Brown Study

Brown study

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

We came from Scotland when my father was nine and his family ditched the old world a year after the end of the First World War and came to Australia, where I hope we have been good Australians. But we still have a soft spot for Scotland, look on it with real affection and want to see it succeed. Some people seem to think that if you are opposed to the referendum on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, you are anti-Scottish, as if Scottish success depends on the break-up of the union. But they have it the wrong way round. Scotland’s future will be guaranteed if it remains part of the kingdom, but will not be so rosy if it leaves. It will lose those financial, industrial and cultural links with England that have been so mutually beneficial and it will also lose the standing that comes from being part of a great nation. I am Scotland’s biggest fan, but I hope and pray that the referendum will be defeated as it is not good for Scotland.

And as what happens in the UK effects us here, Tony Abbott was right to warn about the consequences of a breakup. He made a powerful point and it was a pity it was denigrated for no other reason than that he made it. His point was that the movement for splitting bits off countries and setting up break-away regimes and republics is promoted by those who want instability, turmoil and the continued friction of pursuing extremist nationalist and religious goals. Moderates are happy to work within established structures; extremists want to destroy them. Just look at the lunatics behind the Caliphate. Look at the zealots in Eastern Ukraine and their brutal way of solving a problem. Look at the festering crises of South Ossetia, Moldova and Georgia, all of which come from separatist movements. Look at the millions of people who have been displaced by these and similar adventures. Moreover, we have a real national interest in discouraging the breakup of countries; it can only give encouragement to similar movements in our region, which we have already seen in Bougainville, West Papua, Burma, the Philippines and elsewhere. If those disruptive movements are encouraged, it will bring instability and uncertainty to a region where what is needed above all is the stability and unity that bring economic progress.

The other issue where people have the argument back to front is on the proposed new anti-terror laws. The view is developing that if you value civil liberties, you must oppose the new laws. It is a nonsense argument. I value civil liberties, but I also support the new anti-terrorism laws. I hate restrictions on civil liberties, have always opposed them and even think that when we restrict our rights, the terrorists win another notch or two. But the battle against terror is a greater fight, a fight against an alien doctrine that defines our very attitude to life; we worship life, but our opponents in this struggle worship death. Moreover, our opponents have no rules, no scruples and for them the individual- even the son you tutor in Advanced Beheading 101- has no civil rights and is nothing but a cog in an insane campaign to impose a doctrine by extreme violence. In this strange, new world, we need every weapon that modern technology can give us and some of them require compromises on how we have shaped our civil liberties in the past. That is the price for having a future where civil liberties will exist at all.

Alright, I know that our continuing harmony as a nation depends on making all ethnic groups feel valued members of society. But I can almost pinpoint the day when I realised that Muslims see themselves as different in fundamental ways. Practising in international arbitration, I need to know the arbitration law in other countries, so I was pleased to see that Baker & McKenzie had published a sort of tour d’horizon on exactly that subject. Here it was, all laid out, so that if you want to know if they have arbitration of commercial disputes in Kazakhstan or how you execute an award in Morocco if the defendant’s only asset is a ship in New York, I am your man and can run off reams of otherwise useless information to help you along the rocky road of arbitration. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I found this valuable publication had a bonus section on Sharia law, very useful to have up your sleeve if you are planning a bit of trade with the Caliphate of Syria and Iraq. There in all its glory was this astounding proposition: no slave or woman may be an arbitrator! No slave or woman? How do they get away with declaring that slavery can be supported by special rules, that a slave has no civil rights and that women are to be equated with that lowly species? And what is the responsible, moderate Islamic view on this issue?

You might think Julian Assange is to leave the cramped little Ecuadorian Embassy in London because of some great diplomatic breakthrough. But I have it from a source deep in Wikileaks that it is just that the long suffering embassy staff are sick and tired of how long he takes in the bathroom. That careful dishevelment of the hair and the struggling beard, the pummelling of the face to get the right degree of angst and the meticulous re-arrangement of the scarf all take time and lots of it. No wonder they want to get rid of him.

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