Rugby world cup opening ceremony

Prime Minister John Howard formally opened the World Cup, and in his speech mentioned those who had died in the Bali bombings, many of whom were rugby players. In his speech he mentioned the victims of the Bali bombing, many of whom were rugby players of both codes who were either on tour or celebrating the end of the Australian season. The significance if this speech is great as Mr. Howard's next point of travel was Bali where he would spend time with the victim's relatives and reflect on the events of October 12, 2002. During his opening address he commented on the Bali victims who had taken part in the sport of rugby union.

To recognize these victims on the world stage was a memorable but emotional moment with the one year anniversary only a couple of days away. This served as a reminder to the world of the Bali incident and how we as Australians through leader felt passionately about the incident in that we felt the need to reflect on it on the world stage was appropriate and required. Mr. Howard's speech stated the tragic ironies of how when the bombing took place, players were celebrating the end of their domestic season and a year on players are celebrating the start of a world gathering of rugby.

The Prime Minister's presence and opening of the ceremony also demonstrates the harmony between the nation and its leader in front of the world. Despite some minor jeers that have possible significance as his popularity may not be overwhelming and some feel they need to expose this on the world stage. Mr. Howard was met and farewelled with a great sound of cheers and clamors within the stadium. Another factor outside of popularity was his choice of words.

In reflecting on the Bali massacre he comforted and pleased many people associated with the tragic event, as he wanted to let the entire world to be aware of the importance and feeling towards the massacre. The Prime Ministers performance was significant as once again he exposed our identity to the world as a caring, conscience and reflecting nation. The events that transpired in his travels may have been great in securing a prosperous and secure future for Australia as a nation, but his address to the world was great in increasing our global identity and gaining further respect from the world.

* APEC NEGOTIATIONS AND AUSTRALIA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE USA IN COMPARISON TO ITS ASIAN NEIGHBOURS The APEC conference in Thailand and recent comments by ASEAN leaders have again raised questions about Australia's place in Asia. In the past weeks Prime Minister John Howard had to clarify Australia's relationship with its Asian neighbours. First he had to hose down comments by US President George W Bush that he viewed Australia as the region's "sheriff", which did not play well with our South East Asian neighbours.

Then Singapore's leader said Australia would not be accepted in the region until its population was more that 50 per cent non-white, reinforcing fears that Australia would be excluded from a regional free trade block. Mr Howard described as "absurd" that Australian immigration policy would be changed to favor Asians. Questions about where Australia's future lies came as the leaders of two of the world's most powerful nations, the United States and China, made historic addresses to Australia's parliament last month. Does Australia need to do more to improve its image in the Asia-Pacific region?

Should relations with the US be paramount? If Australia is excluded from an Asian trading block, where does our future lie? Does it really matter if Australia is not linked to one power or trading block? The APEC negotiations were significant in the number of events that transpired, the major event regarding Australia was a long term acceptance into APEC thus securing Australia's political as well as trading ties with the ever growing south east Asia for many years. After four days of barbs, there was no eye contract between John Howard and Malaysia's PM.

Dr Mahathir is, like other Asian leaders, worried that this meeting's economic agenda is being hijacked by President Bush and his push for a greater military role in the region. For that, the Americans make no apology. * THE USA AND CHINA VISIT AUSTRALIA The recent simultaneous visits of US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao created considerable hype in Australia. These were important visits for all nations concerned. But they were part of the Asia-wide round up after the Bangkok APEC summit.

It was, nevertheless, projected by Canberra as some sort of Houdini-like achievement to have the leaders of the world's most powerful and most populated country visiting Australia at the same time. The first thing to note is that US is Australia's security ally. Canberra's commitment to the US is undisputed and unquestioned. However, Sino-US relations are chugging along, with international terrorism overriding all other US concerns. Beijing is quietly expanding its political and economic space with an international profile.

Its charm offensive has also captivated Canberra, further reinforced by the lure of a seemingly limitless market in China for its gas and other raw materials. During Hu's visit, another large contract for the supply of gas from Australia over many years was announced. This was significant as it secured a large content of gas supply for Australia for many years to come. At a political level, Canberra sees an advantage in cultivating ties with China to neutralize its image in Asia as the US "sheriff. " Its growing relationship with China tends to validate its Asian credentials.

There is quiet confidence in Canberra that it can simultaneously develop and manage its relations with Washington and Beijing. China is already Australia's fourth largest and fastest growing export market, estimated at about A$18 billion (US$12. 7 billion) a year. Hu told the Australian parliament that the scope for economic ties between the two countries was immense. How will Canberra manage this difficult task of reconciling its growing economic stakes with China and security alliance with the US? The hope is that Canberra might not have to make this choice, at least not for quite a while. North Korea is a flashpoint.

Here again the hope is that Beijing shares US and Australian concerns on Pyongyang's nuclear threat and will play a constructive role to contain, manage and resolve the crisis. In other words, as long as Sino-US relations are manageable, Australia will be fine with its simultaneous political equation with China and the US. But there is an underlying strategic rivalry between the US and China. The US focus on terrorism and the need for Chinese cooperation might have pushed this to one side, but China remains its "strategic competitor. " To this end, the US is determined not to let any other rival power threaten it militarily.

This suggests there are problems ahead in the short and long term. For instance, the US is going ahead with its missile defense plan, which includes Japan and Australia as regional points. China regards this as directed against it. Australia is also increasingly being integrated into US strategic planning, including some of its major defense purchases from the US. It hosts American facilities, and there is talk of even greater access for US forces in Australian territory. Against such overriding security imperatives, Canberra might not have much choice but to side with the US in any high-stakes game for power.