[Marxism] Shift in tone of Australian politics (??)

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sat Feb 3 01:07:09 MST 2007

There has been no equivalent here of Webb's critique of Bush nor indeed of the Democratic Party's election victory, but there are slight indications that there may be a change coming in Australian politics. A couple of nights ago on the current affairs program of the Australian Broadcasting Authority there were two items of interst.  Number One concerend a capitalist who was into solar power but couldn't get support for his scheme in Australia so he was taking his ideas and his technology to California.  This touched upon a familar theme with Australians.  Their history is replete with stories of inventions developed elsewhere, and of failures to build an economy not based on mining and sheep and beef.

So this was bad news for the conservative govt.  Amidst all the apathy and downright refusal to take life seriously there is still a tiny political class  int his country that does occasionally contemplate something other than the cricket results.  The item was aimed at them and was a tiny sign that mayube the political class was getting restive with the Howard govt.

The second item was for me more interesting.  It dealt with Byman and Pollack's report on Iraq for the Brookings Institute: _Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover from an Iraqi Civil War_

I haven't read the report but google supplied the following main points summary:

Don't try to pick winners; 
Avoid active support for partition (for now); 
Don't dump the problem on the United Nations; 
Pull back from Iraqi population centers; 
Provide support to Iraq's neighbors; 
Bolster regional stability; 
Dissuade foreign intervention; 
Lay down "red lines" to Iran; 
Establish a Contact Group; 
Prepare for oil supply disruptions; 
Manage the Kurds; 
Strike at terrorist facilities; 
Consider establishing safe havens or "catch basins" along Iraq's borders

In the current affairs program the interviewee was the director of the institute and the interviedwer ABC veteran Kerry O'Rien.  

The latter treated the report as a very important document and treated the interviewee with a great deal of deference.  The interview concluded with the statement that Iraq was the greatest ever foreign affairs disaster for the USA.

I won't comment here on the detail of the Byman and Pollack plan. Suffice to say it recommends something like a retreat by the US army to the borders of Iraq to prevent the civil war from spreading to other countries.

What I was especially interested in however was that the sub-text for the whole interview was that the Prime Minister John Howard had gotten Australia involved in a total disaster.

To date Howard has been teflon man and little of the Iraq disaster has stuck to him.  But as with the solar power item the Brookings Institute interview could be regarded as a sign that the political class may be stirring slightly around the Iraq issue.  It might be beginning to play badly for him.

Outside the political class the great issue is of course the Industrial Relations legislation which viritually outlaws the practice of trade unionism.  The former leader of the Labor Party pledged to repeal it all if elected.  His successor, the Christian fundamentalist Kevin Rudd, has publicly repeated the same commitment.  However there is good reason to doubt Rudd's sincerity here. Everything about him screams "pro-business".  Nevertheless polls show that some 70% of Australians are opposed to the new laws, and should he win Rudd may well be forced to repeal the legislation.

As always we shall see, but I am left with the feeling that on a range of fronts there are signs that a change may be on the way - even here.



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