Just before New Year the Abbott government’s final action as chair of the UN Security Council was to vote against a resolution supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state and ending Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The only other country to vote against the declaration of Palestinian national rights was the United States. Voting in favour were France, Argentina, Chile, China, Russia, Chad, Jordan and Luxembourg. Abstaining were Britain, Nigeria, Rwanda, Lithuania and South Korea.
A few days before the vote Israeli extreme right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a former bouncer, said the Palestinian bid for statehood via the UN was “an act of aggression”.
Eddie Zananiri, a prominent member of the Palestinian community in Australia, said Australia’s vote “reinforces a feeling by the community that this (Abbott) government is anti-Arab”, adding: “The government opinion on Palestine does not reflect the majority view of the Australian public, including the Arab community.”
Forty-eight hours after the UN vote, Abbott left Canberra in the dead of night to fly secretly to Baghdad on an unscheduled mission. Why?
I’ve been told that news of Australia’s backstabbing vote at the UN had received the widest coverage in the Arab world. (It was against an Arab-sponsored motion).
The Baghdad Shi-ite regime came under immediate pressure to kick the Australian special forces out of Iraq and to stop RAAF warplanes from bombing raids on Iraq.
In short, Abbott scurried to Baghdad on a rescue mission to save the Status of Forces Agreement, the legal document which provides amnesty for Australian forces while serving in Iraq. It had taken weeks to negotiate because of Australia’s bloodstained history during the US/UK-led invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan after September 11.
No one knows what soothing “aid” Abbott paid Prime Minister Nouri al-Abadi, who succeeded Nouri al-Maliki last August, but Australian forces have been allowed to remain … for the time being.
Incidentally, the “Mad Monk” was so anxious to ingratiate himself with al-Abadi that he referred to him as “president” and not his correct title “prime minister”.
Details are scarce because Abbott banned the Australian media from covering his trip: he took along a camera team hired by the Prime Minister’s Department which supplied vetted TV footage.
It was the sort of propaganda effort we have come to expect from Stalinist dictators during the Cold War era, Third World potentates, kings and queens.
Sad to say, Abbott’s tactics worked. The mainstream media was compliant as ever and not one “foreign editor” pointed to the link between Australia’s scurrilous UN vote and Abbott’s desperate mission to Baghdad.
The sooner Baghdad kicks the Australian Defence Force out of the Arab Gulf and Iraq the better. Part of the Australian military mission is to gather intelligence on the ground (and in the air) and supply it to Washington where it is shared with Israel.
House of Cant
Parliament has a reputation as the home of cant and hypocrisy and it was certainly on display on the last day of the NSW Parliament on 20 November 2014.
Labor’s Deputy Leader Linda Burney, MP for Canterbury and a Wiradjuri woman from the Riverina, told MPs: “I recognise all my Labor colleagues and thank them for their support for what has been a very challenging but rewarding four years.
“On behalf of John Robertson and on my own behalf, I recognise that I could not have asked for a better team. I thank the Leader of the Opposition, who has been an outstanding friend and colleague for many years. His energy is extraordinary. John, I thank you, particularly during Christmas felicitations, for your leadership throughout the year and for the great work you have done both in the Chamber and outside Parliament.”
Michael Daley, MP for Maroubra who also covets the Labor leadership, said: “I thank the Leader of the Opposition, John Robertson, and his staff.
Almost four years ago John Robertson promised to be the hardest working Leader of the Opposition this place had ever seen. He has lived up to that promise. He does not know how to take a backward step. He has led from
the front and has done extremely well in leading us in what is undoubtedly a rebuilding phase. He and all our colleagues are looking forward to the competition that we will face in March. Because of John’s leadership we
will do that without fear, and we look forward to that competition with optimism.”
Nick Lalich, right-wing Labor MP for Cabramatta: “On my side of the House I congratulate John Robertson on the great work he has done over these four
years. It is not an easy job to lead 20 members in a fight against 69 members on the other side. John hangs in.”
Four weeks later Lalich and the others were hanging Robertson out to dry and installing Luke Foley as his successor.
By way of contrast, there was something refreshingly honest about the final speech of Mount Druitt MP Richard Sanderson Amery, a former policeman and father of the House who leaves parliament in March after 32 years.
The 63-year-old former leader of the faction known as the “Trogs”, aka the Troglodytes, said of Labor’s parliamentary leadership: “I recognise the Leader of the Opposition John Robertson, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Linda Burney, and Michael Daley.” And that was it.
My admiration for Amery is long-standing. When Bob Carr, Michael Costa, Eric Roozendaal and Labor’s right-wing were ridiculing the “Trogs”, it was the only faction fighting Eddie Obeid and the Sussex Street machine.
The brilliant Louise Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Press, must rescue her reputation after chairing the 2014 judging panel of the Prime Minister’s Book Awards.
Ms Adler is a leading publisher: some of her authors are contestants for the prize money: and she is also publisher of one of Abbott’s execrable books.
The potential conflicts of interest were so enormous she should never have taken the job. By accepting she only succeeded in giving false credibility to Abbott among people who like books, bookshops, writing and publishing.
This year’s judging was a scandalous farce. The ghastly reactionary Hal Colebatch should never have won a prize for his rant against trade unionists and seamen in a book about “traitors” to the imperial war effort in 1914-18. Mike Carlton highlighted its inaccuracies in a demolition job for Crikey. (Mike Carlton: The shoddy anti-union fiction that won the PM’s top history award, 9 December 2014).
To cap it all, Abbott stiff-armed the judges and overturned their decision to give the main fiction prize to Steven Carroll for “A World of Other People”. He insisted the prize be shared with Richard Flanagan’s “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” which won the 2014 Man Booker Prize.
Even though Abbott made the right call with Flanagan, his intervention was boofheaded, dishonourable and unacceptable. The judges – including Ms Adler – were made to look ridiculous. She should tell Abbott and his equally disgraceful Arts Minister George Brandis that judging literary awards requires intelligence, culture and independence. And then resign.