The recent reaction by the Australian politicians toward the proposed merger between the Singapore Stock exchange (SGX) and the Australia Stock Exchange (ASX) is a typical example of a bigotry culture in this country.
The very minute the news of SGX’s intention to merge with ASX was leaked to the public arena, our politicians begin to jump up and down against the idea without even trying to find out in detail the rationale of the proposed merger, and the possible benefits to Australia. Their responses are so pathetically predictable in a habitually hysterical manner.
Response from the Australian “Elites” in the absence of any detail information about the Merger
Despite the fact that the Treasury Department has yet to receive any submissions from either the SGX or the ASX of the proposed deal (The Australian, 26 Oct 2010, 1:34PM), the Green Senator Bob Brown begin to “links Singapore Human Rights to the Australia Stock Exchange merger proposal” (The Australian, 26 Oct 2010, 12:34PM), The Coalition Shadow Treasury Joe Hockey questioned “whether ASX merger is in Australia’s interest” (The Australian, 26 Oct 2010, 9:28AM). The Australia’s competition regulator (ACCC) said “it has ‘significant concerns’ about ASX takeover” (Perth Now, 26 Oct 2010, 12:59PM).
Federal independent MP – Bob Katter expressed his intention to “table a resolution in parliament to block the takeover,” and called the takeover “lunacy on a grand scale”. He then claimed that “I have a desire some things in my country are left owned by my country. I do not wish to live in a country of serfs working for foreign landlords.” (The Australian, 26 Oct 2010, 4:04PM).
Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt, WA Nationals MP Tony Crook and Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie all said “they did not support the sale”.
The only Independent MP reserving his position is Rob Oakeshott. Mr. Oakeshott said, “he would wait to hear what the Foreign Investment Review Board recommended,” “If they come out in favour of any takeovers or mergers I will be strongly persuaded by the recommendations,” “Singapore is one of our strongest trading and commercial partners and there is a very strong argument to develop links and strengthen our financial centre.”. (News Limited, 28 Oct 2010 – ‘Independents to try to block Singapore Exchange’s ASX takeover’)
Even the Australian government failed to provide any leadership over the issue. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been very low profile so far demonstrating no political courage to lead the nation out of this bigotry and xenophobia culture against non-Western’s investment.
Double Standard towards Foreign Investment in Australia
Over the years, there are no lack of examples of foreign investments in Australian businesses and assets without ticking off the above nationalist or xenophobia style of response so long as those investments came from the West. For examples,
Just 3 weeks ago, the 100% took over of the Australian Agribusiness’s AWB in term of AWB’s share and performance rights by a Canadian agribusiness giant’s Agrium Inc went on smoothly all the way to the FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) with only a few lines from The Australian (8 Oct 2010) under the heading ’AWB takeover offer is fair and reasonable, says independent expert’.
Despite the fact that Canada has a notorious record in human rights violation such as torture. For examples:
a) ‘Canadian Government Rocked by Accusations of Abuse, Torture of Afghan Prisoners’ (Global Research, 2 Dec 2009)
b) ‘Canada’s Supreme Court : Torture as Foreign Policy: the Omar Khadr Decision’ (Global Research, 9 Feb 2010)
Again, the latest story of a British energy company (BG Group) commitment to “a $15 billion liquefied natural gas project at Gladstone in Queensland” was reported calmly by the Brisbane Times (1 Nov 2010) under the headline: ’$15bn BG project sets the pace for LNG’ without stirring any response from our politicians despite the fact that, Britain has a notorious record as well in human rights violation such as torture and murder. For examples,
a) ‘Top judge: Binyam Mohamed case shows MI5 to be devious, dishonest and complicit in torture’- (The Guardian, 10 Feb 2010)
b) ‘Humiliate, strip, threaten: UK military interrogation manuals discovered’ – (The Guardian, 25 Oct 2010)
c) ’Hiding the truth about Bloody Sunday’ – (The Guardian, 14 Oct 09)
Perhaps, that may be because Australia also has a notorious record of human right violation such as torture and so it is not an issue to those politicians who express their superiority against Singapore Singapore’s human rights record. For examples,
a) ‘UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia’ (NSW Council of Civil Liberties, 17 May 2008)
b) ‘UN to critique Australia’s human rights record on asylum seekers’ (ABC, 10 Aug 2010)
c) ‘Australia named in US State Department slavery report’ (News Limited, 18 June 2010)
However, when an investment initiated by a non-Western country to have a less than 50% stake in an Australian business or asset, the response are usually dramatic, strong and xenophobia in nature. For example,
In the case of the abandoned deal between Rio Tinto and Chinalco last year, that could ultimately have given the Chinese company an 18 per cent stake in the miner through a mix of assets and convertible bonds, the then Rudd’s government was unable to make up it’s mind, and the FIRB had to seek an additional “90 more days to carry out its review” due to the so-called “complexity of the deal” (MineWeb, 16 Mar 2009). As a result, ’OZ Minerals shares slump after FIRB decision extended’ (Herald Sun, 24 Mar 2009). The deal was eventually abandoned by Rio Tinto due to a “Bold offer from BHP Billiton” (The Australian, 16 May 2009) and the reality that our government policy on China set by a Western’s foreign entitle – BHP. (Brisbane Times, 15 Oct 2009 – ‘Rudd policy on China ‘set by BHP’’)
The bigotry culture within the Australian “Elites” towards non-Western investment did not stop here. Despite the fact that, all foreign investments in Australia with a stake of above 15% share have to go through 2 levels of scrutiny such as: Firstly, a FIRB review to determine if the investment is in the interest of the nation, follow by a final decision by the Treasurer of the day before the investment can be legalised. There are already in place sufficient legal safeguards to protect any foreign interest taking over of Australian businesses as demonstrated by the failed Rio Tinto and Chinalco case.
However, in an election year, the then Rudd’s government had to take further step to push through parliament in February 2010 a so-called “legislation to tighten rules preventing foreign investors from using complex takeover arrangements to bypass relevant laws to gain control of an Australian company.” (The Australian, 3 February 2010 – ‘Parliament approves legislation to tighten laws on takeovers by foreign investors’)
This is perhaps the kind of on-going negative publicity against non-western countries that make some in this country bigotry.
The following statement quoted in The Australian (30 Oct 2010) under the heading ‘Protectionist instincts reduce us to a branch economy’ appropriately pointed out the social psychic in this country:
“Paul Rubin, author of Darwinian Politics, said in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that when it comes to protectionism, “there is no area where the beliefs of ordinary citizens are more at odds with the views of professional economists”. He asserts that with international commerce, positive-sum thinking doesn’t come naturally to people because, as part of our evolutionary psychology, we harbour zero-sum instincts for in-groups and out-groups. In this instance, Singapore is the out-group.”
Double Standard towards the issues of Democracy and Human Rights
The amazing thing with Australia is that, our politicians love to use the term “Human Rights” and “Democracy” whenever they criticise a non-Western country to demonstrate that we are morally more superior and civilised than them.
The irony is, we allowed the British to colonise Hong Kong for 156 years without any democracy or welfare system in place. We also have no problem with the human right implications of the Cage Dwellers in Hong Kong before 1997. However, 12 years after China resumed its sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, our government funded media (SBS) produced a program called “The Cage Dwellers” and advertised it as the “Dark Side of China” to relentlessly criticise China over the issue of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. For those who are interested to learn more about such double standard approach to the same issues under a Western and Non-Western governments, please read this article from the Outcast Journalist website under the title: Hong Kong’s Cage People Vs. Homeless in Australia and USA.
Beyond the appearance of being a defender of democratic value and human right, our government and politicians seems to have:
1) No problem in bribing Indonesia Centre Bank to win contracts (News Limited, 24 May 2010 – ‘Sex, bribes in RBA banknote deals’) despite the fact that ‘Indonesia warns Gillard not to interfere in torture case’ (Brisbane Times, 2 Nov 2010); or
2) No problem in bribing Malaysian government official to win contracts (The Age, 22 July 2010 – ‘Malaysian police grill RBA contact’) despite the fact that Malaysia has in place an official racist policy against minorities. (Radio Australia – ‘Malaysian PM tries to end race debate’); or
3) No problem in bombing Iraq on the one hand and bribing Saddam Hussein’s regime on the other hand under the United Nation’s ‘oil-for-food program’. (Brisbane Time, 16 Aug 2010 – ‘RBA agent’s oil for food link’).
None of our politicians, or at least those who opposed Singapore investment in ASX added their voice on any of the above bribery cases involved the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia).
They seems to have no problem also with the latest news about “SENIOR militia fighters loyal to a notorious Afghan warlord have been flown to Australia to train with elite special forces,” and the fact that, this is the warlord “with whom Dutch forces refused to work because of his alleged connections to murder and extortion.” (Brisbane Times, 29 Oct 2010 – ‘Afghan warlord’s private army trained in Australia’).
Human rights and freedom is not a straight forward issues
As a born Singaporean with all the relatives still living in Singapore, I am fully aware of the massive human rights achievement this tiny island (without any physical resources including drinkable water) achieved over the last 45 years since its independent from Malaysia in 1965.
As a country of choice, as an Australian over the last 16 years, I am also fully aware of the strength and weaknesses of this country inside out.
There is no intention on my part to take sides beyond merely stating some simple facts as follows for people to ponder:
Human right is a big subject, for the purpose of this article, I will limit my analysis on the following 2 points brought out by the Green Senator Bob Brown based on the report by the Australian (26 Oct 2010) under the heading ‘Bob Brown links Singapore human rights to Australian Stock Exchange merger’.
Point 1) The Execution of an Australian Drug Trafficker in Singapore in 2005
One of the problem with the Australia “Elites” concept of human right is a micro concept. They are more concerned with the right of the criminals and often omitted the bigger picture, that is the macro concept of human right – the right of the millions of victims of drugs to live normally and happily like anybody else.
For example, they ignored the fact that, “Drug addiction responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths worldwide each year”. The medical consequences of drug addiction includes “Individuals who suffer from addiction often have one or more accompanying medical issues, including lung and cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and mental disorders.” In addition, “some drugs of abuse, such as inhalants, are toxic to nerve cells and may damage or destroy them either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system.” (For an in-dept information of drug related issues, please refer to: Addiction and Health for detail ).
Perhaps due to the pro-criminal attitudes among some of the “Elites” in Australia, we now see that Australia appear to emerge as a base for drug trafficking to Asia. Just a quick search on the Internet using this year incidents as examples, I find the following news heading:
a) ‘Unionist Mcjannett admits using and importing marijuana to Bali’ (WA Today, 7 Jan 2010)
b) ‘Suspected Aussie drug smuggler nabbed in Bali’ (WA Today, 11 Jan 2010)
c) ‘Indonesia contradicts Rudd team on Bali nine’ (Brisbane Times, 19 Feb 2010)
d) ‘Australian on cocaine charge in Bali’ (The Age, 5 July 2010)
e) ‘Corby’s release hopes boosted by Indonesia’ (Sydney Morning Herald 21 Oct 2010)
f) Australian professional golfer Wayne Perske was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession (WA Today, 23 Oct 2010 – ‘Australian golfer arrested in Japan’)
So, human rights under the concept of micro vs. macro and criminals vs. victims, which one should we protect? The life of the Australian drug trafficker executed by Singapore in 2005 under their written law or the life of the 5 million drug related deaths across the world each year as a result of those criminal drug trafficking activities?
You be the Judge.
By the way, please bear in mind that, in a 2008 report, just the state of Queensland alone, there are “4300 drug-related deaths each year” and “drug abuse cost the community $10 billion a year” and that “figures from the Department of Health in Canberra show 13 per cent of Australians have tried illicit drugs,” and “if we compare that to the Queensland population we estimate that over 400,000 Queenslanders have taken an illicit drug in the last year.” (Brisbane Times, 22 Jan 2009 – ‘400,000 Queenslanders took drugs in 2008’).
Point 2) Freedom of speech and the repression of opposition figures in Singapore
Yes, Senator Bob Brown may be right to point out that Singapore lacked the kind of free speech like Australia. In fact, to maintain racial and religious harmony, Singapore government implemented a series of laws and legislations to ban people from making inflammatory or racist statement again others base on their skin colour, culture or religion.
I remember some time ago, the Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan was fined a few thousand dollars for commenting on banning Muslim women from wearing burqa like many Western politicians did. In another occasion last year, a “Singapore Christian couple convicted for circulating anti-Muslim booklets” under the Singaporean law (Asia One, 29 May 2009). All these behaviour would have been done without any consequences in Australia. Does that mean that Australia is a country with more freedom than Singapore?
From the angle of those “elites’ in this country, the following incidents (News links) may represent FREEDOM:
a) ‘Over 200 mosque objections lodged’ (News Limited, 18 Oct 2010)
b) ‘Botched PR stunt leaves Muslim woman in tears’ (News Limited, 29 Oct 2010)
c) ‘Bill Park vows to fight against proposed mosque near his Gold Coast home’ (Courier Mail, 17 Sept 2010)
d) ‘Burqa decision ripples across world’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Aug 2010)
e) ‘Fears of rising anti-Semitism’ (The Australian, 23 Aug 2007)
f) ‘No Chinese fabric will be used in Australian Army uniforms, says Greg Combet’ (The Australian, 10 Feb 2010)
g) ‘Sydney Islamic school rejected’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2009)
h) ‘Forces ‘at risk’ with Muslims in ranks’ (Herald Sun, 9 Nov 2009)
i) ‘Muslims unwelcome as Hanson’s home buyers’ (The Age, 28 April 2010)
j) ‘Subversive’ seniors’ Tai Chi class banned at church’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 7 May 2009)
k) ‘Court orders Muslims to cancel Friday prayers’ (WA Today, 7 July 2009)
Our citizens even have the freedom to use an unlicensed firearm and after having pleaded guilty in court to “willfully and unlawfully damaging a Perth mosque” in a drive by shooting, walked free with just a few thousand dollars fine. (WA Today, 24 Aug 2010 – ‘Neo-Nazism is dead in WA: police’).
In another incident recently, “A white supremacy group preparing to host a race-hate music festival on the Gold Coast” and the Mayor of Gold Coast city council couldn’t do anything about it. According to the Mayor: “Unless those groups are specifically banned or prohibited by the state or Commonwealth governments for any reason, we have no grounds whatsoever to stop them,” (Brisbane Times, 6 April 2010 – ‘Race-hate group should be ‘ignored‘‘)
Just one more example, “More than 20 complaints of racism by Victorian police, including allegations of criminal behaviour, were made to the Office of Police Integrity by lawyers acting for young African Australians between 2006 and 2009”, “Only one has been investigated by the OPI and several resulted in charges being laid by police against those who made the complaints in what lawyers describe as “cover charges””. “No police officers have been sacked for race-related incidents, despite Chief Commissioner Simon Overland admitting he was aware of several “substantiated cases.” ( The Australian, 18 Mar 2010 – ‘Victorian police watchdog shelved racist complaints’).
However, one should remember that, the freedom for some may resulted in the deprivation of freedom to others.
In Singapore, at least, people of different ethnic groups are able to walk the streets in the middle of the night without any fear of encountering some kind of racially motivated assault or killing. People of different faiths are able to respect and accommodate each other differences and are able to live and warship side by side peacefully. People are able to built their beloved Churches, Mosques and Temples without all kind of opposition and verbal abused from another group.
The 3 pictures at the end of this article taken by my brother (Han Ling) at my request at the proximity of his work place in Singapore could best describe the kind of FREEDOM all Singaporean enjoy.
Wouldn’t the concept of a society whereby everybody respect each other right to co-existence regardless of their colour, language or religion a higher form of FREEDOM?
The problem with Australia is that, we may be located within the Asia Pacific Region, surrounded by Asian countries, with an economy rely heavily on our Asian trading partners to stay afloat. Many of our politicians still unable to accept the reality that we located in the Asia Pacific Region, and we are just a part of human civilisation. Former Prime Minister, John Howard would like Australia to become the Deputy Sheriff of the USA in the Asia Pacific Region (The Telegraph, 15 Aug 2003 – ‘Bush entrusts ‘deputy sheriff’ Howard with Pacific policing role’). And former Cabinet Minister and current opposition leader, Tony Abbott used to describe Australia as “the outpost of European civilisation in Asia”.
The reality is, some of our “Elites” in the society still unable to accept the philosophy that “All men are equal”.
Allison Kilkenny, a contributing writer to Huffington Post, Alternet, The Nation, and co-hosts Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show in USA pointed out recently that: “There are approximately 50,000 “illegal” persons in Australia at any one time and most of them are British” and “boat arrivals only make up five percent of Australia’s annual humanitarian intake”. However, “Australia Welcomes Asian Refugees with Detention in For-Profit Jails — Or by Just Allowing Them to Drown” (AlterNet, 19 Oct 2010).
It is unfortunate that, the terms: “Human rights” and “Democracy” has often being used in a double standard manner by our politicians.
One should always remember to strike a balance over the concept of human rights at the micro level as well as the macro level. Also, it is important for policy makers to formulate policy on the concept of FREEDOM taken into consideration the different between freedom on the basic of culture bigotry and freedom with social responsibility and social conscious?
Individual freedom vs. collective freedom, which is more noble? We should always remember that, the freedom to some may be the deprivation of freedom to others.
If Australia want its migrant population to have sense of belonging, Australia should first respect its migrant population the freedom not to be abused by the bigotry culture existed within the society.
Confucius: “Those who respect others, will be respected”
Below (attached) are pictures of higher kind of FREEDOM not found in Australia:
Picture 1: Buddhist Temple right next to a Church and Sai Baba Centre
Picture 1: Buddhist Temple right next to a Hindu Temple
Picture 3: Church neighbouring Mosque
Written on 4 Nov 2010 by www.outcastjournalist.com