Don’t believe the pollsters showing the ALP way ahead of the Coalition. John Howard is heading for another victory, and Kevin Rudd and the ALP are once again walking toward the abyss doing a ‘Latham’ by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at virtually the same stage of the electoral cycle. It is almost too painful to watch.
Take the Hicks issue. The day before David Hicks’s appearance before the Pentagon Commission (let’s call a spade a spade) in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, all Rudd said, timidly, was that Hicks was not going to get a fair trial and that, if he were Prime Minister, Rudd would ensure that every Australian would have their rights protected. It was a weak and disappointing turnaround from Rudd, who had previously savaged the Pentagon process with the contempt it deserves. But at least he put himself out there.
Then came the moment last week when Hicks, in appalling conditions and under the pressure of five years of abominable incarceration, pleaded ‘guilty’ to one charge of ‘materially supporting terrorism.’ Nobody believed that he entered into a plea bargain subject as it is to an astonishing and unheard of gagging order as a free man. In fact, it looks increasingly likely that Hicks pleaded guilty because he couldn’t take GuantÃ¡namo Bay any more otherwise, he would have plea-bargained a long time ago.
And what did Rudd have to say?
And what did his Shadow Attorney-General Joe Ludwig have to say about it?
The ALP, pathetically, requested a ‘briefing’ about the Hicks case from the Government. What did they expect to get from such a ‘briefing’? Images of Hicks agreeing to a guilty plea at gunpoint with the Star and Stripes in the background? An admission by Howard that he had refused to lift a finger to uphold an Australian’s human rights?
Meanwhile, the usual suspects in the commentariat were regurgitating the line that Hicks’s guilty plea was not a sad day for Australia’s human rights record but a victory for Howard’s ‘War on Terror.’
‘Terror Triumph for the PM’ read the Daily Telegraph. In his morning segment on the Nine Network, Alan Jones had the indecency to dismiss anyone who’d voiced concerns about Hicks’s incarceration and the denial of a fair process as just part of a ‘ cheersquad.’ Suddenly, the Law Council of Australia, Amnesty International and the most respected criminal lawyers in our nation from Burnside to Lasry to Richter were reduced to girls with big hair shaking pom poms. Piers Akerman told his massive readership that those aggrieved by human rights violations were just ‘idiots.’
In fact, most radio jocks were chanting (suspiciously) from the same song sheet. ‘Hicks guilty,’ ‘chapter closed,’ ‘convicted terrorist,’ ‘Howard vindicated,’ and on and on and on. Not a word on human rights, torture, fair trials or inadmissible evidence. The megaphone of media manipulation works perfectly when required. (Could the new cross-ownership rules gifted by the Government to our media proprietors have anything to do with it? Or was it just these media commentators suddenly found a weird synchronicity? Perhaps it was just a mere coincidence.)
Against such a background, surely it was time for moral leadership from the PM-in-waiting. We waited and waited for words from the man who promised us he’d be an alternative, not an echo. Remember, Kevin? That was the best line you used to persuade your colleagues to elect you and ditch Kim. And what did we get from you in a week where the rights of all Australians, by implication, were imperiled by our Government’s complicity with the GuantÃ¡namo Bay version of ‘justice’?
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas
In a week where Human Rights was the issue, where most Australians felt indignant about the treatment of one of our own, all you did was to beat your chest in Parliament reciting motherhood statements about the environment Brilliant politics, Kevin.
I don’t know who’s sold you this magnificent electoral strategy. But here’s one piece of free advice: get rid of them, fast.
And it’s not just the Hicks issue. Take Howard’s ‘Pacific Solution.’ The Government is now discussing recruiting Indonesia to help in the ‘processing’ of potential asylum seekers. Like the Nauru option, this would violate international conventions signed by Australia. We all know that.
As a matter of fact, Australia doesn’t even have a refugee problem to start with. The number of potentially ‘illegal’ refugees who have attempted to enter Australia over the past 15 years is less than 20,000. It is a miniscule non-issue. The so-called refugee ‘crisis’ is a fabrication concocted by the Government to build electoral support among the most misinformed segments of our population. We all know that. The ALP should know that.
And what did Tony Burke, the ALP’s Shadow Minister for Immigration say about the idea of Indonesia processing asylum seekers? The same thing he said when 83 Sri Lankans asylum seekers were deported from Australia to Nauru to be ‘processed’ there: it was a ‘waste of money.’
So violating Australia’s international obligations while treating the most defenseless people on earth with calculated cruelty, was only objectionable because it cost too much. What did he have to say about the morality and ethics of the Howard Government’s stance on refugees, and the erection of detention centres in the most desolate places on earth where innocent people, including women and children, would be confined potentially for years?
And what did Rudd say about these moral issues? Same as his spokesman: Nothing.
Cynics may argue that this is clever politics. They may say: ‘The ALP does not want to be wedged on any of these issues.’
I am sorry, but conceding the ethical battle to your adversary is a defeatist attitude which will take the ALP nowhere. It is also wrong. Beazley and Latham tried it before and it did not work. It was a disaster. Don’t the ALP learn from history?
Shying away from today’s key ethical and moral issues is not a recipe for electoral victory. Ultimately, Howard, right or wrong, has always had the fortitude of going for what he believes even if that may disgust many. Howard is a leader who is not afraid of being ‘wedged’ himself. That is why the mob keeps voting for him a lesson that the ALP seems to have lost sight of, despite four consecutive election defeats.
And, Kevin, if the mob don’t find a reason to vote for you, if they end up perceiving that you don’t have what it takes in the issues that count, once they get over your good manners, charm, and easy smile, come November, Kevin, you will find yourself with simply nothing.
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