Sunday 24 September 2023

Ms Wong goes to New York.

God, I admire Penny Wong. I honestly do.

If you have heard her speaking before the UN General Assembly recently you know why. If you haven’t, just look at her. Listen to her.

The climate threat … Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands are only a few metres above sea level … Many developing countries are rightly frustrated … Approaching climate tipping points … We must demand more from permanent members [of the UN’s Security Council], including constraints on the use of the veto …

Powerful words.

Her forte is the dispassionate, almost academic, speech. Articulate, something extremely uncommon among Australian politicians, her clear diction and the earnestness, calmness and self-confidence with which she speaks as she addresses her audience reminds one of a wise, experienced teacher.

Well, I suppose with enough practice and effort (in my case perhaps with a lot more practice and effort than most others), one could acquire, in some measure, some of Wong’s skills.

But there is something in Wong’s public speaking I can’t imagine ever achieving, no matter how hard I tried. It’s something that I believe one has to be born with and I wasn’t born with it. It’s a limitation in my character.

Indeed, it’s not just that I admire Wong’s special ability, is that I envy her: her imperturbability in front of an audience as she says falsehoods or promotes madness without blinking an eye. And her hypocrisy! God, her hypocrisy!

I couldn’t match any of that.


After WW2 the five victorious powers (at the time the only nuclear armed nation, the US, the UK, France, China and Soviet Union, now commonly referred to as P5) became permanent members of the Security Council. They, on top, were given the veto right by all UN members: a UN resolution cannot pass if one of the P5 countries decides against it.

Why would that power be freely given to them?

Because it ensured P5’s participation in and cooperation with the United Nations. It safeguarded P5 countries’ interests. It was also the only check and balance against a member or coalition of SC members becoming hegemonic.

Since then, the Soviet Union became the Russian Federation and China became the People’s Republic of China; all the P5 acquired nuclear weapons. Everything else remains the same.

And ever since, all P5, but especially the US and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, have used their veto power to protect their own interests. That wasn’t an accident. That’s how the system was meant to work: a shock absorber. Wong may be disingenuous, but stupid she ain’t. She knows all of that.

Is that an unsatisfactory arrangement in general? I don’t know. Perhaps. Does it hurt legitimate Australian national interests? I can’t see how.

So maybe it’s just an unfortunate accident that Wong seems to be acting as someone else’s mouthpiece: Russian veto power sure is a source of frustration for Ukrainian President Vasily Goloborodko. But I suspect it is the American President who finds Russian veto power more disturbing: the coalition US-vassal states, which he leads, is the likely hegemon.

Regardless, however unsatisfactory that arrangement may be to some, it beats the alternatives: no UN at all or having a UN v2.0 to rubber stamp the dictates of an American Emperor of the World in all but name.


There is ultimately something standing between that scenario and reality: the veto power itself.

It’s difficult to ascertain how the General Assembly would react to a proposal to strip the Russian Federation of its veto power.

One should hope people can see what is there for all to see. If that were the case, then such proposal is dead in the water.

If you are not so optimistic, consider this: season four of the Ukrainian TV series “Servant of the People: the Great Patriotic War Against the Evil Empire” seems to have reached the jumping the shark stage.


After over a year and a half, the antics of its protagonist, Goloborodko, once celebrated as creative and imaginative, now appear tiresome if not outright impertinent. The man himself looks less defiant than jaded and swollen, less passionate and funny in equal parts, more cranky; his sartorial choices, more artificial. Goloborodko looks, in one word, unconvincing.

Perhaps it was unavoidable. Novelty and repetition don’t mix well: showing Goloborodko’s face day in day out on SBS World News may not have been such a good idea. Add to that an over-hyped counteroffensive stalling, a series of game-changing weapons that fail to change the game (Javelins and Stingers were the first, then HIMARS, Gepards, Bradleys, Bushmasters, Patriots, Leopards, Challengers, Abrams, and now F-16s, cluster munitions and depleted uranium shells), news of Russians running short of everything from intelligent bombs, tanks, long range missiles to manpower as it is the US that is running short of ammocriminal Wagner mercenaries, fears of Russian chemical attacks that never happen and a Russian looming invasion of Europe and the viewers’ ability to suspend disbelief could stretch beyond breaking point.

Diplomats of the US and vassal states have so far failed to enlist the Global South to their anti-Russian crusade. Wong, for all her undeniable skills, may not be enough to entice the viewing public back and lift the ratings. It’s not her fault. Bottom line: it’s unlikely a unanimous decision against Russia would be reached and even a majority could be a bridge too far.

However, that’s far from saying a Goloborodko-Wong resolution will not be passed. Israel has recently illustrated how to make a poor, non-white country like Papua New Guinea support a rich, racist, aggressive, authoritarian, international law violator country in its bullying of poor non-white people: bribe them with a new embassy.

It could happen. People could still be persuaded to accept what should be unacceptable.

The thing is, even if that happens there is still the veto power. It’s a certainty that the UK would pass enthusiastically such resolution. Poms value the status of America’s bitch the “special relationship” confers them (most Aussies feel the same). Unlike Julius Caesar, they are happy with being the second or third or fourth in Rome, as long as they are not stuck with their village.

It’s possible, maybe even likely, but less than certain, that France would as well: the French know that would be a self-defeating mistake, but could be weak to veto it.

Enter China. It would be highly likely they would veto it. (The French would likely welcome that: it would save them the trouble.) They know stripping the veto power from Russia would create a dangerous precedent: after Russia, they would almost certainly follow.

And, of course, Russia still has the power to veto such resolution.


Would that be the end of it?

It’s possible. Wong, I am sure, knows that possibility. But, who knows? Maybe she has an ace up her sleeve: those behind the movement could envisage a UN 2.0 without Russia and China and plan a kind of coup.


Incidentally, Wong, people are waking up to the fact that there is a gap between your rhetoric on climate change and the Pacific family and all those pretty words and the reality of your Government, as there is a gap between your rhetoric on peace and international rules based order and peace and what you and your Government really stand for.


That is why Australia was not allowed to speak at the United Nation’s Climate Ambition Summit.

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