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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Political signifiers « Previous | |Next »
March 19, 2003

I did not see the debate in federal parliament in Canberra yesterday afternoon over the war. Like other citizens I read about it in the newspapers this morning when I finished reading the speeches. What struck me about this parliamentary debate was a little detail: the action of John Howard, the Prime Minister, turning his back on Simon Crean whilst Crean was delivering his speech.

Okay, it was not a good speech by Crean. Too negative and polemical as usual. Crean needs new speech writers. Maybe they could read this one by US Senator Robert Byrd, We stand passively mute. The phrase I used in the previous post, "sleep walking through history" comes from this speech of Wednesday 12 February 2003. What was missing was spelling out the alternative suggested by the Doc. Evatt heritage in the Australian Labor Party over and above the need for a new UN resolution. Not even Bob Hawke delivered this. His argument was about the lies and deceits that litter the road to war.

The UN tradition within social democratic parties was expressed by Robin Cook's Why I had to leave the cabinet speech. He says that that the national interests of regional powers are "best protected, not by unilateral action, but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules."

So consider what Howard's backturning---some reports say it was turned with a gesture of contempt---signifies. This was more than rudeness or political theatre. It signified 'its all fait accompli':we have signed up to conflict with the Bush administration that has an agenda of its own. Their agenda is our agenda. It signifies an indifference to public debate when the ALP Opposition and the majority public opinion are against war without UN support.

Howard's backturning signified rejection of Australia's foreign policy being centred on support for an international community based on binding rules and institutions at worst; or, at best, a setting aside of an international community based on binding rules and institutions becuase the UN produced a result that was inconvenient to us.

Howard trning his back with contempt whilst Crean was speaking signifies the reality that Australia is now embarking on a war without an agreement in the international bodies of which we are a responsible member. That is taking part in a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies of the western alliance. It signifies diplomatic isolation including diplomatic isolation from the other nation states in the region.

It's all in the detail as they say----in the political contract as well as the commercial contract.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:25 PM | | Comments (0)