16 April 2013

new blog on suburban food forest

I have been neglecting keeping a record of my efforts at establishing a food forest on my suburban block. Hard to wedge in between all this other stuff in this blog, so I have established:

http://suburbanfoodforest.blogspot.com.au/  [click to go there]

this week.

See you there! Chance to see fruit between trees  :-)

11 April 2013


With the announcement of agreement with China on annual leaders meetings, I was asked by Radio National Breakfast to contribute to analysis. The program is accessible here. The comment selected from my interview was about the need for intelligent national leadership to get Australians away from fear and misinformation about China. Here's hoping...

Earlier entries in this blog (click on China among the labels in right hand column) showed my concern that we needed to get some shape back into the relationship. 

I scribbled some quick briefing notes for the Breakfast team yesterday morning. These covered more than the core subject for interview. We have in Australia, as generally in the world, a great ignorance of what has happened in China in the past 35 years, the greatest revolution in world history. Where is that being thought or taught? French Revolution, let alone Eureka Stockade, just piddling by comparison. These were my notes, also prepared to freshen up my brain for interview:

What has just been done in Beijing restores and reaffirms a course we should have been on, which we were on until the overall relationship became lost in talking about the money.
We have enjoyed a strong relationship with China because we are seen by China as a country that acts in its own interests and has been prepared to work with Chinese leaders in helping them build a strong economy AND a civil society. This is still a broad and important task; government has had a major role in the China relationship not only because China has a communist country but also because the Chinese government has been engaged in extraordinary reforms.
I hope the Federal Opposition will recognise all this.
I hope both Government and Opposition will also work to change a lot of silly attitudes in Australia, that China is 'taking us over'.
Noting that China's investment in Australia stands around 20 billion compared with US 550bn (the ABS main page on this doesn't even count China!)

There is also the notion that Chinese are so numerous among us. But only 3% or so of the population was born in China. Recent conversations with China-born Australians have begun with the wish that more Australians could learn and get facts right. The Beijing announcement will please them, but it's only a start, the big problem is in Australia... and alas it has some narrow racist elements.
There is also the perspective that China is the cause of greenhouse problems. But we do have to look at climate change in social science perspective too - to allow room for developing countries to catch up. in 1985, China consumed around 50kg per capita of steel, we consumed ten times that. We have matured, in a post industrial phase, and Australian consumption has dropped to around 300kg - while China has risen to over 400kg per capita - and it is not clear when their consumption pattern will mature. We supported growth of their steel production as core to development. I expect China, with increasing focus on pollution, to do more efficiently.
China was the first country with a renewable energy law, China is a huge producer of solar power capacity, including exported panels and other gear.
China is going through an industrialisation process in several decades that took us a century. We need to show respect for the extraordinary complexity of political and economic issues in China, not just focus on relatively tabloid issues. Yes, there are human rights issues, but what has happened since 1978 is the largest revolution in human history and hundreds of millions have benefited.
What happened in 1978? Before that a person related to a 'work unit' and the work unit controlled whether you remained a fetus and got born, whether you had a roof over your head, whether you had whatever education, whether you got work, got married, whether you had a child. Everything a farmer or worker produced belonged to the state. In 1978 farmers were told to produce a quota and keep the rest. This kind of reform moved into industry. A need for company law, tax law, provision for profit and loss, bankruptcy, unemployment, new business establishement, social security and health systems... in a country with sixty times our population, minorities numbering ten times our population; per capita income has risen from under $300 to around 5000.
A lot of people in private cars now in China (zero in 1978) but consider that China has 5000km of high speed rail and plans to build to 25,000 by 2020.

Having noted that last number in my notes yesterday, it was interesting that the China discussion on the radio this morning was preceded by a news report that Australia may have 1700km of very fast train track by 2053. I suppose the awfully precise and remote number 2053 derived from discussion in 2013 in which someone said "we couldn't finish something like that for forty years!"

2053 is by my calculation seven years after 2046. I expect any very fast train in 2053 will be even more of the future than Wong Karwai's 2046 train.*** 

click on pictures for sources

So bizarre for a government (sadly bound for the butchers in a few months) to call for discussion about a train in 2053. We can't remember what has happened in China in 35 years... Here's a lovely glimpse of a fancy train, 50 years ago, when it too was about to be sent to the butcher.

*** if you haven't seen 2046, please first see Wong Karwai's staggeringly beautiful In the Mood for Love to which 2046 is a sequel. For more words on these films see this blog. I tend to find Australian film boring; perhaps I watch too many films like these two. They confront also with the extraordinary intellectual force of China, which we are generally not bright enough to imagine.