Thoughts (An update)

18 December, 2006

Thoughts on a number of key current issues:

Fiji – I am tired of the Australian government and media’s handling of the Fiji situation. I believe that history will eventually show what many of us who watch the Pacific scene already know, that Laisenia Qarase’s government was corrupt and racist, and was on the cusp of freeing George Speight, the guy who ran the last coup when his business interests weren’t being served by the new Labour government in 2000. People seem to forget too quickly that the hero of that situation was none other than Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who restored order and democracy in record time considering the bizarre circumstances. In my view, he has acted honourably in this matter and with a genuine view to fixing intractable problems that the constitution and democracy have proved useless in resolving (Qarase ignored the constitution for years in refusing to allow Opposition members to sit on Cabinet). The constitution Bainimarama has suspended was decried in the West as a racist document at the time of its formation, yet now the West (including Australia and, surprisingly, New Zealand) are condemning Bainimarama’s suspension of that very constitution. Alexander Downer’s incitements to violence from the floor of the Australian Parliament under parliamentary privilege, rightly criticised by the Commodore, show a government in this country that has as much respect for the rule of law and international diplomacy as they showed during the Iraq war. I think the coup is the best thing to happen for Fiji in some time, I only hope that the Commodore can control the actions of his men. One of my friends has refused to cancel her holiday there and from recent emails, seems to be enjoying the sunshine and the hospitality, cuisine and culture of the local people.

Rudd – Kevin Rudd has so far lived up to my expectations. While I don’t agree with some of the things he is putting forward, the fact he is putting forward a solid platform of ideas and benchmarks on a range of issues across the political and economic spectrum is the most positive thing the Federal Opposition has done since it lost the 1998 election. Howard is still a skilled operator and one mustn’t underestimate him, but I think Labor is really in with a chance in 2007. My own views on politics are that no party should be in too long at any level – especially if no serious opposition exists (as in WA at present), governments have a tendency to become complacent and arrogant. It happens to both Labor and Liberal governments and is symptomatic of the increasing polarisation of Australian politics and the weaknesses of the two-party system which mean it has to be one or the other, rather than the superior European systems which, although not always granting stable majorities, are true to the people’s wishes and ensure that politicians have to listen to more than simply their own constituency in the electorate.

Iraq Study Group – This was worth a full post when it came out but I was otherwise occupied. The actual report (519k PDF) is well worth a read, but basically it says what we’ve all known for years and requires something of a backflip by Bush in order to succeed – one that I sadly doubt is forthcoming. Colin Powell‘s statement broadly in support of the ISG report, that “it’s grave and deteriorating, and we’re not winning, we are losing”, is critical, but if he wasn’t listened to when in power, all this will do is persist in convincing a largely-convinced electorate that their president is aloof and out of touch with reality.

For more on Iraq, some very interesting comments at Didge – The View From Down Under.

Palm Island – Quick one. Why should murder or manslaughter be ignored by the law because the perpetrator is a police officer and the victim is an Aboriginal not being held for any major offence? This is a day of shame for the Beattie government in Queensland.


Sense has prevailed.

4 December, 2006

It appears we have a new Opposition Leader.

It also appears that for the second time I’ve been right well in advance about the Labor leadership – in late 2001 I forecast at a time when he was not even in contention that Latham would be the next Labor leader (we’ll conveniently let that bit slide about me predicting he’d be the next Labor PM – I can’t be right all the time!) I’ve been predicting a Beazley->Rudd shift for most of this year, although I was starting to think it would never happen. My predictive abilities once won me a Hungry Jacks whopper for foreseeing the short-term end of One.Tel in Sep 2000 when it was still (publicly) doing well.

Anyway, enough of my semi-serious grandstanding. The party was getting stale and didn’t know where it was going under Beazley. He’s tried and failed twice before, and to be honest, I found myself only reluctantly supporting Labor after Beazley regained the leadership. The only inspired comments I have heard coming from Labor in recent months have been from the backbench and from Kevin Rudd and Lindsay Tanner, and I hope that with the new leadership team they establish both leadership and policy direction.

People who think they can’t make it should read the back cover of Dean Jaensch’s “The Liberals” (1994) – I don’t have it on me right now, but let’s say the cover text had written off the Liberals as a political force divided by factionalism and lack of leadership – just 18 months before they won back office. I think with a less radical leader than Latham, who is clear and level-headed in stating his stances on a range of issues with support from a solid team that the party can pick on Thursday, this country has a chance of moving forward in 2007.