Today (5-July-2007), the current Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has admitted in a speech that oil was a factor in John Howard's decision to take Australia to war. Prime Minister John Howard, and his various Defence Ministers, have spent the last 4 years telling us that oil (security) was NOT the reason we went to war.
Brendan Nelson has spoken as a "warm-up" before Mr Howard delivers an updated foreign policy speech today. Given that Ministers do not release information without Mr Howard's (or his office's) approval, what has changed? Why is the government admitting that oil is a reason for the war? John Howard is an extremely good politician.I believe it is because:
- He has felt the electoral concern about current, and likely future, price of petrol.
- He knows that voters are concerned about an unending war we can't win (like Vietnam)
- He knows that the Labor Opposition has a policy that will try to set a time-line for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
- He knows he has to call an election soon after the APEC conference in September.
Because of the above, John Howard want to retain voter approval for his actions. He wants voters to think that the war will lead to lower petrol prices. He wants voters to think he is doing a good job on petrol prices. He is, very carefully, trying to manipulate voters to think what HE wants them to think. That's his politics. Good politics, but will it fool the voters? Will it fool the media?
Late this afternoon senior government members, including John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello said that oil (resource security) was NOT one of the reasons for Australia's continued stay in Iraq.
It seems that Defence Minister Brendan Nelson did not clear his comments with the Prime Minister or his office, before talking to the press. Such a public rebuttal by senior members of government does not look good on a minister's CV.