Growing up in a small country community, Natalie Medhurst is the first to admit her rise to elite level sport came as a surprise.
Medhurst represented Australia as Diamond #144 on 86 occasions
She is remembered for her laid-back on-court style
Netball Australia CEO Marne Fechner has thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport
Last week, the former Diamond, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and multi-time World Cup player announced her retirement from a professional netball career spanning 17 years.
Thethird-most-cappednational league player took to the court 235 times and scored 4,415 goals across Commonwealth Bank Trophy, ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball competitions.
Medhurst, who was born in Melbourne, returned home to finish her career with the Collingwood Magpies in hernative Victoria.
Grateful for family support
When the 178 centimetres goal shooter was just three, her family packed up and moved to the small south-east South Australian township of Millicent, where she became involved in local country sport.
“My parents ran the Somerset Hotel in Millicent so we also lived there (at the hotel). It was awesome, we loved it as kids, it was different home compared to most and my parents were incredibly busy,” Medhurst said.
She said the family’s commitment to supporting her in local sports such as Little Athletics and basketball eventually turned to taking return road trips to Adelaide for state team trials in netball.
“Dad was heavily involved in the footy club, and footy and netball go hand in hand so that’s really where everything started and it took off from there,” she said.
Career exceeded dreams
Medhurst began her professional career in 2004 with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, before heading to the Queensland Firebirds in 2010, followed by stints with West Coast Fever and the Collingwood Magpies.
The Thunderbirds club champion and two-time winner of the Tanya Denver medal and the Adelaide Advertiser player of the year (2006 and 2007) came as highlights in the early days, but it was in 2007 when she first wore the green and gold as Diamond #144.
Medhurst represented Australia with the Diamonds on 86 occasions and went on to win three Netball World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold medal, one Commonwealth Games silver medal and six Constellation Cup titles.
Throughout her Diamonds career, she scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.
Cool under pressure
Reflecting on her rise in the sport and time at the top, she said her competitive streak married well with a naturally laid-back style on court.
“I was very chilled out on court, I think some people confused that and thought I was lazy … but I’ve always loved the pressure — that’s probably why I’m a shooter.”
“Competing was the best thing; game day and those big games … are something I’m really going to miss.”
She said she was most proud of seeing how far the sport had come, with a clearer pathway for young athletes looking to make it to the top.
” … But a thing that helped me a lot was that I played a lot of sports — I wasn’t fixated on netball at a young age.”
And for the next generation of country kids throwing the ball around an asphalt court, Medhurst has this to say: “Realise it is incredibly hard work; it takes a lot of dedication — and from parents too. So for the kids, make sure you thank your parents.”
Young players follow footsteps
Donna Denton, who is a grade coach with the Millicent Saints, said Medhurst had inspired a new generation of young players.
She said the township of Millicent still claimed Medhurst as one of their own.
“Obviously there’s a keen interest in our town following her,” Denton said.
Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport.
“Nat has made an enormous contribution to Netball in Australia, both on and off the court, and we congratulate her on an incredible career,” she said.
“Viceroy believes Grenke’s stock is uninvestable due to blatant accounting fraud, including dozens of undisclosed related party transactions, and the complete lack of internal controls right down to individual due diligence on customers,” the report states.
Viewble’s customers paid $430 a month to a finance company under three-year contracts with a total cost of up to $15,500 for a television with the potential to earn money from display advertising from neighbouring businesses. However, the advertising never eventuated leaving the businesses paying a high price for basic equipment. Viceroy alleges Grenke uses the same model for financing printers and photocopiers and that Viewble was one of several ponzi schemes enabled by its lease financing.
“Advertising revenues inevitably never came through and customers were left holding the bag,” the report states. “Grenke’s actions suggest it was party to a larger conspiracy to defraud, as it knocked back complaints, denied knowledge of the existence of the scheme (despite it being written into its contracts), and continued to allow these scammers to write new contracts to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Grenke”s Australian division recorded revenue of €1.4 million and €17.9 million in 2018, according to its annual report
Viceroy alleges Grenke has financed dozens of fraudulent schemes across the globe since its inception. Analyst Gabriel Bernarde said the firm had spent many months speaking with victims of frauds and class action groups which have been set up in their wake.
“Given the vast number and enormous size of these reseller frauds, and Grenke’s association with every one globally, it was hard to come to the conclusion that they were somehow innocent,” he said.
Mr Bernarde said in Australia regulators have been focused on the booming buy now, pay later sector, but there were “massive deficits” in oversights of the leasing sector.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) launched an investigation into complaints about Viewble and Grenke. However, the authority’s powers are limited as Grenke is not an AFCA member and it has not provided any further update on its investigation since May 2019.
AFCA declined to comment. Grenke was contacted for comment. Viceroy said on Twitter this week it had given regulators advance warning of its next target “weeks before” it established a short position in the stock.
Start the day with major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion from our leading business journalists delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the Herald‘s here and The Age‘s here.
“We are currently sourcing high-quality rice products from 12 countries to supply consumers and customers in approximately 50 markets worldwide, and are flexing this capability to ensure continued supply to the Australian market.
“We have taken great care in finding alternative sourcing arrangements to ensure that the characteristics and quality of the replacement rice closely matches the variety of rice it is replacing.”
But the stock assurance is little consolation for the company’s workforce after more than a third of its 600 workers in the NSW Riverina region were slashed amid record low harvest yields.
Production in 2019 was more than 90 per cent lower than what was harvested in 2018 and the yield this year was less again.
SunRice blames the shortfall in production on water pricing reforms which it says has left the state’s rice growing industry “almost impossible”.
“While in part caused by drought, we also believe those impacts have been exacerbated by state and national water reform, with the burden being disproportionately borne by farmers who grow annual crops like rice in southern NSW,” the company said.
The producer was also a victim of the panic buying sparked by the hysteria of the coronavirus pandemic as consumers rushed to fill their pantries with household essentials.
“This accelerated how quickly we processed remaining supplies of Australian rice,” SunRice said.
“The next Australian rice harvest will take place in the Riverina from April 2021.
“It will not be until after that point that we have replenished stocks of Australian rice available.”
Australian teenager Oscar Piastri has secured the 2020 Formula 3 Championship, capping an impressive maiden campaign for the 19 year old.
Oscar Piastri claimed the championship by three points on the standings
His seventh place in the final race of the season in Italy was enough to secure the championship title
Piastri is a protege of retired Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber
Piastri made the most of teammate and main championship rival Logan Sargeant crashing out early in the season finale at Mugello in Italy on Sunday to claim the title.
Sargeant had come into the race level on 160 points with Piastri but the American was an early casualty in the 21-lap race.
That meant Piastri’s seventh-place finish — earning him four points — allowed him to claim the title by three points from France’s Theo Pourchaire, whose third-place was not enough to close the gap to the Melbourne product.
Former Australian Formula 1 driver, and Piastri’s mentor, Mark Webber, was trackside to congratulate the new champion.
“I’ve been quite consistent over the year and I think also the way I’ve bounced back from those setbacks we’ve had,” Piastri said.
“We’ve had quite a few technical issues and other problems to deal with.
“So, I think my consistency and keeping my head cool has been been the biggest thing.”
Piastri also offered commiserations to Sargeant after the race, knowing his teammate’s misfortune had played a key role in his title success.
“The last few weeks have certainly put me to the test emotionally,” Piastri said.
“I just can’t really believe we just won that thing. Obviously, I feel really sorry for Logan. You never want to see that happen to your teammate and your title rival.”
Piastri’s title success will represent a huge step towards realising his own Formula 1 ambitions.
With the coins mainly sent out to Perth, hundreds of people in 2003 and 2004 withdrew $1 coins putting pressure on Western Australia banks. Many others went scrounging for $1 gold coins in casinos hoping to get lucky.
Mr Marshall said the quarantine training arrangement set the stage for an exciting summer of cricket at Adelaide Oval, with a number of events still under negotiation with Cricket Australia.
“We know that Cricket Australia is wanting to get their Sheffield Shield underway, there’s been talk about a hub,” he said.
“We’re also in negotiations with Cricket Australia of course for the Test Series.
SA Cricket Association chief executive Keith Bradshaw said Adelaide Oval could host more cricket than it ever has before this coming summer, despite the pandemic.
“It’s a really challenging summer ahead and yet we potentially could have more content than we’ve ever had in our history,” he said.
“One, two Test matches potentially, some white ball cricket … we’re in negotiations with Cricket Australia for the first four rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket to be played here too.
Players supervised in Adelaide Oval ‘bio-secure zone’
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the players’ movements would be “severely restricted” to ensure they pose no coronavirus transmission risk to the public.
Each player will each have to return a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to train at the oval.
“It will be a very secure environment,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“Their movements are severely restricted but they will still be able to undertake their usual requirements that they would need to remain conditioned, undertaking bowling, batting practise and also in the gym.”
She said the cricketers would have “no contact with the community” and train in “cohorts” of three or four.
SA government weighs relaxing coronavirus restrictions
Meanwhile, South Australia’s COVID-19 Transition Committee has been considering relaxing border restrictions with New South Wales.
The sound of the starter’s pistol cracks the night air, igniting a raucous wave of pent-up expectation from 100,000-plus spectators jammed into the Olympic Stadium.
Clad head-to-toe in a distinctive one-piece costume, Catherine Freeman launches herself from the starting blocks in lane six.
Beaten only once in a final since 1997, she’s the reigning back-to-back 400m world champion and the silver medallist at the last Olympics.
And her most persistent rival over recent years is out, having abandoned her title defence at the 11th hour.
But this determined Indigenous woman has also had to deal with the unbearable burden of favouritism and the relentless scrutiny that comes with that.
A final nagging moment of doubt gives way to a sense of tranquillity and certainty.
“I know how to do this, I can do this in my sleep,” she says, revisiting her thoughts on that Magic Monday 20 years ago. “I can win this, I will win this. Who’s going to stop me? I go, I go and I go.”
‘Like an itch that’s always there’
When Freeman finally pulls up, she unzips the top of her suit and pulls back the hood. Through the corner of her eye, she glances at the stadium video screen now displaying the times.
World record: 47.60, Olympic record: 48:25 and her winning time of 49:11.
As the cheering envelops the stadium, Freeman winces and bites her lip. With a slight shake of the head, she sits down on the track and removes her socks and spikes.
“I looked straight across at the clock and I was disappointed with the time,” she says, recalling an old regret that momentarily hijacked her greatest triumph. “I should have run under 49 and I didn’t. And I knew I had a lot more in me.”
Photographer Brendan Espositio, who now works for the ABC, found himself part of that drama when Pérec tried to make a low-key entrance to the host city just before the start of the games.
He was staking out the airport one morning when he caught sight of her in the distance.
“I’m chasing down the 400 metres Olympic champion and goin’ hell for leather,” he recalls, eventually catching up for long enough to take a few shots before she disappeared into the pre-dawn gloom.
Days later, she packed her bags and left the country after claiming a man had broken in to her hotel room.
“Mademoiselle La Chicken”, read the brutal front page headline in one local newspaper. “Pérec flees before facing Cathy”.
Tripping the flow
Around the time Marita Koch started setting new records, a Canadian teenager was trying to make his own mark as a “very mediocre” 400- and 800-metre runner.
Len Brownlie grew up in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, a prairie city situated on the blustery eastern edge of the Great Plains.
He remembers athletics meetings being as much a contest against the elements as they were a battle between the fittest and fastest.
“Everywhere you went in that city, the wind was always a prevalent factor,” he says on a Zoom call from his office at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “So I developed a pretty healthy respect for wind.”
A degree in science followed, and then a masters. By the time he began his PhD, Brownlie was immersed in the world of kinesiology, the study of the mechanics of body movement.
His thesis, submitted in 1992, was titled “Aerodynamic Characteristics of Sports Apparel” and explored techniques in clothing design that could help downhill skiers, cyclists and runners reduce drag and go faster.
Out of the blue in 1997, Brownlie received a call from a man called Eddy Harber, a Brit who was working as a functional apparel designer for Nike, the sportswear company that helped ignite the jogging craze in the 1970s.
Harber asked if he thought there was any potential to improve sprint performances by tinkering with a runner’s aerodynamics.
“Hell, yeah,” Brownlie replied and with that, the Nike Swift Suit project was born — the body-hugging, drag-resisting garment that Freeman made famous on that September evening in 2000.
Brownlie says he still cries every time he watches a replay of Freeman winning the 400m.
“Partly it’s I’m just so thrilled for her. And also it was, kind of, the completion of my thesis,” he muses. “To actually see it on someone and working was really special.”
To understand what the Nike team was trying to achieve, you should know a little about fluid dynamic drag.
When an object moves, the surrounding gas molecules in the airflow are disturbed and pass around that object forming what is known as a boundary layer.
The point at which the boundary layer separates from the back of the object determines the drag.
Take the case of a runner. As she runs, high air pressure begins to form in front and low air pressure behind.
The difference between the high and low pressure is what’s called pressure drag — which comprises between 90-95 per cent of the total drag.
Less difference in pressure equals less drag which means less energy spent countering the drag, leaving our athlete with the ability to run faster or run for longer.
The remainder is called frictional drag.
With increasing speed, frictional drag stays relatively constant while pressure drag increases.
So most gains in drag reduction are obtained by tackling the pressure differentials.
It turns out that moving objects with smooth surfaces, like skin for instance, create a bigger pressure difference and a larger low pressure wake area behind the runner.
What Brownlie’s wind tunnel testing revealed is that if you cover a smooth cylinder with the right kind of fabric, at the right speed you can drop that drag by as much as 50 per cent.
That is achieved by a process called “tripping the flow”, deliberately switching an orderly air flow into a turbulent one at a point that delays the boundary layer separation. This reduces the pressure differential and the size of the low pressure wake area.
What the wind tunnel tests showed was that — and this may sound a bit crazy — different parts of the body are moving at different velocities.
A pumping arm moves faster than a torso — as do thighs and shins.
The Swift Suit team realised that to effectively minimise drag, they had to treat an athlete’s body as a sum of its parts rather than as a whole.
And that the only way to “trip the flow” was by tweaking different fabric types with different degrees of roughness in a process of trial and error.
Brownlie recalls the eureka moment. It was late one night and he was alone and “twiddling dials” to test different sleeves of fabric, one after another after another on a cylinder in a wind tunnel.
“I still remember — it was [test] number 23 — and suddenly watching the dials, the drag dropped in half, and I went, ‘Ah-ha! That’s the one!'”
And that became the thigh fabric and No. 24 became the calf material.
After testing some 500 combinations, it came down to these combinations, according to Eddie Harber.
For the upper body, which was rated to be moving at 43.4 km/h in a 400m race, and was the slowest of the body parts, the designers used a dense polyester stretch knit with a high lycra content.
The hands, moving at 64.8 km/h, were covered in a smooth, silver-coloured, polyurethane-coated stretch-knit that was designed to counter frictional drag.
For the thighs, moving at 66.3 km/h, the team used a Swiss ski polyester fabric with small dimples all over it. This was the only fabric that was originally designed to be aerodynamic.
The lower leg, moving at 71.2 km/h, was made using a polyester power mesh, a lightweight stretch woven fabric that is breathable and used for its compression abilities.
In this suit, even the seams had to be engineered and placed so as not to interfere with the aerodynamics.
Harber says the team used a three-step zig-zag stitch to join the fabrics, which enabled them to construct the garment with a flat seam that was less likely to disrupt the aerodynamics.
Then for good measure, the seams were either tucked away at the back or aligned according to how wind flows over the body in a race.
By the time the Australian team and Freeman came on board in January 2000, the science had been settled and what remained to be done was to customise the outfit to suit Freeman’s small frame.
Brownlie doesn’t know for certain what was spent, but he has heard a price tag of about $US1 million per suit, given only a handful were offered to members of the US and Australian Olympic teams.
So did it work? Did the Swift Suit help Freeman minimise her drag, preserve her energy and help her slice through air to victory?
Harber believes it was more than just the aerodynamic boost. He says they called it the “double advantage” — the physical advantage afforded by the technology plus the psychological advantage of having the athlete believe in the science.
‘My body is feeling amazing’
The 400m sprint is the second-oldest event of the ancient Olympics. It was called the diaulos and was introduced in the 14th Olympiad of the Greek games.
While the men’s 400m has always been a part of the modern Olympics, it wasn’t until 1964 when a women’s event over that distance was added — and won in that year by Australian Betty Cuthbert.
Although it’s classed as a sprint, the 400m has its own gruelling physical demands.
While speed is important, endurance is also key — and for good reason, it has sometimes been called the “killer event”.
In preparing for the 400m, athletes regularly push themselves to train their bodies to tolerate and manage the lactic acid build-up enabling them to maintain a higher intensity of effort for longer.
Freeman’s coach Peter Fortune, who is credited with convincing her to switch to the longer sprint, reckons that to be successful, a top tier 400m runner needs the X factor.
And he saw that in Freeman, soon after he took over as her coach in 1990.
By 2000, she was unquestionably the best 400m runner in the world and she got there by running to a race plan, a simple plan, that she had worked out with Fortune.
And it was the same race plan they used for the final, one that Fortune had jotted down on a piece of paper as a visual reminder.
1. Fast start for 50m, no longer
It was based around the interplay of three key energy systems that a 400m runner draws on for their stamina. And these different systems are also why a runner can’t run flat out for the entire distance.
Muscle activity, such as physical exercise, relies on a source of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
This is delivered using a chemical fuel stored in the muscles called creatine-phosphate (CP). But this source is only good for a quick burst of energy which, for a 400m runner, covers the first 30 to 50 metres.
“I believe that you start fast. The system really allows you an initial five or six seconds,” explains Fortune. “People sometimes try to run out too fast and [if that happens] most people will fatigue [too early].”
So I’m out of the blocks, over the first 30 metres and it’s a case of doing exactly what I know I need to do.
I’m feeling sharp, I’m not having a lot of contact on the ground, my body is feeling amazing.
– Cathy Freeman
2. Move from very fast to fast relaxed to the 200m mark
By now Freeman’s CP stores are depleting and her anaerobic glycolysis system will take over. A form of energy storage called glycogen becomes the dominant supplier of ATP.
For most runners, the second 100 is the fastest one — as it is for Freeman.
But this is the tricky part, according to Fortune. Good runners need to be able to dial down the intensity so they are running easily as opposed to running hard.
Maintain leg velocity
“It’s relaxing the legs, body just to be turning over rather than driving,” he says. “The idea is to get to 200 metres almost fatigue free.”
I feel like I’m being protected.
My ancestors were the first people to walk on this land. It’s a really powerful force. Those other girls were always going to have to come up against, you know, my ancestors.
– Cathy Freeman
3. Pick-up on bend a little to make sure of my position
“I’ve often said the event starts at the start, but I think the race actually starts at about 200 metre mark,” says Fortune.
Freeman is still running on the energy supplied by the anaerobic glycolysis system. But it’s around this point that lactic acid accumulated as a by-product of this process, begins causing muscle fatigue.
As the runner’s come through the final bend into the final straight, there’s a collective moment of a split-second of dread.
Freeman is trailing and Channel Seven commentator Bruce McAveney calls it: “[Jamaica’s Lorraine] Graham’s in front of her. Freeman’s got work.”
Nobody’s making a move. I’m waiting, I’m waiting for that challenge. Lorraine looks like she’s actually in the lead, I can feel that she doesn’t think that she can win this race, not this one, not tonight. This is my moment, 80 metres to go.
For the first time I feel the stadium, I feel the people, I feel their energy, I feel like I’m being carried.
– Cathy Freeman
4. Go hard from 120m to go and hold form to the finish line
While glycogen is still the main fuel source, the intake of oxygen is about to trigger the aerobic system to kick in and become the main supplier of ATP.
“[Now] you apply your last real effort … and often then the race is won by the one who controls their last hundred metres the best,” says Fortune.
As the field enters the home stretch mark, 83.39m from the finish, the timer reads 37.2 and Freeman is still second or third but gaining.
Powerful driving arms and legs
Only three women can now win this race: Freeman in lane 6, Lorraine Graham in lane 4 or Briton Katharine Merry in lane 3.
It takes Freeman 15 loping strides in a 4-second burst to pull ahead. Twenty-six steps later she crosses the finishing line, comfortably ahead of Graham in second place.
And the moment I’m airborne across the line I think to myself for the first time, so this is what it feels like to be an Olympic champion.
I can’t even hear a thing except just this incredible, dense, thick, impenetrable energy and noise, that is almost too much to bear.
Cathy Freeman smiles after winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, AAP: Dean Lewis
Marita Koch at the 1984 East German Athletics Championships, Supplied: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0402-025 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Marie-José Pérec winning gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Reuters: Action Images
To mark the twentieth anniversary of her Olympic gold medal, Cathy Freeman gives a rare and deeply personal account of her path to glory in Freeman, a new documentary which premieres on Sunday, September 13 at 7:40pm on ABC + iview. All the quotes in this story from Freeman come from the documentary.
After facing weeks of condemnation over its proposal to penalise those responsible with bonus cuts instead of dismissals, the mining giant’s board finally bowed to pressure on Friday and announced CEO Jean-Seabstien Jacques, iron ore boss Chris Salisbury and corporate affairs boss Simone Niven would depart the company within the next six months.
Following the appointment of Australian director Simon McKeon as Rio’s senior independent director, Mr Silk said he expected this to be a first step in ensuring a “more Australian-focused” board that had greater sensitivity to Australia and its cultural identity.
Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald the board felt it was now more important than ever to have greater representation in Australia and engagement with local stakeholders.
The world’s second largest miner, which is dual-listed on the Australia and London stock exchanges, has drawn criticism from investors and politicians for years amid accusations it has been disengaged from Australia, where its iron ore operations make up more than 90 per cent of group profits.
Future Fund chairman Peter Costello recently discussed with Mr Thompson the need to remove the executives held responsible for Juukan Gorge and expressed concerns about Rio’s leadership being based outside of Australia. When he was federal treasurer, Mr Costello set requirements for BHP to base its operations and executive leadership team in Australia after the miner merged with Billiton in 2001. Conditions set by former prime minister Paul Keating on Rio Tinto’s 1995 merger with CRA failed to ensure leadership would be kept mainly Australian.
WA’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister and the nation’s first Indigenous treasurer, Ben Wyatt, on Friday suggested the lack of local representation on Rio Tinto’s board had contributed to the Juukan Gorge catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), which was among the investor groups to pressure Rio for greater sanctions, said Friday’s accountability measures provided the company the opportunity to address cultural heritage and risk processes “with fresh eyes”. ACSI chief Louise Davidson said she was pleased to see recognition that the board must increase its connection with Australian operations and communities.
“This work will be ongoing and must be a feature of future appointments to the board,” she said.
The $52 billion super fund HESTA also welcomed the changes but cautioned they must not distract from the need for an independent review of all Rio Tinto’s agreements with traditional owners.
“The nature of these agreements and how they are negotiated represents a systemic risk for investors that will not be mitigated by executive changes,” chief executive Debby Blakey said.
The blasting of the Juukan Gorge was legally sanctioned as part of a long-planned expansion of Rio’s Brockman 4 iron ore mine, but it went against the wishes of the traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people, who said they were shocked and left devastated.
Rio Tinto has acknowledged that multiple failures in its communication with the traditional owners could have prevented the debacle.
Former Rio insiders have laid blame squarely on Mr Jacques, who overhauled the structure of the Aboriginal relations function when he became CEO in 2016, including shifting responsibility to a London-headquartered corporate affairs department.
Start the day with major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion from our leading business journalists delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the Herald‘s here and The Age‘s here.
Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
As the sands of the global geopolitical landscape continue to rapidly shift amid coronavirus and the subsequent economic crisis, fault lines in trade and diplomatic relationships have returned to the forefront once more.
For well over a decade, federal governments from both the major parties have insisted that Australia could continue to walk the fine line between its security relationship with the US and its strong trade ties with China.
But now, as Australia’s trade relationship with Beijing continues to deteriorate, Canberra is increasingly looking to reduce its heavy economic dependence on exports to China.
Recently it was announced that the Morrison government would be seeking veto powers of all public deals with foreign nations, including existing agreements made by state governments and universities.
It is expected that the Morrison government will likely use the new powers to terminate the Victorian state government’s participation in China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.
This initiative is Beijing’s global infrastructure program designed to link China to the world and foster the spread of Chinese influence.
The Morrison government’s actions are likely to further agitate a Beijing that is already frustrated with Canberra’s increasing acts of defiance.
As tensions continue to flare across the Indo-Pacific, Australia is not the only nation looking for alternatives to help ensure the stability and security of vital supply chains.
It was recently revealed that India, Japan and Australia were moving toward a trilateral effort to ensure global supply chains and reduce their dependence on China, with the prospective pact to be called the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI).
Informal talks between New Delhi and Tokyo have been ongoing for around a month, according to economists with knowledge of the ongoing dialogue.
Australia has not yet formally agreed to join the initiative, but talks are ongoing say sources in New Delhi and Tokyo.
Beyond increasing trade between India, Japan and Australia, the initiative may have wider scope, according to Mark Goh, National University of Singapore Business School professor and director at the Logistics Institute-Asia Pacific.
“Japan has a manufacturing presence in India, traditionally through the automotive sector. While India sees this as an opportunity to enter Australia and Japan through their pharmaceuticals, and serve as a hub for Australian and Japanese products into the Middle East and Africa, which should temper China’s trading presence in that part of the world,” said Goh.
He went on to speculate that the initiative could eventually come to include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Unlike a garden variety trade agreement which can sometimes take over a decade to be put into place, the Japanese government is eager to bring this initiative to life as quickly as possible. With sources stating that Tokyo was in favour of launching the initiative as early as November.
Australia and India are also wasting no time, with Canberra and New Delhi coming to an agreement to work together to diversify their supply chains earlier this year.
As part of the Japanese government’s stimulus package to drive an economic recovery from the pandemic, $AUD3 billion has been set aside to incentivise Japanese companies to shift their production out of China.
Last month $AUD746 million in subsidies were offered to 57 companies to invest in production in Japan, with a further 30 companies offered subsidies to invest in operations in various South East Asian nations.
The incident is reminiscent of the missile tests and provocative missile launches undertaken by North Korea over the past few decades, rather than the normal displays of strength analysts have come to expect from Beijing.
THE ROAD AHEAD?
With the geopolitical landscape continuing to evolve with each passing day, Australia now finds itself at a crossroads that may help define its economy’s future.
On the road behind us, a problematic and heavy reliance on a single at times belligerent trade partner consuming almost half of all Australia’s exports.
On the road ahead, the opportunity to become a founding part of a pact that could potentially alter the global balance of economic power and begin to reduce Australia’s reliance on Beijing to drive its economy
AUSTRALIA’S UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY
Australia likes to remind the world its own importance, that our little corner of the South Pacific matters to global affairs. With the advent of this potential pact, it may get that chance.
Australia may have a unique opportunity in its midst to seize control of its destiny on a global stage, to become a founding part of something greater.
This in turn could drive the recovery of our economy and begin to reduce our dependence on Beijing once and for all.
Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and social commentator | @TarricBrooker