STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
More backseat driving / Scenes from the rustic bootlickery / Who will rid us of this troublesome priest! / A hot time in the old town that night / The media slave market: American democracy at work
, June 23, 2007
More backseat driving
In what promises to be a cold and joyless winter, Paul Keating has come to our rescue on ABC television's Lateline
(June 7, 2007).
The sour grapes crop will always be sturdy while he tells us just how many people in politics have got it wrong - especially those who had the privilege of working for him - or, as they had imagined, with
Kevin Rudd is doomed. Why? Because of his team: his front bench. And … because of his advisers, some of whom, Keating points out, worked for Kim Beazley. But also some for him?
They are back, lining up another defeat for Labor. Really? So influential? What Paul is saying is that advisers win or lose elections, not candidates. Paul wuz robbed in 1996 - by bad advisers. Beazley wuz robbed in 1998. He had won 52 per cent of the primary votes, but was let down by a "lazy" head office. And Labor is obsessed with opinion polls. So … Rudd will go the same way, unless … they call in the Party Doctor - Dr Paul.
Nothing is said about Kim's remarkable feat in turning Labor around in two years, after Keating's monumental loss. Yes, Kim probably should have won that election, for he clawed back 18 seats. But, as to Keating's solitary triumph in 1993, so unelectable was Hewson that Bob Hawke could have done the job. Hewson was like Alan Bond to Kerry Packer: you only get one in a lifetime.
But putting aside the obvious imperfections of the Messenger, I think Keating is right. The Labor frontbench is
pretty tatty. There are
some damaged goods thereon, while the parachuting of two trade-union leaders into other people's seats is not good practice anymore.
Once out of the Shadowlands of union offices, adjacent sipperies and platoons of sycophant reporters, these giants suddenly shrink in size, representing only the 15 per cent of the nation's labour force who are
unionists. These leaders would do better propping up what's left of their original clientele.
Keating thinks unions "are just not much good at what they do these days", and didn't think that Labor should continue its links with the union movement. I didn't hear that
in any part of the electronic media, although you would think it was pretty important.
I expect great things from Keating as the year progresses, for his narcissistic wounds are as raw as when he left office. A tip for the scribblers: start sharpening your rubber daggers just before the full moon, because it's also the time when the green eye of the little yellow god swims into view.
;Scenes from the rustic bootlickery
We are witnessing the most un-ashamed creeping and crawling on all sides of Australian politics, when the name "China" is mentioned.
First, we had Alexander Downer defending China's massive rearmament policies, obviously directed at Japan, but also sending India and the United States little messages. These are all
friends of ours.
Why should Downer seek to legitimise what China is doing - except on account of trade? And the decision not
to meet with the Dalai Lama at either the federal or the state level is simply because China forbids it. As she forbids us to sympathise with the Falun Gong or protest about their treatment.
Beijing attempts quite strenuously to get us to exclude Taiwan from formal or informal links, not only with us but with international bodies, etc, etc.
Our readiness to accept Chinese direction as to the character of our political and economic behaviour is little different from the West's accession to similar Nazi demands in the 1930s. An abnegation of our sovereignty, which the Left are more than happy to accept.
Similar demands by our allies - the US, Britain or Japan (!) - would create an orchestrated uproar. Meanwhile, the pro-Beijing lobby and the interlocking sympathisers with North Korea, who have had to be quiet and bide their time, are now coming out in the open.
All they need is a Labor Government in Canberra, but meantime they'll settle for a weak minister.
Needless to say, a little digging among our public servants would soon produce gold: as to their extra-mural associations, some of which go back for many years and have been continuous. Who will rid us of this troublesome priest!
Apropos of the Dalai Lama, a letter sat on the Melbourne Lord Mayor's desk suggesting that he, Councillor John So, meet with the Dalai Lama when he arrived for his lecture tour and religious services in Melbourne. It had sat there for a month … unanswered.
This only became public knowledge at the last fateful meeting of the Melbourne city councillors. I say "fateful" because the Lord Mayor only survived a vote of no confidence by the use of his own casting vote.
This tireless publicity-seeker then went walkabout while the press sought to interview him. The city is in deficit by $4 million, and 100 jobs must go from a staff of 1,000 (!) working for city hall.
The critical councillors were deploring the waste of ratepayers' money that had occurred, monies used to pay for never-ending publicity stunts and happenings. They took the view that most of these stunts were self-promotion on the part of the Lord Mayor.
Meanwhile, services deteriorate, charges multiply and Melbourne's CBD becomes ever-more vulgar and cheapjack.
But Melbourne's trade with China can't
be the reason for denying official hospitality to the Dalai Lama. What is
bugging Councillor So? Not that Tibet is exactly short of world figures to receive him.
By way of example, when the Chinese leader met the Royal Family, Prince Charles took French leave, headed off and had dinner instead with the Dalai Lama.
(Postscript: Our politicians are
meeting the Dalai Lama - almost entirely due to lobbying by News Weekly
!). A hot time in the old town that night
The global warming debate is hotting up and becoming very interesting, for the Great Economic Powers are now taking a hand and, while the ridiculous United Nations is to be given some kind of tokenistic leadership (another bureaucracy!), the major economic powers and the major polluters are going to decide things.
The limits, timetables and restrictions which have to be negotiated, are going to be voluntary, because countries like China, South Africa, Mexico, India and Brazil are not going to allow significant checks on their economic growth, and have said so.
In any case, there is no plausible
enforcement procedure available. Any directions from the UN lose traction as soon as they leave Lake Success.
But persuading India, China and Brazil to join in was significant, and necessary, for they promise to be the major future polluters.
But you would never learn this from the Greens or the Melbourne Age
- anti-Americanism is the beginning and the end of the matter for them.
As the environmental discussion becomes more informed and pragmatic, those lightweights - who have hijacked the whole issue and helped prevent the circulation of dissenting, counter-factual evidence - are going to fade away.
And, incidentally, Indonesia has been singled out as one of the world's major polluters with its continuous burning off of its forests. Brazil is another, with her ongoing ruin of the great Amazon forest, but hitherto they have enjoyed the protective covering of the Third World bloc.
And no-one is talking seriously of cutting back on the motor car or the truck, for too many countries are dependant on these great industries, but it's an issue we just have to face, along with our ridiculous dependence on oil.
I predict that if the media keep hamming up this climate-change subject, and obstructing all attempts at a rational, even-handed dialogue, then the environmental issue won't count for very much by the arrival of election day. It would have been put, and kept, in the too-hard basket.
Labor, in their catatonic stupor on the whole matter, are still trying to score debating points in a complex and absolutely vital area of social existence. Thus, poor Peter Garrett's reaction to the G8 breakthrough was to say that US President George W. Bush's acceptance in principle of the targets for 2050 means that John Howard is now isolated from the USA!He
should know about that: but why does the Labor hearse need to have a fifth wheel as its environmental spokesman?
But, mercifully, I haven't heard anything yet from Bob Brown. Perhaps he's saving his wails for the election. The media slave market: American democracy at work
Observers of the US Congress, and the operations of the political parties - if you can call
them that - often think: why do the Americans put up with this? Why do they even vote? The Gore Vidal question.
I found myself thinking it, and not for the first time, when I saw that line-up of Democratic presidential hopefuls, each with his or her little podium, answering questions and delivering mini-speeches on questions set, presumably, by journalists.
The journalists and the selected audience set the agenda and grilled the candidates. Naturally, given the time available, the number of participants, and the need to keep the questions simple - or simplistic, for this is American television, comrades - the gathering could not but help degenerating into a cliché contest.
There were some interesting people there, such as Hillary Clinton, but they were reduced to the lowest common denominator.
I suppose, if you insist on everything being entertainment, even Fun, then that's what you will get. But politics is not fun, really.
So far, I'm glad to say, our politicians have refused to turn themselves into stage animals for a sort of Crufts Dog Show - and John Howard has set the example. So let our media grill poor drunken footballers, if it's fun and if it's only a sense of superiority that they are seeking.- Max Teichmann