19 April 2009

Aussie Observer Roundup 19 April

The Australian Observer blog seeks to contribute to public debate on a variety of themes – Defence, the Middle East, especially the triangular relationship between Iran, the United States and Israel, nuclear proliferation, climate change, trade and investment and public administration. It aims to keep readers in touch with the varied research of Australia 21 as that body pursues the answers to complex questions that are important to Australia’s future. From time to time it points readers in the direction of some of the things that make life worth living, and seeks to introduce readers in an accessible way to the mysterious world of modern physics, by pointing the way to articles written for the lay reader by leading researchers.

Here is a roundup of recent posts, and some thematic material that might be of interest to readers.

Most recently, in Afghanistan: can we win? there is an examination of conflicting views about the way forward in Afghanistan, and a response to an earlier post by Henry Thornton’s friend Sir Wellington Boote.

Continuing with the Middle East theme, there is an examination of the feasibility of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, in response to a military attack or other provocation, and thereby taking 25% of the world’s oil off the market. We hope that relations with Iran are sailing into calmer waters, but Henry it is always wise to consider the downside risks. Read all about it at Choke point: the Strait of Hormuz.

This post follows on from earlier Iran-related material including Dr Khatami at AIIA Victoria, a detailed account of an address by the former President of Iran, Dr Mohammad Khatami, during his recent visit to Melbourne, and his answers to questions; Iran: Obama, Brown and Rudd, an analysis of recent comments about Iran by the three leaders in question, an analysis which suggests that Prime Minister Rudd might be in danger of being left behind by President Obama; and Hillary's envoy: not everyone is cheering, which questions whether Dennis Ross is the right man to represent the United States to Iran.

On a matter of high current interest, Asylum seekers: how should we respond? suggests an appropriate way of approaching this issue and rehearses a little bit of history.

On the Defence theme, there are several posts that raise issues that are relevant to the forthcoming Defence White Paper. Is China really the enemy? suggests that the rise of China is benign for Australia but that we need to spend a lot more on defence. Debt and sovereignty: another issue for the White Paper notes that Vladimir Putin sees high levels of debt as undermining national sovereignty and suggests that this is an issue that Western political leaders need to think about. Climate change and nuclear proliferation joins up some of the dots between the global requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the likely growth we will see in the nuclear electric power industry worldwide. It notes that we will be living in a much more nuclear-capable region and suggests that this is an issue that also needs to be addressed in the context of the Defence White Paper.

At Managing the submarine workforce there is a commentary on the recent Submarine Workforce Sustainability Review and the Navy’s response, and a suggested approach to the development of the workforce that will be required for the successor to the Collins Class submarine.

Defence: understanding the diarchy explains the relationship between the Defence Secretary and the CDF; the accountability of Defence explains the public accountability framework within which Defence operates, and the structural reasons for cost over-runs on major defence equipment purchases.

On the theme of Chinese investment in Australia State-owned is not the main problem sets out some reasons why the Treasurer should decline Chinalco’s application to increase its stake in Rio Tinto, reasons which have nothing to do with the fact that Chinalco is a state-owned corporation. China: why Channar was different sets out some of the history of the 1980s Chinese investment in the Mount Channar iron ore mine, and notes some important differences between that investment and the Chinalco proposal which is currently under consideration.

There are now two items on the physics theme, Physics: Dark energy - does it really exist? and Physics: Naked singularities which address in an accessible way two of the most intriguing questions of modern astrophysics.

Finally, for those with an interest in the arts, we introduce The Alex Buzo Company, founded by the daughter of the noted Australian playwright to produce, promote and perpetuate his work. Yehudiana: Reliving the Menuhin Oddysey introduces an outstanding new biography of one of the great musical figures of the twentieth century, and Benefit concert for violinist Ignatius Kim gives notice of a benefit concert and fundraising program for an outstanding young Australian music student who sustained serious injuries as a result of being knocked off his pushbike by a hit-and-run driver.

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