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Wednesday, March 20, 2002

READERS IN COUNCIL

Australia's flip-flop approach


Tokyo

In his March 6 letter, "What's right with Australia," Paul Molloy of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo gets it wrong in his rebuttal of my Feb. 27 article, "Australia: a 'lucky' country no longer." Canberra probably had no choice but to put the recent flood of Afghan and other illegal boat people into harsh desert camps, but did the electorate have to be so pleased about it all? The fact that Australia has taken in many refugees in the past proves a key point in my article -- namely, Australia's strangely conservative-progressive, flip-flop approach to many issues.

He says my references to Australia's role in helping create the Indochina and East Timor tragedies are "scantily argued." If he, as a government official, does not know the now readily available facts about Canberra's shameful role in encouraging the brutal U.S. and Indonesian interventions in those areas, then he really does prove my point about the shallowness with which many Australians still approach Asia.

If he, like so many of Australia's vocal economic rationalists, does not realize that the massive devaluation of the Australian dollar creates far more protection for Australian industry than the moderate tariffs of the immediate postwar years, then he needs to sign up for Economics 1. The benefit to the Australian economy from that excessive devaluation protectionism is hardly a victory for the "rationalist" policies that caused it.

He disputes my claim that Australia's presence here has been top-heavy with non-Japanese speakers. Can he give me the name of more than one ambassador here in the past half century who has been able to speak even a few words of Japanese? He regurgitates cliches about Australia as an Asian-Pacific nation placing great emphasis on its relationship with Japan. The British Embassy here does infinitely better when it comes to top-level Japanese language speakers, and Britain does not even pretend to be part of Asia, or the Pacific.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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