T Nation

Australia


#1

Seems that debate coverage has swamped some really good international news -- John Howard was re-elected prime minister in Australia in an election that the Labor party attempted to make a referendum on Australia's help for the U.S. effort in Iraq.

How much would you wager that if the Australian election had ended with Howard's defeat that the media would be trumpeting this as a major loss, and the storyline would be how supporting Bush hurt our allies? I want to see the storyline now that Australia wasn't part of any "Coalition of the Coerced and Bribed".

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/10/09/1097261864643.html?oneclick=true
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Four in a row for Coalition
By Phillip Hudson
Political Correspondent
Canberra
October 10, 2004


#2

This is wonderful news.

God Bless the Aussies!!!

They have been by our side through thick and thin.

I hope that Australians realize that Kerry does not speak for a large proportion of Americans.

We trully appreciate their contribution.

JeffR


#3

The election here in Australa was won more on the issue of sound economic management rather than the Iraq issue. The Labor party tried to gain leverage over the war, but the Liberal party attacked Martk Latham's economic credibility. Their ads showed the complete economic mess he left when he managed a local council and questioned his abilty to run a country. In the end people voted to keep a Government that has (so-far) given us a string economy, rahter than taking a risk. Even hough Bush and Major may try to spin this as the majority of Australians supporting the war in Iraq I eel that it would be mising the mark.


#4

Tony:

Definitely it was more than a one-issue election, but as you said, the Labor party tried to make it a referendum on the war. I guess either their economic policies from the last Labor government were so bad as to overpower any Aussie consensus on the War in Iraq being a mistake, or there really isn't such a consensus -- at least not a strongly held one.


#5

WSJ Editorial

Two Wins Against Terror
October 11, 2004; Page A18

Democracy is a force terrorists dread. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has warned his al Qaeda associates that democracy in Iraq would "suffocate" the terror campaign he is orchestrating from his base in Fallujah. Voters Saturday in two very different parts of the world proved his point. Australians enthusiastically re-elected John Howard, a staunch U.S. anti-terror ally, and the Afghans pulled off, against tremendous odds, the country's first national election for a president.

In Afghanistan, voters bravely defied death threats from Zarqawi's Taliban allies and turned out by the millions in an unprecedented demonstration of people power. Only three years ago, Afghan women risked being flogged or even executed for trying to exercise the most basic rights. On Saturday, they lined up to vote equally with men, even if in keeping with Muslim tradition women voted separately.

In the three years since U.S.-led forces liberated Afghanistan and ended the country's use as a training ground for al Qaeda, three million refugees have returned. Some 10 million registered to vote. Children have gone back to school, and girls are being educated. Per-capita income is up sharply, and the economy is growing at a 20% rate, albeit from a small base. Yes, as Senator Kerry keeps reminding us, the opium trade has been revived, but so long as global demand persists, only Taliban-type tactics will be able to eliminate it completely.

Australia, by contrast, is an established democracy with a modern economy. But its election also provided a test of the anti-terror strategy launched by President Bush after 9/11. Prime Minister Howard supported the invasion of Iraq, sending Australian special forces to assist in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Most of the forces have now been withdrawn, leaving only a few hundred Aussie troops in Iraq. But entry into the war was not popular with Australians and there were predictions Mr. Howard would be upset by his Labor Party and strongly antiwar challenger, Mark Latham. Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists, who are affiliated with al Qaeda, tried to influence the election by setting off a bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta last month. Yet Australians didn't flinch and Mr. Howard won handily on Saturday. His Liberal-National coalition took 83 of the 150 seats in Parliament, improving his government's position.

No doubt his victory was attributable to the success of his free-market economic policies, which have delivered unparalleled prosperity with low inflation, unemployment and interest rates. But had he lost, the press world-wide would have trumpeted that it was because of his support for Mr. Bush. The world has taken a few turns for the better since terrorists were able to swing an election in Spain in March.

In Afghanistan, it may be weeks before a final vote tally is completed and there have been complaints of irregularities. But it appears that President Hamid Karzai, another staunch ally of the U.S., won the election.

Mr. Karzai's popularity offers further evidence that the U.S. should have moved faster toward local leadership in Iraq. He was installed as interim leader within weeks of the fall of the Taliban and provided the Afghan presence that ensured that the U.S. and its allies were never seen as an army of occupation. Instead, as our Michael Gonzalez writes nearby, the biggest fear of many Afghans is that foreign troops will leave before the task of reconstruction is complete.

It's also worth remembering that Afghanistan's transformation has been accompanied by predictions of doom all along the way. First, it was said that the U.S. could never topple the Taliban, especially if we got in bed with the Northern Alliance. Then we were going to end up bogged down for years like the Soviets and British. Next we didn't have enough troops, and Mr. Karzai was too weak and the warlords too strong. Saturday's election doesn't end the troubles there, but Afghanistan's progress so far is a major success for the Bush Doctrine of taking the battle to the terrorists and spreading freedom to prevent their return.


#6

Victory for the Man of Steel

By TOM SWITZER
October 11, 2004

Shortly after the Spanish election in March, the Economist published the photos of four leaders of the Coalition of the Willing -- Tony Blair, John Howard, George W. Bush and Jose Maria Aznar. Under the headline "One down, three to go?," the Spanish prime minister's face was crossed out. And the magazine reflected the emerging conventional wisdom when it pondered "the real possibility that all three could follow Mr. Aznar's party into defeat." For that reason, this year's Australian election received much more international attention than is usual.

On Saturday, the people down under did not follow the Economist's script. Not only has the staunchly pro-American and pro-war prime minister been re-elected for a historic fourth term, but Mr. Howard's governing Liberal-National coalition is set to gain seats in the House of Representatives as well as come close to capturing the Senate for the first time in over 20 years. Not bad for a government that was supposed to suffer a political backlash over Iraq.

To be sure, the election was not primarily a referendum on the war; it was fought on classic bread-and-butter domestic issues like economic management and health care. Still, the broader national-security issue was always lurking in the background. And to the extent that Iraq was a political issue, it hurt -- not helped -- Mr. Howard's Labor Party opponent Mark Latham. How so?

Well, for starters, Mr. Latham became opposition leader after he made a national name for himself by savagely (and crudely) ridiculing Mr. Bush and Mr. Howard on Iraq. In the process, he won the hearts and minds of most of the nation's media and intellectual sophisticates who complain about Mr. Howard's close ties with President Bush and his "neocon" sidekicks. In the lead-up to the war, Mr. Latham described Mr. Bush as "flaky," "incompetent" and "dangerous," while dismissing Mr. Howard as the U.S. president's lap dog and conservative parliamentarians as "a conga line of suckholes" doing the Texan cowboy's bidding on Iraq. Of course, legitimate criticisms of the Iraq venture were welcome, and Australians like a larrikin, but apparently most do not want a Michael Moore impersonator to be the nation's commander in chief.

Apart from the vulgarity, there was an important policy issue. While a solid majority of Australians opposed the invasion of Iraq, they also opposed Mr. Latham's plan to withdraw Australia's 850 soldiers by Christmas. The Labor leader was forced to hedge his bets and play down his original pledge. But the gaffe, made almost off the cuff on talk-back radio shortly after the Madrid bombing, did not play well with middle Australia. The accepted wisdom even among many opponents of the invasion was that an immediate pullout would not only have amounted to cutting and running on the eve of Iraq's scheduled elections; it would also have been tantamount to undermining Canberra's great and powerful friend in Washington's hour of need.

Add to this the fact that a reluctant Mr. Latham virtually had to be coerced into offering support for the U.S.-Australia free-trade deal, and his cozy relationship with the Greens -- a far-left party whose leader Bob Brown made international headlines a year ago when he rudely interrupted the American president's speech to the Australian parliament -- and it's easy to see why national security was an electoral liability for Labor. The U.S.-Australian alliance has been Canberra's most important diplomatic relationship since World War II, and many Australians clearly feel it is simply too important to entrust a maverick with the security of the nation. No wonder the outspoken Labor leader zipped his lips and scarcely mentioned Iraq during the six-week campaign.

But it wasn't just that Mr. Latham's controversial defense statements concerned the electorate. His defeat also reflects the fact that Australians are a conservative lot, wary of change and positively hostile to disruptive change, especially when the good times are rolling. Everything that should be up -- incomes, economic growth, the stock market, the budget surplus, consumer and business confidence and the standard of living -- is up, while everything that should be down -- unemployment, inflation, interest rates -- is down. Why then would the people rock the boat by electing an untested and untried commodity? The point bears underlining when you consider that Australians have changed governing parties only four times in the 22 elections since 1949. (In America, by contrast, the political party controlling the White House has changed seven times in the 13 elections during the same period.)

Then there were doubts about Mr. Latham's governing agenda. His interventionist industrial-relations agenda was a throwback to the bad old days of Australian socialism. His party's record of high interest rates scared the many Australians who are mortgaged to the hilt. His cozy relationship with the Greens came at the expense of Labor's historic blue-collar constituency, and this betrayal culminated in Labor's losing valuable support among its timber workers on the issue of logging old-growth forests in Tasmania. All of this raised serious doubts about the inexperienced 43-year-old Labor leader's ability to handle the job.

By contrast, the 65-year-old Mr. Howard -- Australia's prime minister for eight and a half years, a 30-year parliamentary veteran and one of the great conservative leaders of the modern era -- is trusted to get the job done. He may not be the most charismatic politician in the Antipodes. But critically he is regarded as a safe pair of hands running a competent government and a booming economy that has weathered both the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98 and the U.S. recession in 2000-01. True, despite his vaunted commitment to small government, Mr. Howard is hardly the second coming of Adam Smith. During the election campaign, he threw money at tightly targeted voters with abandon and cynicism. While leading a party that values self-reliance, he showered approximately $45 billion on people whether they needed it or not. For young apprentices, he promised to buy tool kits. For pensioners, he promised to pay power bills. But the point here is that this long-time supporter of economic reform is cut from an entirely different cloth than his opponents.

And when it came to homeland security, Mr. Howard was considered more capable of dealing with terrorist threats than the inexperienced challenger. When bombs are going off in the backyard -- Bali in 2002; an attack on Australia's embassy in Jakarta last month -- the very last thing the nation needs is what Mr. Latham's mentor and former Labor prime minister Paul Keating once promised to give the people: "a touch of excitement."

Mr. Howard's fourth consecutive election means that the man widely disparaged as "Little Johnny" will soon surpass Bob Hawke (1983-91) as the nation's second longest serving leader and will earn a place at the right hand of his political hero Sir Robert Menzies (1939-41, 1949-66) in the pantheon of Australian prime ministers. Not bad for a man who has had to weather a hysterical campaign of abuse for committing Australian troops to the liberation of Iraq. George W. Bush, who has described Mr. Howard as a "man of steel" and a "close personal friend," should be delighted.

Mr. Switzer is opinion page editor of the Australian in Sydney.


#7

Australia has contributed 900 soldiers to Bush's grand Coalition.

America has 120,000 troops in Iraq, if I recall correctly.


#8

Also, the reason Aznar was dumped by voters in Spain was because he tried to blame the train bombing on Basque separatists. Basque rebels have never bombed human targets, and blaming them caused a backlash amongst Spanish voters. They didn't appreciate Aznar trying to use a national tragedy to leverage political gain. (If only US voters would follow suit with George Bush).

So neither Spain nor Australia's elections were referendums on the Iraq war itself.

In America and Britain, that may not be the case... we'll see I guess.

But since Bush's domestic record also stinks, he doesn't really have a leg to stand on.


#9

Lumpy,

when you were refering to numbers of troops what was your point? i understand that America sent a shit load more than Australia did but Australain troops are amongst the top 2% of troops in the worl along with the Isralies, british and Russian.

Australia has an excellent track record during war time.

i would like to see the ANZAC ledgend made by some other countries.

"let we forget"

Simon


#10

Classic response --

Pretty much follow the Kerry line of disparaging our Allies. What's this whole thing about Kerry being so good at diplomacy?


#11

From before the election -- Simon, most of us appreciate the Aussies:

October 08, 2004, 2:32 p.m.
Lest We Forget
Australia can claim to be our most reliable ally.

Two months ago I was standing in front of the war memorial dedicated to the Royal Australian Regiment in Sydney. An RAR corporal had laid two wreaths, movingly inscribed with hand-written tributes, in memory of friends killed in action. He would be in his 60s or 70s today. His friends died 51 years ago in Korea fighting alongside Americans, Brits, and others in the U.N. force.

Korea is not the only war listed on the memorial. Among the others in which the RAR fought are Vietnam, Iraq, and World War II. Aussies were among the first soldiers to join the U.S. in Afghanistan. They are stationed today in Iraq.

Few of us honor the injunction "lest we forget" as faithfully as the RAR corporal. But Americans should know that Australia can claim to be their most reliable ally. The island-continent has fought alongside America in every U.S. war of the 20th and 21st centuries. And a firm American-Australian alliance has been in place since 1941, when Canberra transferred its primary loyalty from Britain to the U.S. following the shock of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese advance southwards through Asia.

That alliance has been the cornerstone of Australian policy since. It has had the consistent bi-partisan support of both Labor and (conservative) Coalition governments. And it has the broad support of most Australians ? except for the kind of querulous anti-American Left that exists everywhere, even in the U.S. itself.

Many people expected that for the first time the American alliance would be a major controversy in Saturday's Australian general election. Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch conservative, had taken the country into the Iraq war alongside the U.S. against strong domestic opposition. Left-wingers in politics and the media blamed the terrorist bombings in Bali and Jakarta that killed Australians on his decision. The new Labor leader, Mark Latham, a feisty politician who once broke a taxi driver's arm in a quarrel, announced months ago that he would withdraw Australia's troops from Iraq by Christmas. And the ground was set for a donnybrook.

It hasn't worked out that way at all. Iraq has scarcely been an issue. Howard has stuck firmly to his pro-Iraq guns, but he has campaigned mainly on domestic issues. If anything, he has gained more from his clear support of the popular U.S. alliance than he has lost through the unpopular Iraqi "troubles." And he looks like a strong, competent leader as a result.

For his part Latham has tried to put the Iraq issue to sleep. He has not withdrawn his pledge to bring home the troops, but he keeps very quiet about it. He sensed that moderate voters are worried and so he soothed them by appointing respected right-wingers like former leader Kim Beazley to run Labor's foreign and defense policies. They in turn quietly remind people that Labor has been a bulwark of the American relationship since the Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, forged it in 1941. And one Labor front-bencher recently remarked that the U.S. has been unambiguously a force for good since 1945 ? a remark that would scandalize European social democrats.

Instead of giving the voters a battle royal over Iraq, both parties have been promising them all sorts of economic and social goodies in a competitive fiscal giveaway. Usually left-wing parties have a natural advantage in such an auction ? and Latham has fought a shrewd and lively campaign on economic and environmental issues.

But Howard has an advantage of his own: the economy is booming. In the last 20 years, Australia has undergone an economic revolution, deregulating, removing protective tariffs, holding down taxes, developing new industries such as financial services, and upgrading its traditional industries (as connoisseurs of Australian red wines will happily confirm). It has also benefited more recently from the rise of the Chinese economy, with its vast appetite for raw materials. As a result, the country has enjoyed the longest boom in its history. But there is no gratitude in politics. Like people in other successful countries, Aussies now take their prosperity for granted. Howard is running up against the feeling of "time for a change." And despite his economic success and reputation for strong leadership, the polls are tantalizingly close.

If Howard were to lose on Saturday, the White House would have to shoulder some of the blame. Not because of Iraq, but because of the recent U.S.-Australian free trade deal. Howard had taken big political risks to help Bush over Iraq. Aussies in general thought that a tough political pro like Howard would get some solid political reward from Washington in return. But the trade deal was scaled down under pressure from the domestic U.S. agricultural and sugar lobbies. And what Howard got in the end ? though containing decent concessions ? was very far from being a triumph. Indeed, Latham was able to score points off the prime minister for surrendering more to the U.S. over pharmaceuticals than he had won over farming. It took the shine off what might have been a strong electoral appeal for Howard.

That could turn out to be a mistake for Bush as well as for Howard. A defeat for Howard on Saturday would be interpreted in most of the world as a defeat for the U.S. and a repudiation of Australia's involvement in Iraq. It would reinforce the impact of the Spanish election: Two leaders who backed Bush would have lost power. Above all, it would embolden the Islamist terrorists to think that their enemies were falling like ninepins and their cause succeeding ? which in turn would strengthen their appeal in the Islamic world.

Subtle distinctions get lost in international politics. Whatever the truth about Labour's support for the American alliance ? and Latham might conceivably move leftwards in the flush of unexpected victory ? the U.S. needs the Australian people to endorse their Iraqi commitment. Howard is the one who will make sure that happens.

And that is not all. Strategic necessity may be the main reason for wanting a Howard victory. But sentiment cannot entirely be excluded ? not when Australian war memorials commemorate all our own wars and when old men don't forget.

? John O'Sullivan is editor of The National Interest and an editor-at-large of National Review. He can be contacted through Benador Associates at www.benadorassociates.com.


#12

Howard got in because Labour has a bad record with the economy... NOT because of the war on terror...


#13

Depressing how after winning the election the economy was suddenly not as strong as it was several days before...

Or were we lied to?

Nah, politicians never lie.


#14

My point is that when the Australians have only sent 900 troops, that is hardly a real partnership in the war. And since Oz is the #4 contributor to the coalition (soon to be #3 if Poland wirthdraws), that shows how flimsy a coalition it is.

What do you say we start a business together? We can call it Simon and Lumpy Inc.

Except you'll do 95% of the work, and you'll also put up 95% of the financial backing. Does that sound like a good partnership?

The so-called 'coalition' is a joke, the White House even pulled the 'coalition' information down off their web site, so as not to embarrass the president any further... During the debates Bush claimed that Iraq was one of the coalition members (as if Iraq could have joined a coalition to invade and occupy their own country), but the fact is that Iraq were never considered a part of the coalition, and were never listed as such. The day after the debates, that web page was pulled.