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Abuse of government power « Previous | |Next »
April 1, 2004

I've run out of time to do anything major on the current misuse of political power. Let me link to a number of articles about the misuse of political power.

This one by Paul Krugman in the New York Times where he says that "George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power."

And this statement by Senator Daschle in the US Congress on the Republican tactics of character assassination of its critics.

This has a resonance in Australia within the current shrills and yells in Federal Parliament about national security, credibility over the war in Iraq, the use of intelligence services and bringing the troops home. Of course, it was not a substantive debate. Private briefings to an Opposition Leader by public servants are made public by the Government in an attempt to destroy the credibility of the Opposition Labor Leader.

The parliamentary hostilities may ended in a draw with the issue becoming little more than a 'who said what to whom'; but the conflict has not stopped the erosion of trust between Howard and the electorate. The erosion of trust is happening because though Howard is strong on national security and is seen to deliver security, the father of the nation is seen to be dissembling to keep us safe. He has dirty hands.

The abuse of government power refers to the politicization of the public service and the history of government dissembling from Tampa to Iraq. The erosion of trust is difficult to stop as it is a slippery slope.

So it is not just a case of Howard needing to land blows on Latham. The far more difficult task is to re-establish trust between the government and the electorate in the absence of a Tampa or terrorist bombing to exploit fear and anger.

Fear elicits a legal response by the national security state. So we have a wade of new terrorism laws of surveillance, interception and detention that quietly go about limiting privacy, circumventing the independence of the courts and undermining the separation of powers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:23 PM | | Comments (4)


It would appear Latham has tried to put words in Bonighton's mouth, to get himself out of a tight spot on prior statemants, about not making a decision on withdrawing troops, until such time as he had appropriate security briefings. This seems very similar to Howard putting words in Keelty's mouth. In the former case, it appears Bonighton is not comfortable with Latham's words, whereas Keelty was with Howards. Whatever their real respective views, Latham has engaged in the same game as Howard. He put Bonighton right on the spot with his take on Bonighton's advice, which the latter refutes. He can't take the high moral ground on not lashing public servants now.

Certainly the Howard Government began to nail Latham in the last week of Parliament. But the nailing--eg by Costello---was all about Latham's character, not the issue of Iraq.

Raising the issue of character introduces the eroding trust in Howard's character.latham is carrying very little baggage of distrust.

I wonder how many people are paying attention either way.

Out of interest, I watch people on the train reading the paper. People look at the front page, and the letters page, and the other sections like sports and jobs. The rest gets a quick glance through. A headline with a politicians name in it seems to guarantee the reader flips to the next page.

I'm not saying government is unimportant, just that most people care about the government activities that affect their lives (eg trains, hospitals, the environment).

This Iraq-secret briefing-personal abuse stuff is fascinating for other politicians and Canbera journalists, but who else really follows it all? And why should they?

Surely amid the verbal barrage, the facts are simple. Latham, says he'll withdraw Australia's token Iraq commitment as soon as possible after the handover to the Iraqi Governing Council.

Howard would likely do exactly the same, but might be persuaded to keep them there longer if the US requests it.

Isn't this really all there is to this story? Who cares when the decisionw as made? Who cares what Latham or Howard have been told in briefings by whom?

The policies are laid out pure and simple. Latham for early withdrawal, Howard for staying till presumably the US leaves.

Not since the great "lesbian IVF" diversion of 2001 has so much time and column space been wasted on so little.

As Keating would no doubt say the dogs barked and the caravan moved on.