Glamis is fallen

A quote I think from Polanski, not Shakespeare, and maybe there’s something very fitting about the unauthenticity of that too.

Only seven years ago many of us were tuning into breakfast TV on a network we otherwise didn’t watch, to see two lieutenants of their respective parties, Kevin Rudd and Joe Hockey, make daily celebrity appearances to provide a light-hearted angle on the day’s politics we could chew over with our vegemite toast. Rudd was a great communicator, intelligent, fun, and displayed great showmanship with his light adversarial banter alongside Hockey. If any of us had predicted then that Rudd would be Prime Minister within a year though, we would have got just as many chuckles as the Rudd and Hockey show.

The public loved Rudd and this carried over into his first Prime Ministership, deservedly it seemed for a while. Rudd’s first year or so in the top job seemed frenetic. He was here, he was there, spruiking one watershed initiative after another. In Prime Ministership his persona had turned out to be like the lovable daggy uncle, and for those of us in that general area of the political spectrum, his infectious energy and enthusiasm convinced us we’d got ourselves the spiritual, ultimately more effective descendant of Whitlam. Yet within two years the wheels had fallen off horribly.

The emmissions trading scheme, Rudd’s strategy to cut carbon pullution, which he’d previously described as the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time, the flagship initiative of his Prime Ministership in fact, was dropped like a led balloon. From the day he announced this it was clear the whirlwind had run out of puff. You could see it in his body language.

By the end of 2009 Rudd’s Government was already floundering. Nothing captured this like the home insulation scheme administered by his Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. Like so many Labor initiatives, the idea was sound, but got utterly destroyed in the execution. A rebate to householders for installing insulation bats which would cut household energy bills, and carbon emmissions, was an obvious win-win. But the private contractors installing the ceiling insulation were cutting corners, providing shonky service (a theme I’ve seen repeatedly in more than a decade and a half as a public servant under Labor administrations) which ultimately resulted in house fires and 4 deaths.

Yet instead of holding these contractors to account, making an example of them by ensuring such gross negligence was prosecuted very publicly to the fullest extent of the law, Garrett stood in front of the television cameras and whined that he hadn’t administered the scheme incompetently. It was a pathetic response from Garrett, rightly rewarded by Rudd when he was dumped from the Ministry. For someone like me though, a teenager of the 80s who’d been a fan of Peter Garrett’s music and his activism, and who’d felt honoured in more recent years to have had a more personal connection, Garrett’s performance was deeply disappointing.

Rudd’s second stint as Prime Minister appeared to be following the same pattern. While some in the media speculated, late in the day, that his reputed private personality disorders might be rearing their ugly head again, I don’t recall anyone articulating that the early days of Rudd’s second Prime Ministership seemed reminiscent of the “he’s here, he’s there” whirlwind of optimism and momentum that characterised the early part of his first stint. I could barely watch, sitting here wondering how long until this started to implode like last time.

Peter Garrett’s parliamentary career will sadly go down as fundamentally commiserable. The last memory of it I will forever recall, is Garrett standing beside Julia Gillard at a school in Sydney’s south earlier this year, nodding, blinking, then glancing at her quickly to punctuate every second sentence of her school funding announcement, over and over in some moronic cyclic gesticulation, before being given the floor to add a ten second rhetorical footnote to Gillard’s speech, like some cardboard cut-out of a politician. It was truly, truly pathetic to watch.

Those who blame Gillard’s demise on some sort of inate mysogyny in Australian politics, or on Rudd’s constant white-anting, are, like so many other Labor analysts, completely missing the point. The point at which the 2013 election was lost was Gillard’s pronouncement during the 2010 campaign that there would be no carbon tax should she win Government. After the election, Labor very quickly lost the trust of the Australian people and never regained it.

Another event during that 2010 campaign is very instructive. Who recalls when, halfway through the 2010 campaign, Gillard pulled up and said “alright I got it, from now on you’re going to see the real Julia”. She immediately turned around and proceeded to carry on precisely as before, trying to second guess how to push the right buttons with the Australian public rather than speaking to us from what was in her own heart. This is the reason we switched off to Labor. It’s the Labor modus operandi by which she operated, and nothing whatsoever to do with Gillard’s gender. The mysogyny theorists are just as out of touch as a generation of Labor strategists who think there are dividends to be gained from treating politics like applied psychology. It provides only short lived victories because, as I argued last year, it has, for example, now simply handed Tony Abbott a mandate to repeal the carbon pricing scheme. The Gillard/Rudd era’s apparent legacies won’t last a year beyond their parliamentary careers and that is a direct result of Labor’s political methodology of the past decade.

Our defective media created Labor’s leadership instability, but the Party’s institutional weakness was such that it allowed it to happen. Only a few months ago, as the media ground away at the Labor leadership issue (and it’s their persistence that ensured life imitated art), I felt there was no way Kevin Rudd could seriously be coveting the leadership before the election. It was bleedingly obvious that would have been taking the wheel of the bus as it was going over the cliff. How could he possibly be interested? It was in Rudd’s best interest to just sit back and let the train wreck happen, come in as the guy on the white horse after the election and take the more thankful task of rebuilding. Why would he want to take the hit for Julia? The fact he eventually accepted the leadership possibly speaks volumes about his own ego, but probably has more to do with influential members of the party finally conceding, under sustained pressure from the media, what the rest of us had known a long time. Gillard was never going to regain the trust of the Australian people.

Anybody who thought Rudd could achieve anything more than stemming the flow of blood was deluding themselves. Rudd has at least managed to achieve that, the most Labor could have expected. Yesterday morning, and even into the early evening, the commentariat were predicting Labor to be looking at 45 seats or less, with Queensland and places like Western Sydney leaving Labor en masse. It didn’t happen, and while it would be nice to think the media pundits might learn from their inadequacies, I won’t hold my breath. Instead the number looks likely to be around 55 seats. Yes, the primary vote was historically low, but that’s a means of protest we voters have to communicate our dissatisfaction. In the end, 55 seats is the truest reflection of preference.

It would be nice to think Labor will get the message, but again, I won’t hold my breath. Labor underwent an extensive internal review a decade ago, the lessons learned soon all but forgotten.

As a footnote, I should mention the outcome for the Australian Democrats at the election. A year ago I reported that having lost faith after 17 years as a member of the ALP, I had to my surprise some months later re-discovered the Democrats. Sadly I have to report my enthusiasm was very premature. I soon discovered the Australian Democrats to be utterly riven with stultifying division, borne out of self-interest and petty personality issues, and consumed by the parochial. In my own State, New South Wales, the once third force in Australian politics managed a sub-paltry 0.21 % of the Senate vote at first count. By my estimation, this is precisely where the Democrats belong. The incompetence of those responsible for the Democrats candidate assessment process and campaign was gobsmacking to watch. Despite an enthusiastic infusion of potential new talent in the year-and-a-half I was involved, a measure of people’s dissatisfaction with the major parties and something that should have been exploited, it was crowded out by the self-styled elder statespeople of the Democrats who’ve demonstrably taken the party from nowhere to oblivian over the past decade. To my fellow NSW Democrats, please enjoy the nothingness your position in the Australian democracy represents, you’ve earned it.

One of our own.

In 1982 Emmanuel Kondok and his family were imprisoned and tortured. His father was killed in captivity and soon after release his brother died of the injuries he’d sustained through torture. Emmanuel’s dramatic escape, alone at 12 years of age, and his arduous journey through eastern Africa afflicted by drought and war is a compelling story of the refugee experience.

Emmanuel Kondok

I was born in Twic County in the Warrap State in South Sudan. My family were farmers, my father a community leader and a spiritual leader through heredity.  In 1982 as we were on our way to market to sell produce we were intercepted by Government forces and imprisoned. My father was accused of conspiring with the rebel army.

The whole family were imprisoned in the local Garrison and tortured. Each day I was sent down to the river to wash the vehicles of the Government forces. On one of these occasions a stranger helped me to escape by swimming across the river. [This first episode in Emmanuel’s escape must have been a harrowing event, more so when you consider it happened at age 12.  – scribblehead] I had to cross a broad running river swimming underwater holding my breath, knowing that if I surfaced I would have been shot by the soldiers guarding me.

Reaching the other side I was on my own, afraid for my family but compelled by the will to survive. I was picked up by some strangers and joined them as they fled our homeland for Ethiopia. In the three months after my escape my father was assassinated while in captivity before the rest of my family was released. A further three months later my brother was also dead as a result of the injuries he’d sustained through torture.

The same three months my family remained in captivity, tortured and my father killed, I spent walking to Ethiopia with this band of asylum seekers. The three month walk to Ethiopia was arduous, the countryside laid waste by drought, famine and war. There was no food and no water. People had to eat what they could find in the bush, and drink their own urine. Many perished.

Surviving to reach Ethiopia, I was sent to the Pinyudo Refugee camp where I lived alongside hundreds of thousands of refugees who’d fled the brutal war. I was able to receive some schooling while at Pinyudo. However life in the refugee camp was far from ideal. At times there was as little as 400 grams of food per day.

In 1991 after a change of government in Ethiopia the South Sudanese refugees were forced to return home. Another perilous journey. I remember many people dying as they tried to cross the Gilo River. We lived again not only with constant thirst and hunger, but with the fear of wild animals. Some of those who perished were taken by lion or hyena.

Back in South Sudan I lived in the town of Panchalla on the border with Ethiopia. The Red Cross entered the town with food, water, medical aid and shelter. The aid was short lived however, as after three months the Sudanese army attacked the town, and I was forced to flee for my life yet again. The situation in South Sudan and throughout Sudan was still very dangerous, so I made my way down to Kenya, again seeking asylum from the conflict that was raging in my homeland.

When I arrived in Kenya the UNHCR received us and we were sent to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. It was while in Kakuma in 1995 I met and married my wife, Mrs Aluel Deng Piyom.

The conditions in Kakuma were also not ideal, there was often fighting between the locals and refugees, but I still found the opportunity to go to school, and I was able to finish my Secondary Schooling in 1997. Going to school was important. I learnt a lot about the world, and gained more and more knowledge about the bad things within it.

I became a Youth Leader in the camp, working with the Catholic Mission to organise social activities and teaching the children, and also with UNICEF helping to distribute school materials and teaching farming practices. I also worked with different non – government organisations advocating peace in South Sudan and Sudan.

In 2005, twenty-three years after I first fled my homeland seeking asylum, the Australian government accepted me and I moved to Sydney with my wife and two children. When I arrived in Australia I soon found a job in a fruit packing factory. I worked there for four years. I now work to support African communities living in Western Sydney.

My expectations in coming to Australia were that it would be peaceful, and that my children would be able to go school, to learn English, and to mingle with Australian children.

Learning English was difficult, and I also do miss my family in South Sudan. I know I have had a good life here; electricity, public transport and comfortable home. I also know that in Southern Sudan people are still suffering. I’m nowadays working very hard to see that other Southern Sudanese, especially children, will have the capacity to grow, just as I have had the opportunity to do.

In Australia I’ve worked hard to continue my education. I received an Advanced Diploma of Human Resources & Management from Granville TAFE in 2011. I also finished the Diploma of Management with Careers Australia, and I currently study for a Bachelor of Applied Business Management with University of Ballarat.

I founded the Southern Hope Community Organisation Incorporated (SHCO) in 2010, a charitable registered not-for-profit organisation providing help and support to Southern Sudanese African Australians. We provide support to widows, orphans, isolated community members and individuals who cannot do things due to disability.

The SHCO mission is to prepare South Sudanese immigrants residing in Australia to become productive citizens by providing a work and learning environment where they feel challenged, respected & accountable as they strive to meet the demands of citizenship. Our aim is to improve the lives of South Sudanese families and support their smooth integration into Australian life and local Community.

I would say to Australian a big thank you for what you have done for opening the door to refugees from all over the world.

Emmanuel Kondok


Website: or will change soon to

Emmanuel Kondok works to help South Sudanese to get on their feet and find their place in a peaceful Australia after so many of them have suffered from the type of traumatic experiences he did.

From the age of 12 Emmanuel endured hardships no child should ever experience. He now works to ensure a better life for Southern Sudanese both in Australia and back in Africa, and also to raise awareness of the issues facing South Sudanese. On the occasion of my 44th birthday what I wish is that Emmanuel’s children never suffer from the intolerance toward refugees that so many in our community like to express, enflamed by our profligate mass media and our defective political leaders, and which has at its root the same evil that infected the hearts of those who forced Emmanuel to endure what he did. My birthday wish is that Emmanuel and his family find peace here, that his children go to school and learn about the good that is in the world, and that he and his children mingle with Australians, where their different origins are respected and appreciated, and among whom they will each be accepted as one of our own. – Scribblehead

Visit the Southern Hope Community Organisation web site and consider donating.

Re: Mark, don’t forget to vote!

reply to Verity Firth’s email urging me to vote for her in the ALP’s Policy Forum:


Hi Verity and team

I am ineligible to vote. After 17 years including some very active ones, I cancelled my membership of the ALP on 27 March. I don’t want to be seen to be part of a Party perpetuating the conservatives’ punitive policies toward asylum seekers. The Gillard Government’s policies feed straight into and out of a racial undercurrent the ALP should be leading Australia away from. And incidentally, in the context of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper it sends the message “sure we’re open and responsive to Asia, so long as there’s a dollar in it.’”

Decades from now historians will look back at the present asylum seeker “issue” in much the same way we look back now at the White Australia Policy.

I can only hope should you reach the policy forum you take this on-board.

M J MacNamara

A snapshot in time…

…too late you’ve lost me.

This week I got several reminders of the mid-90s. It began last Saturday morning when we turned up for Bryce’s under 13s cricket game at Cherrybrook against West Pennant Hills. We were very quickly being flogged – three wickets in the first over including Bryce. I’d switched my phone on and noticed a missed call and a voice message from Drew Simmons, President of the NSW Division of the Australian Democrats. When I got a chance I listened to the message from the night before and phoned Drew back. Drew apologised – I’d won the most votes in the ballot for Vice-President of the NSW Democrats but my eligibility had been questioned on the grounds I hadn’t been a member long enough. Rules are rules, I said, and it was a very gratifying result at any rate.

Made my way to the NSW Democrats AGM that afternoon and couldn’t help but be reminded of the old days in the ALP – a collective including concerned senior citizens, ex parliamentary candidates and Party veterans, a forthright and earnest vanguard of activists, and one or two of the next generation. I was heartened, and I met a number of very impressive people for whom I hold very high hopes. The future for the NSW Democrats is promising, but qualified by the divisive internal machinations of the Party which permeates from the Federal Executive and is reflected in the State Executive – as I worked out through the course of the day. But like I said, promising. Clearly under Drew Simmons’s leadership the NSW Democrats are on the ascendancy.

I quickly fell into a small kabal with a few fellow new members with whom I share similar interests and geography – all enervated and inspired to work the political system toward the things we believe in. Discussion with my new camarada carried over beyond the AGM and by weeks end I couldn’t help but be drawn out by the various reminders of my time as an activist with the ALP. Yesterday I was asked if I’d crossed paths with Bob Ritten of the ETU and couldn’t recall, but it forced me to run a search on a whole pile of documents from that period. I hadn’t read this stuff since it was written – minutes of meetings of The Entrance-Long Jetty Branch and the Dobell Federal Electorate Council of the ALP, both of which I served as Secretary in that period, and correspondence I’d written on behalf of those Party units. A shapshot in time – letters about party machinations and letters to Gareth Evans and the Central Coast Peace Forum on Chirac’s nuclear testing in the Pacific and UN inaction in Bosnia and landmines, to Wyong Shire Council about parties ripping up sports fields, to Beazley and Willis about bank fees and fee free accounts, to Brereton, to Keating warning a referendum for a Republican president chosen by a two thirds majority of parliament would fail, to condolences for the families of Fred Daly and Ena Griffin and much much more. Some of those things eventually came to pass.

Date-stamped from 1995 to 1997 most are in file formats my current version of Word won’t open, but I can open in notepad. The period is interesting in that it covers the closure of what we now call the Hawke-Keating era. I eventually halted and lingered over a curious document which like the others I’d forgotten I’d written, I have no recollection of writing it whatsoever. I appear to have put it on Dobell FEC letterhead with President Bill Leslie’s name alongside my own, and labelled it ‘Media Release’, but I can’t imagine it ever being published and sincerely doubt I ever sent it. I’d doubt Bill would have let me. All the same there was a reason it stopped me in my tracks. It captured the end of an era in, I hope, a unique perspective.



Secretary Mark Gallagher (043) XX XXXX     President    Bill Leslie (043) XX XXXX

Fax: (043) XX XXXX 


3 March 1996


Somewhere around eight o’clock last Saturday night, deeply engrossed in the task of scrutineering in Dobell, I was paying little attention to a nearby comrade with a mobile phone jammed in his ear.  He was calling home to see how the kids were.  I was more concerned with the ballot papers being counted before me indicating some sort of a swing in an unsavoury direction.  I was starting to figure on maybe three or four per cent. 

When James got off the phone he seemed a little worked-up as I caught him in the corner of my eye bounding toward me.  His son had told him we’d lost seven seats in a “landslide”, and “Michael Lee was in trouble in Dobell”.  That was as detailed as the message got.  I thought “Seven seats?  Where?  Queensland?  Not exactly a landslide?!  Four per cent swing isn’t nice but we can hold Dobell on six per cent.” 

These were the first indications I had of the drama unfolding.  I had known it was possible we might lose but reckoned we’d claw our way over the line.  Of course I’d been so passionate all day in telling everybody else around that we’d romp in I even had some veteran Liberals conceding by four o’clock – two hours before polling closed.  None of us could have predicted the severity of this loss.  Not even with twelve months worth of negative polls sitting on the dresser at home.

Within an hour I’m jumping in the car to whip down to the Michael Lee’s electorate office, knowing the results from my booth indicate a five and a half per cent swing.  My booth is traditionally less friendly to Labor so while I’m concerned I figure across the whole electorate we’re probably not in quite so bad shape. 

You can imagine my surprise when I flick on the radio and somebody says “Liberal forty seat majority..”  Then again when I walk into the office to find a high profile Federal Minister at the keyboard trying to calculate how many hundred absentee and postal votes he needs to pick up to hold his seat.  We’re looking at a seven per cent swing.  In the adjoining electorate of Robertson Frank Walker has been frog-marched out of Gosford.  Is this for real?  Surely it’s just a bad dream.

I was thirteen when Labor came to power Federally.  I was concerned but not active enough when Unsworth was scuttled in New South Wales, and did my bit to help put Carr back in there.  After ’93 I was naive enough to believe the ineptitude of conservatives would only deepen until they’d eventually become politically irrelevant.  So here I stand facing my first defeat.  And what a lesson it has been.

I managed to anticipate some of the terms I’d be hearing as I tuned into Channel 9’s Sunday the following morning.  Jim Whaley, for example, liked ‘decimating’.  Someone else thought ‘soul-searching’ was appropriate.  A Liberal interviewee offered ‘go away and work out what they stand for’.  Bob Hawke stumped me though when he used one I hadn’t anticipated.  He said ‘bullshit’.

The official Labor assessment of the defeat is the “it’s time” factor.  No party can expect to be in office forever.  When we assess our performance the length of time one holds office is less relevant than what we have achieved, how our initiative and energy have affected Australia. 

No achievement could be more important than to be the first Government in either Colonial or Federal history to reject the notion of terra nullus – to legally recognise, embrace and promote the broader recognition that human society existed on this continent prior to European settlement – societies with law, religious faith and iconography, social order, education, foreign policy.  Gough Whitlam once said that if he was remembered for only one contribution to this nation he wished it would be for the fight to redress the historical treatment of indigenous peoples.  For Labor this struggle has never been merely an exercise in political correctness or pandering to an interested minority.  As a political organisation whose most fundamental principles are fairness and equity this is more than a cause – a stiring obligation to humanity. 

Much is made of the aparrent de-polarisation of Australian politics from the extremes toward the middle-ground.  Labor is seen to have moved toward the right and now the Co-alition toward a more moderate conservatism.  But there remains an important philosophical difference.  In conservative politics greatest emphasis is placed on the freedom of and opportunity for individual human endeavour, while obligation to ‘the other’ is conditional.  Basically, where Labor and the Democrats share common ground is in a philosophy placing the obligation to society paramount to the freedom of individual endeavour.  Freedom is thus more conditional.  This is not to suggest that freedom of the individual is not an important principle to Labor or that conservatives are bereft of any social obligation. 

So what has a cadet of the labour movement learned from all this?  First of all I am not convinced of what degree we have influenced the conservatives to moderate themselves.  I am convinced they’re not quite so politically inept as they had been in recent years. 

And when it comes to conceding defeat, if you have achieved many important things, if the faith you have held throughout dictates an obligation to humanity, and if you have made this world a little fairer in some way, then there will be no quivering of lips, straining in the vocal chords, or tears for the cameras.  You have not failed and therefore have not really been defeated.


And thus began the Howard era. The reference to the Australian Democrats is interesting I guess considering where the road has taken them and me a decade and a half later.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve also been reading the Australia in the Asian Century white paper. It’s a broad and constructive document, an excellent snapshot of where we’re at as a nation and an optimistic statement of intent. It has many of Labor’s of nation-building hallmarks, but it’s not the Party I joined nor the Party with which I found victory in defeat back then. The document demonstrates many of the failings as I see it of the ALP today. Full of wonderful sentiment, but in reality it represents an absolute consultant-fest where at every turn Labor’s capacity to deliver will be consumed by its emphasis on the process rather than results. This is what left the former NSW Labor Government unable to deliver on straightforward projects despite significant investment of time and money – like light rail, or a modern public transport ticketing system after a decade of running the project and $70 million to one consultancy alone. And all this talk of engagement with Asia taken alongside our treatment of asylum seekers – under Labor’s leadership the message our nation is sending to the world is yeah we’re very open and responsive to Asia, so long as there’s a dollar in it.

First thoughts on the Asian Century White Paper

The ALP hit the airwaves in force this morning to tout the Asian Century White Paper. In typical Labor fashion though they appeared not simply to be putting the cart before the horse, but completely missed the need for a horse in the picture.

A centrepiece of the Government’s white paper is the up-skilling of the Australian community in Asian languages and Asia literacy in general, and education is recognised as key. Peter Garrett was interviewed by ABC TV News Breakfast and, remarkably for an Education Minister, made no reference to and no recognition of the very first, most fundamental and most obvious task in achieving this. There are simply very very few Asian language teachers in the education system. It’s the bottleneck in the sytem. When Julia Gillard was interviewed by Fran Kelly half an hour later it was clear the ALP, characterstically, have simply failed to miss this point. It’s like they skipped class during Policy 101 – don’t just describe what you intend to achieve but offer how you will achieve it. That is in fact what policy is. Without it you’re delivering vacuous platitude and rhetoric. And pretty quickly in Kelly’s interview with Gillard it was clear that was all the ALP had to deliver. When specifically asked about the lack of teachers Gillard waffled, told us as former Education Minister she recognised finding teachers was a challenge, then deflected the question by turning her answer into something about encouraging kids to study Asian languages in school. ?!!

So here’s a bit of concrete action of the type the ALP are incapable of delivering or indeed conceiving. The very first dollar, first million dollars, first $60 million the Government needs to spend in order to achieve some substance out of this rhetoric is in equipping universities and offering generous scholarships and bursaries to Education students who take on an Asian language and Asian studies. This is how you deliver the first prerequisite outcome – the teachers.

There’s an obvious part of our community who are best positioned to take a lead role in engaging Australia in the Asian world – Asian Australians of course. The ALP’s track record on encouraging Australian schoolkids to further studies in the Asian languages of their roots, so that they might one day operate in these languages at a level that can be useful in business or as educators? In New South Wales the former Labor Government implemented a system of handicapping school children with a non English speaking background should they choose to study the languages of their parent or parents. Students are made ineligible to enrol in Beginners or Continuers language courses, instead forced into “Heritage and Background Speakers” courses. There was a perception that students of NESB were unfairly advantaged in the HSC. It has its roots in xenophobic profiling of Asian students in particular. Consider how absurd it would be if in secondary English examinations similar double standards existed for kids coming from an English speaking background. The net result is Australian kids from Asian backgrounds are discouraged from further study in the native language of one or more of their parents. Yes that’s right – the ALP’s track record is to dumb down our capacity for Asian language and literacy.


This week the US Embassy in Libya was attacked, and among the casualties was US Ambassador, Chris Stevens. It’s one of a number of violent anti-American protests across the Middle-east, and they’ve spread throughout the world, including my own country – one of the US’s oldest allies.

This is not like some youtube video that insults the prophet Muhammad, though that is another manifestation of the same problem smoldering in the background. This piece of youtube profanity is just another tinder of fuel ignited by irrational racial and religious fear and hatred. An innate sense of racial superiority, an unjust distribution of political and economic power, and a long history of shortsighted ill-directed and excessive exercise of military power are the causes of all this anti-Americanism. The only way it would ever end is if everyone, no matter what background, just didn’t feel the way they did about ‘the other’. Nobody’s been more violent, killed and terrorised more people, destroyed homes and communities more than “our” side. These people feel powerless to do anything about all the meddling the US has done in the Middle-east.

The US, like all historical super-powers, will wane one day. Some people think they’re on the decline now. The number of enemies they’ve racked up in their century of power is going to be overwhelming, and brainless, ill-directed violence will probably be exacted more and more against them, just as Americans have done really since their nation’s beginnings. Many in the US sincerely see and portray themselves as the great liberators of the past century and beyond, but the experience for an ever increasing proportion of the world is quite different.

I’m saying nothing original, there are many Americans who see it the same way I do. Nations are big and diverse things and it’s too easy to portray Americans as ‘being like this’, just as it is to see all Muslims through the narrow filter of prejudice.

The cold hard reality is, there is no nation more reviled and yet more loved than the US.

Light on the Hill replaced by phone app.

Why I quit the ALP

On March 27 I cancelled my membership of the Australian Labor Party. After seventeen years it didn’t seem an easy thing to do, literally letting go of something you believed in. Seventeen years is not a small portion of anyone’s life so I hope I at least demonstrated a capacity to hold on. I’d known for a long time it was no longer the party I joined at the start of 1995. It was either a matter of getting in the middle of it and being responsible for change – becoming active again and influencing the agenda and the platform, or waiting for it to get back on course and once again become the institution that had inspired me to be part of it. In recent times I realised neither of these things were ever going to happen. Surprisingly once I’d done it quitting turned out to be a natural and very easy thing to do. A great weight was suddenly lifted from my shoulders, a new sense of freedom I hadn’t anticipated.

Most Australians have diverse backgrounds so it is not unusual that I should come both from a line of uncompromising arch-conservatives of the countrified variety and from a line of died-in-the-wool ‘Light on the Hill’ types for whom Labor is as fundamental as the blood in your veins. I began to develop a political consciousness from my teens onward, a time when the Hawke Government was leading Australians toward a more inclusive, multicultural society where no-one was left behind, when Howard and other conservatives were still preaching a racially based nationalism and fighting against things like the Mabo Decision in the High Court, which was nothing more than the recognition that the indigenous people who lived on this continent before European settlement were human beings after all, and not part of the fauna. That’s all it said, and yet the conservatives hated it. They stood for placing commerce above all other priorities and not incidentally what all conservatives, politicians and their constituents, had in common was hatred toward some sector of the community or another. The only difference between the conservative politician and the conservative voter was that those who voted conservative liked to express their hatred, whereas the politician for reasons of pragmatism had to be more subtle. That’s why during the Howard era the concept of ‘political correctness’ was so attacked. To all who liked to denegrate and marginalise their fellow Australians, whether that be single mothers, the unemployed (dole bludgers), coons, wogs, refos, poofters, slope-heads, unions – the conservatives were their party.

By my mid-twenties I’d scraped through university full of optimism for the future. Oh yes, like many young people I believed I was going to really make a mark on the world. The reality in the mid-90s was somewhat different however. There was a recession and unemployment was bobbing around above 10% – 11.7% for males I recall at one time (unemployment rate for males was consistently 1% higher than for females). Around me family members were losing homes and businesses. Job hunting was an extended period of trauma. Those years have left me fundamentally altered – not as dramatic but sort of like the Great Depression or WWII had left my grandparents altered. After two years out of university I stopped counting at over 200 job applications, 3 dozen job interviews and 8 jobs (the uncertainty went on for another year but I was too numb to care). Some of those jobs suited me fine but were only temporary roles, or only part-time. The jobs I held longest were as a brickie’s labourer and as part time (15 hrs per week) mailboy at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus – jobs I was proud of but simply not long term prospects. It was this period in general and two jobs I had in particular that drove me to join the ALP.

My first permanent full-time job after university (I’d been in the workforce three years before enrolling at uni) came after about a year and a half of job hunting. I had high hopes for it – an office job in a medium-sized growing Sydney company with an international affiliation and a young and vibrant team. Their business was correspondence courses but to say they were providing distance education would have been stretching a very long bow as it turned out. My job was customer service which I soon learned consisted of a number of scripted responses to deflect and perpetuate the duping of disgruntled customers, of which there were many thousands. It was all about the small-print. They more or less exclusively advertised through TV Week and Take 5 magazine because, in hindsight I realise, they knew the demographic they were after. Though there were several courses, probably their most popular product was a “Child Care Diploma”, and this one illustrates the company’s approach as good as any. The Child Care Diploma as I recall cost $399 (in 1995 so I guess in the vicinity of $1000 in 2012 terms). People would either post in a form from the magazine or telephone the company and be sent some paperwork including an ‘enrolment form’. This particular course and the manner in which it was delivered attracted mostly young unemployed women, a great proportion of them stay-at-home mothers without the freedom or confidence to get along to TAFE, and all of them hoping a job in the growing Child Care industry would help get them out of a rut. Sooner or later though they generally worked out that the company’s “Child Care Diploma” wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Sure, they were sent some courseware – some written exercises and multiple choice questions, but for good reason in order to actually work in Child Care a person needs to be certified. This course provided them a fine looking “Child Care Diploma” but no certification nor training or experience relevant to certification, referred to by the authorities and the industry as the remarkably similar sounding “Child Care Certificate”! My job was to field their calls and letters, and the calls and letters from their parents, lawyers, local Members and police, refer them to the fineprint on the back of the form they’d signed, advise them there were no refunds and continue the charade that they were committed even if they were still paying a course off in instalments. Many very sad duped people continued to pay their piddling instalments for months or years after they’d given up on their meaningless courses. Day after day the heartbreak and anger was palpable – one after the other. It was clear this was the company’s business model, they were out to dupe people.

Here I was seeing it first hand, in the middle of greed above any thought for treating your fellow human being with the minimum level of decency. Not incidentally, with their blue suits and designer dresses, their expensive jewelery and expensive cars, their North Shore location and a monthly thank you from the parent company for all the money we’d funnelled back to the UK – these people were the conservative heartland who John Howard stood for first and foremost before any of his ‘battlers’ got a look in. The battlers were being duped, exploited and heartlessly pilfered by them with the same indifference you might expect from the lowliest petty-thieving jailbird trash. The true urban conservative constituency.

The following year, my demoralisation having deepened through a relationship break-up in no small part due to my employment prospects, I stumbled into a job in a telephone sales call centre. It was like a call centre battery (as in battery hen) with a long corridor lined by little room after little room with a dozen telephone cubicles running along the walls of the room. Each room was a different “company”, most of them selling a different set of products but some of them selling the same products as a “different company” down the hall. I was handed the Gold Coast edition of the Yellow Pages – my “territory”, and began calling all of the businesses who my products were relevant to. I quickly learned it was no coincidence my book was very dog-eared, and many potential customers remembered ‘me’ from before. I copped many doses of abuse from customers who learned from bitter experience that my sub-standard products were not fit for the professional purposes they had been purchased.

The origins of the Liberal Party of Australia are, as the name suggests, reactionary. In literal terms in order to be ‘liberal’ one must be ‘liberated’ from some constraint. Though in some countries the political term ‘liberal’ indicates the liberation from social constraints of a moralistic nature or of tradition, in Australian political history (as in Japan coincidentally) it was applied to the liberation of business, commerce and private endeavour. Thus we sometimes hear reference to the small “l” liberal as opposed to the large “L” Liberal. The Labor Governments of Curtin and Chifley steered Australia through WWII and the post-war reconstruction, a time when fiscal and social order were necessarily subject to a great deal of institutionalised control and austerity. This culminated in ’49 with Chifley threatening to Nationalise the banks, who were seen by some as profiteering with no regard to social responsibility (interesting in the current context, Smokin’ Ben might almost get away with it today). The Liberal Party’s rise came out of the Australian peoples’ desire to be free of this – enough with all the austerity and the controls please! The Liberal Party and in particular their founder Bob Menzies were seen as the great liberators of Australian commerce and enterprise and that informs conservative politics in this country to this day. But there’s a middle ground to be struck. Business should not be liberated to the point of being able to exploit and do harm to the vulnerable.

I joined the Australian Labor Party because in those days they stood for inclusivity, for all Australians, for accepting and embracing the diversity that is humanity. Their inclusivity extended not just to our country but they were outward looking, seeing our place in a world that included all of the world, not just an English speaking world, a British Commonwealth, an Anglo-Saxon world or a world populated by people of Western European roots. The contrast with the conservatives was definitive. The conservative parties stood for a narrow idea of Australia from the past based on a racially homogenised society only acheived through the notion of “assimilation” or acceptance of others’ origins only on the grounds that they give them away and adopt our perceived origins as their own. The ALP were the party for people who not only recognised the diversity in the world but treasured it, held it up as an ideal. This empathy for all people was also consistent with Labor origins, though I do recognise that protectionism on racial and nationalistic grounds was part of the small ‘l’ labour movement for a good portion of its first century. That said, to exploit and do harm to others in the name of material self interest had always been what the ALP fought against. They also therefore held the middle ground when it came to the place of business and commerce in society. This last point enabled the ALP to be more open-minded and receptive as a growing awareness of the vulnerability of the natural environment began to gain momentum and this was also a fundamental reason I joined the Party. When the environment was a dirty word for the conservatives, and ‘greeny’ was just another term in the long list the conservatives used to be derogatory about their fellow Australians, Labor was taking leadership on the environment.

It was Gough Whitlam who recognised that Labor’s place in Australia was to take its base in standing up for workers against exploitative commercial self-interest and extend that to all those who would otherwise be powerless or marginalised, not just workers in relation to their bosses but  women in relation to men, minorities of sexuality, racial and religious minorities, the less wealthy. It extended Labor’s franchise and it informed the ideal of governing for all people which remained genuine through the Hawke and Keating eras and was applied not at the exclusion of those in positions of power but by engaging with them, being from within them, and it resulted in many years of Government for the ALP.


What went wrong.

During that period Labor continued its evolution into a slick professional political fighting machine. A big part of that was the application of some science to politics. This consisted of commissioning increasingly more sophisticated polling and commercial market research techniques and employing commercial marketing theory. Labor were not alone. One of my casual jobs during that sketchy period of employment was as a door-to-door interviewer for Roy Morgan Research. Howard, Downer and Costello were being mooted as alternative leaders in the years before the ’96 election.

In those days this application of methodology still appeared to only supplement the process of politicing and actual political leadership informed by the moral conviction of the leader still trumpted it. By the time of Beazley though at the turn of the millennium it was all about getting a handle on public opinion and engaging consultants to tell you how to push the right buttons with the Australian public. When the commentators talk about the ‘Labor machine’ nowadays they don’t even realise themselves what they’re referring to is a virtual gaggle of psychologists, both amateur and professional. Thus you get a term like ‘working families’ repeated ad-nauseum until the general public is literally mentally sick from hearing it. Yet the ‘professionals’ stick dogedly to their theory impervious to the distress they’re in fact causing the community, completely and utterly out of touch. People see straight through this as ‘method’ and they only vote for you because you’re the least detestable option at the time. The only ones who are deluded by the ‘keyword ad-nauseum’ theory are the Parliamentary ALP themselves (and possibly, though not necessarily, the consultants they engaged who told them to repeat it beyond sanity). This is what we have in the place of statesmanship and community leadership from the ALP and on this front the Libs have it all over them. As miopic, unfair and un-inclusive as much of the Conservative platform can be at least it comes from conviction. They are able to effectively lead public opinion instead of trying to second-guess it, to follow it, because they’re not afraid to reveal themselves.

The hegemony of methodology in place of a soul at the head of ALP provided the genesis of the Latham implosion. Latham tried to take the reins of the Party believing it was his right and in fact his obligation as leader. However the psychological approach to politics by that time so firmly entrenched in the Party seeks to place the party leader in a straightjacket. Latham reacted the same way many people would, by going mad.

You’ve got to wonder to what extent this same tension between political leadership and methodological politics also contributed to Rudd’s falling out with his Parliamentary colleagues despite his popularity with the public.

The net result is soullessness, a party that may get some political results but without legitimacy, a party not reaching the potential it otherwise would. More specifically, and something I take personally, it’s resulted in a party that did not take its natural place in neutering the dark side of the Howard era of politics but instead perpetuates the inate racism arising out of such things as the ongoing demonisation of asylum seekers. After more than a decade of waiting for a Labor leader to lead in the direction that Whitlam, Hawke or Keating would have I belatedly have to accept that this is not a party that I want to be seen to be associated with.

Rudd vs Gillard vs the Media vs the Australian People

And the winner is… you! – if you’re one of those people who own a national television network or a major metropolitan daily newspaper. Tony Abbott did ok too I guess.

You could be forgiven for thinking that last week Australians were captivated by the “political stoush” when Kevin Rudd challenged Julia Gillard for the leadership of the Federal Parliamentary ALP. Gladiatorial by all appearances. The truth, in the broad sweep of history and in living rooms across the country, is somewhat less sensational. Changes in the leadership of the ALP are not small things, changes in Prime Ministership make them all the more historical. A change didn’t occur though so not long from now this will be hardly a blimp on the radar of Australia’s political history, but even if a change had occurred it is doubtful this would rank in anyone’s list of moments in Australian history.

As the leadership contest unfolded last week Tony Abbott needed only to sit back and let the media do its hatchet job. He told us he took no comfort in watching the leadership of this country implode. Implode? Too strong a statement – it suggests making an impact. More like the inflatable Santa Clauses that are still bobbing around by Australia Day – just gradually collapsing into a pile of faded plastic and hot air (slowly escaping around its edges) while whoever put them up there in the first place has completely lost interest. And “Leadership”? That would suggest the country is behind the ALP.

It is already a quantifiable and qualifiable fact that both of these prime ministers are failed leaders. Julia Gillard differentiates herself from an ineffectual Kevin Rudd by reminding us that despite leading a minority government she managed to implement a price on carbon when Rudd, with a Parliamentary majority, dropped it like a defeated dummy. As right as the policy may be Gillard has relinquished any kudos she may have otherwise got from this achievement because she de-legitimised it by not selling it to the Australian people prior to (and incidentally not since) the last election. In an act of electoral gutlessness she in fact led the Australian people away from it, then implemented it by bargaining with independents (some of which she has since reneged on). Electorally the carbon tax is not a shining moment about which Julia can boast, no matter how right it may be in the struggle to reduce carbon pollution.

Here’s a quick multiple choice question. Which of the following historical statespeople and political leaders are remembered because of a tax they introduced?

a) Franklin D Roosevelt

b) Winston Churchill

c) John Curtin

d) Julius Caesar

d) Abraham Lincoln

f) none of the above

Gillard is blinkered by a political elitism underwritten by her background in law. A Parliament was voted for. She says a Government was formed by a majority of seats, irrespective of political ilk. Therefore when she got the Carbon pricing bill through Parliament it’s simply a sign we have a healthy functioning democracy. What she has disconnected herself from is the electoral mechanism of legitimacy and accountability. The Carbon Tax is the biggest fiscal reform since the GST, which incidentally Howard similarly implemented despite contradictory electoral promises. What makes her more electorally fallible than Howard (who went on to lead another decade) is that she has never won an election. Her Government sits on a knife edge, a coalition with independents. By not following through on promises about poker machine reform Gillard has treated Allan Wilkie and (though with less import) Nick Xenophon with insult. However as Gillard well knows, with this hung Parliament the independents are sitting in a once in a century position that they are loathe to relinquish. Gillard’s survival literally rests on this fact. This is the nature of her pact with the independents in parliament. What about her pact with the Australian people?

To have gone to the last election with a platform would have been and act of ‘leadership’. It would have not only legitimised the carbon tax but I would argue may have resulted in a clear majority in parliament. Rather than going out and selling her policy though she told the Australian people one thing on the Carbon Tax then did the opposite. To think that this will somehow be forgotten and not have an impact at the next election is disrespectful to the intelligence of the Australian people. And they know it.

There’s a reasonable chance this Government may not even last the full term. While Gillard has put this generational reform at risk through her disregard for the electorate and for the independents, she also has a member of her government who used a Union funded credit card to procure prostitutes.

Now to be fair to Craig Thompson – the NSW Police conducted an investigation and found that he had done nothing about which criminal charges could be laid. In the State of NSW it is not illegal to procure a prostitute. I’m paid fortnightly and what I do with the money I earn from my job is my business. If I choose to spend some of my private earnings hiring a prostitute that’s my business. My job happens to be with the State of NSW so my salary comes from the State Government – does that make a difference? No, because once that money goes into my bank account every fortnight it is mine. Some people’s remuneration arrangement with their employer is a little different however, and may include a corporate credit card with limited discretionary spending. The question of criminality pobably came down to whether money spent by Thompson using this credit card is part of his remuneration package or is official Union business. Because it could be either. The Murdoch media has trawled hard in their campaign to bring down the Government on this point. As former secretary of the Dobell FEC of the ALP a decade and a half ago, a journalist from The Australian even contacted me looking for dirt. He was very quickly disappointed because I had no opinion about Craig Thompson one way or the other.

The Federal Parliamentary Party are looking as though they may be fast-tracking their way to the depths that Kristina Kenneally inherited in NSW. The Bob Carr recruitment is ironic. It should have been a boon for the Government. The media however were given the opportunity to put the worst possible light on the negotiations surrounding it, which by and by were pretty benign. Of course there was going to be some jockeying for position. It is worth noting though that celebrity recruitment was not enough to prevent Mark Latham from taking the ALP to the bottom.

Or maybe gladiatorial after all. Who remembers the name of a single gladiator? Only statespeople are remembered across the millennia. In this country at this moment in time I don’t believe any exist. Churchill, Roosevelt, Curtin? A hundred years from now the names Packer and Murdoch are far more likely to be remembered than Gillard or Rudd. These are the times we live in.

The real Australians

Don’t you love the real Australians? The ones who can tell you what a real Australian is? The ones who like to demonstrate they’re a real Australian. I’m very thankful to this person for setting me straight on a couple of things:



I especially like the “DON’T LIKE IT HERE” comment. Too bloody right, I get annoyed whenever I’m confronted by people saying they don’t like Australia. Well, I’ve never actually heard somebody express it but I’m sure they’re all over the place. Here’s further evidence someone shared with us that the Australia-haters are about:

From the lyrics of the Famous MERLE HAGGARD for those “blowins” that are bagging

If you dont like it leave it and let this song that i’m singing be a warning…
When your running down my country man your walking on the fighting side of me”

Ironically it is in fact only this “ozzie pride” set who are demonstrating hate toward Australia.

Sorry blokes and sheelas, whenever you say “love it or leave it” you are expressing ill-will toward some often imaginary fellow Australian or an actual person who might have demonstrated their imaginary un-Australianness by simply daring to say ‘hang on a second, some Australians are actually different’. When you, the self-proclaimed “real Australians” diss things that fit outside your narrow definition you are in fact dissing aspects of the broader reality of what Australia is (as opposed to the selection of advertising jingles from the past 80 years you string together to tell us what Australia is). You’re the ones who are expressing that you have a problem with other Australians and therefore by extension – Australia. You are the ones literally showing the opposite of pride in Australia. Australia is a much larger thing than the narrow lists, mostly of consumer items, you define it by. Australia is not a shopping list.

I saw a comment from one of my fellow real Australians referring to young Australian of the year 2012, Marita Cheng, as …young “Australian” of the year. In the context the inference made by those quotation marks was clear – she’s not a ‘real’ Australian because her name’s Cheng and she’s got Asian eyes. Yet what this band of real Australians don’t get is that her very position makes it official – she is in fact the Young Australian of the year, a formal reflection of who Australia is and what we stand for, on the historical record in perpetuity and indelibly, and yet you and I both know there are self-proclaimed ‘real’ ozzies out there who will look at her and believe they have the right to say – she’s not a real Australian.

When telling you what a real Australian is they’ll often give you their own personal shopping list as a means of demonstrating that a real Australian is, surprise surprise, in fact identical to themself. Ironically what they’re actually demonstrating is a degree of insecurity about it. A “real” anything doesn’t have to go around constantly trying to prove it. They just be it.

Cultural cringe my arse.

Here, have a “reality” check real Australians, and tell me – in what aspects of this story does Australia take pride and in what aspects do we not take pride?


Obama enlists Australia’s help to keep China in check?

With all our moral superiority surely we are guaranteed to prevail. Remind me again – what are we prevailing against?

During Barrack Obama’s visit to Oz last month, if you could find your way through the standard rhetoric that America has no closer friend and ally than (err… where are we playing tonight?), the ‘close personal relationship’ between the two leaders, and the various stupifying “Barrack can speak Ozzie” and “kangaroo was on the menu”, one actual meaningful theme managed to get some representation by our media, albeit often misrepresented to the point of contradiction.

The US will rotate 2500 marines a year through the Northern Territory and the US Navy will some time soon have a semi-permanent presence out of Western Australia. This is a small presence in comparison to other coutries who enjoy the US military’s favour. The universal media take on this is that we are sending some sort of a message to other nations of the region, specifically China. With reference to China the commentary on our common purpose with the US varies only in degree from the mild ‘to address’, others ‘to counter’, ‘to contain’, ‘target’, ‘take an aggressive stance’… to the most unfriendly ‘to encircle’. Whatever word you use it articulates a paranoia about the growing importance of China’s economy and what it might mean for Chinese influence.

Much was read into Obama’s speech to the Australian Parliament but the message contained in it that was directed to China was inferred, oblique, gentle, and tempered by in fact praise for China. All of the inspiring and positive things Obama had to say on a broad range of subjects were almost completely unreported in the media and subsumed by narrowly focused overblown reporting of some sort of defiance toward China. I’d urge anyone to listen to the man’s own words and completely ignore the headlines in the media which serve no purpose but to heighten mistrust toward China.

The media seem to be stuck in a cold war era imaginary world where we with our friends the US are the good guys and China the bad guys. What makes them bad? Obama made oblique reference to economic protectionism, government which lacks the legitimacy of the will of the people and violation of universal standards of human rights. But anyone who thinks we the West can claim any sort of moral high ground on such things is naively and tragically mistaken.

In the city of Falluja where the US saw its most intense fighting during the Iraq War there’s a stark increase in the number of birth defects among newborn children, most reports putting it at between an 11-15 times increase over the period prior to the US lead invasion. There’s a cemetery dedicated to children born with serious birth defects who survive only a short time. The fallout from US weaponry appears to be (and logically) to blame – US materials such as depleted uranium and pospherous both mooted as either definite or probable cause depending who’s doing the surmising.

To wreak such suffering on small children, many of them as yet unborm, is as sinister and insidious as humanity gets. This is done by Western peoples in our name. And yet the US has done this before. Two generations later the chemicals used as defoliants by US in Vietnam continue to cause birth defects in that country’s children. We simply close our eyes and ears and do not learn from the evil that we do, we ignore it and instead comfort ourselves naively in our imagined virtuosity beside the evil that others do. Human rights? If you were to count up the numbers of people killed, maimed and traumatised by the various nations of the world since the end of WWII and rank the nations in order of the most killing and maiming that has been done you would very quickly arrive at one nation which stands out well ahead of all others.

Government that enjoys the legitimacy of the people? It has been my observation that US elections both Presidential and Congressional are widely believed to be circuses which disempower ordinary people while guaranteeing the hegemony of a media and financial elite, and that they have proved a model for electioneering throughout the Western world. It is only a decade ago that George Bush was able to win an election through a US Supreme Court action which succesfully disenfanchised a poor, mostly African American community and thus tipped the result in Florida.

Level playing field with regard to international trade? For all the increased development and wealth that they can bring, US free trade agreements have often resulted in great travesty for ordinary working people in both the US and in their trading partner nations. The North American Free Trade Agreement is the obvious though not the only case in point. Many US jobs disappeared, contributing to urban decay and the disenfranchisement of American manufacturing workers, while south of the border Mexican workers suffer conditions that would constitute criminal offences just about anywhere in the developed world – workers being locked in factories, forced overtime and unsafe work environments, particularly for a predominantly female workforce, are among the travesties we hear about.

To articulate such things is often misconstrued as ‘anti-Americanism’. The truth is its precisely because of a close sense of fraternity and familiality with the US that I feel it is my place to put the world in such terms. To highlight such wrongs is not to hold them up as the complete or even typical picture of the US. For me they do however mean that to go around pointing the finger at China would be a perverse gesture coming from a US President. The West, and the US in particular have long ago forgone any position of legitimacy in claiming some moral high ground, if one ever existed.

The reality is that, as Barrack Obama really said in his speech to the Australian Parliament – China, like the US, is a very big and multi-faceted thing. Of both these nations there is much to behold in admiration and even wonder, and yet there are times when power is wielded discriminately, unfairly and inhumanely by individuals and institutions within each of these great nations.

I have no objection to US Military involvement in Australia so long as the result is not to signify pre-emptively we are not friendly to other peoples of the region. I don’t believe announcements about comparatively very small numbers of troop rotations through Australia and joint naval exercises that have always existed at any rate are really about sending a belligerent message to China. I certainly hope not. After a decade of futile and costly intervention on the far side of the globe resulting in very unsatisfactory outcomes it is only natural the US should pull its head in and start to reallign its focus closer to home. However as the media keeps playing up this belligerence toward China it is only a matter of time until enough people are convinced of the imperative that it becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy, and all of those lingering cold war tensions become a reality once again. With an eye to history it is possible to imagine such things could escalate into conflict. If that does happen the genesis of it will have been in the mass idiocy of the opinion-mongers and not in any real social imperative.,0,2946008.story

I wouldn’t normally cite Peter Costello, but one point he makes here about the left’s embracement of Obama (despite announcements regarding US military) almost warrants the Costello smirk: