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

It's never too late to say goodbye « Previous | |Next »
December 8, 2003

The news and opinion pages have quietened down after the big splurge on politics inside Canberra last week by the Canberra Press Gallery. All that froth and bubble really was a case of information overload. I turned off the TV, gave up reading the newspapers, did some gardening and read some more Hegel on poverty for light relaxation. It's called thinking time.

I heard that the Australian Democrats are in crisis yet again. Their image becomes ever more tarnished. Are we watching a political party, well-known for its self-destructive tendencies, in a death throes?

Will they quietly fade away?

The Democracts no longer seem capable of playing a constructive role in the Senate other than saying no. The Australian Democrats have lost a lot of respect and credibility as a radical centre. The radical centre would seem to have been occupied, and claimed by, the Latham-led ALP, as the political momentum on the left of the centre increasingly shifts to the Australian Greens.

The Australian Democrats are being left stranded, as the tide rolls out; or they are being squeezed in the middle between the Coalition and the ALP. There is not much wriggle room in the middle. With Howard now beginning to do his softshoe shuffle to retirement under the sign of "generational change", I guess we will have a very different Senate after June 2005 to the one we have now.

I do remember hearing something on the news about Australia signing up to Star Wars. I caught a fraction of a sound bite from some American "expert" saying that missiles would be falling on Australia in the near future, hence the need for Canberra to sign up to the US ballistic global shield. I translated that bit of spin as paranoia that we could well do without.

Who is going to be firing the missiles at us? Pakistan? India? China? North Korea? For what reason? The scenarios sound far fetched.

It's publicity to justify Australia becoming ever more an extension of the US military machine. Going behind the defensive shield is the other side of the Free Trade Agreement. A big picture sits beneath both.

Oh, I did see a shot of that American flag in the ALP caucus room.
Political Images1.jpg
Apparently, the US flag was on display alongside the podium - along with TV crews and reporters for a press conference and a courtesy visit that morning by the US Ambassador, Tom Schieffer. The press conference did not include Schieffer. The US flag was mistake it is said. The actions of an eager staffer.

Yet the rhetoric of the Stars and Strips, which was used as a prop, was about wrapping it around a defensive ALP. My my. How the tables turn. A U turn so quick too. Howard really had them spooked.

Is it also the ALP Right speaking about how they love Star Wars? Public obeisance to Washington does appear to turn these birds of prey on.

What can be said about the mistake? Tim Blair reads the messages right, and it gives him great satisfaction.

Latham deserved this introduction to an interview for the grovel. Allan Ramsay makes the right call.

Does that mean the ALP folds under the US pressure for Australia to become part of their Star Wars?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:01 AM | | Comments (3)


As Ramsay says, Latham states that he will make blunders and the USA flag was one of them.

However for an inexperienced leader who was unexpectedly catapulted into the ALP leadership one mistake like that was not too bad. It could have been much worse.

As a Left ALP member I do not like a lot of Latham's politics. However the point must be made against the Sheridans of this world that being anti-Bush is not being anti American.

In regards to the missile defence I don't know what it will be ALP response. ">"> Kim Beazley was against it when first proposed in 2001. So I would be surprised if Labor changes its stance.

I do not disagree with the above.
I stand with you in respect to the line being run by the Sheridan and the Australian. I'm with you on that because the ALP has historically allied with the US, remained critical of the policies of specific administrations and asserted the independence of Australian foreign policy.

Crean expressed that tradition very well when Bush was here in federal Parliament.

Politicians do make mistakes--eg. Bartlett of the Australian Democrats---but these mistakes have consequences and effects.

The semiotics of these political mistakes (by Latham and Bartlett) do resonate widely and they shape how we perceive their policies.

I offered an interpretation of this perception across the political spectrum---Tim Blair, Allan Ramsay, Kerry O'Brien and myself.

It is not far from what the ALP was trying to say--making peace with the Americans to negate the advantage Howard was gaining from the earlier criticisms of Bush.

Using the word grovel is polemical---in a Latham sense---to see where the ALP will stand on Star Wars and the Free Trade agreement.

It's a defining political moment:a fault line. So it will be interesting to see how it is dealt with by the Latham-led ALP.

As for mistakes---well Freud once said theat slips were the royal path road to the unconscious: in this case to the political unconscious.

The U.S. flag in the party room was a mistake by a staffer. Latham was just as surprised to see it when he walked in, decided to hold his breifing in front of it anyway (imagine press gallery comments if he ordered it taken down in front of them!) and elected to just try talk his way out of it later instead of passing the blame by pointing the finger at her. Doesn't alter the perceptions as you say Gary.
But like you, I have kind of avoided politics this week - I can only stand so much of watching our politicians sell us down the tube (star wars? i'm still steaming over those so-called education 'reforms')