Wednesday 28 May 2008


Kevin Rudd's capitulation in the face on a cheap 5 cent argument to a non opposition has not been a good look

Not a pretty picture. Kevin Rudd must have received some very nasty advice that the petrol price issue was hurting his working families - and more importantly their view of him and his government. Presumably Brendan Nelson's five cent discount offer must be getting a reception in the electorate. Of course it would.

Labor's announcement that it would review the GST on fuel excise as part of its broad tax review sounded lame and it was.

With almost three years before an election, an opposition in disarray and stratospheric approval ratings - not to mention the fact that any goose can see that petrol price rises are a global issue - Kevin blinked. It's worse that it happened after the case had been reasonably put that the government's hands were tied. But then Kev said "we have done as much as we physically can to provide additional help to the family budget".

It seems more than likely that this political blunder and the opposition's response backed Kev into a corner and produced the policy turnaround we've seen over the past couple of days. It seems Kev panicked.

During the election campaign, most progressives and those with their eyes on the country's best long term interests squirmed when Kev matched the then Howard government's proposed tax cuts. The argument was that it was a necessary compromise to get Labor over the line. We listened. Labor got over the line.

And since then there have been plenty of decisions to be proud of. The new government has had a great opening six months. Australia is a better place. But we've only focused on the symbolic and the political low risk agenda to date. And there hasn't been an opposition.

Kev needs to hold his nerve. He will face far bigger challenges than this in the years ahead. And the opposition will certainly become a more formidable foe.

Australians are going to need him to rise to the issue rather than stoop in the face of Nelson's faux outrage - or a Turnbull charge. The debate about fuel prices has been shocking. The ugly confluence of fuel, food and interest rate inflation must be causing real pain to many. A week of argument and now a Labor capitulation over five cents a litre has been a distraction, diminished the government and helped nobody.

We're going to need Kev to show some nerve.

Thursday 22 May 2008


George Bush was presumably unaware that he was likening his Israeli hosts to the appeasers of the Nazis when he spoke in the Knesset last week.

While President Bush's address in the Israeli Knesset last week may not compare to his "Mission Accomplished" speech for bad judgment and timing, it may be just as revealing of the "Second Life" world that the President inhabits. It was idiotic to invoke Nazism on that occasion - and now, his Israeli hosts have made him look even more absurd.

Marking Israel's 60th anniversary, he said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Bush may have intended to deride the foreign policy plans of Barack Obama, who has repeatedly stated that he would talk to America's enemies - including Syria and Iran. One can assume he was not aware that his Israeli ally whose sixtieth anniversary he was honoring, was busily preparing behind his back to defy his prescriptions and commence peace negotiations Syria.

Bush shows no sign of wavering from his "with us or against us" strategy despite the carnage it has wrought and its abject failure from a strategic and anti terror perspective.

One hopes that Israel might, in its own best long term interest, be serious in its claims that it is contemplating "painful" concessions to both the Syrians and the Palestinians in the name of peace. There are no easy choices for Israel - only certainty that the brutal orthodoxy of the past decade is bankrupt.

As the Bush era draws to a close, the policy symbiosis between his administration and Israeli hardliners looks likely to fade. The long term interests of Israelis and the Palestinians - not to mention the "war on terror" urgently require a new willingness to negotiate and a more sophisticated historical paradigm than the appeasement of the Nazis.

Friday 16 May 2008


Australia's political leaders once again find an uncommon and inexplicable unanimity on Israel's sixtieth anniversary

Morris Iemma is the latest Australian politician to join the predictable queue to heap unreserved praise on Israel on the 60th anniversary of its founding. Kevin Rudd beat him to it a couple of weeks ago.

It is indeed an extraordinary achievement that this small and complex nation, whose very birth is one of the most contentious events of the twentieth century, enjoys unequivocal support from both sides of Australia's political establishment and has done for decades. At least Israel's democracy is more vibrant. A broad array of views are expressed by politicians and citizens alike on Israel's troubled existence.

It is a great shame that Kevin Rudd's moral compass prompts him to take a stand in a Beijing University and express a complex and candid position on Tibet, but does not produce a similar nuanced view of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

The Chinese must look with envy at the achievements of Israel's propaganda allies. Already a big customer for Israel's high tech weaponry, perhaps they should seek a public relations consultancy as well.

And the Arabs - including the hundreds of thousands living here in Australia?

Saturday 10 May 2008


More on grog...

Since my previous grog blog post, the debate about "alcohol driven violence" has continued in Sydney. More blood has been spilt in and around pubs.

A few days after that post, I was walking down King St Newtown with a friend. From afar, we could see two men kicking and breaking open boxes. As we got closer, we could see the two young men had all the accoutrements of well to do college boys. We also were able to see what they were doing.

The boxes they had been kicking had been left outside the Newtown St Vincent De Paul office. They were kicking the boxes and their contents across King St. They were were kicking clothes that had been donated to St Vincent De Paul.

I guess this appalling behaviour would also be classified as "alchohol driven violence".

I hope as the debate evolves, we'll be able to decouple "alcohol" and "violence". I am not suggesting there is no connection between alcohol abuse and violence. Alcohol certainly makes the violent more inclined to violence.

Even more than a war on alcohol however, our culture needs to declare war on violence.

After all, getting violence out of pubs will likely simply shift it elsewhere.

We may have an increasing number of female CEOs, a female Deputy Prime Minister and successful women everywhere we turn, but the dysfunctional manhood that sees violence as an instrument of first resort for negotiating the world is proving remarkably resistant in the face of wider social change. It is quite possible that the achievements of women in recent decades as well as developments in technology and the economy have left a whole swathe of men even more alienated and more inclined to violence.

A discussion about alcohol abuse is very worthwhile. An open discussion about mindless male violence, its origins and the models it has in our culture is even more urgent.