Playing, praying & waiting for the virus
Dom’s poetry receives Pacific praise

Major world upheaval – or pitstop?


TUMBY BAY - It feels like someone or something has taken the world by its bootstraps and thrown it up in the air.

Where it lands is anyone’s guess. We are all sitting in our bunkers with bated breath.

A real expectation is that a new world order will emerge after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Part of this includes the question of whether the crisis will lead to the end of neo-liberalism and even capitalism itself.

Many well-credentialed commentators are saying that this crisis is on a scale much worse than the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and is more comparable to the depression of the 1930s.

The end of capitalism is unlikely but there is a tentative and fragile hope that the worst extremes of capitalism as epitomised by neo-liberalism will be abandoned as the world economy tries to recover.

Tied up with this hope is an expectation that globalisation will also need to be placed under scrutiny and modified as nations seek to become more independent and less reliant on overseas supply chains.

People are now talking about ‘new deals’ and ‘new green deals’ that echo the Keynesian economics of the post-war period of the 1940s and 1950s.

There is little doubt in countries like Australia that any recovery will have to be led by the government for some time before the economy picks up enough to return to the ‘normalcy’, or something that resembles the normalcy, that existed prior to the crisis.

In this sense we are likely to be in for a period of what some commentators are loosely referring to as a form of temporary socialism. This includes the possible nationalisation of key services and industries.

Of course a lot depends on where and how this socialism is directed. During the global financial crisis Australia survived through economic stimulus but in the USA huge amounts of money were directed towards bailing out the banks that had created the crisis in the first place.

The Australian government has not yet abandoned its tax cuts for big business but it may be forced to do so.

In the USA the expectation is clearly that, once the crisis is over, it will be back to business as usual with government largesse directed towards private enterprise. Indeed, most of the bail-out money is already going to big corporations.

Significantly, and with Joe Biden now the prospective Democratic presidential candidate for the upcoming election in November, ‘business as usual’ is now the substantive view of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

As one commentator puts it, the Republicans and Democrats are essentially two wings of the same bird. Whoever wins the election, Trump or Biden, nothing will change. Big business with all its vested interests will still call the tune.

That creates a very big fly in the ointment represented by the hopes of many in the world that neo-liberalism has had its day.

However, there is a tiny sliver of light still flickering at the end of the tunnel.

This is the possibility that the current crisis will do irreparable damage, both politically and strategically, to the USA’s position as the world’s dominant economic force and reduce its influence significantly.

People who subscribe to this theory cite the irrational and destructive antics of Donald Trump as an indication that this might happen. Nowhere has this been more clearly demonstrated than in his erratic handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

This, of course, pre-supposes the ascendancy of China to fill the void.

China long ago abandoned communism as an ideology and adopted in its place a form of autocratic social capitalism.

Whether the world is prepared to adopt something like that as an alternative to neo-liberalism is a challenging question.

What can’t be ignored is the fact that China has long been anticipating its rise and has been putting plans in place for when that might happen.

As Papua New Guinea well-knows, but perhaps doesn’t wholly appreciate, China’s strategically targeted loans and largesse to key areas of interest is evidence of its aspirations.

We do indeed live in interesting times.


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Bernard Corden

I soon got fed up with Gerard Henderson et al but the following are worth reading:

Bernard Corden

The ABC and SBS no longer have any integrity and are littered with aesthetic game shows, newszak and infotainment.

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

What about Miranda Devine and Piers Doberman?

Philip Fitzpatrick

The Commission for the Human Future report gets a write up on the ABC website this morning. Well worth reading:

Philip Fitzpatrick

I can't think of anything worse than reading Gerard Henderson, Bernard. You're likely to wake up with severe constipation or a bad headache at the very least.

It did occur to me that you've really got to read people like Henderson, Sheridan, Bolt, Albrechtsen, Kenny et al and listen to people like Ray Hadley and Alan Jones to know what is currently tickling their gall.

Especially since our current government seems to rely heavily on their advice.

However I've never quite worked out how to do that without becoming enranged and screwing up the newspaper or throwing the radio out the kitchen door.

Bernard Corden

OK I repent and am off to bed reading anything by Gerard Henderson.

Arthur Williams

Last week I spent a long time reading an article from the CNAS (Center for a New American Security) dated 19/12/09, 'Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific' - 65 pages that includes 10 pages of sources for the report.

It was quite a tough read. It seemed to cover all possible future actions the USA should be considering when Trump or a new regime takes over after the forthcoming November presidential election.

A preamble reads: "The Center for a New American Security has submitted to the Department of Defense a congressionally mandated study that sets principles for advancing US strategy in the Indo-Pacific amid competition with China.

"CNAS  said  the independent study was mandated by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and offers approximately 100 policy recommendations across seven vectors of U.S. Competitiveness."

There is a one page summary at

The complete PDF file is at -

One point I came away with was I didn't see one mention of 'tiny' PNG in the various over hundred strategies it suggested.

PNG is unimportant in a geo-political super-bowl of Pacific Ocean. That could be PNG's luck to be able to miss out any serious fighting or even literally fallout from events many thousands of kilometers north and west of it.

CNAS is claimed to be an independent tiny think tank with a mere $6million budget. Yet I view those both facts with a large pinch of salt; especially when reads profiles of its consultants and its mainly military industry based donors.

Two quotes from Wikipedia suggest - to my evil mind - it is more than a small gang of patriots:

"June 2009, U.S. Central Command Commander GEN David Petraeus observed that 'CNAS has, in a few years, established itself as a true force in think tank and policy-making circles', and

"CNAS is relatively small, with around 30 employees and a budget under $6 million. Among the organizations top donors include Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Open Society Foundation, Airbus Group, The Boeing Company, Chevron Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Raytheon Company, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the United States government, BAE Systems, BP America and Exxon Mobil Corporation."

I noted the mention of Taipei in the list of donors which would have been another black mark in a Peking office file.

One of its other papers dated 2016 Oct 24 caused another smile as it was entitled: 'Transatlantic Security Co-operation in the Asia-Pacific'.

I wondered what the USA would have to say if there was an report entitled; 'East Asia Security Cooperation in the Atlantic' from an independent Chinese think tank.

When I see and read the terrible news of the last three months and the unfolding economic chaos that is happening I am so glad that we at least have our nuclear submarines to keep us safe. That is as long as no crew get a dose.

Bernard Corden

The new form of capitalism is well underway via a cashless society, tap and go credit, social atomisation and peonage.

Schumpeter's Gale will be reinforced via transhumanism, artificial intelligence, robotics and on line indoctrination. This will eventually be supplemented by eugenics.

Irrespective of their political allegiance our elective dictatorships will merely enable and expedite the process and the lumpen proletariat will just be categorised as collateral damage.

PS I still enjoy Keating's cruel description of John Hewson.... A shiver waiting for a spine to crawl up".

Philip Fitzpatrick

The report is actually a very sane document, easy to read and frightening in its scope.

I'm not that cynical about the Club of Rome either.

I think it is very easy to become overly cynical and suspicious in matters like this to the point where naturally disparaging what anyone says becomes second nature.

One has to be cautious of course because there are so many charlatans and conmen out there. Like the one in the White House for instance.

I suggest people read the report and make up their own minds. It's not a long report at 38 pages and, as I said, easy to read.

Chris Overland

Bernard, I met John Hewson at a conference a few years ago and observed him interact with people.

He did not display an especially doctrinaire attitude on economic issues. In fact, he seemed much more like an academic economist than a politician.

It seems probable that his views have shifted over time, as the downsides of neo-liberal capitalism have become more apparent.

So I would expect him to be a competent Chair of a group of (presumably) highly capable people thinking about the future.

Whether Hewson or anyone else is willing or able to articulate a new form of capitalism for whatever brave new world we are now entering remains to be seen.

As to Milton Friedman, not everything he said was wrong and it pays to remember that it is politicians, not academic economists, who have created the political economy of today.

I certainly do not expect the current crowd, of both political persuasions, to be able to permanently overcome their apparent collective instinct to prioritise conflict over consensus anytime soon.

Despite this, I continue to cling to the probably forlorn hope that the progressive side of politics can stop obsessing about trans rights and other ephemera and actually apply itself to the task of devising a coherent economic policy that offers the chance to create a fairer, more sustainable and environmentally sensible future.

There are a few old style policies that could usefully be revisited such as governments' directly funding and owning social housing, re-establishing a viable public dental service targeting children and the disadvantaged and reinvesting in our sadly depleted public and preventive health services.

As to paying for this, we could do the unthinkable and actually tax the mega corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon that currently do not bother to pay tax on what they earn in Australia. A simple turn over tax should do the trick.

My point is that many different futures are possible other than remounting the neo-liberal consumption based treadmill provided there is the insight and the will to pursue them.

So, Phil, I vote for upheaval, not a pitstop.

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

The next step is reading Jeffrey Archer or Peter Fitzsimons.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Hitler was also a vegetarian.

Hewson appears to have had a Malcolm Fraser-like political rebirth. Hard to judge how genuine it is. I guess if Scomo can turn temporary socialist anything is possible.

Nah! Who am I trying to kid.

Bernard Corden

It's all about power and control and I smell Club of Rome:

Even Adolf Hitler was a devout environmentalist and was too much of a gentleman to use napalm:

Bernard Corden

A leopard don't change its spots, they just get bigger.

Bernard Corden

And it has an introductory quotation from Milton Friedman. Who else is on the panel:

Greg Lindsay?
Nicholas Moore?
Peta Credlin?

Bernard Corden

John Hewson - Chairman?

Maybe he got David Flint to do the editing.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Anyone interested in this topic is urged to read the latest report by the Australian organisation The Commission for the Human Future. The report is called "Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: A Discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks".

Download the pdf at:

Bernard Corden

Gore Vidal also termed the United States of Amnesia as...…."The only country to go from barbarism to decadence and bypass civilisation"

Chips Mackellar

Phil, in relation to your comment "the Republicans and Democrats are essentially two wings on the same bird," I remember watching a TV interview with Gore Vidal a year or so before he died. He was explaining the United States political system.

He said, it has no no Labor Party, no Socialists, no Conservatives, no Liberals, no Communists, no Greens, no Christian Democrats, no Nationals and no Independents.

It has only one Party, which has two right wings, one called the Democrats and the other the Republicans. The United States is therefore a one party dictatorship.

Bernard Corden

The order has been established and it is socialism for the rich.

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