Two critical ballots will take place this week. One of them, for the Labor Party leadership, has already been decided. Kim Beazley will again be Labor’s leader after Friday. Supporters of the Left’s Julia Gillard and the Right’s Kevin Rudd were outnumbered by the Beazley faithful allied to the desperate but familiar hope that only another dose of good blokism and moderation (or vacillation) in all things can refloat the Labor ship. We run both Beazleyite and alternative views in this issue.

Beazley is yet to put himself in the way of hard questions so straight answers are missing and we must wait to see if there’s been a change. Yesterday’s flummery about the Government’s agenda ‘imposing on us an obligation to be effective in acting in the public interest’ was all the more discouraging because it sounded so like the flummeries of two years ago.

We would like to know what Kim Beazley will say if the US invades Iran. What he would do should there ever be another Tampa? Where he now stands on our immigration and detention laws? On human rights legislation? Will he take on the Labor factions?

Can Labor under Beazley become a modern social democratic party that people – especially young people – will once again want to join? Will Labor recognise how many bridges it has burned in recent years – not only to the battlers and the aspirationals, but to people of ideas, passion and good will on whom they have always depended? Will Labor undertake the necessary policy work: not just the poll research, but the imaginative thinking required to make it a credible and worthwhile alternative government?

AFL Chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, gave Labor a lead in his Australia Day address.

‘What sort of nation are we building for the future? Can we continue to believe we are a just and sharing and inclusive society? Where to with reconciliation?

How can Australia again become an adventurous, far-thinking, generous nation, one which always plays beyond its weight? We do it with leadership: not leadership from the prime minister down, but the community up…

If a Tampa suddenly appeared on our borders today, I’d like to think we might ask how do we embrace the people on board, rather than how to rid ourselves of the problem. I’d like to think we’d respond as we did when the Tsunami struck…’ see The Age

The reprimands have come pouring in, which is more than Labor has been able to achieve in recent times. The Treasurer said Demetriou should stick to football. No doubt he has since castigated himself for dabbling in religion last year. Next he will be asking his Prime Minister to stick to politics and leave cricket and rugby alone.

Speaking of rugby, Alan Jones who dabbles in everything thinks that Australia Day addresses should praise the place not slam it. The old familiars of the Melbourne commentariat felt much the same. They should pass a law forbidding criticism of the country on Australia Day and a week either side. They could tack it onto the law Phillip Ruddock says will prevent Habib from publishing his account of two years detention without charge in Guantanamo Bay.

On Sunday Iraqis go to the polls. Iraq’s first national election since Saddam Hussein’s fall will select a 275-seat National Assembly and 18 provincial assemblies. Veteran Iraqi politician Naseer Chaderji calls them the first ‘secret elections’ in history. Some Iraqis don’t know who to vote for as most candidates keep their identities hidden. Location of polling stations won’t be revealed until Sunday for fear of intimidation and attacks.

In this issue Tony Clifton (see article here) sees parallels between Iraq and south Lebanon in 1982 when Israel decided to do what the Americans say they’re trying to do in Iraq root out ‘terrorists’. The mission had the opposite effect.

Debating Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone at a Rotary breakfast last week, Julian Burnside declared the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and Vanstone were guilty of crimes against humanity. He based the assessment on the Australian government’s own legislation; ‘they are guilty,’ he said, ‘of violating their own laws. If Australia were geographically eligible for membership of the European Union, we would be disqualified on human rights grounds. If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were being debated now Australia would oppose it.’ In her reply Vanstone made no effort to respond to the accusation.

The full text of Julian Burnside’s speech is available on Crikey.com and is essential reading not only for the legal charge it makes, but for its dissection of the dire hypocrisy of government (and much media ) rhetoric.

Readers’ comments are coming in thick and fast especially around the climate change articles of Martin Callinan (see article here) and Paul Fritjers (see article here) and this week Geoff Davies and we have constructed a policy portal for Environment to continue the debate.

Almost every article we run on human rights, refugees and detention legislation stirs responses – and reprimands from some who think we should get over it. In the last issue John Menadue asked subscribers to consider the proposal that New Matilda work towards a focussed campaign for a Charter of Human Rights. We want your feedback on this. It seems to many of us that without such legislation we are stuck in a mire. New Matilda would create a forum to debate and draft a charter. Let us know what you think.

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