Stay at home – an update

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 

KERRY O’BRIEN: But you would see intelligence information all the time. Isn’t it also true, because certainly there is a clear impression of it, that Al-Qaeda is now more widespread, now has more recruits than it had in those pre-September 11, pre-Bali days?

KEVIN RUDD: As I said before, Kerry, Al-Qaeda and groups like it have not been eliminated; they continue to exist. Our job …

KERRY O’BRIEN: No, no, but my question was are they stronger? It might be harder for them to operate, but in terms of their numbers and their spread, are they stronger?

KEVIN RUDD: I think the relevant question, and I don’t wish to go to intelligence reporting in my answer to your question. The relevant answer though to your question is that it is much harder for them to operate.

The Foreign Minister on The 7.30 Report

Let’s be clear. The Liberals bizarre escalation of Gillard’s “Machiavellian bastardry” comes from one reason; Abbott’s need to shore up his internal position following the “jetlag” gaffe. Abbott’s cack-handed managing of his Afghan visit has brought to the open a serious problem for the Liberals that in the last Parliament they handled through talking about China – they don’t know how to deal with the decline of US global influence.

Gerard Henderson noted that it’s unusual that Labor more clearly supports a foreign war than the Coalition. Probably what’s more unusual is that Labor is in power when a war is being fought. But anyway, it probably helps that the Labor left is more comatose than ever before. But it also helps that the US is less able to use the war to assert its authority and so less to rile the anti-US element in the Labor left. The US may be making less a deal of this than it did for Iraq, but it doesn’t make its purpose any clearer. If anything, less.

The lack of direction, and justification, behind the Afghan war was neatly brought out by the new Foreign Minister on The 7.30 Report last night, who struggled to give a clear answer to the question that the conflict would obviously raise – is it making things better? Whether it is making terrorism less of a threat is apparently a matter of classified intelligence reporting. What Rudd can tell us, though, is that they can track it much better. That’s great, so we know better what they’re up to, but we’re not sure whether we can do anything about it.

The lack of clear purpose to the Afghan war leads to what is really unusual about it; the non-Labor side is more uncertain how to react to a war in which Australian troops are fighting. The usual instinctive response by the Coalition is to escalate the commitment, so proving that they are more hawkish, and more loyal to the US alliance than Labor. The problem is that Abbott’s attempt to do so has caused problems, not least with his own side and so now his tour of a few hours is being used as an excuse to backtrack by putting the whole response “up for review”.

But the damage has probably been done. Clarity on military conflict or the US alliance is not an option for a Coalition leader. Another batch of mediocre poll ratings is hardly new for Abbott, but this time it will be highly unhelpful.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 12 October 2010.

Filed under International relations

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7 responses to “Stay at home – an update”

  1. James on 12th October 2010 12:22 pm

    I can’t see the Coalition ditching Abbott in the near future. After the close election result and the bally-hoo the Coalition made about Rudd’s axing, you’d think they’d look a little too like Sussex Street for their taste if they got rid of him this year or in the first half of next year.

    The interesting question is who is the Coalition’s alternative? Turnbull looks the most likely option.

    Currently, it looks like the Coalition is more desperate for an international agenda than Labor. How ironic, considering what happened with climate change.

  2. The Piping Shrike on 14th October 2010 10:04 am

    I don’t know what the timing is but Abbott is in trouble now. I see Murdoch seems to be turning against him so maybe sooner than later. I think their going on about Rudd will make little difference, as no one took it seriously in the first place.

  3. Larry Buttrose on 14th October 2010 12:37 pm

    Is this the “explosion” so many expected (and hoped for) during the election? Shrike, I think Abbott is clearly rattled by his own blunder, finds himself under pressure, and has been a bull in a china shop (sic) since. Foreign policy is clearly not his thing. Economics is not his thing. The question is, what, beyond grasping power, is his thing?

  4. The Piping Shrike on 14th October 2010 4:41 pm

    Values stuff, apparently. Not quite sure what they are. This is less an explosion than a dull, mortal, thud.

  5. James on 18th October 2010 9:32 am

    Now that the planets have re-aligned and the commentariat’s view of Abbott is that he has returned to his pre-election “peoples’ skills” persona, it would appear that the dream run the mainstream media gave him during the campaign is the main explanation why he came so close to winning.

  6. Al. on 18th October 2010 1:55 pm


    Looks like this could be the political ‘story of this week’ ?

    Well, if the ‘shabby’ treatment of Garrett is truly how many Labor MPs saw this (by Rudd) …. Gillard’s subsequent show of trust/elevation of him, seems to almost show she concurs ?

    P.S. … noticed Rudd’s lame ‘defense’ of this story on ‘Meet the Press’ … when he dodged this one by merely stating he hadn’t read the book, and that in any case, Cassidy was no friend ……

    I suspect we’ll be hearing a bit more from Mr. Rudd now ….

  7. The Piping Shrike on 19th October 2010 1:40 am

    “The faction leaders took the initiative – that’s all. And when they did, using poor opinion polling as the excuse, there was very little arm twisting to be done.”

    Yep, that pretty well sums it up. But only a Labor hack like Cassidy would assert this truth and then fail to ask two obvious questions: 1) why then did Labor bosses need to hide behind Kevin07 to win an election? and 2) why should anyone else be interested they have won control back?

    James, abysmal Labor tactics also helped.

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