Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Entrance and Extraction

Nauru, or what's left of it. Courtesy: U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nauru_satellite.jpg. http://basementgeographer.com/what-to-do-about-nauru/

Nauru is best known today as the symbolic center of Australia's controversial refugee policy. But it's also symbolic of the region's legacy of destructive resource extraction and questions over climate-driven migration. Jane McAdam:

Today, “planned relocation” is touted as a possible solution for low-lying Pacific island countries, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, which are threatened by sea-level rise and other long-term climate impacts. But past experiences in the Pacific, such as the relocation of the Banabans in 1945 from present-day Kiribati to Fiji, show the potentially deep, intergenerational psychological consequences of planned relocation. This is why most Pacific islanders see it as an option of last resort. Unless relocation plans result from a respectful, considered and consultative process, in which different options and views are seriously considered, they will always be highly fraught. 
Nauru today is at the highest level of vulnerability on the Environmental Vulnerability Index. The past destruction wrought by phosphate mining has rendered the island incapable of supporting any local agriculture or industry, with 90% of the land covered by limestone pinnacles. 
It has a very high unemployment rate, scarce labour opportunities, and virtually no private sector – hence why the millions of dollars on offer to operate Australia’s offshore processing centres was so attractive. These factors also illustrate why the permanent resettlement of refugees on Nauru is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Frank Brennan, professor of law at Australian Catholic University, makes the case for Nauru and Manus no longer being necessary to "stop the boats" in any case:
Given that there has been no 'ongoing flow of IMAs to Australia', the only case for maintaining processing facilities on Nauru and Manus Island, in line with the Houston recommendations, would be as part of 'an integrated regional framework for the processing of asylum claims'. To date, the Abbott and Turnbull governments have done NOTHING to establish that framework. Nauru and Manus Island no longer perform any credible, morally coherent, or useful task in securing Australia's borders. Even talk of sending signals is misplaced. The main signal is being sent to Australian voters, not to asylum seekers waiting in Java whose attempts to commission people smugglers have been thwarted by Indonesian officials and Australian intelligence, and whose boats would be turned back in any event. 
Last Thursday evening Dutton said 'we have had discussions with a number of other countries' but then went on to say, 'I think the situation is that people have paid people smugglers for a migration outcome. They want to come to Australia, they don't want to go to New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Malaysia, anywhere else.' It's time for Turnbull, Shorten and Di Natale to agree on a timetable. If the government is unable to resettle the proven refugees elsewhere in countries like New Zealand and Canada by the end of the year, the refugees should be resettled in Australia. If there are still asylum seekers awaiting determination of their claims by the end of the year, they should be brought to Christmas Island for processing. To keep them any longer on Nauru and Manus Island is to tempt fate adverse to their interests, adverse to the national interest of PNG and Nauru, and adverse to Australia's international standing and sense of ourselves. 
Dutton's status quo can't work much longer, and he must know that. His advisers know that in this realm of human activity, the red and green lights require prior calculation of what people will do to save their own lives and to get on with their lives. It's much more complex than the census, and it's much more complicated than being re-elected. The stakes are very high, and not just for those proven refugees we continue to punish so publicly and so unapologetically pretending that we are treating them decently. Turnbull and Dutton have a mandate to stop the boats. They have no mandate to make these people suffer more, in our name, for no appreciable benefit to anybody.

Muhamad Arif explores Jokowi's conflicted South China Sea policy:
Two factors have played an important role in this regard. First, the maintenance of territorial integrity is a specific focus of Jokowi’s presidency, and one he is very serious about – it was, after all, part of his campaign manifesto to guarantee the stronger presence of state in all areas of nationhood and citizenship. Hence we are witnessing the acceleration of defence modernisation and a new outward-looking approach to military deployment that sees the armed forces’ most sophisticated weapon systems deployed in the previously overlooked western area of the country. 
The hardened stance on the maintenance of territorial integrity also manifests in  the ‘sink the vessels’ policy. When Chinese fishermen and coast guard vessels intruded into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone in the Natuna Islands, it struck right at the heart of the most fundamental guiding principle of Jokowi’s presidency. He simply could not afford to be soft. The assertive part of Indonesian policy in the South China Sea has to be understood within this context. 
Jokowi, however, cannot launch an all-out offensive against China in defence of Indonesia’s sovereign rights. Instead, he must balance national security concerns with economic ones. Like other contemporary Southeast Asian leaders, Jokowi derives his source of legitimacy largely from the country’s economic performance and development, particularly infrastructure development and the eradication of poverty. Hence he has been busy building infrastructure, developing the maritime economy and maintaining the country’s fiscal and monetary health.

Finally Nathan VanDerKlippe looks at how Vancouver's foreign buyer property tax may have soured some moods, but hasn't eliminated the fundamental attractions for Chinese who buy there:
In Beijing, the agents at Global House Buyers began advising clients last year to put their cash into Canada, as the plunging dollar made homes dramatically cheaper.Anyone who listened then is already up more than 40 per cent as a result of home price gains and a partial loonie recovery – and far more in real terms, since most buyers invest only a small fraction of the purchase price as a down payment. A 15-per-cent tax will erase some of those gains but not enough to change minds among those who have doubled and tripled their cash in a year. 
Some clients have backed out on deals, “but only a very small percentage,” said Issac Peng, a Global House Buyer agent. Others have turned their attention to Toronto — the company’s website currently features the city on its front page. But “not many,” he Peng says. Most remain sweet on Vancouver, where a 0.6-per-cent vacancy rate has convinced Mr. Peng the overheated market will not cool down soon. “The key issue is not how many houses were bought by foreign investors, but that too few houses have been built,” he said. 
Canada still compares favourably to other places, too. Australia’s economy is so closely tied to China that it’s less useful for those looking to diversify, while Australian housing markets have been so hot for so long that Mr. Peng sees “big systemic risks,” bigger than in Canada. The U.S. is currently the most popular destination for Chinese overseas home buyers, with economic growth that gives it prized stability. In Canada, however, mortgage rates are half as high, meaning investors can expect better cash flow out of a Canadian home.

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