all.
Brian Kidd, Mount Waverley

The Russian war
When I visited Vietnam, the locals didn’t call the war the Vietnam war, they called it the US war. Similarly, the Ukrainian war should be called the Russian war.
Alan Inchley, Frankston

The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over again and expecting a different result. With all the facts and information at our political leaders disposal – must cut fossil fuels, biodiversity on the brink of collapse, water wars looming – what do we hear but jobs jobs jobs, growth growth growth?
Business as usual, ignore the evidence.
We are doomed.
Chris Hargreaves, Forest Hill


Scott Morrison’s goal of ″⁣jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs″⁣ will be difficult to achieve on a dead, dead, dead, dead, dead planet.
Nick Jans, Princes Hill

Scott Morrison’s remarks on the hustings addressing Mr Speaker in the audience suggest he is losing control of his tongue, perhaps his next move will be speaking in tongues.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

If I can’t have an integrity commission with teeth, can I have a marginal seat?
Andy Wain, Rosebud

I care about a federal ICAC. I care about broken election promises. It’s time a little integrity was brought back to federal politics.
Graeme Henderson, Bullengarook

Anthony Albanese misspoke and misheard, Scott Morrison misspoke and misheard. Seems at the moment they are interchangeable.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

If it’s Albanese it’s a gaffe. If it’s Morrison, he misspoke.
John Walsh, Watsonia

Never let a poor government get in the way of a superior campaigner.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

With predictions of major parties relying on preferences from independents, a survey of their policies suggests Scott Morrison can start planning his Hawaiian holiday soon.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

If parliamentary salaries were fixed as a multiple of the minimum wage then wage justice would soon be implemented and poverty would be reduced.
Adrian Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Not so long ago a Liberal defence minister said he wouldn’t trust Australia to build a canoe. Are submarines less complicated?
Alan West, Research

The captain’s pick for the seat of Warringah says more about the captain than the candidate.
John Bye, Elwood

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