The cost of human decency – it’s not a line to draw

It strikes one as an expensive indulgence in international diplomacy when your government is committing to the identification of a missing plane in your region. Notwithstanding the opportunity to map the sea floor, there is every reason to believe that the Tony Abbott government is paying a high price to avoid a moral censure for not doing enough to secure the ‘certainty’ of some lost 290 passengers (mostly Chinese) on a KL-Shanghai flight. The problem of course is that its not Tony Abbott’s money, but he has everything to lose by not spending public funds. Rest assured that he will accept, as will most people, that there is no limit to the cost burden. Of course there is ‘a limit’, but it will never be so stated. Instead, there will be some acceptance that ‘everything has been done’. Of course it hasn’t. Not every stone has been turned, and of course it never it. So what did we buy besides a map of a slice of sea floor that no one will ever use? Well, China loves us now, whereas before they only loved our cuddly koalas.
The problem of course is that emotions carry a great deal of sentiment in national politics. Everyone, barring his wife, consider Tony Abbott a heartless bastard. So we just paid an expensive price to prove otherwise. The reality is that politically, there is probably little gained from such endeavours. There is no evidence to suggest it was a mechanical failure that sank flight MH370 . The implication is that Australia paid a premium to relieve a few hundred grieving families who will probably not leave China bound for a holiday in Australia. Of course other Chinese will, and they will come with a high regard for Australia, and its loving PM.
This is not a new situation, and its not just about pleasing the Chinese. In fact, if anyone needs pleasing, it should be us. China has an international reputation as ‘rogue thug’ predisposed to pressing every and any unilateral advantage to extort concessions around the world, whether its commodity prices (i.e. issues with Rio Tinto), sea boundaries in the South China Sea (in conflict with Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam) or its opportunistic gas price contracting with Russia. So why are we attempting to please them? Are we scared of them? Might it be construed as wasting precious resources to placate the bully that China is? I suggest that China has exhausted its right to any concessions, and rather than paying the price tag, Australia should simply be saying ‘sorry, its not worth it’.
Do we need to care whether China loves or hates us? The answer is ‘No’ simply because China doesn’t care whether we love it or not. I’m willing to convey instead that China needs the West, or even just Australia more than we need them. They need our markets and they need the resources we supply to them. It could well be argued that China is more able to diversify its supply of resources more than ever. So perhaps we are not in the strong position that we once were. But then China needs options as well. Australia has a huge role in the seaborne coal trade, and its destined to be important in a number of other markets. China does need us. In fact, we all need each other. But more than anything else, we need to stop being solely concerned with ‘buying respect for nations’ and start thinking about respecting the long-suffering taxpayer. After all, we don’t need to offend China; what we simply need is a ‘Dear Xao’ letter than reads:

“Dear Xao, sorry we will not be funding an exhaustive search for missing flight MH370 because we presume the passengers were killed because planes seldom go missing and we value the living considerably more than the presumed dead. We extend our ‘conditional love’ to those grieving from this apparent mishap’. All the best, Tony.

This is the type of diplomacy we need; but it won’t come as long as extorted wealth is the foundation for political discourse. Of course, I expect this letter with less relish that the following:

“Dear Andrew, you will have anticipated this letter with great trepidation. We acknowledge that your grievance with the tax office has come back in your favour. Sorry to say we have inappropriately extorted wealth from you for the last 30 years. Please find a cheque for $2000; your share of proceeds recovered from selling off the assets of public servants who have profited from your incessant victimisation. Best regards, former tax commissioner & incarcerated felon charged on organised crime…belatedly 2018.

Oh that was some dream going there!

Of course someone’s bad news is another’s good news. A NZ company is looking to win a lucrative contract to find the plane. Perhaps with such confidence China can pay them on the basis of ‘results’.

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