Two polls published this week came to conflicting conclusions. One said Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his scabrous federal government were clawing their way back while the other said Abbott remained unpopular and Labor would easily win an election if held now.
The first conclusion to draw is that the polls are rubbish. Their modelling is random rather than scientific and the results are unreliable or unbelievable, depending on your political persuasion.
I rely on political instinct, conversations with family and friends and an unquenchable passion for following politics here and abroad.
My own conclusion is that Abbott IS the Coalition’s major problem. No matter what changes are made to its policies, how many barnacles they knock off, or how they rearrange the Cabinet – they are still left with Abbott. And he is loathed, ignored, ridiculed or mistrusted by voters. His only apparent friend, Cardinal George Pell, is in the Vatican’s counting house in the eternal city.
Despite four months of re-imaging with the help of Mark Simkin, the former ABC political correspondent who is now Abbott’s director of communications, electors still don’t like the Mad Monk.
In short, the Coalition’s electoral appeal will remain in the toilet while Abbott remains PM.
As part of Abbott’s $200 million spending on Anzac/World War One commemorations, he is sending another 320 soldiers to Iraq. (The Herald story on the commitment said 300 soldiers while the headline said 320. Callous carelessness).
It is difficult to imagine a more horrendous example of political cynicism.
The troops’ arrive in Baghdad is 100 years almost to the day when Anzac soldiers arrived at Gallipoli.
After he attends the dawn service on the shores of Anzac Cove, I fully expect Abbott and his Kiwi counterpart John Key to fly to Iraq for some happy snaps with “our new Anzacs”. Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper and TV media can be relied upon to present an orgy of pro-military propaganda.
I will not be watching any television during the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign nor will I be attending any dawn service or street parade. I won’t be listening to Fran Kelly’s gushing chauvinism on ABC Radio National or reading Peter Fitzsimons’ achingly dumb stories from the Turkish beachhead.
This approach will be in keeping with family tradition and the grief that echoed through the generations after two of my uncles, Joseph and Arthur Wilesmith, returned from World War One as trenchant critics of imperial warmongering.
Joe died shortly after returning home having been poisoned by mustard gas in the trenches of northern France and although Arthur lowered his age and went off to World War Two he never accepted the “glory” of war peddled by politicians and the RSL.
Australians are being fed a militaristic narrative which is historically wrong and morally bankrupt. We are told by the organised cheer squad that Australia “came of age” through the “blood and sacrifice” made at Anzac Cove and in the trenches of the Somme. So the legend goes, the Australian nation was “blooded” by World War One and out of the “blood sacrifice” Australia attained its nationhood, its character and identity.
What a load of bollocks. By 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was declared, uniting the six separate colonies and the Northern Territory under a constitutional, democratic and legal framework which was one of the wonders of the world.
This achievement – the establishment of six parliaments, voting rights, political parties, trade unions, courts, schools, universities, hospitals, orchestras, libraries, railways and shipping lines – happened without thousands of young men being slaughtered in a country (Turkey) with which we had no argument.
The war myth is being perpetuated at colossal expense to bind Australia ever more closely to US imperialism. As Washington scales back its military presence in SE Asia because the sick US economy can no longer afford the burden, Australia is being lined up to fill a role “containing” China and becoming “deputy sheriff” as John Howard once described it (after talking privately to George W Bush at his Texas ranch).
The future is Asia
Australia’s future is bound up with Asia (read China). We are geographically part of the Asian region and Asian nations constitute our major trading partners.
The old Anglo-Saxon link is a brake on our cultural and economic development. The old Judeo-Christian model is broken too. Australia is a secular society offering freedom of religion to all its citizens.
Those who glorify war and celebrate militarism are opposed to an independent Australia becoming an integral part of the Asian century. They are not just looking backwards, they are trapped in the past, and clinging to the fantasies of British and American superiority.
Australia was left high and dry in the 1960s when Britain abandoned its post-imperial presence “east of Suez” and now Washington is extricating itself from its role “east of Hawaii”.
Does Australia really want to remain an Anglo outpost flying the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes with the queen of England as its president, or become a beacon of culture, prosperity and basic rights as a republic of Asia?
It’s time to grow up and move on.
ISIS: War update
War reporting from Baghdad is wholly unreliable: a combination of Western military press hand-outs and on-the-ground guesswork.
Last week upbeat reports were celebrating the taking of Tikrit, a non-strategic town famous as the birthplace of executed president Saddam Hussein.
This week we are presented with howls of despair over the imminent fall of Ramadi, a significant centre of regional power and commerce, to ISIS fighters.
The Ramadi reports quote “Iraqi army sources” i.e. propaganda from the current rulers in Baghdad.
The overriding purpose is to lure Washington and its allies deeper into involvement in the conflict – more air strikes in Iraq, then Syria (why not Yemen too?), followed by the deployment of Western Special Forces in “boots on the ground” operations.
Western military involvement is costing billions of dollars and undermining already troubled domestic economies. Remember how the Vietnam war broke the US economy in 1972? A re-run of that imperialist catastrophe is taking place now.
One other thing is worth remembering. Iraqis are intense nationalists with an abiding commitment to the liberation of Palestine. They are also intensely political people and could not have failed to notice that when the UN Security Council voted to support national rights for a Palestinian state, only two countries voted against – the US and Australia.
We know what the Iraqis (Sunnis as well as Shias) and ISIS militias think of mercenaries from the Great Satan (US), so what might they think of mercenaries from the Little Satan (Australia)? In rushing to protect his own political career, Abbott seems to regard the lives of Australian soldiers on the frontline in Iraq as collateral damage.