Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating is both the wise elder statesman that Australia desperately needs, and also its pre-eminent political shit-stirrer. We don’t really lack for incisive commentary in this country so long as Keating and Stan Grant (global affairs analyst for the ABC) remain in the picture.

Both are deliberate provocateurs, yet it pays to listen when they speak. They know their international relations; our bullying and belligerent neighbour China, especially. It is fascinating (and educative) when the agree, but even moreso when they do not.

Like today.

Keating fronted the National Press Club yesterday to deliver his blunt opinion on Australia’s duty, should a military conflict arise between Beijing and Taipei. “Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. Let me repeat that, Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. We have no alliance with Taipei, none.”

I could feel Stan Grant’s hackles rise.

Keating firmly believes the New World Order has arrived, and that Australia would be wise to accept it’s place. He does not view China as a militaristic threat to Australia; however, our neighbour, he says, is now too economically powerful to provoke or ignore.

China is a vital Australian interest; Taiwan is not.

Stan Grant meekly demurs.

He says Keating is “not an apologist for Chinese authoritarianism but a cold-eyed realist about Chinese power” who, nonetheless, risks legitimising a dangerous rogue. A big-thinker at a time when we are short on answer. A curiously deferential article by Grant, who has been sounding the alarm on China for years.

Another former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, delivered a keynote address in Taipei on Friday 8 October, which included: “Taiwan is challenged on a near-daily basis by its giant neighbour. It’s more important than ever, under such circumstances, that your fellow democracies stand shoulder to shoulder with you“.

Thanks Tony.

Fellow democracies standing against the dangerous rogue Xi.

This is more Stan Grant’s line, which of late has focussed on Australia’s adherence to our One China policy and our diplomatic slip-sliding on Taiwanese independence. He’s the first to point out: If push comes to shove: we can’t have both.

Stan Grant has repeatedly acknowledged the obvious: China doesn’t need to fight this war to win. But then, neither do we. Ideologically, Stan Grant wants us to stand with Taiwanese sovereignty, but knows Keating is (pragmatically) correct.

Unfortunately, Paul Keating won’t be the one fielding the call from President Tsai Ing-wen after she’s poked the dragon one time too many. It could be this bloke:

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