Wry & Dry

Extradition treaty fiasco overshadows China island creation

Treaty tangles give Abbot another opportunity to serve a cold dish

Former PM Tony Abbott does revenge enthusiastically and selfishly.  And clearly would rather see the Liberals lose an election than Turnbull remain PM for a nano-second longer.  He is really one messed-up dude.

Work with W&D on this.

Readers will be aware that because of a consorted, deceitful and last minute interposition by the severely RDS afflicted Tony Abbott, ratification of an extradition treaty between Australia and China did not proceed.

The mysteries of the circumstances surrounding the fiasco are complex.  W&D hastens to add that the merits of the treaty are entirely debatable.  But essentially, the Howard government approved the treaty a decade ago and such approval had been confirmed by each of the succeeding Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull governments.  The Labor Opposition had previously indicated support.  Turnbull, or maybe Foreign Minister Bishop, decided to introduce ratification of the treaty to the parliament coincident with a visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.  On Monday Bishop met with back-benchers to explain the ratification.  That list included, wait for it, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews, acolytes of Abbott.  

Then matters got murky.  Doubtless the details will emerge over the weekend, or in autobiographical retrospective justifications.  But reading between the lines, the Abbott bootlickers saw a good chance to embarrass Turnbull.  And so, out of the blue, comes an article from Abbott, writing in The Australian, opposing the move.  This is the Abbott who, as PM, had previously assured China that the treaty would be ratified.  

The Labor Party, smelling blood in the water, advised Turnbull on Tuesday morning that it would no longer support the ratification.  Turnbull had no choice but to not embarrass the Chinese government.  And hence pulled the ratification.  

Two items.  Firstly, it is entirely possible that Bishop was hasty in her desire to see the treaty ratified.  And missed the 'mood of the meeting.'  Secondly, it is entirely possible that there was diplomatic pressure applied by the Chinese to have the treaty ratified; and a caving into such demands would make Australia appear weak in Chinese eyes.

The Chinese are not happy.   

Nonetheless, the outcome speaks for itself.  William Shorten leads a unified opposition, single-minded and tactically astute.  Croesus Turnbull leads a government where the enemy is within.  

But all of that is not the point of the W&D story.  He had to tell you that as a point of perspective about a significantly larger Chinese issue.     

OPAs

Readers will, of course, be aware that China has been creating islands from coral atolls in the South China Sea.  OPAs.  Other People's Atolls.

The Other People are Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

China has not only created islands on these atolls (to be specific: on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands), it was confirmed this week that it now has completed the building of naval, air, radar and defensive facilities on what are now islands.  These islands are thousands of kilometres from mainland China; between Vietnam and Philippines/ Malaysia.

The creation of the islands on the atolls was done under the watch and seeming indifference of that arch-coward, former US President Obama.  Obama, who never saw a foreign incursion to which he couldn't acquiesce, gifted President Trump a diplomatic problem of considerable magnitude.

W&D's point is that Australia's faffing around with its extradition treaty with China is of no real consequence.

The much bigger issue is the massive territorial claim of China to the South China Sea, that has now been augmented by the completion of military facilities of considerable consequence.

Many in Australia have been watching the wrong game.