Democrats & Liberals Archives

Will Bush Keep Australia in the Coalition?

We may find out the answer to that question very soon, as Australia’s parliamentary elections are happening today. The latest polls suggest Bush ally John Howard may even add to his majority, which would be a big relief for our President. The opposition leader Mark Latham has promised to pull out of Iraq if elected.

Though the results fall within the margin of error, all but a handful of polls over the course of the campaign have forecast a victory for the government.

If Australia's 13 million voters give Mr Howard a fourth election victory he will equal the tally of the 1980s Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, and potentially outstrip the length of his term in office.

Bookmakers have Mr Howard as a strong favourite to retain power; his government holds 82 seats in the 150-seat lower house and would be out of office if it lost just seven seats and the support of independents. Labor needs to win 12 seats to claim victory.

But Australian elections frequently throw up unexpected surges against ruling parties and Mr Howard yesterday told wavering voters that a protest vote could be enough to eject him.

I found this discussion among mostly Latham supporters from two weeks ago to have some interesting insights, including this from someone stationed in Baghdad:

Whether or not the Iraq misadventure was legal - and the UN is hardly disinterested in their determination of that now irrelevant question - virtually none of the reasons and doctrinal changes that led to it held water beforehand, let alone with the benefit of hindsight.

Even removal of Saddaam the Insane on the grounds of being a nasty tyrant and kleptocrat hardly distingushed him from numerous others, some of whom might actually be able to hit the side of a barn door with a dirty piece of ordnance. He couldn't do it in 1991 and the place went downhill after that.

Some people here in Iraq will tell you that almost anything is better than Saddaam. Some have returned to help restore the country - a generally positive story in a place that needs more. Others however will tell you that in the 18 months since Saddaam, they feel less secure than when he was here.

Many who stayed throughout the Saddaam time (even if because they had no choice) are now considering leaving because they see no future for their children. Or because their children can not walk safely to school. Or because on the way one of them was killed in a car bomb planted by some nutter who may or may not be Iraqi.

and this in a later response from someone in Australia:
What bothers me is the absence of international political savvy in Australian voters. It goes like this: Howard was too weak to say "No!" to George W Bush. We entered the war, a war in which 70% of the population was opposed. A war which Mark Latham tried to stop, on it's eve, by saying that Howard was, indeed, "too weak to say 'No!' to the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory". True words, often quoted out of their proper context. A war in which, Mark said in parliament, would result in "bombs being dropped on a population in which one person in four is a child under 15". Not quoted often, but it should be. Dig up his "March of Folly" speech and read it for yourself.

Now, one year of occupation later, we have Iraq on the verge of civil war and domestic collapse. The war was obviously embarked upon with no clear plan for peace. Normally a government with any decency would resign in disgrace. But not George W Bush, and not the Bennelong Bonaparte, nosiree. He still holds out that this disastrous choice was "in the interests of Australian national security", and poll after poll tells us that the majority believe him. He also says, "I don't retreat from my decision. In fact I would do it again".

Sounds familiar doesn't it.

Posted by Walker Willingham at October 9, 2004 5:28 AM