The Guardian 21 February, 2007


Howard on the skids

The polls are showing that the Howard Government and even Howard himself could be defeated in the Federal elections due in the second half of this year. This is not the first time that his government has faced defeat. In the lead-up to the last federal elections he played the race card and misled voters about keeping interest rates low. The ALP appears more confident and popular under its new leader Kevin Rudd.

Facing defeat, a desperate Howard may attempt to provoke (or have staged) some sort of incident that would allow him to play the "racist" or "terrorist" card yet again, heightening the fears of a section of the electorate. It is certain that he and other Government Ministers will attempt to lie their way out of the situation. Lying has been their stock-in-trade for years now.

The PM and his Treasurer Peter Costello can be expected to undertake some strategically targeted big spending to buy off some sections of the community. He has already announced a $10 billion announced as a rescue package for the Murray Darling river system and additional funding for public and private schools and early childhood education.

However, the Murray-Darling scheme seems to have been plucked out of thin air with very little detailed planning as the State Governments are finding out. (see story) Howard is attempting to claw back a climate change credibility but his water scheme is at least ten years too late and too little. Because of his continued refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocols with its greenhouse gas emission quotas; his promotion of nuclear power while failing to promote renewable energy alternatives; and his failure to tackle the contribution that is made to climate change by coal fired power stations, Howard’s lack of credibility on environmental question will remain.

Then there is his government’s continued support for and participation in the US’s aggressive and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some US Congressmen are now describing the war in Iraq as the "biggest foreign policy mistake" ever made by a US government. But US President Bush and the Australian Prime Minister are incapable of making an honest analysis or admitting to the devastation and misery that they have caused. They show no concern for the heavy loss of life and suffering they cause.

Anything that the US requires of Australia, whether it be the new US spy base at Geraldton in WA (see story) or the use of Australian territory by US forces for military exercises (Talisman-Sabre exercises in Queensland) is agreed to without question. No other Australian political leader has ever adopted such a servile attitude towards the United States with the possible exception of Harold Holt, who coined the phrase "All the way with LBJ" during the Vietnam War.

Howard’s big gaffe was the criticism of the US Democrat Presidential candidate, Barack Obama because of his opposition to the Iraq war. (see story) If Howard’s claim that Obama’s opposition would encourage terrorists was valid, the same must be said of the majority of the American people and those Democrats and Republicans who last week overwhelmingly voted for the phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Howard’s statement is yet another example of his arrogance and willingness to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries without any consideration for what is appropriate in the relations between one country and another. It is part of the Howard Government’s pre-emptive strike policies by which he claims a right to send police and troops to other countries to take over government responsibilities and to control their police and troops — as is being done in the Solomon Islands and East Timor and as he would like to be able to do in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

The April 22 actions in NSW and May Day actions around Australia could play an important role in making the government’s WorkChoices legislation a central issue in the forthcoming federal elections. These demonstrations provide a great opportunity to strike a big blow against this reactionary, union-bashing, worker hating government. Every vote will be needed, and that means enrolling to vote NOW if you are not already on the electoral roll.

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