By Andrew Bolt ~
It is astonishing how little the Left cares for human rights now that it has the cultural upper hand. Free speech is just a “niche issue”. And now Fairfax’s Mark Kenny even thinks presumption of innocence and fair trials are merely the concerns of “populists”.
A Turnbull government plan to quietly ratify the China-Australia extradition treaty has collapsed, with mounting opposition from the Coalition backbench causing the government to withdraw the treaty from Parliament.
Malcolm Turnbull rang Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday morning and told him he would pull the treaty, a humiliating backdown for the Prime Minister that comes just days after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Australia
Mr Shorten told Mr Turnbull that Labor had resolved in Monday night’s shadow cabinet meeting not to back the extradition treaty, a decision which effectively ensured it would be disallowed in the Senate by a combination of the opposition, Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and senator Cory Bernardi.
Cory Bernardi was cock-a-hoop, having leaned into the issue rather vigorously in the preceding hours to note inter alia the suspiciously high 99-plus per cent conviction rate of Chinese courts.
Suddenly, Bernardi was the champion of human rights – including presumably, the human rights of people actually guilty of serious crimes committed in their home country, before fleeing to the safety of Australia…
Australia’s relationship with China is complex and multi-layered. By definition, populists are superficial and unconcerned with such complexities.
Wow. Sneering at concern that the Chinese legal system has a conviction rate of 99.92 per cent. Lazily presuming that those wanted by China are all “actually guilty of serious crimes”. Trashing those who do take rule by law seriously as “populists” and “superficial”.
But Kenny has form. He attacked those wanting reform of the Racial Discrimination Act, now used improperly to punish critics of the new identity politics, describing defenders of free speech as “misanthropes”, “gormless”, “infantile”, “white” and “angry”.
The Left is now what it condemns.
Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop have created a debacle. Turnbull’s familiar tin ear stars again.
What a farce, sending out Julie Bishop, Steve Ciobo and Barnaby Joyce to defend the treaty in the hour before Malcolm Turnbull ditched it.
What a farce, using the spectre of Chinese reprisals against Australians in China to urge MPs to give in to the deal.
Surely the most objectionable element of the government’s arguments was to cite the situation of Australians [the three Crown employees and Associate Professor Feng Chongyi] who are now in Chinese custody.
The government’s argument contradicts itself and making it publicly is one of the most irresponsible actions I have ever seen from an Australian government.
If the Chinese government is going to mistreat Australian prisoners because Canberra does not ratify a treaty this is itself proof beyond question that the Chinese legal system is not independent or truly based on law.
But for an Australian government to make public reference to the fate of individual Australians in foreign custody, in support of a doomed and grossly mismanaged parliamentary ratification process, is cynical, irresponsible and frankly improper.
What a farce, misreading the mood of the Liberals themselves at Bishop’s briefing of MPs:
At the Liberal briefing, it was like a roll call of the warriors of same-sex marriage — Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, Andrew Hastie, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz all in furious agreement about opposing the Chinese treaty.
Tony Abbott publicly opposed the idea and it was difficult to find anyone who publicly supported it, apart from Turnbull, Barnaby Joyce and Julie Bishop.
What a farce, to lash out at Tony Abbott for opposing such a dud deal:
Government sources say Abbott as prime minister told China on two occasions his policy was to ratify the treaty. The first was during a visit to China in autumn 2014 and the second was in his talks with Xi Jinping when the Chinese President visited Australia in late 2014.
When this was put to Abbott last night, he issued the following statement: “This was a process initiated by the Howard government so I wasn’t going to repudiate it. But I had no intention of seeing it come to a conclusion, given my concerns about the Chinese legal system.”
Niki Savva, naturally, repeats the Turnbull lines and attacks Abbott for being “opportunistic” and “hijacking” the issue.
Strange, through, how Abbott is again right on the issue and Turnbull again wrong.
But the political danger the extradition treaty posed for the Turnbull government had been hiding in plain sight for months.
And the government’s handling of the matter has prompted fresh questions about its processes and political radar…
During hearings late last year, the Law Council of Australia, Amnesty, Labor and the Greens all flagged concerns about the treaty’s safeguards…
At a November 24 hearing, Coalition MPs Chris Crewther and Andrew Wallace also raised concerns…
The government missed the early signs from these two backbenchers and pushed on, tabling the treaty on March 2 ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit, giving the Senate or the House 15 days to disallow it.
Then things really started to come unstuck.
On March 21, Senator Bernardi told Fairfax Media there was “no public case to justify” ratification. Then he announced he would try to disallow it; Labor, the Greens and the Xenophon trio indicated they would join him.
No one from the government spoke to Senator Bernardi about his plan, despite the gathering storm…
Once again, the Turnbull government had scored an avoidable own-goal; senior ministers who publicly backed the treaty on Tuesday morning, before the decision was taken were left hung out to dry; backbenchers came away furious with the process, and the fact that they had been pushed to the point where they could have crossed the floor; and Australia’s major trading partner became the subject of a messy public debate only to be left empty-handed.
On Tuesday evening, Liberals were still scratching their heads and asking why the government had ever brought it on at all.
The collapse of the treaty … followed a botched backbench briefing on Monday night in which [Julie] Bishop is said to have “lectured” Coalition MPs over their concerns about the extradition treaty and human rights in China…
The Foreign Minister is believed to have told the 13 MPs at the meeting it was their responsibility to have been across the detail of the treaty, which was backed by a report of parliament’s joint standing committee on treaties in December. Her comments suggested she was unaware of any concerns until then.
Several MPs at the meeting told The Australian Ms Bishop’s “tone” had not helped in trying to convince them to support it…
Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.