Saturday, August 19, 2006

Australian Government tries to Neutralise "Issues"

This week, Attorney General Phillip Ruddock said that the (Federal) Government would press for a "speedy trial" for David Hicks, in light of the US Supreme Court's decision about the illegality of the proposed "Military Commission".

If that were not to happen, Mr Ruddock indicated to Australian newspapers that Australia would seek the return of David Hicks. (

Why? To what end would the Australian Federal Government have this change of heart? It has always seemed happy enough for the US to inter David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay, with its criticism by the UN and International Red Cross.

I suggest that the Australian Government is trying to sideline, or at least minimise damage from, as many possible thorns as possible before the election due before late next year.

Remember, it is suffering from a number of recent issues, that it wants to sideline:
  • David Hicks' incarceration at Guantanamo Bay
  • High petrol prices: the government has felt sufficient media and voter dissquiet it has even offered A$2000 to convert cars to LPG, a fuel not currently subjec to excise duty. But it will be.
  • Leadership ambitions of Peter Costello & speculation about when Mr Howard might retire as PM
  • Interest rates. The (independent) Reserve Bank has increased rates again. This is the third rise since Mr Howard promised to keep them low before the last election. It is also the 4th consecutive rate rise!
  • Unease in the electorate, and most especially from the Church-based charities about the fairness and injustice behind new "welfare-to-work" penalties and case management.
  • Stem cell research
  • Telstra: I think the government will NOT be able to sell it via a T3 offering. Rather it might well be "shufffled out of tehway" to the "Futures Fund": not owned directly by the government, but sidleined, unable to be sold because of the mess surrounding its outdated infrastructure, and desire to exert monopoly-like charges on proposed new "fibre-to-the-node" infrastructure.
  • The increasing unpopularity of Australia's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Internal Liberal Party bullying over Migration Laws. Remember that the Government withdrew the proposed legislation after some of its own members railed against the bill in the House of Reps, and the Senate.
Yesterday (18 August), on the anniversary on the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam, much was made in the media of Mr Howard's apology to Vietnam Veterans. But he has not changed his government's view on restricting, or fighting against, benefits for veterans still suffering the effects of Agent Orange, psychological, and other health problems suffered by Vietnam Veterans.

The Howard Government still has much to fear as its decisions come back to haunt them before the next election.

Not withstanding those, the Labor Party will need to develop coherent, cogent policies, AND publicise them to the electorate, if it wants to win government. It will have to do this with knife-edge timing: too early, and they will have the eyes picked out of them; too late, and the electorate won't have time to assimilate what is being promised.

The Analyst