Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Triumph of the Stonefish

The John HoWARd stonefish - a sluggish and rather stupid predator with neither flair nor dash; it waits for its prey to come to it and then kills by treachery.

On 9 October 2004, 13,098,461 electors were enrolled to vote for the federal parliament. The Australian Electoral Commission's website records 11,715,132 electors having voted for the House of Representatives on a two-party preferred result. So much for voting in a federal election having been compulsory since 1911. And not a few will have left the polling booth wondering, 'Why bother?'

Run Johnny, Run is Mungo MacCallum's personal account of the 2004 election. A Win and a Prayer is the latest in the UNSW Press's 'Briefings', 'a series of topical books exploring social politics and cultural issues in contemporary Australia'.

For those of us who grew up with Nation Review and MacCallum's ironic, humorous, partisan and occasionally vicious style, his political views come as little surprise. To MacCallum. The Hon John Winston Howard MP, prime minister of Australia since 11 March 1996, has various nick-names 'many of them scatological, a number pertaining to body orifices, others involving the lower genera of the animal kingdom, some ironic and a few merely insulting', But the nickname that most appeals is 'the Stonefish':

It captures the essence of the man, both in his lack of personal appeal; and his success as a politician. The stonefish is a sluggish and rather stupid predator with neither flair nor dash; it waits for its prey to come to it and then kills by treachery. And, time after time, it gets away with it. The secret, of course, is in its appearance; as the name implies it resembles a rock resting in the sand of the sea bed, totally harmless and ordinary, even boring. But behind the innocuous disguise is one of the most poisonous and lethal creatures on earth. The trouble is that by the time the victim realises the trouble he's in, it's too late, he is already at best stupidified and at wost beyond help.

For MacCallum, the prime minister, posing always as a modest conservative, has dealt destruction to the Australian tradition on an extraordinary scale, transforming the country in less than a decade from an open and generous nation, tolerant and optimistic in its role as a respected member of the world community, into a selfish and timid appendage of a crusading superpower caught up in the superstition of Armageddon and apparently quite happy to cooperate in bringing it about.

In the process the public service has been drained of its independence, the judiciary seriously undermined, the national parliament reduced to a farce and the office of the prime minister, once regarded as no more than the first among equals, turned into an unaccountable commissariat ruling by absolute fiat.

In much of the devastation Howard has been aided by a cowed and incompetent political opposition and some smug an acquiescent media. But this does not excuse or explain the way the Australian public, notoriously disrespectful of politicians as a class and sceptical about both their warnings and their promises, has continually returned him to power.

The alternative may not have been madly attractive, but surely it has had more offer than the dishonesty, the meanness, the divisiveness and the simple nastiness of the Howard regime.

MacCallum's thesis is simple. The electorate has consistently fallen for the oldest trick of all, the naked appeal of those most basic of emotions fear and greed.

The goal of the entire electoral process, indeed of Australian democracy itself, has 'become the re-election of John Howard. Nothing else mattered. The Stonefish rules.'

For MacCallum, Howard does not deserve to be prime minister, yet he has extraordinary political survival skills. Howard is now the longest-serving prime minister after Robert Menzies; he achieved a 1.79 per cent swing to the Liberal-National Coalition in the recent House of Represen-tatives election, when many thought he was past his use-by-date. He will be remembered for more than advertising Vodafone when out on his morning walk.

MacCallum is no Theodore White, author of The Making of the President series, but the analogy may not be too fanciful, Nor does he offer self-indulgent reflections in the style of Bob Ellis's Night Thoughts in Time of War (2004) or, Margot Kingston's Not Happy, John! (2004). MacCallum is irreverent, at times downright rude, and he seems to have spent a significant proportion of the election period debating the key issues with his mates in the front bar of the Billinudgel Hotel in the north of Byron Shire. But he is also an extraordinary well-informed, politically astute, witty, passionate man.

Love him or hate him (and there are probably very few political groupies standing in the middle of this debate), MacCallum's Run, Johnny, Run is one of the best books on Australian politics and society to appear in a long time.

A Win and a Prayer: Scenes from the 2004 Australian Election is a totally different publication. No laughter here, no scatological jokes, although the chapter on the farce of 'The Battle for Wentworth' cannot but make the reader smile. But can the media please stop referring to the three main candidates -- Peter King, Malcolm Turnbull and David Patch -- as all being barristers, Turnbull is not a barrister.

These short essays include ' The Dog That Didn't Bark', in which Geoffrey Barker makes the disheartening observation that 'Australians are easily distracted from security issues during election campaigns by politicians hurling fistfuls of dollars and shouting "Trust us!".

Equally worrying is Peter Mare's 'Unfinished Business', a sad account of a hard-working group of refugees from Afghanistan harvesting fruit and vegetables in the Victorian Mallee region and of the supportive local federal member, John Forrest, the National Party whip, who has received letters from constituents telling him that he was not representing their interests and calling him 'a mad loony lefty', and worse. Further north, in the marginal Queensland seat of Hinkler, where One Nation pulled in almost a fifth of the vote in 1998, Labor distributed an election pamphlet during the campaign that decried the 'illegal foreign workers' who were 'stealing Australian jobs'. As Mares points out, this fear-mongering is misplaced, and Labor has failed to appreciate the changes underway in rural and regional Australia.

The last tow essays Brian Costar and Peter Browne's 'How Labor Lost' and Rodney Tiffen's 'The Aftermath: Must Labor Lose?", will surprise many who believe that the surprising swing to the Coalition in the House of Representatives has made many marginal seats 'safe', and that Labor can expect at least two terms in the wilderness. As Costar and Browne argue, the 2004 result 'does not herald the end of the Labor Party; it does not mean the Coalition will rule forever; and it does not rule out a change of government in 2007', The Liberal and National parties lost five consecutive elections between 1983 and 1993. As Tiffen notes, Mark Latham is being blamed by some for the loss, but as Carmen Lawrence has asked, would the train smash have been worse with another leader?

Australia went into the election with a strong economy, low interest rates and a government running scared and throwing money around like a drunken sailor. Those promises (or were they 'non-core' promises?) now have to be met or there will be many disillusioned voters next time round.

Peter Browne and Julian Thomas (eds) A WIN AND A PRAYER: SCENES FROM THE 2004 AUSTRALIAN ELECTION UNSW Press.

Mungo MacCallum

By Philip Selth posted 2 February 05

Australia: a presumption of guilt......
KAREN PERCY: Two of Australia's leading barristers have seized on the return of Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mamdouh Habib, to launch an unprecedented attack on the Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock.

Aust Community criticises Govt for 'crimes'!
Australia: The Law Council of Australia is warning that the Federal Government must learn from its mistakes over Guantanamo Bay? Now that's a mistake!

Australian Govt Guilty of Crimes: Community
Australia: The community says federal fascists who allowed the torture of its citizenry including Mamdouh Habib may be arrested when the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal address the War Crimes Indictment set out by the community.


HoWARd sunk and dead in the water
Since the neo-Liberal fascist's kicked Mark Latham out using the 'power,' and after they stamped on his head to make sure he stayed out, John HoWARd's Coalition and his media empire have maintained its mandate.

PM HoWARd still a great war criminal?
John Howard today becomes Australia's longest serving war criminal, with the latest poll showing he remains the corporate media's firm favourite.

Downer the warmonger sets record for war crimes
Warmonger Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer should have entered the record books after the attack on Iraq as Australia's longest serving war criminal in the portfolio and taken to the Hague for trial.

Warmonger Silent on Nuke Job
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is refusing to comment on whether he has been approached to replace Mohamed El Baradei as the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

HoWARd Government intelligence cover-up
The Federal Opposition has described the Government's failure to release the final report into the claims of intelligence failures within the Defence Department as a cover-up.

'Pre-emption' Australia's ASEAN headache
ASEAN leaders pressed HoWARd to rethink his rejection of South-East Asia's non-aggression treaty.

UN panel proposes criteria for legitimate military action
With countries still bitterly divided over the war in Iraq, a high-level panel appointed by the United Nations has recommended a five-step guideline to determine when to use military action.

Govt support for uranium enrichment research alarms Greenpeace
Greenpeace has called on the Federal Government to end its support for research on uranium enrichment carried out by a private company at the Lucas Heights facility in Sydney.

US may trial dumb bombs in Australia? How smart is that?
The United States looks set to test new generation weapons, including dumb bombs, in Australia within three years?

Australia must not be subservient to US military objectives
In a speech to the Senate last night, Senator Bartlett said that the Democrats support the US-Australia alliance, the ANZUS Treaty and appropriate defence and intelligence cooperation but not subservience.

Australian leaders congratulate Bush? Shit!
War criminal John HoWARd congratulates co-offender George Dubya Bush. HoWARd can relate to that because George Dubya is his co-offender in the illegal and degrading war on Iraq and especially now after the killings in Fallujah!

Boycott companies profiting from war: peace activist
Boycott call: Roy says companies profiting from the Iraq war should be shut down. She says a group of rich nations falsely accused an impoverished Iraq of possessing powerful weapons as a pretext for invading the country to further their own economic interests.

Sydney Peace Prize winner urges Iraqi resistance!!!!!!
"One wasn't urging them to join the Medhi army [in Iraq] but to become the resistance, to become part of what ought to be a non-violent resistance against a very violent occupation," she said.

Iraqi civilian deaths put at 100,000
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence since the US-led invasion last year, according to public health experts who estimate there were 100,000 "excess deaths" in 18 months.

Downer floats media tip-off scenario in Baghdad blast
US Foreigner Alexander Downer says he is investigating whether the media was tipped-off ahead of yesterday's car bomb attack on an Australian military convoy in Iraq.

How Howard Won
This is a small attempt to answer how we have ended up with an increased Liberal majority in government, when they have done so much long term harm to our country.

A Call to Action: re election of John HoWARd?
I am fed up with the political apathy of the majority of Australians and depressed about the outcome of the election. I need to do something about it. Does anyone want to help me.

Govt eyes control of Senate
Prime Minister John Howard "the rodent type" has begun his fourth term in office with a quiet day in Sydney after the Coalition's victory in the federal election.

Nothing will save us from gullibility and greedy self-interest
A small book turned up last week entitled How to Kill a Country. It was written by three Sydney academics about our "free trade" deal with the United States.

Australian caretaker Prime Minister John Howard 'a rodent type' does not need to apologise for the illegal and degrading war in Iraq despite a new report that has found Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction at the time of the US-led invasion.

Allies 'planned' Iraq war despite denials
The United States, Australia and Britain started to plan the invasion of Iraq months before the conflict, according to a report Wednesday quoting a leaked Pentagon document.

Hill primed for war!
Australian Caretaker Defence Minister Robert Hill has announced a multi-million dollar upgrade of the Pearce Air Force base in Western Australia. Hill says $87 million would be spent on a major upgrade of the base, which is Australia's main flying training facility.

Annan tells world leaders to respect law
United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan has made an impassioned plea to bring about the rule of law across the globe today. Mr Annan told world leaders to respect international law at home and abroad.

The 'coalition of the killing's' complicities - the US, Britain and Australia - have insisted that their countries' military action in Iraq was legal after they have committed war crimes against humanity.

Iraq war illegal, says Annan
United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan says the United States decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was "illegal". Australia was a key supporter of the war on Iraq and sent troops to join the United States-led invasion last year.

Australia will not Save Your Soul
The Federal Government will not Save Australian Soul's? Even if you're an innocent bystander caught up in it. Despite a group claiming to have kidnapped two Australian security guards? The alleged group, which allegedly calls itself the Horror Brigades of the Islamic Secret Army, allegedly has given the Prime Minister John Howard 24 hours to end Australia's involvement in Iraq.

Apologise to children abused in care: report
A Senate report on children placed in institutional care has called for the Federal Government to apologise to those who were harmed by their experience.

Australian Govt human rights record 'worsening'
Community groups have given the Federal Government five out of ten for its record on human rights this year. Mr Purcell said the Government was also marked down because of the policy of holding children in immigration detention centres.

Australian Federal Government complicity in war crimes
Complaint to Australian law officers about Australian Federal Government complicity in war crimes.

Australia an unfair nation, say young and all!
Young people and older people think Australia is undemocratic and unfair. Young people cite their teachers as having the greatest influence on their political thinking, according to a provocative new national survey funded by the Government. Older people cite "injustice" amongst other things as a "bent legal system" favouring hi profiled superstars, corporations and politicians.

Downer guilty!
The agreement for going to war on Iraq carried with it and incentive and that was free trade with the US. The Howard Government knew about it and went along with it with the US under the guise of Iraq's WMDs. In criminal law this is commonly know as collusion to commit a crime.

John Howard blameworthy
General Peter Gration is the spokesman for a group of 43 ex-military leaders, diplomats and departmental heads who have criticised the Government, saying involvement in Iraq has put Australia at greater risk of a terrorist attack.

Court reserves decision on 'no war' protest appeal
Two men have asked the Court of Criminal Appeal to accept that they painted "NO WAR" on the Sydney Opera House, to defend people in Iraq and Australia from war.

PM's Fox Defence? Less the evidence?
The Fox went out on a chilly night. He prayed for the moon to give him light. For he had many a mile to go that night....

Australians to be sacrificed: Howard
Howard vowed hostages wouldn't sway policy? The Federal Government say they would not negotiate with terrorists if an Australian were taken hostage in Iraq.

PM Howard Morally Bankrupt
Prime Minister John Howard insists the war in Iraq was justified despite his British counterpart Tony Blair's concession that weapons of mass destruction might never be found.

Howard 'should be tried for war crimes'
Former Liberal Party federal president John Valder says Prime Minister John Howard should be tried and punished for war crimes over Australia's involvement in the Iraq conflict.

Troop deployment not a deepening of effort: Hill
Deploying an extra 30 troops to Iraq was not a deepening of Australia's involvement because they were being sent to protect those already there, Defence Minister Robert Hill said yesterday.

War on terrorism' could take a generation: Downer?
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has launched the Government's terrorism white paper, saying the "war" could take a generation.

Howard Vs Regina in Canberra the Capital Territory of Australia- Friday January 30 2004.


Well think about this! Australia's intelligence agencies look set to receive a substantial funding boost in this year's Federal Budget, with the Prime Minister saying it is an obvious step to take.

Howard, where's your head at?
Australians living on the edge! Seems each time the bombs go off overseas Australians are living on the edge.

Should John Howard be locked up indefinitely?
Australian convicted mock terrorist John Howard is seriously considering appealing the precise time limit on detaining terrorist suspects.

Daily Terror rolled-over for Howard's war games
The DAILY TERROR is suspected of being the source of the news this morning that Willie Brigitte is a terrorist and that Sydney faces a bomb attack.