Tag Archives: British Commonwealth

AUSTRALIA – THE WONDERFUL LAND DOWN UNDER

    BREAKING NEWS:   THERESA MAY RESIGNS

For the fourth time in under 30 years, a conservative British prime minister has been brought down by Europe, with a possible fifth one to follow.

Mrs. Theresa May worked hard to deliver her dream of a “deal” with the EU, but failed miserably after three parliamentary votes.   The British people voted for Brexit three years ago and are still waiting.

Her successor as prime minister must still deliver Brexit, with a deadline of October 31st. Wrong moves and bad decisions could bring him or her down, too.

It was a Conservative prime minister who took Britain into Europe, perhaps the greatest mistake Britain has ever made.  It’s a form of justice that all four subsequent Conservative leaders have been brought down by Europe.

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AUSTRALIA – THE WONDERFUL LAND DOWN UNDER

I’ve been in Australia for three weeks.   A friend sent me a ticket.  It was a wonderful trip.   Not the first time I’ve been there (actually, the 5th), but the first time to visit without having to work.   It was total relaxation.

And the Australians know how to relax.   They are much more laid back, far less frenetic, and, I believe, enjoy life more because of it.

In explaining the difference between Australia and the United States, an Australian historian observed that while America was founded by pilgrims, Australia was founded by convicts.   The Americans, striving to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, had nowhere to go but down; whilst the Australians, who threw a wild party when they arrived on Australia’s shores, had nowhere to go but up!

So, I had a great time – exclusively in small town Australia (Westbury in Tasmania, Wangaratta in Victoria, Junee in NSW; and outside of Kiama in NSW).   This is the real Australia.   Too many visitors spend all their time on the beaches of the Gold Coast, with a quick visit to the Great Barrier Reef, great to visit but you won’t learn anything about Australia there.

The days I spent in Wangaratta were spent in Ned Kelly country. He was the Jesse James of Australia, a horse thief and bank robber whose gang killed some policemen. He got himself hanged in November 1880, at the age of 25.   As a criminal, he also got a considerable following, a Robin Hood figure who stood against authority.

Intermezzo Cafe, Wangaratta, NSW

Life in Wangaratta was beautiful.   A coffee in the morning at a coffee shop called “Intermezzo” (yes, I actually drank coffee), followed by a visit to the town library (one of the best I’ve ever been in), followed by a pub lunch.   There are only a few Starbucks in Australia – it wasn’t very successful.   And there are no big pub chains, each one has its own distinct personality. We drank one day at the pub frequented by Ned Kelly.   There, I had fish and chips (hake) and a dessert of sticky date pudding!   Even the beer was exceptionally good.   We also spent thirty minutes talking to the owner, who revealed that much of his business came from the local pig industry.   They kill 3,500 pigs a day, which makes it the world’s biggest producer of pork products, mostly for the Chinese market.   We had no idea it was there.

As a diabetic, I have to keep my blood sugar numbers within a range. I had no difficulty at all while in Australia, even with drinking a beer a day. It must be the fact that I was very relaxed!

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AUSTRALIAN ELECTION

While visiting Australia, the country was preparing for a general election.  Opinion polls throughout showed Labor (the socialists) were winning, but, as in the US, the conservative (Liberal) party won. Pollsters seem to always get it wrong, probably because they ask the wrong questions.   It may even be deliberate, an attempt to force people to vote Left.

Perhaps the people saw through all the promises being made by Labor (though the Liberals themselves made enough!).   Bill Shorten, Labor leader, was promising this, that and the other, in a country of only 25 million people.   Scott Morrison, leader of the Liberal Party, had a better grasp of what Australia’s economy needed.

I actually met One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson in the airport luggage area in Launceston, Tasmania.   One Nation is a small party that is very much against mass immigration, which is changing the fabric of Australian society.   34% of Australians were born overseas, which is more than double the American figure.   Most immigrants are settling in the big cities, which is adding to social problems.   On the internet, I saw a discussion between her and a Muslim man with three wives, new to Australia.   He explained how he had put all the welfare payments he received for the children into buying a house. When he had bought one, he wanted to start on a second one for his second wife.   And so on for the third.

In contrast to the US, one issue that dominated was climate change.   This is because television news is one sided (pro-Left) and they have made it the number one issue.   Morning news programs could spend up to thirty minutes on the one issue, warning of dire consequences if nothing is done immediately.    Australia already does more than most countries, at great cost and inconvenience to its people.   For example, the ubiquitous plastic bags, so common in the US, have been withdrawn, and people have been told to take their own bags to the grocery store in which to carry their own groceries.

A generational divide was also apparent during the election, with young people much more concerned about climate change than older voters.

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REMEMBERING THE PAST

Every year, on April 25th, Australia (and New Zealand) celebrate ANZAC Day.   This day honors the memory of those who served in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, a vital contributory factor to the Allied victories in World Wars 1 & 2.

Although they contributed only 5% of the sum total of troops, the new nations were enthusiastic in their support of the British Empire.   An Australian General, Sir John Monash, distinguished himself at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, receiving a knighthood for his services from King George V.   As a Prussian Jew he faced a lot of opposition at home.

In both world wars, Australia fought from beginning to end, in contrast to the US, which only entered World War I near the end, and World War 2 after Pearl Harbor.   The British Commonwealth nations fought with Britain from the moment war was declared.   This “multitude of nations” comprised the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, at the time, South Africa and Rhodesia. Together with Britain’s many colonies, they were the global superpower before the United States.   “And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:20)   Many men fighting in the trenches firmly believed that they were the modern descendants of Ephraim fighting together in a just war. Even if you do not believe there is any biblical significance to their historic role, history shows they had a very significant and meaningful role at the time.

Since World War 2, these allies have increasingly drifted apart.   Yet, there are no nations that are as similar, sharing a common cultural and political heritage.   Perhaps its time to think about reviving the organization, as a separate entity from the Commonwealth, which is the 53-nation multicultural organization that does not have a military component.

They could certainly cooperate in military matters, at a time when the US is reducing its international commitments.

They could also cooperate on other meaningful challenges at this time.   Australia, with its commitment in fighting global warming; New Zealand with their deep interest in the terrorist threats posed by social media; Canada, the country that coined the term multiculturalism could help solve the problems created by it; and Britain, whose two royal princes have done so much in the area of mental health.

They should not argue over who has the dominant role (this could rotate amongst the four), but they would collectively work together to address the most important issues of our time.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

The Australian is the nation’s best newspaper, the only one with real news.   It’s a Rupert Murdoch owned newspaper with a definite conservative slant.

I enjoyed reading it each day, even with coffee!

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BACK TO THE US

When I arrived back in the US, the first thing I heard at the airport was a woman complaining about her wheelchair, which was delayed by five minutes.   A couple of days later, at a doctor’s office, there was a similar incident, with a lady complaining that her subsidized public transport was late.   Are we becoming a nation of complainers?

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It was good to get back to America, but I sure do miss Australia. I think I need an annual Australian “fix.”

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

queen-elizabeth-parliament-opening

According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

MANDELA — A BRIGHT LIGHT ON A DARK CONTINENT

nelson-mandela-on-july-17

The news of the death of the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, came as I was preparing to write an article on Central Africa.  This month marks the 50th anniversary of the dissolution of the Central African Federation, a short-lived experiment in multiculturalism that brought incredible development to the center of the continent in a short period of time.  The federation was more formally known as the “Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland.”  Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) were the three constituent parts.

When you visit any of these countries today, you will find the main roads were built at this time, as was Kariba Dam.  The federation was largely financed by the white settlers in Southern Rhodesia, who had made their country an African success story.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say on the origins of the federation.  “After World War II, the growth of secondary industries and greatly increased white immigration in Southern Rhodesia, compounded by the copper boom in Northern Rhodesia, led white political leaders and industrialists to urge even more strongly the advantages of an amalgamated territory that would provide larger markets and be able to draw more freely on black labor, especially in Nyasaland.”

Apart from the economic arguments, there were also political reasons for federation.   In 1948, the Nationalist Party came to power in South Africa, then a British dominion like Canada and Australia.  The new government introduced separate development (apartheid), the strict separation of the races.  Britain was concerned about losing influence in the region as the Nationalists were generally anti-British – some had been pro-Nazi during World War II.  The British also wanted to show there was an alternative to separate development.

The federation brought together two British colonies, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, together with the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia, a territory that had never been ruled directly from London.  Britain’s hope was to show that a multiracial state based on cooperation between the races was far better than the neighboring South African model.  The first Prime Minister of the Federation was Sir Godfrey Huggins, earlier the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.  When he stepped down in 1956, he was the longest serving prime minister in the history of the British Commonwealth.

However, the federation made the whites in Southern Rhodesia richer and more influential.  Black African nationalists stirred up sentiment against it.  The Colonial Office in London, always sympathetic to African nationalist demands, decided to disband the union, giving both Malawi and Zambia independence in 1964.  The whites in Southern Rhodesia voted to disassociate themselves from Britain (UDI), but 15 years later were forced to hand over power.

Economically, there is no doubt that the federation was a good thing and achieved a great deal.  This was the decade of the greatest economic expansion in Central Africa.

In stark contrast, independence led to dictatorship, socialism and economic decline.

All three countries had the same president for three decades.  Malawi’s Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda led his country from independence until 1994; Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda from independence until 1991; Zimbabwe, under Robert Mugabe, from independence in 1980 right up until the present.  The Westminster style parliamentary systems that the British had in place in the three territories during the colonial era did not survive independence, each country sliding into dictatorship.  Zambia and Zimbabwe also embraced socialism.  Zambia has since seen the light, but Zimbabwe remains in darkness.

The multicultural ideal was dead in Central Africa and the three component parts have suffered because of it.

It was not to be realized again until the end of apartheid and the first black African government in South Africa, led by Nelson Mandela.  Mr. Mandela only served one term, previously unheard of in Africa.  As a leader, he was a light on the Dark Continent, standing out over all other post-colonial rulers.  “What is the future of South Africa?” asked former US Secretary of State James Baker on CBS this morning.  He added:  “I think a lot of the groundwork has been laid by Nelson Mandela.”

It is misleading to say, as was said on CBS this morning, that “Mandela spent 27 years in prison because he fought against apartheid.”  Many people opposed apartheid but did not go to prison.  Helen Suzman, a prominent member of parliament, comes first to mind.  Mr. Mandela was, in fact, imprisoned for acts of sabotage.  Today he would be called a terrorist.  Violently opposed to apartheid, many whites now see him as the one who saved them and the country from a bloodbath when the white minority handed over power.  He was the only one who could pull the transition off successfully.  For this, South Africans of all races are mostly grateful.

For a long time, many whites have expressed fears for their future in the post-Mandela era.

The whites have the skills the country needs for further prosperity.  They also pay most of the taxes, without which social programs to help the poorest members of society would not be possible.  The countries of the Central African Federation learned the hard way the negative consequences of driving the whites out.  Hopefully, South Africa will not make the same mistake and Mandela’s “rainbow nation,” a multicultural country made up of various races, will succeed.

Thinking has changed, even in the West.  Socialists in England in the 1950’s were advocates of decolonization.  One point repeatedly made was that, in Northern Rhodesia, whites were paid on average seven times what black Africans were paid;  today, after five decades of independence, the ratio is 28 to 1.  Whites no longer want to settle in central Africa.  They would rather go out on contracts and want big money to take what they consider are big risks, hence the greater pay differential.  If South Africa can keep the white settlers, the country will continue to prosper.

Interestingly, Zambia is now encouraging white farmers to settle, granting them 99 -year leases on land.  Food production doubled with the first hundred farmers, bringing down food prices and strengthening the currency.  Zambia benefitted from Zimbabwe’s expropriation of white farmland.

The handover to majority rule in South Africa took place in 1994.  By that time, the country had had the opportunity to see the disaster that had befallen many nations to the north.  Whereas Zimbabwe’s post-independence leader, Robert Mugabe, reverted to his radical revolutionary agenda after gaining power, Mandela gave an assurance right at the beginning that South Africa would be a democracy and would have a free enterprise system.  So far, it’s worked.

We will soon know whether it will continue to work in the post-Mandela era.