Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It's Christmas time, and Santa's little elf has good reason to be satisfied with himself. 

Christopher Pyne's advertising campaign's a real treat!

But I'm not sure we will be hearing much about our forces in the Middle East this Christmas. 

Who ever thought anyone would be nostalgic for TK?

As this article for the Canberra Times suggests. 

Merry Christmas. You don't have to believe in anything to enjoy the presents . . . 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


NOBODY can be sure exactly how the terrible actions of a deranged lone gunman in Sydney will play out.

The "National Security Cabinet" is meeting as I write this . . . why, I'm not sure.

Image courtesy The Australian 

I'd actually begun writing this column some time ago.

It's not about terror, or Martin Place, at all.

It's really about what we're doing - or rather, not doing - in Iraq.

SAS soldiers - image from Herald Sun

There are certainly no troops fighting against Daesh, at any rate.

I had to rewrite the column to reflect the events in Sydney. It's a pity that those events have meant the impact of the piece will inevitably be diluted . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


We want to buy a new submarine.

The only question is; which one?

A French nuclear submarine - one we won't be getting

The problem is the government won't share any of its thinking about the project.

And this is not the only area where the government's failed to explain its thinking, as this column for todays Canberra Times pointed out . . .

Saturday, November 29, 2014


It's certainly not my ABC.

I think it's Scott's, personally.

My ABC . . .

A CEO needs to believe in his vision. After years of being told he's correct, he inevitably grows until he believes his vision is the only correct one. He stops reflecting the desires of the shareholders/stakeholders, because he knows - or thinks he knows - what's needed.

Scott's certainly not reflecting the desires of the government, as this column for today's Canberra Times makes clear . . .

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


This column reads a little more hysterically than I felt when composing it. It puts a case, rather than representing my considered opinion.

A G20 debacle

But this does seem to be where our politics is currently, as I wrote in the Canberra Times . . .

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Russians are going!

Every now and then - well, regularly, actually - a story comes along that makes me wonder about journalism. 

Last week's surprise was the reports of a Russian 'fleet' off the coast of northern Australia. 

Fairfax stoops to report the scare

The ships arrival was greeted with shock and awe.

Personally I preferred the cartoon adds embedded in this desperate attempt at whipping up a story out of nothing.

But guess what? Today they've gone home. So what did it all mean? What was it all about? I suspect the answers to those two questions are "nothing" and "not much" respectively. Although you can swap the answers around if you prefer.

Another link to the non-story. Now even the press realise it was always rubbish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Does the Bishop speak Ex Cathedra?

The labels have been checked and updated.

It appears that Iran's Qasem Soleimani is, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, a sponsor of terror.

This would be the same Soleimani that our ally, Iraq, is embracing?

Why yes, it is . . .

Is the US still Number One?

The Kokoda Foundation is a great Aussie think-tank dealing with Defence issues. But that doesn't make it infallible.

Was Paul speaking ex cathedra?

The estimable Professor Paul Dibb has just put out a Kokoda paper (reviewed by the equally estimable Cameron Stewart in the Oz) , in conjunction with John Lee, arguing that a great deal of hype accompanies the assertions that China is overtaking the US as a military power.

No argument there.

China's military does lack modern combat experience and have major deficiencies in doctrine.

My difficulty lies with his linking this to the assertion that therefore China "is not now or foreseeably a strategic peer of America". That's a big call.

And, as I'm sure the Professor would admit, this doesn't necessarily mean that Beijing couldn't (either) achieve local superiority or severely compromise Washington's ability to act as it chooses.

If Beijing thinks it's a big power, it will act as one. And who knows what might happen in future . . .

PS - Like Kokoda, here's another view of China's economy. The headline suggests China's soaring past the US, but if you read down you'll see the rise is not inexorable. Change is the only constant and nothing is certain . . . except that journo's love good headlines.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


The big question is how to help create a stable future for Iraq. 

We're trying to do it with troops. 

Mentoring Afghanis

Is that the right way? I examined some of the issues involved in this article for the Canberra Times . . . 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


This is a story about institutions. Changing cultures. 

When he eventually gets around to writing his book it will prove a fascinating business insight into how to introduce change. 

Morrison - the YouTube that made him famous

This is a piece I did for ASPI's Strategist after seeing him preform at the ANU's National Security College . . . 

Saturday, November 8, 2014


We don't hear much about it. It would be easy to think Australia isn't at war.

Preparing the Super Hornets at AMAB

Bit the RAAF contingent in the Middle East are engaged in a war every day and night.

This is an attempt to tell part of their story.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The US-backed anti-ISIS Syrian coalition in the Middle East seems to be falling apart.

Perhaps we should have always realised that proxies are unlikely to be able to win.

Will he die for you?

Should we really be surprised?

Moderates don't normally win wars - they win elections. The problem resides in Washington. The idea that US support can somehow be enough to transform a selected rebel group into a victorious national identity is a fraud . . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


What class are you?

And shouldn't an Australian Governor General be flying Qantas?

A Singapore Bed - I could cope!

On his recent trip to Dubai Cosgrove travelled business.

It's very different to the way things happened under Labor, as I wrote in the Canberra Times . . .

Saturday, November 1, 2014


So what will happen when the approval is finally given for our troops to enter Iraq.

One hint - it won't be quick.

It's unlikely we'll see diggers fighting like this

This piece for the Canberra Times examined why the war is unlikely to be over by Christmas . . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


From close up the airpower in the Middle East is very impressive.

A terrific photo taken by some brilliant RAAF photographers last night

But, as I ask in my Tuesday column for the Canberra Times, is that going to be enough?


The second surprise for the forces is an early Christmas present.

"Better alignment of leave provisions to make it more equitable amongst the forces."

Look who's laughing now

Not everyone feels quite the same way, as this news story for the Canberra Times pointed out . . .


The first blow was late Christmas present.

Some soldiers in the Middle East Area of Operations had their allowances cut.

HMAS Parramatta in the Gulf

I'm not getting involved in the argument about how dangerous it is to be at any particular location - this is simply about the issue of what the cuts to the allowances were all about.

It's in the Canberra Times Defence Supplement . . .

Sunday, October 26, 2014


 I wrote this after reading Peter Leahy's piece on the 'Long War' for ASPI. 

Peter Leahy at ASPI

It's worth reading. 

But also read the penultimate paragraph of this story. 

It's important we don't forget that this war isn't entirely the fault of interpretations of Islam, as I wrote it the Canberra Times . . . 

Friday, October 24, 2014


I wrote this piece for the Strategist some time ago, while I was waiting to find out more on Iraq.

Peter Leahy's article

It looks at the vital strategic context of the war . . . 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Craig Orme's last job was in charge of the Defence College.

The new one's in charge of the forces in the MEAO.

Craig Orme in AMAB

More importantly, he's been here on four occasions in the last four decades.

I did this profile for Tuesday's Canberra Times . . .

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The MEAO - Middle East Area of Operations. 

RAAF Super Hornets in the MEAO courtesy News Ltd

Sorry I didn't get this posted up earlier. I'd temporarily 'lost connectivity'. 

This is my Saturday Canberra Times column, dealing with Iraq . . .  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ethical Investing

The ANU started it.

The university issued a simple statement stating that it would, in future, be investing its money ethically. The uni named some mining and resources companies, including Santos, from which it would divest.

Australian Ethical Super

Unfortunately it appears someone didn't do their homework. The Fin carries a story today suggesting that the named companies - and particularly Santos - are, in fact, very ethical investments.

Another story coincidently noted that the big four accountancy firms have issued a statement of support for the Beijing government. They called for students to stop protests calling for more democracy in Hong Kong.

I wonder how they would justify, ethically, why they felt so compelled to tell the students what to do? What moral code is at work here?

Or are they just more worried about the financial viability of their mainland operations?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Daesh, ISIL, ISIS, and now, bizarrely, "Daish"

"What's in a name," pondered Juillet.

Of course the moral of her story is that alliegance or belonging - want to or not - to a particular cause or group is everything.

ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh?

Media outlets around the world are attempting, incoherently, to come to some view on what the group fighting in the state formerly known as Iraq should be called.

News that it's now begun fighting Iran suggests that it's not a genuine "Islamic State".

That's why I made the decision, some weeks ago, to call it Daesh. So have most reputable media outlets.

Oh, and by the way, the ABC might note it's been the only organisation stupid and incompetant enough to spell the word "Daish". I remember when it used to be an authoritative news outlet.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Normally no one cares less about a book. Publish and be dammed. 

But sometimes books are weapons . . . political weapons. 

Even if they appear to be driven by personal motives, they can have a very political effect. 

That's probably the case with these two, recently published books (one of which Rudd described as a "work of fiction"), as I wrote in the Canberra Times . . . 

Friday, September 26, 2014


Bombing is not a strategy. It is simply one way of achieving your objectives. 

This is something the West appears to have lost sight of. 

Arming planes on the USS George Washington

At the Chief of Army's conference this week it was the military men who appeared to understand war far better than the politicians, as this column for the Canberra Times explained . . . 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Triumph & Demise

I've finally got a moment to begin reading Paul Kelly's Triumph & Demise.

It's brilliant.

But there's still hope for the likes of more pedestrian authors like myself. I opened it at p102, his (Kelly's) account of the Gillard/Rudd pact to destroy Beazley. Surprisingly, I feel, although he details Rudd's visit to Melbourne to address the Left at Lygon Street (an important step in gaining support from this quarter) he doesn't even mention the meeting between the two leadership aspirants on the NSW North Coast where they sealed their pact. This was the point at which the two actually reached their agreement that Rudd would be the boss.

Also, on p105 he says Chris Evans became the "future treasurer and Senate leader". Well, it's not often that we've had a Treasurer in the upper house and I don't actually think Evans did become treasurer. And there are a few other infelicitous sentences.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not being picky and nor am I suggesting there are gaps or sloppiness in the work. It's excellent. The point is that everything is the product of a person.

Witnessing the fact that Kelly remains a mortal offers hope to those of us who are more pedestrian writers and analysts. We should be thrilled that each of us can aim to achieve Kelly's heights.

A Borderless World?

In 1984 I was part of Exercise Lionheart, the (until then) biggest UK Armoured deployment anywhere since the Second World War.

Then, in 1989, the wall began to fall.

It almost looked as if war and borders were a thing of the past. 

In Singapore in the mid 90's I remember the enthusiasm that greeted the great, uniting, "European Project".

Today things are different. Everywhere - from East Timor to Scotland - we see increasing demand for self determination.

But that's why it's so important to take the long view, as this great column from the Financial Times does.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The best answers come from continual questioning, rather than answers.

That's my conclusion, anyway, after reading some books; as I wrote in the Canberra Times today:

Friday, September 19, 2014


THIS column isn't interesting, but it is important. Perhaps more surprisingly, it's based on an original thought.

It's about the need to keep the Services vibrant.

It shouldn't be a job for life

Becoming an officer in the military is still one of the few careers to which you're expected to make a life-long commitment.

As I said in this piece in Saturday's Canberra Times, I don't think that works for either the services or the individuals . . .

Monday, September 15, 2014


The lovely thing about living in a secure democracy is that I can have a go at the retiring head of ASIO. This wouldn't be wise in much of the world. 

The official photo

I had another think about what I wrote the other day and realise I was far too harsh on David Irvine. 

He was trapped with nowhere to go when he said things that were then taken out of context by the journo's. 

I really wasn't intending to impugn him. And it's great he's spoken to the media. May Duncan Lewis do the same, more often. 

Anyway, this was my take on the issues raised in his retiring interview last week, as it appeared in the Canberra Times. . . 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


So, outgoing ASIO Boss David Irvine reckons things are dangerous, very dangerous.

Welcome to today's world.

Irvine at the National Press Club

The real issue is how do we protect our society.

Raising the threat level, from "amber" to "red" is a pathetic, ridiculous and a bizarre way of dealing with the problem. It's difficult to treat such a vague and general "warning" as anything other than a clear indication Irvine is dealing with something that's utterly beyond him.

ASIO (supposedly) provides us with actionable intelligence. What we need is a clear warning of what might happen, why, and what we can do to avoid it's occurrence. If that can't be offered, suggest other strategies that might actually work. It's not good enough just to cry "wolf". I can do that myself.

After watching Irvine the other night, it's difficult not to suspect that whatever the answer to domestic terrorism is, it won't come from ASIO.

What other ways of de-radicalising potential terrorists are there?

How about this?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Has growth come to a stop? 

Is this the real problem behind our current political dysfunction? 

Did this ever look plausible? 

So why is this any more credible today?

The single-most critical question in Australia is if our political system really is broken. 

I believe it is. 

However, as I suggest in this article in today's Canberra Times I believe it's more than just this. I think the economic system's broken as well . . .

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Shifting profits to avoid tax is hardly novel. 

What is new is that something's being done about it. 

One: Bono, Condi Rice, Facebook, etc

That's why it's particularly sad when we fall back into the old left/right way of analysing things. 

There's good and bad on both sides, as this report for the Canberra Times sought to point out . . . 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Flying  is marvellous . . . I love it. 

That moment of sheer delight as you fly over Sydney Harbour or walk into the airline lounge with the anticipation of the flight ahead. 

flying - wonder

It means a lot to me and that's why Qantas means a lot to me too, as this column for the Canberra Times points out . . . 

Saturday, August 30, 2014


What skills make a cyber-general?

Not this. 

St Patrick's Day
with the Irish Guards

I entered the words, "Steve Day Army" into Google search, and this picture of the Irish Guards on St Patrick's Day jumped back at me.

Perhaps it is worth knowing something about cyber issues after all, as this article for the Canberra Times last Saturday suggested . . . 

WAR, AGAIN . . .

The urging is specific, immediate and urgent.

Unless we intervene in Iraq now, they say, something terrible will happen.

The Islamic State at work

What, worse than this?

I'd enjoy reading the intelligence assessment that says the deployment of 12, 18 or even 24 Super hornets with ancillary supports will make any difference to what's happening on the ground, as I wrote in today's Canberra Times . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I often provide advice. It's not always taken.

Tony Abbott needs to listen

Nevertheless, I keep trying and today I used my soapbox on the Canberra Times to offer a bit of helpful advice to the PM . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Hockey's absolutely right, but for the wrong reason.

Hockey wins the prize
courtesy News Ltd

At least a fuel tax, like any consumption tax, forces people to pay. Deductions for negative gearing and investing allow them to escape paying tax on income while halving the rate of tax on capital gains is just a lurk. 

This column for the Canberra Times attempts some analysis . . . 

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I don't normally write obituaries, but I don't normally meet someone like Pierre Ryckmans. 

Pierre Ryckmans in Canberra
Courtesy of The Australian

Because of lack of space I was unable to highlight so many of the remarkable aspects of this brilliant, acute analyst in this piece written for the Canberra Times . . . 


The pictures are terrible. No one can argue about that.

Refugees in Iraq

So what to do? Wring our hands? Deploy force?

The point of this column for the Canberra Times is simply to suggest that war has changed and the old idea of sending in bombers is as irrelevant today as the idea of sending in a gunboat to over-awe the natives . . . 

Monday, August 11, 2014


And not the solution.

The brilliant photo that caught 
the Treasurer

Enjoy a cigar by all means - but make certain you've done the work first.

Hockey hasn't - as this column for the Canberra Times made clear . . .

Saturday, August 9, 2014


We've got to understand China - any way we can.

The cover of 
Steve Lewis & Chris Ulhmann's book 

And doing so sometimes requires desperate measures . . . like reading fiction. 

This column in today's Canberra Times is a shameless plug for my friends' book . . . 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


The real problem Tony Abbott's having is that this isn't a truly liberal government.

There's no underlying, unifying philosophy knitting his policies together.

Puzzled? Yes. 
Is it all a bit too much for him? Probably. 

This column for the Canberra Times examines the grab bag of policies that was the budget . . . and why it doesn't compute.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Buying Into War

Nobody should want to pick a fight. Least of all us.

Yet this is, it seems, exactly what Australia is doing.

This Canberra Times column asks if Tony Abbott is acting in Australia's interests or being cleverly manipulated by Shinzo Abe . . .

Friday, July 18, 2014


Things are getting pretty dysfunctional in Canberra. 

Our Clive, courtesy of the AFR

The attention's been focussed on Clive Palmer . . . but that's a problem for Tony Abbott. 

It's becoming obvious that power no longer resides with the PM, an issue explored in this column for the Canberra Times . . . 

Monday, July 7, 2014


Soon we'll have a bright new Defence White Paper.

But it's this man who'll probably have most to say about our security.

Prabowo looking Presidential

Prabowo looking Commanding

This column for the Canberra Times considered the link between the two issues . . .