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Australian news, and some related international items

How the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body

AUSTRALIA CAPTUREDHow the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body, MICHELLE FAHY, DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA 9 DECEMBER 2021

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has veered away from its founding vision of providing an array of independent diverse views, to now promote an aggressive militaristic solution to the heightened tensions in Australia’s region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra is the government’s primary source of outside-government advice, research and analysis on military and strategic affairs. Since its establishment in mid-2001, it has veered away from its founding vision.

There is a jarring disconnect between the lofty goals of independence expressed in ASPI’s charter, and the infiltration of ASPI by tentacles of the military-industrial complex. This has been barely mentioned in Australia’s mainstream media.

Declassified Australia investigation has uncovered a casebook example of ‘state-capture’, with the development of deep connections between ASPI, and the world’s largest and most powerful military weapons manufacturers.

Australia is a significant participant in the global arms trade at present. Its $270-billion decade-long spending spree upgrading weapons and war machines is large by international standards, and Australia is increasingly becoming an arms seller too. As Australia moves militarily ever closer to the US, even defence insiders say the defence industry is ‘awash with money’.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen have made the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers richer, larger, and more influential. At the lesser-known end of the spectrum, the Yemen war is notable for its extensive human rights abuses and war crimes: it has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite pleas from the UN, the arms still flow and the war continues. The weaponry for this war has been supplied by the world’s top arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, and missile-maker Raytheon.

ASPI and the Weapons Lobby

The Australian subsidiaries of these and other global weapon-makers have been regular ASPI sponsors for years. Some of them have successfully used the back door to gain access to ASPI’s top table, its governing council. ASPI council members have included former senior military officers, defence ministers, and federal MPs who are also on arms and cyber company boards. It has also included former and current arms industry executives. The challenge to ASPI’s independence is large and real.

ASPI’s founding charter, since it was established in 2001 by then prime minister John Howard with bipartisan support from Labor leader Kim Beazley, declares it must ‘operate independently of Government and of the Defence Organisation’.

Further, it states that ‘the perception, as well as the reality, of that independence would need to be carefully maintained’. Thus, from the outset, the government was acknowledging how such an important think tank would be vulnerable to capture by vested interests, both ideological and commercial………..

Our investigation shows that the ASPI council has numerous members who represent or have close links to the military-industrial complex. Of the 11 non-executive directors on ASPI’s governing council, five sit on the boards or advisory boards of weapons or cybersecurity corporations, while numerous past council members have had similar connections.

The current council includes former Howard defence minister Robert Hill. He’s on the supervisory board of German weapon-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles, and will soon also produce and export ammunition for the US Joint Strike Fighter program. Hill is also chair of Viva Energy Group, a major supplier of fuel to the Australian Defence Force (ADF)…………………….

Declassified Australia put questions to ASPI and the current council members. Dr Nelson declined to comment. No other council member responded by deadline. ASPI replied saying it manages conflict of interest matters in line with other Australian proprietary limited companies, and that ‘Council members will recuse themselves from discussions which may give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest matter’.

ASPI has a history of council members with interests in the defence industry. Jim McDowell was chief executive of BAE Systems in Australia for a decade, and then ran BAE in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi military has since used BAE arms in the catastrophic war in Yemen. Returning to Australia, he was engaged by Liberal defence industry minister Christopher Pyne, and Defence, on numerous sensitive defence projects while also on ASPI’s Council. BAE Systems is in the running to provide Australia’s planned nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

Former Labor senator Stephen Loosley’s Council membership, including seven years as chair, coincided with board roles at French arms multinational Thales Australia, manufacturer of the Austeyr, the service rifle for all the Australian military, as well as armoured vehicles, submarine sonars and munitions. The Thales group has been accused of selling weapons to the Indonesian military who are running a war in West Papua against the independence movement.

Former Labor defence minister Kim Beazley was an ASPI distinguished fellow for two years in 2016-2018. For the majority of that time he was on the board of Lockheed Martin Australia while writing regularly for ASPI, without ASPI disclosing his board position at Lockheed.

………..ASPI’s independence is drawn into question not just by its board appointees but also by some research fellows. One recent example is the former director of cyber, intelligence and security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Rajiv Shah, who cowrote a report on collaboration within the intelligence community that was sponsored by BAE Systems. Shah is now an ASPI fellow and a consultant to government and industry. ASPI does not disclose either in the report nor in his website bio Shah’s previous employment with BAE Systems, one of the world’s top 10 arms companies. Dr Shah did not respond to questions.

Declassified Australia does not imply any illegality by any past or present ASPI council members, fellows, or staff. The issue is the deep involvement of people associated with global weapons manufacturers, and the potential for, and perception of, conflicts with ASPI’s charter of independence.

The Reshaping of ASPI

At its foundation, the ASPI Council was instructed by the government to ensure its independence. As set down by the defence minister, it is required not only to be ‘politically non-partisan’ but also, most crucially, to ‘reflect the priority given to both the perception and substance of the Institute’s independence’.

The Howard government had envisaged that ASPI would do this by maintaining a ‘very small’ permanent staff while relying mostly on short-term contracts, secondments and similar arrangements for its research work. It would not publish views in its own name but would provide a forum for the views of a wide variety of outside experts.

20 years on, ASPI has morphed into a very different organisation.

A decision by Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd to make Stephen Loosley the ASPI Council chair in 2009, while Loosley was on the Thales Australia board, tested perceptions of independence. Then, in 2012, the Gillard Labor government appointed the current executive director directly from the senior position of Deputy Secretary of Strategy in the Defence Department. In the late 90s, Peter Jennings had been chief of staff to Liberal defence minister Ian McLachlan when the Howard Government first mooted the idea of creating ASPI.

Under this new leadership, ASPI set about expanding. Staff numbers have quadrupled in nine years from 14 to 60, plus there are now 29 research fellows and nine interns.

ASPI receives its core funding via a grant from the Defence Department. In 2018, the Morrison government approved a $20 million grant to cover five years’ of ASPI operations. In May 2021, this grant was increased by $5 million to cover two years of operations of a new Washington DC office.


Since 2012, ASPI has vigorously pursued additional funding. Within two years, annual income from commissioned research jumped from $37,000 to $1.1 million, and sponsorships were up 235% to $746,000. ASPI’s own-sourced revenue has continued to grow dramatically. In 2011-12, ASPI received less than $500,000 above its base funding, by 2020-21 it had exploded to $6.7 million.

The single largest source of ASPI’s funding in 2020-21, beyond its core funding, was from the US Government’s Departments of Defense and State ($1.58m), followed by additional funding from Defence ($1.44m) and other federal government agencies ($1.18m). The NSW and Northern Territory governments provided $445,000. In the private sector, the largest source was social media, tech and cybersecurity companies ($737,362), with Facebook ($269,574), Amazon ($100,000) and Microsoft ($89,500) being the largest. From the arms industry, ASPI received $316,636, with more than two-thirds of that coming from two of Australia’s largest defence contractors, Thales ($130,000) and BAE Systems ($90,000).

In 2019-20, Twitter gave ASPI $147,319 for its cyber research. Significantly, Twitter last week announced a partnership with ASPI said to be dealing with misinformation from the Chinese communist party that was seeking to counter evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. As a result of ASPI’s research, thousands of “state-linked accounts” were shut down by Twitter.

While the cash from the arms industry may not appear substantial, as we have seen, the arms industry wields its major influence via its representatives finding their way on to seats at the top table.

The substantial extra funding from the US government, Defence and other Australian government departments, as well as corporate interests, provides a real challenge to ASPI’s responsibility to remain independent. It raises serious questions about undue influence, including foreign influence, at ASPI.

ASPI responded to our questions about protecting the perception of its independence by saying it retains ‘complete editorial independence on the material we choose to research’. It said it would not accept funding from parties attempting to constrain its editorial independence.

But just what does the US government get in return for its $1.57 million funding of ASPI, beyond its research projects on human rights violations, disinformation, and cybersecurity in China?

And what might BAE Systems get for its $90,000 grant to ASPI, other than a new report on the need for a ‘collaborative and agile’ intelligence community?

And what about Thales Australia, in return for its $130,000 grant to ASPI, beyond just being lead sponsor of the 2020 ASPI Conference?

The answer for them all, is ‘influence’.

ASPI’s role in advising the Australian government on defence strategy and procurements and cybersecurity would better serve the Australian people if it was to return to its original charter of researching and publishing a diversity of views from a position of uncompromised independence.

MICHELLE FAHY is an independent writer and researcher, specialising in the examination of connections between the weapons industry and government, and has written in various independent publications. She is on twitter @FahyMichelle, and on Substack at undueinfluence.substack.com   https://declassifiedaus.org/2021/12/09/australia-captured/?fbclid=IwAR0_MMo3hIrY7uDHK4d2l5M-nxdsGBFyA_6Xtim8jxjotqPkMXmFheeGNWM

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Even when he is silenced, immobilized, locked up and hidden from public view, Julian Assange continues to shine a light on the abusive mechanisms of power.

Assange: The Masks are Crumblinhttps://consortiumnews.com/2021/12/10/assange-the-masks-are-crumbling/
December 10, 2021  The U.S. and its allies don’t care about press freedom beyond the extent it can be used to conduct propaganda, writes Caitlin Johnstone after the High Court’s ruling against Julian Assange.  By Caitlin Johnstone

CaitlinJohnstone.com    The U.S. government has won its appeal against a lower British court’s rejection of its extradition request to prosecute Julian Assange for journalistic activity under the Espionage Act. Rather than going free, the WikiLeaks founder will continue to languish in Belmarsh Prison where he has already spent over two and a half years despite having been convicted of no crime.

“As a result, that extradition request will now be sent to British Home Secretary Prita Patel, who technically must approve all extradition requests but, given the U.K. Government’s long-time subservience to the U.S. security state, is all but certain to rubber-stamp it,” writes Glenn Greenwald. “Assange’s representatives, including his fiancee Stella Morris, have vowed to appeal the ruling, but today’s victory for the U.S. means that Assange’s freedom, if it ever comes, is further away than ever: not months but years even under the best of circumstances.”

“Mark this day as fascism casts off its disguises,” tweeted journalist John Pilger of the ruling.

This ruling, which allows the U.S. to continue working to extradite a journalist for exposing U.S. war crimes, comes on the final day of Washington’s so-called “Summit for Democracy“, where the U.S. secretary of state made a grandiose show about of press freedom playing “an indispensable role in informing the public, holding governments accountable, and telling stories that otherwise would not be told.” And then adding: “The U.S. will continue to stand up for the brave and necessary work of journalists around the world.”

This ruling also comes on UN Human Rights Day.

This ruling comes on the same day two journalists formally received the Nobel Peace Prizes they’d been awarded and demanded protections for journalists in their acceptance speeches.

This ruling comes as the U.S. government pledges hundreds of millions of dollars in support for “independent media” around the world in coordination with British state media.

This ruling comes after it was revealed that the C.I.A. drew up plans to kidnap and assassinate Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy after the 2017 Vault 7 releases embarrassed the agency.

This ruling comes after it was revealed that C.I.A. proxies spied on Assange and his lawyers at the Ecuadorian embassy, thereby making a fair trial in the United States impossible.

This ruling comes after it was revealed that the U.S. prosecution relied on false testimony from a diagnosed sociopath and convicted child molester.

This ruling comes after recent investigative reports on civilian-slaughtering U.S. airstrikes reminded us why it’s so important for the press to be able to conduct critical coverage of the most powerful military force ever assembled.

The facts are in and the case is closed: the U.S. and its allies do not care about press freedoms beyond the extent that they can be used to conduct propaganda. The way journalists who offend the powerful are dealt with by the U.S. government and the way they are dealt with by the Saudi monarchy differ only in terms of speed and messiness.

The masks are crumbling. Even when he is silenced, immobilized, locked up and hidden from public view, Julian Assange continues to shine a light on the abusive mechanisms of power. He is arguably exposing them more now than ever before.

As fascism casts off its disguises, it becomes more and more important to highlight the hypocrisy, fraudulence and depravity of the people who rule our world.

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To suck up to the American government, Australia’s government leaders agreed to buy nuclear submarines, with no Parliementary discussion.

And as for the process, involving a sudden announcement to the Australian public, it is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny. 

Australia bows down to America for nuclear submarines, Independent AustraliaBy Lee Duffield | 10 December 2021,  As tensions between the U.S. and China grow, Australia’s nuclear submarine program has become less to do with our defence and more about placating the American Government, writes Dr Lee Duffield.

DEFENCE INDUSTRY MINISTER Melissa Price, on 9 November, declared the country’s nuclear-powered submarines would be built in South Australia. 

How would this be done? Constructing the ships around imported reactors? It added into the brewing of questions and arguments since the sudden announcement of the nuclear plan and immediate cancellation of the French contract for conventional submarines on 16 September. 

Trying to make sense of it all, several analysts, mostly through the Lowy Institute publication, The Interpreter, and at think-tanks to the Left and Right, have produced these main points:  

  • that American policy towards China is the main factor in this mix;  
  • that Australian sovereignty stands to be diminished, even if its security might be helped; and
  • that the insult to France and its consequences, while not the main game, remains important — especially as it affects the standing of the Australian Government.

Sam Roggeveen, Director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, contributed two articles, seeing the China-USA contest as the heart of it, with Australia now brought in more as a great power client, less as itself. 

Roggeveen wrote:

‘The defence deal is a clear escalation and indication that Washington views Beijing as an adversary. It also has thrust Australia into a central role in America’s rivalry with China.’  

U.S. reacts — Australia goes, too

The deal in question is the full package of the new tripartite defence arrangement, AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States), with Australia obtaining probably eight nuclear submarines at the centre of it.

As Roggeveen explains: 

‘…the scale of this agreement and the close strategic and operational links it implies will create expectations from Washington. Australia cannot have this capability while assuming that it does not come with heightened expectations that Australia will take America’s side in any dispute with China.’

And as for the process, involving a sudden announcement to the Australian public, it is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny. 

Allan Behm, Director of International and Security Affairs at the Australia Institute, gave a similar reading, seeing the decision to build long-range nuclear submarines for Australia as an American game, little to do with the defence of Australia: 

The aim is to make possible an Australian contribution to U.S. battle plans against China which that country will view as profoundly threatening with implications also for war planning by Russia, North Korea and other nuclear-armed states. 

Even leaving aside the fiscal profligacy and defence opportunity costs for Australia of the literal blank cheque issued by the Morrison Government, the nuclear submarine decision takes Australia into the heart of naval warfighting in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

“Step up to the bully”  

Some steps to the right of Behm at the Australia Institute is Rowan Callick writing for the Centre for Independent Studies, a neoliberal and anti-communist lobby, in the current debate articulating much of the confrontationist thinking on how to deal with Beijing. …………

For the U.S., AUKUS is a win. It exemplifies the importance Washington attaches to deepening cooperation with key allies and strengthening their military capabilities to assist in deterring the security challenges posed by China in the region.  

A very hard and costly undertaking 

Great difficulty running a nuclear submarine program is foreshadowed for a country with no nuclear industry, where the navy for several years was unable to provide specialist crews for each of its Collins class submarines — rotating them ship-to-ship as vessels took turns in maintenance. There is also the long lead time proposed for getting the nuclear boats into service, starting with 18 months reserved for more discussion, for official thinking to get clarified on such questions.  

Oriana Skylar Mastro and Zack Cooper have talked about many critics already raising valid concerns

Critics of AUKUS… worry that 18 months is a long time to wait for clarity on the plan, and 18 years would be too long to wait for submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines will prove difficult and expensive for Australia to master and could create non-proliferation concerns. Washington, Canberra and London will have to mend ties with Paris as well as concerned friends in Southeast Asia, especially Jakarta. Others have argued that the deal ties Australia too closely to the United States or creates unnecessary tensions with China (although we would dispute these last two assertions)…………

In the vanguard of concerns about the French connection, Richard Ogier saw further risks to Australia’s options as a sovereign state, and considered that:  

‘In Europe, and not only in France, the image of Australia has suffered a direct hit. Australia may be a staunch U.S. ally, but under certain circumstances, was prepared to go beyond the old ANZUS alliance. Australians may be warm and welcoming, is the message sent, but watch for the kick when your back is turned.’ 

A full version of this article has been published in subtropic.com.au.   Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/australia-bows-down-to-america-for-nuclear-submarines,15832

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Weapons making companies have the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in their grip.

AUSTRALIA CAPTUREDHow the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body, MICHELLE FAHY, DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA 9 DECEMBER 2021

(These are some of the connections between ASPI staff and weapons corporations) : –

…………. Robert Hill (with German weapon-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, and chair of Viva Energy Group, a major supplier of fuel to the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Hill serves as ‘chair of counsellors’ at enigmatic lobbying firm Dragoman Global, where one of his colleagues is Nick Warner, former defence secretary, head of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) and director general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). Dragoman has a major client in Naval Group, the French naval shipbuilder that had won the $90 billion submarine project recently dumped by the Morrison government. serves as ‘chair of counsellors’ at enigmatic lobbying firm Dragoman Global, where one of his colleagues is Nick Warner, former defence secretary, head of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) and director general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). Dragoman has a major client in Naval Group, the French naval shipbuilder that had won the $90 billion submarine project recently dumped by the Morrison government.

Then there’s another former Liberal defence minister, Brendan Nelson, now the president of  Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific. In addition to its commercial aviation business, Boeing is the world’s third largest arms manufacturer. Boeing Defence Australia is one of Australia’s top handful of defence contractors, supplying planes and drones to the RAAF, attack helicopters and, potentially, if ASPI’s recommendation is followed, drone submarines, along with much else. The presence of Boeing’s most senior regional leader on the ASPI council is perhaps the biggest challenge for ASPI in guarding its required independence.

Meanwhile, former chief of army, Lt Gen Ken Gillespie (ret’d), chairperson of ASPI’s council, is on the boards of Naval Group Australia and cybersecurity firm Senetas Corporation. He was previously on the board of Airbus Australia Pacific, a European conglomerate that mostly supplies and maintains the ADF’s helicopters. None of these interests is disclosed in Gillespie’s profile on ASPI’s website nor its annual report.

Another ASPI council member, Jane Halton, is also on the board of Naval Group Australia, although this is not mentioned on the ASPI website. Readers may recall her senior role in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet during John Howard’s 2001 ‘children overboard’ scandal. She is chair of the board of Vault Cloud, along with co-director, former defence secretary and ASIO boss Dennis Richardson. Vault Cloud provides high-security cloud infrastructure for government and critical industries, now in rapidly increasing demand. 

Council member Gai Brodtmann, a former Labor MP, is on the advisory board of cybersecurity company Sapien Cyber, a Perth-based company chaired by former defence minister Stephen Smith. America’s former top surveillance chief, James Clapper, is on Sapien’s governance board.

The other ASPI Council members – James Brown, Stephen Conroy, Stephen Brady, Lavina Lee, Denis Dragovic, and Jennifer Ma – have relevant experience but no publicly known positions with weapons or defence-related companies.

On a recent ABC TV Q&A that focused on China, ASPI Council member Lavina Lee appeared along with Channel Nine reporter Chris Uhlmann, and host, ABC reporter, Stan Grant. Despite the program’s focus on Australia’s strategic outlook with China, no mention was made that Lavina Lee is an ASPI council member, bar a comment from Stan Grant that she was ‘associated with’ ASPI. Neither was it mentioned that the show’s host Stan Grant was a Senior Fellow of ASPI during 2020. Of lesser relevance but still of interest, panellist Chris Uhlmann’s partner is Gai Brodtmann, another ASPI council member……………….

……………… Another former Liberal defence minister, David Johnston, who famously didn’t trust the Australian Submarine Corporation to ‘build a canoe’, joined the ASPI Council soon after his appointment to the board of Saab Technologies, the Swedish arms multinational that supplies integrated combat systems for Australia’s submarines and warships. Johnston was appointed the Australian government’s first Defence Export Advocate during his tenure on the Council. 

Retired Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib was on the board of QinetiQ, a British defence multinational that is deeply embedded with Defence’s weapons arm, Defence Science and Technology. Former defence secretary Allan Hawke was on the Lockheed Martin Australia board for the final six months of his time on the ASPI Council.

………………………  https://declassifiedaus.org/2021/12/09/australia-captured/?fbclid=IwAR0_MMo3hIrY7uDHK4d2l5M-nxdsGBFyA_6Xtim8jxjotqPkMXmFheeGNWM

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Senate inquiry calls for royal commission-like probe into Australia’s media diversity.

Australia has one of the world’s most concentrated media ownership markets with seven of the 12 national or capital city daily newspapers owned by Murdoch’s News Corp, according to a recent fact check.

That’s nearly 60 per cent of the metro and national print media market.

Senate inquiry calls for royal commission-like probe into Australia’s media diversity, Matthew Elmas, Dec 9,

A Senate inquiry has called for a royal commission-like probe into the the concentration of media ownership in Australia and whether a new independent press regulator is needed.

Handing down the findings from a year-long probe into media diversity on Thursday, the Environment and Communications Committee found Australia’s media laws are “weak, fragmented and inconsistent”.

Backing calls from former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the Labor and Greens majority committee recommended “a judicial inquiry, with the powers of a royal commission”.

It would consider whether a new independent media regulator was needed to “harmonise news media standards and oversee an effective process for remedying complaints”.

“Large media organisations have become so powerful and unchecked that they have developed corporate cultures that consider themselves beyond the existing accountability frameworks,” the inquiry report said.

The inquiry also urged the government to guarantee sustainable and adequate funding for public broadcasters the ABC and SBS.

Australia has one of the world’s most concentrated media ownership markets with seven of the 12 national or capital city daily newspapers owned by Murdoch’s News Corp, according to a recent fact check.

That’s nearly 60 per cent of the metro and national print media market.

The government has yet to formally respond to the report. But in a sign it might dismiss the recommendations, Liberal senator and committee deputy chair Andrew Bragg published a statement on Thursday calling the report a “shameless political stunt which should not be taken seriously”………

If the Morrison government resists pressure to create a Murdoch royal commission then Labor and the Greens could take the proposal to the upcoming federal election.

Opposition senators strongly supported the probe in Thursday’s report……….

The committee seized on News Corp’s coverage of the climate crisis as an example of media concentration damaging Australian politics.

……. The committee also highlighted YouTube’s recent ban of News Corp’s Sky News channel as evidence the empire is responsible for spreading misinformation.

“The YouTube ban on Sky News over the publication of public health misinformation highlighted that there is an issue when a private company is able to act swiftly to protect the public from misinformation but the ACMA, the media regulator is not,”  https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/finance-news/2021/12/09/murdoch-royal-commission/

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics | Leave a comment

China Wants to Join Southeast Asia’s Nuclear-Free Zone

A greater factor in China’s calculus is the AUKUS alliance among the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Under the security partnership announced in September, the U.S. and U.K. agreed to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. China wants to even the score. In a phone call with counterparts from Malaysia and Brunei that same month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi skewered AUKUS as anathema to the Bangkok Treaty. “The United States and Britain chose not to participate in the SEANWFZ [Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone] Treaty,” Wang reminded his peers. “Instead, they have transferred military nuclear technology to the region under various pretexts and also provided the region with highly enriched uranium materials, running counter to the efforts made by ASEAN countries to build a nuclear-free zone.”

China Wants to Join Southeast Asia’s Nuclear-Free Zone. Why Now? LawfareBy Ryan A. Musto Thursday, December 9, 2021  China is ready to rock with the Treaty of Bangkok.

In a rare appearance at the special online summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Nov. 22, China’s President Xi Jinping announced that China is prepared to sign the protocol of a 1995 agreement that establishes Southeast Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Under the agreement, known as the Bangkok Treaty, 10 regional states renounce the right to nuclear weapons in any form within the ASEAN zone. If it joins the treaty, China would agree not to use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons within the zone or against its members. It would make China the first nuclear-weapon state to adhere.

China’s support for the treaty is no surprise. To strengthen its enduring “no-first-use” policy to never initiate nuclear conflict, China routinely has asserted (most recently in a 2019 white paper) that it “is always committed to … not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon-states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.” For the Bangkok Treaty, ASEAN and China agreed in 2011 to a secret memorandum of understanding that preserves China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, removing the greatest hurdle to Beijing’s commitment. China was ready to sign the protocol and memorandum in 2012 but deferred once the other eligible “P-5” nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty—France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.—refused to join. Now, Xi wants to legally bind China to the treaty “as early as possible.” But what’s the rush?

Adherence to the Bangkok Treaty would burnish China’s image amid its rapid expansion in nuclear capabilities…………

A greater factor in China’s calculus is the AUKUS alliance among the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Under the security partnership announced in September, the U.S. and U.K. agreed to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. China is furious and wants to even the score. In a phone call with counterparts from Malaysia and Brunei that same month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi skewered AUKUS as anathema to the Bangkok Treaty. “The United States and Britain chose not to participate in the SEANWFZ [Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone] Treaty,” Wang reminded his peers. “Instead, they have transferred military nuclear technology to the region under various pretexts and also provided the region with highly enriched uranium materials, running counter to the efforts made by ASEAN countries to build a nuclear-free zone.”……….. https://www.lawfareblog.com/china-wants-join-southeast-asias-nuclear-free-zone-why-now

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Appeal to UK’s Supreme Court will just lengthen Julian Assange’s legal torment – of course Australia doesn’t care.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, previously told the High Court that Australia had not indicated whether it would accept Assange, who “will most likely be dead before it can have any purchase, if it ever could”……..

Assange lawyers eye UK Supreme Court, The North West Star.Jess Glass and Tom Pilgrim, PA  

11 Dec 21, Julian Assange’s lawyers intend to take his case to the Supreme Court, his fiancee says, after the High Court allowed the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the United States.

Assange, 50, is wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose classified information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars

US authorities brought a High Court challenge against a January ruling by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.

After a two-day hearing in October, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favour of the US on Friday………..

The judges ordered that the case must return to Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a district judge to formally send it to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris called the ruling “dangerous and misguided” and said his lawyers intended to seek an appeal at the Supreme Court……..

The legal wrangling will go to the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom’s final court of appeal.

“It is highly disturbing that a UK court has overturned a decision not to extradite Julian Assange, accepting vague assurances by the United States government,” Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack said.

“Mr Assange will seek review of this decision by the UK Supreme Court.”

Supporters of Assange gathered outside of the court after the ruling, chanting “free Julian Assange” and “no extradition”.

They tied hundreds of yellow ribbons to the court’s gates and held up placards saying “journalism is not a crime”.

If Assange’s lawyers do take his case to the Supreme Court, justices will first decide whether to hear the case before any appeal is heard.

During October’s hearing, James Lewis QC for the US said that the “binding” diplomatic assurances made were a “solemn matter” and “are not dished out like Smarties”.

The assurances included that Assange would not be held in a so-called “ADX” maximum security prison in Colorado or submitted to special administrative measures (SAMs) and that he could be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if convicted.

But lawyers representing Assange had argued that the assurances over the WikiLeaks founder’s potential treatment were “meaningless” and “vague”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, previously told the High Court that Australia had not indicated whether it would accept Assange, who “will most likely be dead before it can have any purchase, if it ever could”……..

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer sharply criticised the verdict.

“This is a shortcoming for the British judiciary,” Melzer told the DPA news agency on Friday.

“You can think what you want about Assange but he is not in a condition to be extradited,” he said, referring to a “politically motivated verdict”.

with reporting from Reuters and DPA  https://www.northweststar.com.au/story/7547237/assange-lawyers-eye-uk-supreme-court/?cs=13136

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The latest court case for Australian Julian Assange – and the death of democracy

Assange is too important to the establishment to let get away. No matter that the C.I.A. wanted to kill him; no matter that the C.I.A. spied on his privileged conversations with his lawyers; no matter that the chief witness in the computer conspiracy charge admitted he made it all up.

The Old Boy Network of trust between the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon powers was enough.

To save their hides from more exposure about how they try to violently and deceptively dominate the world, they are willing to sacrifice the last vestiges of their pretend democracy.

Julian Assange is that important to them.

Democracy Dying in the Darkness of the Assange Case  https://consortiumnews.com/2021/12/10/democracy-dying-in-the-darkness-of-the-assange-case/ December 10, 2021  The establishment figures on the bench took American promises as “solemn undertakings from one government to another” because Assange is too important to let go,   By Joe Lauria.

  It is a very dark day indeed for the future of press freedom. If Julian Assange does not find relief at the U.K. Supreme Court, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that democracy, already on life support, is done for. The U.S., and its best ally Britain, have behaved in this affair no better than any tinpot dictator tossing a critical reporter into a dungeon.

This judgement by the High Court today to allow Assange’s extradition to the U.S. comes on U.N. Human Rights Day; the day that Washington concluded its so-called Democracy Summit and the day when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two journalists, one of whom dismissed Julian Assange and said the purpose of journalism is to support national security.

That’s exactly what the national security state wants from its journalists. And they reward them with the highest honors. Assange did the opposite. He fulfilled journalism’s supreme purpose and he may be about to pay for it with his life. 

The Choices Available

The High Court could have denied extradition to a country whose intelligence service plotted to kill or kidnap him. It could have sent the case back to magistrate’s court to be reheard.

Instead Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde found an extremely narrow way to overturn the lower court’s decision not to extradite Assange.

Continue reading

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

For Australia, AUKUS and the planned nuclear submarines create more problems than solutions

Preposterous’: AUKUS creates more problems than solutions THE AUSTRALIAN,  
The timelines for Australia’s transition from ageing Collins-class to its first nuclear-powered sub just don’t add up. There is hardly a single strategist in the country who believes it will happen.
By CAMERON STEWART 10 Dec 21,

Now that Australia has finally weathered the diplomatic fallout caused by the creation of the three-nation AUKUS pact, it is time to work out exactly what it means for the nation’s security.

The Morrison government faces a series of critical multi-­billion dollar decisions in the coming year that will set the course of Australia’s maritime defence for the next half a century.

These will require Canberra to test the limits of its alliance with both the US and the UK to ensure they make good on their AUKUS promise to share their sensitive ­nuclear know-how to help Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

………….But the not-so-good news is that AUKUS has delivered as many conundrums for Australia as it has solutions.

………. the AUKUS announcement and the related scrapping of the French submarine project offers far more problems than solutions.

The timelines for Australia’s transition from its ageing Collins-class submarines to its first nuclear-powered submarine just don’t add up. Put simply, unless something changes, Australia risks having either no submarine fleet or a grossly antiquated one in the late 2030s and early 2040s……..

The government has given itself up to 18 months from the AUKUS announcement in September to study its options, although it says it hopes to decide on a plan of action earlier.

………………… The trouble is that the government’s initial projection for the completion of the first of eight nuclear-powered submarines, which it claims will be built in Adelaide, is not until 2038, meaning it would not be brought into naval service for another two years after that, in 2040, with one new nuclear boat every three years after that. This timetable is hugely ambitious and there is hardly a single strategist in the country who believes this will happen. The lessons of naval shipbuilding in Australia is that a first-of-class boat is never completed on time, much less the building of a nuclear submarine – easily the most complex construction of its kind in the country’s history.

……….

The solutions that have been floated, in no particular order, are to shorten the process by building at least some of the nuclear submarines overseas rather than in Australia; lease nuclear submarines from the US or UK; build a new conventional submarine in Australia as an interim measure; or extend the life of the Collins for a second refit cycle, meaning they would be sailing into the 2050s.

Every one of these proposals is problematic.

………………….. if the government chooses not to build a new conventional submarine and it deems that the Collins can be extended only for a decade, rather than two decades, then the only option is to acquire nuclear submarines more quickly than the current 2040 guideline.

This is the option that Dutton is pursuing but it requires delicate diplomacy with Australia’s AUKUS partners. First, Dutton must decide whether to ditch the government’s intention to build the eight nuclear submarines in Adelaide. While building all boats here will maximise Australian defence industry content, it will almost certainly slow the project down compared to a decision which would allow at least the first few boats to be constructed in US or UK shipyards.

Second, Dutton must choose between acquiring the US Virginia-class or the UK’s Astute-class submarines. Neither the UK nor the US production lines have room to include Australian boats in the foreseeable future. Dutton would need to lean heavily on London or Washington to make room for Australian boats to be constructed in their own shipyards. In the US, it would probably require Australia to partly fund a third shipyard to build the Virginia-class boats because the current two shipyards are struggling to keep up with the orders of the US Navy.

Hellyer believes the choice between the two countries is simple. “With nuclear submarines, we are not just picking a boat we are picking a strategic partner and that can only be the US,” he says…….

However, ditching the British submarine option would require delicate diplomacy from Canberra given that Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson promised that the AUKUS deal would create “hundreds” of highly skilled jobs across the UK and would reinforce Britain’s place “at the leading edge of science and technology”.

The Morrison government appears to have gone cold on the option of leasing nuclear submarines to get them into the navy earlier. On closer inspection, neither the UK or the US have submarines available to lease. And in any case, Australia does not have the crews or the skills to sail them.

It will take at least a decade and probably longer for Australia to be able to train enough crew to the high levels required to man a nuclear-powered boat. A vast amount of that training will need to be done in the US or UK while Australia builds up the nuclear infrastructure and knowledge that will be needed to crew, maintain and manage a nuclear fleet.

All of these options amount to multi-billion dollar decisions by the government. If the wrong option is chosen, it will not only hit taxpayers, but it could severely compromise the country’s defence for decades.

The stakes could not be higher as the government moves to turn AUKUS from rhetoric to reality.  www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/aukus-gives-us-more-problems-than-solutions-and-our-safety-is-at-stake/news-story/fff5b011740957f5cc246eb641408894

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

DRUMS OF WAR Biden is pushing us to brink of NUCLEAR WAR over Ukraine in chilling echo of Cuban missile crisis, Russia claims

FIRES OF WAR Biden is pushing us to brink of NUCLEAR WAR over Ukraine in chilling echo of Cuban missile crisis, Russia claims, The Sun UK, Katie Davis, 10 Dec 2021

RUSSIA has warned Joe Biden is pushing the nation to the brink of NUCLEAR WAR as tensions over Ukraine hit boiling point.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, has warned a chilling echo of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis is possible as the US closely watches unrest at the border.

“You know, it really could come to that,” he said.

“If things continue as they are, it is entirely possible by the logic of events to suddenly wake up and see yourself in something similar.”

A standoff between Russia and the US brought the world close to nuclear war when Washington blocked Moscow from shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba in 1962 – and Ryabkov has warned escalating tensions between the nations risk a repeat of that.

After strained negotiations, John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement, with the Soviet leader dismantling their offensive weapons in Cuba on the condition the US would sign a public declaration to not invade the Caribbean country again.

It comes amid mounting tensions between the West and Moscow over a potential invasion of Ukraine – with growing fears war could break out.

Last week US intelligence detected Russia massing 175,000 troops on the border with Ukraine as fears of a potential invasion in early 2022 are mounting.

Meanwhile, Moscow claimed its fighter jets intercepted a US spy plane that was flying over the Black Sea.

Russia has denied that it plans to attack Ukraine.

Ryabkov’s warning comes after Joe Biden held a high-stakes call with Vladimir Putin as tensions between Washington and Moscow intensify over Ukraine.

The two-hour call between the leaders was held in a bid to de-escalate tensions – with the US President threatening sanctions over the situation at Russia’s border…………….

Russia has been demanded Ukraine not join NATO and raged that the US must stop all military activity in the region.

Ukraine commanders have warned that a Russian invasion would overwhelm the country without help from the West…………

 it’s reported Britain and her allies are ready to use force to stop Russia invading Ukraine – despite warnings it would lead to the worst conflict since World War Two…………

a US senator has warned America could “rain destruction” on Russia with nuclear weapons if Putin invades Ukraine……

Senator Roger Wicker said “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action, we don’t think it will happen, but there are certain things in negotiations, if you are going to be tough, that you don’t take off the table.”

But the Russian Embassy in Washington hit back at Wicker’s remarks, branding his suggestion that the US should consider using nuclear weapons against Moscow in the event of invasion as “irresponsible”.

“Such statements are irresponsible,” the statement, posted on Facebook, said. 

“We advise all the unenlightened to read the joint statement of the Presidents of Russia and the United States of June 16, 2021 thoroughly. This document reaffirms the two countries’ commitment to the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”………. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16999520/biden-pushing-brink-nuclear-war-ukraine-russia/

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

European Union passes sustainable taxonomy law, but postpones decision about nuclear power.

The commission must deliver a science-based taxonomy regulation that excludes fossil gas, nuclear, and factory farming. Otherwise, the credibility of the taxonomy is ruined.”


EU green taxonomy becomes law, gas and nuclear postponed,   
 Institutional investors have signalled they want a taxonomy that is based on science – not political compromise.  euobserver,   By WESTER VAN GAAL  11 Dec 21,

BRUSSELS,  The first two chapters of the sustainable taxonomy, the EU’s ambitious labelling system for green investment, were passed on Thursday (9 December).

Until midnight on Wednesday, EU member states had time to reject this first set of rules – the so-called ‘first delegated act’.

But despite opposition from a group of countries, the proposal passed and will come into force on 1 January 2022.   It will describe the sustainable criteria for renewable energy, car manufacturing, shipping, forestry and bioenergy and more, and include a “technology-neutral” benchmark at 100 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour for any investments in energy production.

The criteria for the list has mainly been compiled by the Sustainable Finance Platform, a group of 57 NGOs, scientific and financial experts, making the first part of taxonomy “science-based”…..

The European Commission will now likely unveil the second delegated act on 22 December.

This will describe how nuclear and gas will be labelled under the taxonomy. But the process has become highly-politicised over the last months.

Second act

In a meeting of member states on 29 November the project nearly faltered.

An EU diplomat, speaking anonymously, explained to EUobserver that a French-led group of 13 member states tried to block the first list “out of principle” – because the commission had not agreed to include nuclear and gas in the green taxonomy.

France and Finland pushed for nuclear to be “fully part of the taxonomy.” Ten other mainly eastern European countries want gas included. Sweden joined the group because the new rules endanger its forestry sector.

The group tried to gain a supermajority of 15 to force the commission’s hand but fell short. Germany and Italy abstained, but did not respond to requests for explanation made by EUobserver.

The commission will now decide how to label nuclear and gas before the end of the year, and it is not yet clear how the issue will pan out…………..

Whatever the commission will decide, only a supermajority in the council – 15 member states – or a parliamentary majority can block the second delegated act. Both are unlikely.

What next?

Institutional investors have already signalled they want a taxonomy based on science, not political compromise.

This will “harm the objective-scientific, transparent character of the taxonomy and increases the risk of ‘greenwashing’. Europe promised the world climate leadership, it is time to show it,” a group of banks wrote this week.

Sebastien Godinot, a senior economist at WWF and member of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Platform, said the commission must not give in to blackmail and bullying.

“The commission must deliver a science-based taxonomy regulation that excludes fossil gas, nuclear, and factory farming. Otherwise, the credibility of the taxonomy is ruined.”

But the commission may have no choice but to compromise between the gas and nuclear-supporting member states on one side, and countries opposing these on the other – while also being mindful that investors and experts from its Sustainable Finance Platform will reject a system containing contradictory political concessions. https://euobserver.com/climate/153776

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Population Growth Advocacy: Mislead Immigration Support or Greed & Tribalism? — One Finite Planet

Rohingya refugees (CNS photo/Antara Foto, Rahmad via Reuters) In Australia, as in many countries, there appears to be almost universal acceptance of perpetual population growth. Population growth is seen as: Desirable because it is the path to economic prosperity.Inevitable. Neither reflects reality. So why is it, that so few contemplate a finite population target, given…

Population Growth Advocacy: Mislead Immigration Support or Greed & Tribalism? — One Finite Planet

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brown coal likely to close by 2032, AEMO says, but all coal may be gone by then — RenewEconomy

Step change has become AEMO’s core scenario to manage the grid, and it assumes a three fold increase in coal retirements by 2030. The post Brown coal likely to close by 2032, AEMO says, but all coal may be gone by then appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Brown coal likely to close by 2032, AEMO says, but all coal may be gone by then — RenewEconomy

December 11, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment