Peter Costello's throwaway reference to Kevin Rudd's fluency in Chinese is more revealing than his empty contribution to the Chinalco - Rio discussion.
Peter Costello's piece in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald on Chinalco's bid for a substantial stake in Rio Tinto raised some interesting points.
Strangely, he avoided what many regard as the biggest issue of the bid - whether Chinalco, as an enterprise wholly owned by the Chinese government will be a conventional investor seeking conventional returns, or a stooge serving the Chinese hunger for secure and well priced resources.
It's a classic oversight from a man with a history of blindspots. Costello managed to serve at the top of John Howard's government for more than a decade without a plainly argued analysis on issues like the Iraq War, children overboard, mandatory detention etc etc. It's like certain parts of the man's brain have been removed. Paul Keating's description of Costello as "all tip and no iceberg" nailed him.
I found something else in the article more objectionable than this omission though. Costello writes, "The ultimate decision on whether this proposal will be allowed under Australia's foreign ownership laws must be made by the Treasurer. Our Chinese-speaking Prime Minister will undoubtedly favour the proposal."
The Liberal Party's disgust at Kevin Rudd's fluency in Mandarin has been festering since Rudd was the Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesman. Downer could not disguise his contempt for the idea that his opposite could converse with the Chinese in their language. Now, once again, perhaps one of the most truly impressive things about Rudd is turned against him in an appeal to the most shameful of Australian failures - our monolingual and monocultural superstructure in a raucous multilingual and multicultural nation and region.
The implication of Costello's line is that Kevin Rudd's Chinese language skill distinguishes him from the rest Australia's monolingual white mass and somehow compromises his capacity to make decisions in Australia's best interests when engaging China. It's a line that would have flowed smoothly from the mouth of Pauline Hansen and her cohorts.
Kevin Rudd's knowledge of China and the Chinese language are great assets to Australia and a great example to future generations. Impugning him for this special talent is the work of the most base political operatives.
Also see - If you don't speak English, don't speak at all