The unmentionable rears its head

Thursday, 22 November 2007 

If I was running Al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

JWH 11 February 2007

Howard is right in saying that Labor is a friend to terrorism is not part of his campaign. The question is why not? It was in the last two elections and even nine months ago, given what he was saying about the Democrats in the US, he looked ready to try it again.

The Lindsay leaflets are a reminder of one of the big unmentionables in Australian politics, how much it is influenced by international events. Why this government now looks tired and out of ideas is not because it now is. Howard’s government never had an agenda from its beginning. Keating did it all for him, something nicely brought out in Kerry O’Brien’s avuncular, but devastating, last interview with Howard. The government looks out of ideas now because the international cover behind which an empty government has hidden for the last six years has now gone.

Energetic Liberals are having to run around on Sydney streets with fake leaflets because their party leader can no longer make Labor look soft on terrorism. As shown by the US election, the main sponsor of the international agenda of the last six years is now having to consider other strategies and the impact on Australian politics is immediate. Not only shown by the political capital Rudd made of the Howard’s Obama comments but by the inability of the government to even assert its authority on the legal system to carry out a simple request of the British government.

The Haneef affair and the furore over the Obama comments show that when international events move on, the Australian political class has little choice but to very quickly adapt. Within months its authority to impose its agenda on the very core institutions of the state, like the judiciary, fall away and the cohesion of the party starts to weaken. It is why, for example, a PM that is so desperate to try anything to get re-elected he even pretends to like his Treasurer, did not even dare to try and make an issue over a boat-load of Indonesian refugees.

The only one help Howard has is the support of others not to mention it. Labor has barely talked about Iraq since the Obama censure motion. The role that Iraq, terrorism and the US played in the 2004 election gets air-brushed out by the media and it becomes nothing more than Latham’s handshake and interest rates. And the Lindsay affair will become little more than an internal matter over who knew what in the NSW Liberal party. When Andrew Robb was outraged by the attempt by Labor’s Penny Wong on Lateline to make a link between the Lindsay leaflets and Howard’s scare campaign, he relied on the fact that she could not say what that link really was.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 22 November 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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