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Well, this is awkward. When a new best friend is accused of an act of unconscionable bastardry against an old best friend, it places the whole friend circle in a terrible position. Who do we side with? Who do we believe?
There's intense discomfort percolating through Ottawa, Washington, Tokyo, and Canberra. The indignation from the new best friend in New Delhi, accused by old friend Canada of using its security forces to kill a Canadian Sikh activist in British Columbia is shrill. "Absurd and motivated," it bellowed. An attempt to shift focus from Canada's sheltering of Sikh extremists and terrorists.
Diplomats have been kicked out of both countries and tensions aggravated among allies desperate to outflank China on the geopolitical chessboard. A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Penny Wong has expressed deep concern over the allegation.
But what's making Echidna wince in the midst of this falling out is much closer to home.
On Tuesday, when questioned about the wisdom of declaring Narendra Modi "the Boss" at the political rally in Sydney when the Indian PM visited in May, Anthony Albanese responded with seething side-eye worthy of Grace Tame.
He told the journalist who had asked the entirely reasonable question to "chill out". Then came a flaccid answer about how our PM had seen Bruce Springsteen perform at the same venue. Nothing to see here.
But there was.
Albanese's tetchiness at having his judgment questioned was painful to watch. "Seriously? You should chill out a bit," he snapped. Upbraiding the journalist who had the temerity to ask that question betrayed a similar intolerance for criticism Modi stands accused of. But, unlike Albanese, Modi won't get caught out by a difficult question because he doesn't front media conferences, with the exception of one when he met Joe Biden in Washington.
Modi's colourful coat-tails obviously appealed to Albanese, who's aware of the political clout of the growing Indian diaspora which has settled in Australia. But the Hindu nationalist is no saint. Nor is the nation he leads.
In its 2022 India report, Amnesty International said: "Throughout the year the authorities routinely used international travel bans to stifle independent voices including the human rights activist and former head of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, journalist Rana Ayyub and at least two Kashmiri journalists who were scheduled to speak abroad on India's human rights situation."
You can't choose your family but you can choose your friends. And you should do so carefully.
Albanese's judgment in fawning over Modi is questionable - and the PM knows this - especially after the airing of these allegations from Canada, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, along with the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia.
If Canada's suspicions prove true, Australia will be informed through the Five Eyes arrangements and life will become difficult. Walking the tightrope between friends who have fallen out will be hard enough. The realpolitik of global alliances will butt up against our stance of the rule of law, which has no tolerance for political assassination. And the possibility of Indian spooks going about their dark arts on our shores - as one Sikh activist exiled in the US has warned they will - won't go down well. Not one bit.
Wiping egg off our PM's face will be a whole other matter. Awkward indeed.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Is it reasonable to ask hard questions of our PM over his cosiness with Narendra Modi? Should Albanese rein in his quick temper when faced with difficult questions? Is India a trustworthy ally? Email us: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- A three-day manhunt for Stanley Turvey in Victoria and NSW has ended after police tracked the fugitive to a house in Ardmona outside of Shepparton in northern Victoria at 10.15am on September 20. Officers said they were confronted by Turvey, who was armed, when they arrived at the house. Police shot the alleged fugitive and he died at the scene after receiving first aid.
- Victoria has committed to building 800,000 homes in the next decade while holiday-makers will be slugged with a short-stay accommodation levy to address the state's housing crisis. Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled reforms as part of his government's long-waited housing statement on Wednesday.
- Welfare payments for more than five million Aussies have been boosted to help those "doing it toughest" from September 20. An extra $40 per fortnight will appear in payments for people receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY and the Youth Disability Support Pension on top of a $16 bump from indexation.
THEY SAID IT: "National leaders who find themselves wilting under the withering criticisms by members of the media, would do well not to take such criticism personally but to regard the media as their allies in keeping the government clean and honest." - Corazon Aquino
YOU SAID IT: If cities are to become denser, they should also be made much cooler.
Grant writes: "More trees as mandatory in new subdivisions. How about room to plant trees in the backyard? And ban dark coloured roofing."
"There should be a rule to replace every tree removed with two new ones of similar carbon capturing ability," writes Arthur. "The new trees must be nurtured for at least 10 years. Regardless of the reason any tree is removed the rule applies to road construction and power lines as well as developers. Farmers have been severely restricted for decades in being unable to remove native vegetation even if they plan to replace it with better vegetation like gum trees which are very efficient at removing carbon from the atmosphere. Decentralisation of the population away from the major cities will also help the problem of heat capture in large concrete jungles."
Ian writes: "It seems to me that the real problem with property development in our cities is their massive growth of population. The strategies of growing outward or growing upward to house more and more people are both highly problematic. Ultimately, the town planners and developers are responding to a situation that in large part has been created by Commonwealth immigration policy. Yet, the discussion surrounding the desirability of such policy seems to be a non starter, even though it impacts on each and every one of us through housing availability and cost, through traffic congestion, through the availability of health and education services, through destruction of our environment and wildlife, and through increasing carbon dioxide emissions. The Commonwealth seems to be saying we'll bring the people into the country, but we'll leave it to you town planners to deal with the difficulties created."
"It's a sad state of affairs when we need mandatory protection of trees, given the amazing benefits that they provide in terms of lowering temperatures, capturing and storing carbon, air quality, nature habitat and of course, their beauty," writes James. "But greed, ignorance and short term visions persist, so we must have regulation and lots of it. Hopefully future generations will place a lot higher value on the tree outside on their suburban street that struggles to survive in a plastic world of tar, cement and sterile lawns, and on the tree outside the city cafe that provides cooling shade and comfort to the hot and bothered city worker."
Susie writes: "Our forests provide that same cooling effect to the landscape as well as acting as underground water reservoirs, storing carbon, homing our unique wildlife and many other ecosystem services. Yet every day our taxes subsidise their degradation. Huge holes in the canopy that let in the sun, dry them out and make them more fire prone. Utter madness."
"Echidnas are correct when it comes to living," writes Michael. "They build underground in quiet burrows, in cool, leafy, green rural forests. They don't need air conditioners or heaters. I can't see them in crowded, highrise burrow developments, with media rooms, home gyms, and wine cellars."
Cheree writes: "There is a tonne of knowledge out there about the essential nature of the cooling, sheltering, shading, purifying and aesthetic properties which trees contribute to the web of life but we seem to forget every one of these if a road needs widening, a farmer wants paddocks cleared or someone wants to mine, build something or expand a town or city. The first thought seems to be 'cut down those trees'. They are wonderful to build things like houses, fences, make paper, provide fuel for heating (I could write a book) but there are nowhere near enough being planted back. Trees are always the last thing thought of. Increasing frequency of wildfire makes the situation worse. We must reverse clearing everywhere possible."
"Trees, gardens, recreation areas should all be part of any development, always," writes Sue. "They not only contribute to a healthier environment they contribute to a healthier way of life. Clear felling is not the only thing that developers should be banned from doing. There should be far more restrictions on and requirements and supervision of developers. I am a bit tired of reading about this or that development where people have bought off the plan and then have to pay a fortune to make their purchase habitable, or worse, the entire development has been condemned. Where were the building inspections, the background checks to make sure the developers were legitimate and responsible? I am not going to buy into who should have the planning powers because I don't know enough about it, but I will say that local knowledge needs to be accessed and future needs incorporated into development plans. Private developers are businesses and only going to be looking at their own bottom line."