Pollie Waffle Awards 2003


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“Another year, another war, another conga line of suckhole quotes to commemorate. As 2003 comes to a close, it’s time to rejoice in the bum jokes again.” Polly Bush

G’day. This is the last Webdiary for the year, folks, so thanks to all of you who wrote and read this year. And what a bloody big year it was, although I reckon next year will be even bigger. I’ve just written my last Sun Herald column for the year, out Sunday, and you can check it out online then at margo kingston opinion.


I’m in blind panic mode over my book, so no break for me. Hope you have a good one. Webdiary will return at the start of February.

Today, Polly Bush’s annual Polly Waffle awards. Thanks, Polly! Last year’s awards are at Pollie Waffle awards, 2002. Let’s chat again next year.


Pollie Waffle Awards 2003

by Polly Bush

Another year, another war, another conga line of suckhole quotes to commemorate. As 2003 comes to a close, it’s time to rejoice in the bum jokes again.

It was the year that saw one million Australians take to the streets to oppose bombing the bejeezus out of Baghdad, the year that Peter Hollingworth was evicted from the Big Brother mansion, the year that John Howard provided a pained expression while presenting the rugby world cup medals, the year Mark Latham climbed his own ladder of opportunity, and the year Saddam was found hiding down a dusty hole, not to be confused with a cupboard in Rockhampton.

Keeping with Webdiary tradition, the Pollie Waffle Awards “celebrate the drone and the dribble, the babble and the drivel, and the pure porkies our nation’s finest have serenaded us ordinary, extraordinary and not-so-ordinary folk with” in 2003.

[Last year’s conventional drum roll replaced with this year’s Saddam tribute of sporadic machine gun fire in the air]

To begin proceedings, we delve back to the not-so-memorable Federal budget.

The 2003 McHungry Award goes to �

Former Family and Community Services Minister Amanda Vanstone, who, after her Government provided the budget relief of a couple of extra bucks a week, said:

“$5 � hell, what will it buy you � a sandwich and a milkshake if you’re lucky.”

Lucky Mandy wins an unpaid national advertisement campaign with a Mchappy McZillionaire company that swiftly produced a picture of the Minister sucking on a rival’s (yeah guess who) milkshake. The image was combined with the Minister’s comments and the underlying words, “She’s obviously going to the wrong place.”

Never a shy flower, the Minister for Fast Food Promotion was so flattered by the advertisement she generously decided to share her hard-earned tax cuts with the creator of the advertisement. How?

“I’m that impressed that I’m taking the guy who thought up the idea � out to lunch,” Senator Vanstone said.

Also in response to this year’s federal budget is another gong. While the Budget made Senator Vanstone hungry, it caused regurgitation from others, which leads to �

The 2003 Finger-Down-The-Throat-Award. The award goes to �

Federal MP for Parramatta Ross Cameron.

The Liberal MP in Sydney’s western suburbs took on those horribly unfair and ungrateful baby boomer sods who, how dare they, complained about the lack of spending on luxury services like health and education. Cameron got the bucket out, responding:

“People turn around and have this massive collective whinge – they make me want to throw up.”

Cameron’s prize is contesting his 1.2% held seat in next year�s federal election, and counteracting the new Opposition Leader’s Meatloaf-appreciation-constituents head-banging across the rest of Sydney’s west.

Moving up the NSW coast to another marginal seat leads us to �

The Bettina-Arndt-Feminism-Is-A-Filthy-Word-Award.

This award is presented to pig-farmer-and-politician descendant, Larry Anthony.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (they should really think about changing that word “affairs”) wins a gong for continuing the Howard Government�s degradation of women�s voices in Australia. In response to Nicola Roxon’s take that the Federal Government’s Inquiry into child “custody” was “dog whistle politics to men’s groups aggrieved by the Family Court”, Anthony said:

“I respect the Member’s long academic interest in women’s rights – but she must not let that cloud her vision when it comes to children and young people.”

For this, Anthony wins a grunt from the men’s rights lobby, who heard the whistle loud and clear. He also wins the prize of Roxon being reshuffled to Shadow Attorney-General – a probable sign of pending opposition if the Government decides to turn the whistle into legislation next year.

This prize leads us to the annual Dog Whistle Award, which unfortunately for others only really has one contestant until the Member for Bennelong hangs up his cricket pads or alternately gets his arse wiped in next year’s federal election.

Yes, as long as our Man of Steel continues to flush through the extra taxpayer dollars at Kirribilli House, this award is his to keep.

For 2003, John Howard�s Who-Let-The-Dogs-Out corker comes from one of his many and varying reasons why Australia joined in on mass destructing Iraq. Prior to sending in the troops, Howard pulled on raw grieving emotions when he requested the nation lie back and think of Bali:

“I will, amongst other things, be asking the Australian people to bear those circumstances in mind if we become involved in military contact with Iraq.”

Howard’s eventual prize is Saddam’s head [insert sporadic machine gun fire] making it all worth it, changing the initial emphasis on ridding the world of still undiscovered weapons of mass destruction to the “liberation” of the Iraqi people.

Howard also picks up another prize this year � the Nothing-Wrong-With-The-1950s Award. Joining in on some Vatican-fun, Howard rejected gay marriages, arguing:

“Marriage as we understand it in our society is about children, having children, raising them, providing for the survival of the species.”

For this, along with insulting homosexuals, Howard wins the prize of insulting every heterosexual couple who can�t have, or god forbid, don’t want children. He also wins a declining birth rate, and nominates himself for prime first contestant on Australia’s version of Queer Eye for an Aging Balding Very Straight Guy.

Despite these being national awards, there is a special international inclusion in this year’s ceremony. The Most Visually Inspiring Award for 2003 goes to fellow dictator liberator President George W. Bush, for his description of going power walkies with our steamy esteemed green and gold tracky clad Prime Miniature:

“I was breathing hard and Barney was breathing harder. I had trouble keeping up with him.”

For this prize, the President’s dog Barney wins a bone, which appropriately leads to �

The Most Inspiring Political Performance For A Baz Luhrmann Production Award.

[intermittently interfuse Saddam tribute gunfire with edited snippets of show tunes, opera, and n-ce-n-ce-n-ce sounds of bum-f^&* music]

Thanks to Andrew Denton the world now knows the truth. The character of a bumbling snooty sounding duke audiences around the globe cringed at in Baz’s Moulin Rouge was based on �

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the one and only Alexander Downer.

Looking for inspiration, actor Richard Roxborough needed only tune into the news to catch a grab from the fishnet wearing globetrotter. As Roxborough explained to Denton earlier this year:

“This is completely a true story. I was watching the news and Alexander was banging on about something or another and I thought, there’s my man – absolutely perfect”.

Alexander wins the prize of not being taken as seriously as his shadow minister, which leads to … The Honorary Peter Beattie Award for Most Brazen Media Tart. The award goes to …

Shadow foreign affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.

Krudd shot from virtual unknown to Mr News Grab in 2003, and most recently spent the weekend following Simon Crean’s friendly “tap on the shoulder” (euphemism for knifing) um-ing and ah-ing over his leadership ambitions, while coincidentally parading the fam munching out in the Brisbane burbs (Lillith Bartlett was safely tucked in bed that weekend). Rudd proved he is the true generational change leader by regurgitating his line that:

“Once upon a time I said of course I’d like to be a leadership candidate for the parliamentary Labor party by 2020 and that remains my aspiration.”

Rudd’s prize is backing Beazley in the caucus vote the followed Crean’s stabbing, and ultimately missing out on this year’s generational leadership change. However, his second chance draw means that should new leader Mark Latham lose next year’s election, he might just end up Labor’s next Prime Minister � which possibly won’t happen until 2020 anyway.

On the topic of leadership ambition, the Oops-I-Did-It-Again Award for 2003 goes to �

Kim “unlucky talisman” Beazley, who only managed to lose two leadership ballots this year.

During his first shot at Crean mid-year, Beazley repetitively reassured us this would be his last shot at becoming a three-time election loser. Beazley told the ABC’s PM program:

“There”ll be no second ballot. Not as far as I’m concerned.”

The weekend before the ballot against Crean, Beazley again stated:

“I’m in the business of winning this ballot and as I said, I’m not a spoiler. I’ve said from the outset, I’m here for one shot.”

In the business of losing, Kim lost that ballot to Crean, spurring him on to declare following the vote:

“I also said that this was one challenge, the one challenge I would make. I said it, and I meant it.”

Yet on November 28 2003, Kim “not a spoiler” Beazley decided to have one more whack at it. Moments after Crean had thrown down his poison chalice, Beazley announced:

“As a result of his decision to stand down, I’m announcing today my intention to contest the leadership again of the Australian Labor Party.” Following his loss to Mark Latham most recently, Beazley also picks up the Eat-Your-Own-Words Award for comments in his defeat speech:

“It is never the time in the Labor Party for disunity and it is far too late for disunity now.”

Beazley’s efforts in 2003 win him the remote chance of the Labor Party being in Government again in the foreseeable future, thanks to his defeats in the caucus room.

The Gritted Smirk Award for 2003 goes to �

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello again!

Patiently waiting for that earmarked 64th birthday party for John Howard, Peter Costello missed out on blowing out the candles and getting his ultimate 2003 wish. Later, his failed plea for generational change was picked up by the Labor Party in its election of Mark Latham as leader, a salty rub into Costello’s leadership aspiration wound.

Following Latham’s elevation, The Age’s Louise Dodson asked the Treasurer whether he welcomed the concept of generational change. It was a ball Costello couldn’t dodge:

“Oh, that is a real googly Louise. I think I will just sort of step back and raise the bat as that goes � through to the keeper.”

Costello’s prize is another good dose of self-imposed tolerance.

Speaking of imposed exiles, the Oh-How-They-Change Award goes to �

Pauline Hanson

Prior to becoming a prison reform campaigner, Hanson came out beating the Laura Norder drum during her attempt for a Senate seat in the NSW election:

“I think that we need to have tougher sentencing that befits the crime.”

Later, following Hanson’s ‘You Used To Bring Me Roses’ experience, this comment was picked up by Labor’s Mark Latham, who threw back, “Mrs Hanson spent the last New South Wales election campaign campaigning for tougher penalties � and now she’s got one.”

Hanson also wins her own honorary award � the Please Explain Gong, for her response during the state election campaign on how good a job NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney was doing:

“Well, I don’t, and I’m not going to comment on that.”

Quizzed further on her knowledge of Moroney, Hanson replied:

“Well, at the election, I will know. “You have to realise that yes, I am from Queensland, I’ve only been involved in federal politics.”

This 2003 multi-Pollie-Waffle award winner also picks up the Blurry-Crystal-Ball Award for this corker, also said during the campaign:

“If I felt that there was any chance of a conviction against me, I would not be standing for a NSW seat.”

Hanson’s prizes include no NSW seat and a conviction of electoral fraud, successfully overturned on appeal after an 11-week lock up at Brisbane�s WACOL prison. Other gifts include a new-found appreciation of the perils of prison life, an outpouring of shock from political foes across the spectrum, a renewal in public support, a ridiculously bad music single launched by her son, and a lifetime nemesis in Tony Abbott, whose shady set-up of the curiously named �Australians for Honest Politics� fund caused more outrage than applause.

The You’re Joking! Award for 2003 goes to �

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock

The hilarious grey-green stallion cracked yet another funny in the House this year, when the Opposition compared his tactics of tackling terrorist organisations in his new portfolio with his asylum seeker strategy as Immigration Minister. The longest serving member of parliament mused:

“I’ve become fascinated by this new term �wedge politics�. I’m not sure what wedge politics is all about.”

Ruddock’s prize is a big piece of ASIO legislation cake, slightly chewed on by the ALP, but pretty much still intact.

The next gong is the Tying-the-Extraordinarily-Long-Bow Award. And the winner is �

Senator George Brandis, for his comments that a “feature of contemporary Green politics which bears chilling and striking comparison with the political techniques of the Nazis and the fascists is not merely their contempt for democratic institutions but a very cynical willingness to use those democratic parliamentary institutions to achieve anti-democratic ends”.

Brandis’ bold statements came after Greens Senators Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle were rugby tackled by some Government members in the House of Representatives during a joint sitting of parliament for President Dubbya�s fly-by-wreath-laying-crocodile-hunter-bbq-ing visit.

Senator Brandis wins a special prize from fellow Liberal Senator Jeannie Ferris, who, with the help of Prime Minister John Howard�s tut-tuts, more recently got away with gross hypocrisy by attacking the stupid but sad actions of the Leader of the Australian Democrats. On that note, Senator Bartlett’s decision to hold a press conference with screaming toddler in hand in response to the booze-up broohaha almost qualifies himself for the next award. But not quite.

Instead, the very special Child Care Advocacy Award goes to …

Wilson Tuckey

The West Australian MP gets the Goose of the Year gong for his use of ministerial letterheads in a desperate and reckless attempt to get his son off a traffic fine. While defending his actions in barracking the case of his 40-something-year-old son, Tuckey descended into absurdity, hollering across the House:


Iron Bar Tuckey’s prize is being dumped from his ministerial position, with Iron John not-so-convincingly arguing there was no connection with Tuckey�s clear breach of ministerial conduct and the reshuffle that followed.

The topic of reshuffling brings us to our last Pollie Waffle prize for the year. While 2002 produced the unforgettable ‘arselicker’ comment, 2003 had the same politician continuing to provide us with bum jokes.

And while many tipped Bomber Beazley’s re-elevation to the not so prized ticket of leading the Australian Labor Party in the ballot early this month, in retrospect it wasn’t all that surprising that he lost another winnable contest. Instead, the rise of Mark Latham to the position of Opposition leader, at the very least provides an interesting election year in 2004, and no doubt a plethora of more waffle on its way.

[drum roll, gun fire and farting sounds]

The 2003 Bend Over And Feel the Breeze Award goes to �

Mark Latham, who, by winning this prize also highlights the most profound political interview of the year, with the ABC 7:30 Report’s Kerry “knock out” O’Brien. In his first interview with the new opposition leader, Kerry cut straight to the chase, dropping the bomb:

KO: What is this obsession you have with bottoms?

ML: I’ve no particular obsession with bottoms, it’s a figure of speech –

KO: Howard the arse-licker and the brown nose kissing bums, as you put it, Abbott hanging out of the Queen’s backside, the conga line of suckholes.

ML: Well I think ‘bum’ is a word that gets used a bit in this country. It’s not a swear word. I’m sure you have used it yourself, so … …you take together a full public life. I have been in public office for 16 years. I will go through your tapes and have a look at some of your commentary –

KO: Feel free, but I’m not aspiring to lead this country.

ML: No, no, but you’re leading a fine current affairs program.

KO: I’m glad to eventually have you on it.

ML: I’m very pleased to be here and let’s keep talking about the Australian language.

Indeed. New opposition leader Mark Latham’s 2003 prize is an orgasmic “oooooohhhh” sigh from the media scrum on the announcement of the caucus vote. Breath it in folks, that’s the fart of fresh air, potentially sweeping across the country in 2004. Bend over, soak in the breeze, and have a bloody good one.

The most memorable person in 2003: the spin doctor


Martin davies image. www.daviesart.com


Martin davies image. www.daviesart.com
“We read Him here, we hear Her there, We chase those true lies everywhere, Whispering scribe of the story we’re in, That devilish, dastardly Doctor of Spin!”

Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s media critic.
We read Him here, we hear Her there,

We chase those true lies everywhere,

Whispering scribe of the story we’re in,

That devilish, dastardly Doctor of Spin!
The Meeja Watch Most Memorable Person Of 2003 is ‘The Spin Doctor’.

Yes, it’s been a year without peer for these fickle, feckless, flighty, flitty, flirty and only-ever-fleetingly found creatures of metaphysical manipulation. Whereas last year we embraced the ‘Ordinary Australian’ (Person of the year: The Ordinary Australian, that contrived electoral un-person who was publicly everywhere but not really there at all, 2003 has been dominated by precisely the opposite political phenomenon: The Man Who Is Nowhere To Be Seen But Has His Inky Digits All Over The Shop.

The Spin Doctor, that Scarlet Pimpernel of Public Debate.

The Spinner is vocationally-bound by his Guild Rules to remain faceless and nameless, but ego gets to the best of us in the end, and thus The Spin Doctor featured prominently in 2003, especially in the selling of the Iraq invasion ‘ perhaps too prominently for his own survival.

Both here and overseas, he simultaneously attained new depths of ignominy and heights of publicity, during such inglorious episodes as the suicide of British whistle-blower Dr David Kelly, the ‘outing’ of active CIA agent Valerie Plame (payback for her husband’s querying of the Niger uranium claims), and the attacks on our own Andrew Wilkie (via prime minster’s office innuendo and alleged leaks to Tame Media Spin-assister Andrew Bolt).

It was over Iraq that The Spin Doctor finally showed us both the sharpness of his teeth and the grubbiness of his knickers. Never more so than in the tactics uber-Spinner Alistair Campbell deployed in ‘selling the war’ to Britain, and then in later ‘damage-control’ after Kelly killed himself, itself the result of his Spun ‘no-names’ outing by Tony Blair’s government.

The Spinner’s vileness was revealed fully in Campbell’s diaries, testimony and general obnoxious demeanour during the Hutton Enquiry, laying bare his contempt for democracy, his ugly language and his ‘whatever-it-takes’ mentality, characteristics only ever rampant in someone who believes he will never be called to public account for them.

We read the sly emails that flew to and from the Number Ten Communications centre, directing the secondary and tertiary Spin; heard about the Lobby briefings, the way in which Kelly was unmistakably identified but not technically ‘named’; saw the buck-passing and fire-walling over his death by Blair and Hoon and their elected ilk; and were able to watch, in real time and as predicted by almost everyone, the Hutton Enquiry become Strategic Spin itself, distracting debate from the over-arching issue (Blair committing a reluctant population to an unnecessary war based on endless lies), and focussing instead on the containable specifics (who said what, when; that ‘sexed-up’ dossier; who leaked Kelly’s name; the BBC’s role, Gilligan, etc).

All in all, it was a rare public exposure of how The Spin Doctor works, and how much he poisons the democratic franchise, too.

The entire war was, of course, a tour de force of Spin. Since we’ve flogged the lies to death already – and since, in the happy wake of Saddam’s capture, to reprise them fully yet again is doubtless to invite more abuse as ‘whining appeasers who would prefer that he were still in power’- we need only recall the Big Two in glancing pastiche (the Spinner’s preferred mode, anyway, since concrete statements are too easily discreditable).

This is more or less how the war was Spun, in particular by various quasi-official Spinners working in their ’embedded’ intelligence groups in the Pentagon, their think-tanks, and the Rupie press:

1. Saddam and WMD

Iran, Gulf 1, Niger, 45 minutes, tubes, centrifuge, gassed Kurds, anthrax, drones, Frog nuke parts, Russian AT missiles, Scuds, chemical suits, fridge vials, dirty bombs, Richard ‘Rent-a-mouth’ Butler, blabbing defectors, all hidden, all buried, well-he-would-say-they-were-destroyed-wouldn’t-he’, prove a negative, he kicked out the inspectors!, they were spies anyway, Scott Ritter = internet prowler, Wilkie’s a lefty nut (busted marriage), Kelly was a wacky Buddhist, ONA ‘assessments’, UN records, chemical factories, bugger Old Bailey proof, SADDAM-APPEASERS!!!, Pearl Harbour, worst nightmare, profound conviction, terror nexus, Saddam has WMD, let’s roll..

2. Saddam and al-Qaeda

Prague meetings, airline mock-up, terrorist training camp, Afghan al-Q veteran with busted leg in Baggers, Dick Cheney says so, Saddam and Osama, financial trails, Sudan, Palestinian suicide bomber payments, Ansar al-Islam and Iraqi intelligence, Osama and Saddam, ignore the terrorist experts, Guantanamo interrogations, Stephen F. Hayes says so, SADDAM-APOLOGISTS!!!, al-Qaeda with a nuke, Greg Sheridan says so, Winston Churchill, worst nightmare, profound conviction, terror nexus, Saddam has links with al-Qaeda, let’s roll.

We can all rejoice at the sight of Saddam in chains, and congratulate the soldiers who caught him. But we should also congratulate their Spin Doctors. In January they sold the line that toppling Saddam did not alone justify invasion, but disarming him of WMD did. In December they sold the line that Saddam turning out to be disarmed of his WMD already didn’t make the invasion unjustified, because Saddam had now been toppled. Spin Doctoring at its finest, where what was said yesterday no longer exists. Oh, except that they do keep reminding us anti-invasion types that we’re all still appeasers. You figure it out.

But the war gave us an even clearer glimpse of The Spin Doctor as Kafka, when the role was taken to illuminating extremes by Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.

His TV assurances about the absence of US tanks in Baghdad even as they practically poked their barrels into shot behind him (proving that WMD delusions are not a Western monopoly) might have been cause for much merriment among pro-war types, but such transparent spin-lunacy was only barely more laughable than the extended Jessica Lynch fantasy, still merrily Spinning its way to ever-more surreal extremes of only-in-America unreality, including the Hollywood make-over, the requisitely-controversial best-seller (has she really forgotten that rape, or did it never happen and it’s all just marketing spin’), and the inevitable anti-Jessica spin backlash. Both Lynch and Saeed al-Sahaf have about the same number of dedicated websites too, whatever that tells us.

And remember Tony Abbott’s stubborn insistence to Kerry O’Brien that Terry Sharples’ legal costs were not, technically, ‘money’.

Or Trevor’s Kennedy’s heartfelt insistence that he donated his chunk of ‘un-money’ to Abbott’s Hanson-nobbling Slush Fund solely because he hated to see taxpayers being ripped off by anti-democratic frauds, only to be revealed himself a few months later via Offset Alpine as – well, you fill in the Spin yourself.

Then Hanson’s Spin on Abbott, then Bishop’s Spin on Beattie, which got Emerson Spinning on Bishop while Beattie Span it back to Howard, who tossed it, via Carr, back to anyone who wanted it, which certainly wasn’t the Australian Electoral Commission. Then Hanson’s conviction was overturned, and suddenly no-one wanted to play either Go in or Get Out, Spinner at all.

Or what about Steve Irwin’s Spin on the PM ‘ the best leader on the world’ Oh really, Steve’ Or is it what a Spin Doctor calls $175, 000 of the advertising budget very well spent’

And so on. Well may we laugh at Saddam & Co’s nuttier delusions in 2003, but there were just as many transparent Spin Doctor self-implosions in the Anglosphere, too, and while it was the year of his greatest triumphs, 2003 may also prove to be the one he finally ran out of rotational traction. As they say, the wrong ‘un is only a wrong ‘un to the bunny who hasn’t yet lifted his bat and been clean-bowled by it. So exhaustively now has the Spinner trotted out his assortment of orthodox off-breaks, leggies, top-spinners, googlies, flippers, sliders and straight balls that it’s hard to see what tricks he might have left for next season.

Truly those wiles were on show everywhere in 2003. In Government – plasma TV, Manildra, Tuckey, all the PM’s interviews. Other politics ‘ Bob Carr’s realm where everything is Spin, ruthlessly controlled by his team, Australia’s Princes of Spin; the leadership tussles, with all their usual inane Spin games until POW!

Latham reminded us all how great un-spun politics can feel; Hollingworth’s failure to out-Spin both his own offensive Spin and the tightly-wound Rent-a-Top death-rolling of Hetty Johnson. US politics ‘ the Democrat race, where (Howard Dean aside) candidature Spin on their ‘current’ positions on Iraq has given words like ‘tortuous’ and ‘fluid’ new meaning; the election of Arnie S. in California after a campaign bereft of anything but Spin.

The Corporates ‘ how else but with Spin can one explain to an AGM those still-rocketing CEO salaries in a flat market year’ Celebrity ‘ where ordinary Australians chose Spin over The Real Thing ourselves, voting for Guy, Shannon, What’s-Her-Name and only then Paulini. Even in journalism, where The Australian’s collective defence of Janet A outdid the New York Times’ Jayson Blair in the Spin Doctoring-as-serious-reportage stakes.

But by far the lamest-but-still-successful outing, the supreme moment in Spin Doctoring for 2003, came in Sport, when that Dual Exponent Shane Warne dribbled out a few pathetic long-hops to Ray Martin back in February ‘ and got away with it. Best moment’ When the Self-Employed Spin Doctor claimed that he took diuretics simply because he was ‘stupid’, for even at this very early stage of 2003, we see the craft in its representative prime.

First, there is Warne’s steely-cool willingness to publicly admit that his employer (in this case himself) is a screaming idiot, if there is no other way to avoid more damaging accusations. How often was 2003 to see this wily tactic deployed!

‘Mr Tuckey was not corrupt, he was just stupid’; ‘the junior staff member was stupid to call Andrew Wilkie crazy’. ‘I was stupid to imply that the fourteen-year-old raped that helpless priest’. Bravo for setting the year’s tone, Shane! (And the ‘plausibility’ of that alternative explanation, too – who would not concede the chance, at least, that Warne is not a lying, drug-taking cheat at all, but simply thick as pig-shit’)

Then there are all the classic Australian Spin Doctor trimmings at work, here: Warne’s ‘straight-talking’ delivery that disguises what is actually total obfuscation; the wheedling hurt tone and plaintive voicing via which he proclaims his underdog status, even though he has more power, popularity and patronage than any other Player in the Game; the quivering-lip hints of emotion simmering beneath that buttoned-up ordinary Australian exterior, the manufactured ‘profound convictions’ ‘ why, darken the blonde tints, thicken those eyebrows, whip out the diamond stud and bung a Slouch Hat on his head, and Warney could probably even sell a tough line like: ‘No, I assure you I’m not remotely worried about Mark Latham in 2004, Kerry.’

Finally, that definitive early moment in the Year of the Spin Doctor incorporates what would prove to be the most crucial ancillary element of all in this victory: The Tame Journalist.

Marvel at Warney’s fellow Packer-Lacky Ray Martin, in the guise of ‘reporter’, as he pokes a respectful dead bat defensively at every lolly-pop from Kerry’s other Big Investment. With that kind of journalistic self-discipline and lack of scepticism, Ray could easily become a Fox News war correspondent or a Daily Telegraph columnist (although this interview clearly reveals Martin as irretrievably embedded in ‘ sorry, with – another mighty mogul, already).

Still, without the ceaseless efforts of these unsung heroes, The Spin Doctor would have a much tougher time of it, so a nod to Ray Martin, too, as representative of all the other meek, simpering, domesticated journalists who helped make 2003 his most triumphant.

But farewell, too, to the Daddy of them all, for 2003 also saw Alistair Campbell un-quietly retire after Hutton had wrapped. It was lovely getting to know Alistair in 2003, and perhaps in 2004 we might become just as intimately-acquainted with the Australian Guild Leaders too ‘ astoundingly well-paid Professional Public Liars such as Tony O’Leary ($”’, ”’, Howard), Walt Secord and Amanda Lampe ($178, 000 and $158, 000, Carr), and the spectacularly-inept Andrew Reynolds ($200-$300′ per hour, Hollingworth), who’ve all been working so hard for so long, without any public credit from us taxpayers at all. Let’s hope that next year our journalists give them the level of personal attention they deserve.

Alistair Campbell’s finest hour as Liar-in-Chief of The Spin Doctor Guild’ Well, the many filthy examples-of-the-craft he leaves behind as the legacy of his long time as the Dark Prince of Bullshit Castle are none of them as instructive as the deeper belief he reveals by his leaving of it when he did: that The Man Who Is Nowhere To Be Seen But Has His Inky Digits All Over The Shop ‘ The Spin Doctor, the Meeja Watch ‘Most Memorable Person of 2003’ – is utterly, utterly useless to his elected-politician King, once he has become The Man Who Is Seen Everywhere.

Which is why we hope The Spin Doctor will end up winning this award two years in a row.

Hoping for amnesia


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“It is hard to believe that either Washington or London would relish the prospect of an open trial. They would not want Saddam to adumbrate their support for him – credit-by-credit, pathogen-by-pathogen, weapon-by-weapon – during the 12 years before he became an official enemy by invading Kuwait in August 1990.” Scott Burchill

G’Day. Sick of the triumphalist pap that passes for commentary on Saddam’s capture in most Australian media? Want a realistic assessment of its effect on the ground in Iraq – an assessment reflected in the sombre tone of President’s Bush’s speech on the matter? Try Saddam, celebrity tryant: His capture may create more problems than it solves and the website of Michigan University history professor Juan Cole.


When I saw the close ups of the tyrant I thought of his accessories, did you? Who will join him when he’s tried for crimes against humanity? Which multinational companies and which western politicians? Reconciliation requires confession from all parties, after all, if all sides are to move forward to a democratic and free Iraq. You can bet the Iraqis haven’t forgotten history. I wonder if Saddam’s decision not to kill himself was about his final revenge – looking the West in the eye and saying “You too.” Tonight Scott Burchill, lecturer in international relations at Deakin University and a regular Webdiary contributor, recalls the past. See also US Takes Custody of Another Wayward Client


Hoping for amnesia

by Scott Burchill

Sometimes in politics the moral high ground can only be reached by wading through the lowlands of public amnesia.

Reacting to the capture of Saddam Hussein on 13 December, Prime Minister Howard declared his enthusiasm for a public trial:

“I believe he should be tried in Iraq. I think it should be an open trial. I think the details of what he did should be spelled out, detail-by-detail, slaughter-by-slaughter, death-by-deaths.”

Saddam’s arrest also vindicated the Man of Steel’s decision to commit Australia to war:

“If the alternative advice had been taken, “Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq, he would still be murdering people, he not only would not be in captivity but he would have others in captivity in Baghdad.”

Denuding such an important discussion of its historical context and narrowing the focus to Saddam’s moral turpitude will induce self-righteousness in Western leaders every time. On the question of Iraq, however, such lofty sentiment lacks authenticity.

Isolating Saddam’s capture from the consequences of his removal from power is a clever polemical device which Mr Howard likes to employ. However such a strategy is unlikely to persuade the families of the 9,500 innocent Iraqi civilians killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq that their sacrifice was worth the cost. Or the recently unemployed, the victims of street crime and those who depend on essential services for their survival. These Iraqis don’t matter and aren’t counted in the West – literally.

History is the great antidote to public amnesia and it suggests the Prime Minister’s distaste for Saddam’s tyranny has not always been so passionately expressed.

Before the war Mr Howard’s humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq were insufficient to support ‘regime change’ in Baghdad. He told the National Press Club in March that Saddam could stay in power, and therefore keep tormenting his people, providing he gave up his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

Given the Iraqi leader had evidently disposed of his WMD several years before, according to the Prime Minister’s logic – now derided as “alternative advice” – Saddam should still be in power.

This ‘change of course’ is dramatic, if unsurprising. A search of Hansard for the period when Saddam was committing the worst of his crimes – gassing Iranian soldiers in 1983-4 and the Kurds of Halabja in 1988 – fails to turn up any expressions of concern in the Parliament by either John Howard or Alexander Downer. It’s not until the WMD pretext falters in the weeks before the invasion that Canberra discovers human rights violations in Iraq.

There were certainly no expressions of humanitarian concern while Canberra supported a vicious sanctions regime which, over a decade, must have been responsible for the deaths of hundred of thousands of Iraqis, while strengthening Saddam and compelling the population to rely on him for their survival.

It is hard to believe that either Washington or London would relish the prospect of an open trial. They would not want Saddam to adumbrate their support for him – credit-by-credit, pathogen-by-pathogen, weapon-by-weapon – during the 12 years before he became an official enemy by invading Kuwait in August 1990.

Saddam’s worst crimes, when presumably many of the mass graves now disingenuously “discovered” by the West were dug, had been committed when he was the West’s favoured ally and trading partner. At the time, his crimes against humanity, for which charges should now be laid, elicited little if any concern in Western capitals. Quite the opposite.

Historian Gabriel Kolko notes that:

“The United Stares supplied Iraq with intelligence throughout the war [with Iran] and provided it with more than $US5 billion in food credits, technology, and industrial products, most coming after it began to use mustard, cyanide, and nerve gases against both Iranians and dissident Iraqi Kurds.”

After he poisoned over 5000 people in the Kurdish city of Halabja on 17 March 1988, Saddam was rewarded by George Bush 1 with new lines of credit and praise from Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State, John Kelly, as “a source of moderation in the region.”

Twenty months after this horrific crime, Washington was still providing Baghdad with dual-use licensed materials, including chemical precursors, biological warfare-related materials and missile guidance equipment – enabling Saddam to develop his WMD programs. It’s difficult to believe that either George Bush 2 or over 150 companies in Europe, the United States and Japan which provided components and know-how needed by the monster in Baghdad to build atomic bombs, chemical and biological weapons, want this information publicly aired.

During the worst decade of Saddam’s rule (1980-90), the UK sold Iraq �2.3 billion in machinery and transport equipment and �3.5 billion in trade credits, supporting the creation of a local arms industry and freeing up valuable resources for the Iraqi military.

London responded to the atrocity in Halabja by failing to criticise Saddam (ditto for Washington), doubling export credits to Baghdad and relaxing export guidelines making it easier to sell arms to Iraq.

This behaviour is difficult to reconcile with the West’s belated concern for humanity in Iraq today. There will be no expressions of regret for the support he was given at the peak of his crimes. When Saddam comes to trial, the West will just be hoping that he too has joined the culture of forgetting so pervasive amongst his captors.

Fulfilling the Promise of America


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore the legitimacy that comes from the rule of law, the credibility that comes from telling the truth, the knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology (and) the strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy.” Howard Dean

Howard Dean is the Democrats frontrunner to stand against George Bush for the job of President of the United States next November.


Fulfilling the Promise of America: Meeting The Security Challenges of the New Century

by Howard Dean, Governor of Vermont, December 15

In the past year, our campaign has gathered strength by offering leadership and ideas and also by listening to the American people. The American people have the power to make their voices heard and to change America’s course for the better.

What are the people telling us? That a domestic policy centered on increasing the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, and ceding power to favored corporate campaign contributors, is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. That the strength of our nation depends on electing a President who will fight for jobs, education, and real health care for all Americans.

But the growing concerns of the American people are not limited to matters at home: They also are increasingly concerned that our country is squandering the opportunity to lead in the world in a way that will advance our values and interests and makes us more secure.

When it comes to our national security, we cannot afford to fail. September 11 was neither the beginning of our showdown with violent extremists, nor its climax. It was a monumental wake-up call to the urgent challenges we face.

Today, I want to discuss these challenges. First I want to say a few words about events over the weekend. The capture of Saddam Hussein is good news for the Iraqi people and the world. Saddam was a brutal dictator who should be brought swiftly to justice for his crimes. His capture is a testament to the skill and courage of U.S. forces and intelligence personnel. They have risked their lives. Some of their comrades have given their lives.

All Americans should be grateful. I thank these outstanding men and women for their service and sacrifice.

I want to talk about Iraq in the context of all our security challenges ahead. Saddam’s capture offers the Iraqi people, the United States, and the international community an opportunity to move ahead. But it is only an opportunity, not a guarantee.

Let me be clear: My position on the war has not changed. The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam’s ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk.

As our military commanders said, and the President acknowledged yesterday, the capture of Saddam does not end the difficulties from the aftermath of the administration’s war to oust him. There is the continuing challenge of securing Iraq, protecting the safety of our personnel, and helping that country get on the path to stability. There is the need to repair our alliances and regain global support for American goals.

Nor, as the president also seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam’s capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. And, nor, it seems, does Saturday’s capture address the urgent need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk that terrorists will acquire them.

The capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will help keep our soldiers safer. But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

Addressing these critical and interlocking threats terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – will be America’s highest priority in my administration.

To meet these and other important security challenges, including Iraq, I will bring to bear all the instruments of power that will keep our citizens secure and our nation strong.

Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore:

* The legitimacy that comes from the rule of law;

* The credibility that comes from telling the truth;

The knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology;

The strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy;

And, of course, I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation.

I want to focus first on two ways we can strengthen the instruments of power so we can achieve all our national security goals. Then I want to lay out my plans for dealing with the central challenges I have identified: defeating global terrorism, curbing weapons of mass destruction.

First, we must strengthen our military and intelligence capabilities so we are best prepared to defend America and our interests.

When the cold war ended, Americans hoped our military’s job would become simpler and smaller, but it has not.

During the past dozen years, I have supported U.S. military action to roll back Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, to halt ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, to stop Milosevic’s campaign of terror in Kosovo, to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda from control in Afghanistan. As President, I will never hesitate to deploy our armed forces to defend our country and its allies, and to protect our national interests.

And, as President, I will renew America’s commitment to the men and women who proudly serve our nation and to the critical missions they carry out. That means ensuring that our troops have the best leadership, the best training, and the best equipment. It means keeping promises about pay, living conditions, family benefits, and care for veterans so we honor our commitments and recruit and retain the best people.

It means putting our troops in harm’s way only when the stakes warrant, when we plan soundly to cope with possible dangers, and when we level with the American people about the relevant facts.

It means exercising global leadership effectively to secure maximum support and cooperation from other nations, so that our troops do not bear unfair burdens in defeating the dangers to global peace.

It means ensuring that we have the right types of forces with the right capabilities to perform the missions that may lie ahead. I will expand our armed forces’ capacity to meet the toughest challenges like defeating terrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction, and securing peace with robust special forces, improved military intelligence, and forces that are as ready and able to strengthen the peace as they are to succeed in combat.

When he ran in 2000, this president expressed disdain for “nation building.” That disdain seemed to carry over into Iraq, where civilian officials did not adequately plan for and have not adequately supported the enormous challenge, much of it borne by our military, of stabilizing the country. Our men and women in uniform deserve better, and as President, I will shape our forces based not on wishful thinking but on the realities of our world.

I also will get America’s defense spending priorities straight so our resources are focused more on fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and honoring commitments to our troops and less, for example, on developing unnecessary and counterproductive new generations of nuclear weapons.

Leadership also is critically needed to strengthen America’s intelligence capabilities. The failure of warning on 9-11 and the debacle regarding intelligence on Iraq show that we need the best information possible about efforts to organize, finance and operate terrorist groups; about plans to buy, steal, develop, or use weapons of mass destruction; about unrest overseas that could lead to violence and instability.

As President, I will make it a critical priority to improve our ability to gather and analyze intelligence. I will see to it that we have the expertise and resources to do the job.

Because some terrorist networks know no borders in their efforts to attack Americans, I will demand the effective coordination and integration of intelligence about such groups from domestic and international sources and across federal agencies. Such coordination is lacking today. It is a critical problem that the current administration has not addressed adequately. I will do so – and I will meet all our security challenges – in a way that fully protects our civil liberties. We will not undermine freedom in the name of freedom.

I also will restore honor and integrity by insisting that intelligence be evaluated to shape policy, instead of making it a policy to distort intelligence.

Second, we must rebuild our global alliances and partnerships, so critical to our nation and so badly damaged by the present administration.

Meeting the pressing security challenges of the 21st century will require new ideas, initiatives, and energy. But it also will require us to draw on our proudest traditions, including the strong global leadership demonstrated by American Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, to renew key relationships with America’s friends and allies. Every President in that line, including Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the first President Bush demonstrated that effective American leadership includes working with allies and partners, inspiring their support, advancing common interests.

Now, when America should be at the height of its influence, we find ourselves, too often, isolated and resented. America should never be afraid to act alone when necessary. But we must not choose unilateral action as our weapon of first resort. Leaders of the current administration seem to believe that nothing can be gained from working with nations that have stood by our side as allies for generations. They are wrong, and they are leading America in a radical and dangerous direction. We need to get back on the right path.

Our allies have been a fundamental source of strength for more than half a century. And yet the current administration has often acted as if our alliances are no longer important. Look at the record: Almost two years passed between September 11 and NATO assuming the leadership of a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. More than six months have gone by between the fall of Baghdad and any serious consideration of a NATO role in Iraq.

It can, at times, be challenging, even frustrating, to obtain the cooperation of allies. But, as history shows, America is most successful in achieving our national aims when our allies are by our side.

Now, some say we shouldn’t worry about eroding alliances because, whenever a crisis comes up, we can always assemble a coalition of the willing. It’s nice when people are willing, because it means they will show up and do their best. It does not, however, guarantee that they will be able to accomplish all that needs to be done.

As President, I will be far more interested in allies that stand ready to act with us rather than just willing to be rounded up as part of a coalition. NATO and our Asian alliances are strong coalitions of the able, and we need to maximize their support and strength if we are to prevail.

Unlike the kind of pick-up team this administration prefers, alliances train together so they can function effectively with common equipment, communications, logistics, and planning. Our country will be safer with established alliances, adapted to confront 21st century dangers, than with makeshift coalitions that have to start from scratch every time the alarm bell sounds.

Rebuilding our alliances and partnerships is relevant not only in Europe and Asia. Closer to home, my Administration will rebuild cooperation with Mexico and others in Latin America. This President talked the talk of Western Hemisphere partnership in his first months, but at least since 9-11 he has failed to walk the walk. He has allowed crises and resentments to accumulate and squandered goodwill that had been built up over many years. We can do much better.

Third, I will bring to bear our strengthened resources, and our renewed commitment to alliances, on our nation’s most critical and urgent national security priority: defeating the terrorists who have attacked America, continue to attack our friends, and are working to acquire the most dangerous weapons to attack us again.

Essential to this effort will be strong US leadership in forging a new global alliance to defeat terror.

And a core objective of this alliance must be a dramatically intensified global effort to prevent the most deadly threat of all the danger that terrorists will acquire weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, biological, and chemical arms.

A critical component of our defense against terror is homeland security. Here, the current administration has talked much, but done too little. It has devised the color coded threat charts we see on television, but it has not adequately addressed the conditions that make the colors change. Our administration will.

We will do more to protect our cities, ports, and aircraft; water and food supplies; bridges, chemical factories, and nuclear plants.

We will improve the coordination of intelligence information not only among federal agencies but also with state and local governments.

And we will enhance the emergency response capabilities of our police, firefighters and public health personnel. These local first responders are the ones on whom our security depends, and they deserve much stronger support from our federal government. A Department of Homeland Security isn’t doing its job if it doesn’t adequately support the hometown security that can prevent attacks and save lives.

As President, I will strengthen the National Guard’s role at the heart of homeland security. Members of the Guard have always stood ready to be deployed overseas for limited periods and in times of crisis and national emergency. But the Iraq war has torn tens of thousands of Guard members from their families for more than a year. It also deprived local communities of many of their best defenders.

The Guard is an integral part of American life, and its main mission should be here at home, preparing, planning, and acting to keep our citizens safe.

Closing the homeland security gap is just one element of what must be a comprehensive approach. We must take the fight to the terrorist leaders and their operatives around the world.

There will be times when urgent problems require swift American action. But defeating al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will require much more. It will require a long-term effort on the part of many nations.

Fundamental to our strategy will be restoration of strong US leadership in the creation of a new global alliance to defeat terror, a commitment among law-abiding nations to work together in law enforcement, intelligence, and military operations.

Such an alliance could have been established right after September 11, when nations stood shoulder to shoulder with America, prepared to meet the terrorist challenge together. But instead of forging an effective new partnership to fight a common foe, the administration soon downgraded the effort. The Iraq war diverted critical intelligence and military resources, undermined diplomatic support for our fight against terror, and created a new rallying cry for terrorist recruits.

Our administration will move swiftly to build a new anti-terrorist alliance, drawing on our traditional allies and involving other partners whose assistance can make a difference.

Our vigilance will extend to every conceivable means of attack. And our most important challenge will be to address the most dangerous threat of all: catastrophic terrorism using weapons of mass destruction. Here, where the stakes are highest, the current administration has, remarkably, done the least.

We have, rightly, paid much attention to finding and eliminating the worst people, but we need just as vigorous an effort to eliminate the worst weapons. Just as important as finding bin Laden is finding and eliminating sleeper cells of nuclear, chemical, and biological terror.

Our global alliance will place its strongest emphasis on this most lethal form of terror. We will advance a global effort to secure the weapons and technologies of mass destruction on a worldwide basis.

To do so, we will build on the efforts of former Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And our effort will build on the extraordinary work and leadership, as Senator and as Vice President, of one of America’s great leaders, Al Gore.

The Nunn-Lugar program has been critical to securing the vast nuclear, chemical, and biological material inventory left over from the Soviet Union. Incredibly, despite the threat that the nexus of terrorism and technology of mass destruction poses, despite the heightened challenges posed by 9-11, the current administration has failed to increase funding for these efforts to secure dangerous weapons. I know that expanding and strengthening Nunn-Lugar is essential to defending America, and I will make that a priority from my first day as President.

Our new alliance will call upon all nations to work together to identify and control or eliminate unsafeguarded components – or potential components – of nuclear, chemical and biological arms around the world. These include the waste products and fuel of nuclear energy and research reactors, the pathogens developed for scientific purposes, and the chemical agents used for commercial ends. Such materials are present in dozens of countries – and often stored with little if any security or oversight.

I will recruit every nation that can contribute and mobilize cooperation in every arena – from compiling inventories to safeguarding transportation; from creating units specially-trained to handle terrorist situations involving lethal substances to ensuring global public health cooperation against biological terror.

A serious effort to deal with this threat will require far more than the $2 billion annual funding the U.S. and its key partners have committed. We need a global fund to combat weapons of mass destruction not just in the former Soviet Union but around the world – that is much larger than current expenditures.

Our administration will ask Congress to triple U.S. contributions over 10 years, to $30 billion, and we will challenge our friends and allies to match our contributions, for a total of $60 billion. For too long, we have been penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to addressing the weapons proliferation threat. We urgently need to strengthen these programs in order to defend America.

The next President will have to show leadership in other ways to mobilize the world into a global alliance to defeat terror.

We and our partners must commit ourselves to using every relevant capability, relationship, and organization to identify terrorist cells, seize terrorist funds, apprehend terrorist suspects, destroy terrorist camps, and prevent terrorist attacks. We must do even more to share intelligence, strengthen law enforcement cooperation, bolster efforts to squeeze terror financing, and enhance our capacity for joint military operations – all so we can stop the terrorists before they strike at us.

The next President will also have to attack the roots of terror. He will have to lead and win the struggle of ideas.

Here we should have a decisive edge. Osama bin Laden and his allies have nothing to offer except deceit, destruction, and death. There is a global struggle underway between peace-loving Muslims and this radical minority that seeks to hijack Islam for selfish and violent aims, that exploits resentment to persuade that murder is martyrdom, and hatred is somehow God’s will. The tragedy is that, by its actions, its unilateralism, and its ill-considered war in Iraq, this Administration has empowered radicals, weakened moderates, and made it easier for the terrorists to add to their ranks.

The next President will have to work with our friends and partners, including in the Muslim world, to persuade people everywhere that terrorism is wholly unacceptable, just as they are persuaded that slavery and genocide are unacceptable.

He must convince Muslims that America neither threatens nor is threatened by Islam, to which millions of our own citizens adhere.

And he must show by words and deeds that America seeks security for itself through strengthening the rule of law, not to dominate others by becoming a law unto itself.

Finally, the struggle against terrorism, and the struggle for a better world, demand that we take even more steps. The strategic map of the world has never been more complicated. What America does, and how America is perceived, will have a direct bearing on how successful we are in mobilizing the world against the dangers that threaten us, and in promoting the values that sustain us.

Today, billions of people live on the knife’s edge of survival, trapped in a struggle against ignorance, poverty, and disease. Their misery is a breeding ground for the hatred peddled by bin Laden and other merchants of death.

As President, I will work to narrow the now-widening gap between rich and poor. Right now, the United States officially contributes a smaller percentage of its wealth to helping other nations develop than any other industrialized country.

That hurts America, because if we want the world’s help in confronting the challenges that most concern us, we need to help others defeat the perils that most concern them. Targeted and effective expansion of investment, assistance, trade, and debt relief in developing nations can improve the climate for peace and democracy and undermine the recruiters for terrorist plots.

So will expansion of assistance to fight deadly disease around the world. Today, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in many places. We still are moving too slowly to address the crisis. As President, I will provide $30 billion in the fight against AIDS by 2008 – to help the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria meet its needs and to help developing nations meet theirs.

Fighting poverty and disease and bringing opportunity and hope is the right thing to do. It is also, absolutely, the smart thing to do if we want children around the world to grow up admiring entrepreneurs, educators, and artists rather than growing up with pictures of terrorists tacked to their walls.

We can advance the battle against terrorism and strengthen our national security by reclaiming our rightful place as a leader in global institutions. The current administration has made it almost a point of pride to dismiss and ridicule these bodies. That’s a mistake.

Like our country’s “Greatest Generation,” I see international institutions like the United Nations as a way to leverage U.S. power, to summon warriors and peacekeepers, relief workers and democracy builders, to causes that advance America’s national interests. As President, I will work to make these institutions more accountable and more effective. That’s the only realistic approach. Throwing up our hands and assuming that nothing good can come from international cooperation is not leadership. It’s abdication. It’s foolish. It does not serve the American people.

Working more effectively with the UN, other institutions, and our friends and allies would have been a far better approach to the situation in Iraq.

As I said at the outset, our troops deserve our deepest gratitude for their work to capture Saddam. As I also said, Saddam’s apprehension does not end our security challenges in Iraq, let alone around the world. Violent factions in that country may continue to threaten stability and the safety of our personnel.

I hope the Administration will use Saddam’s capture as an opportunity to move U.S. policy in a more effective direction.

America’s interests will be best served by acting with dispatch to work as partners with free Iraqis to help them build a stable, self-governing nation, not by prolonging our term as Iraq’s ruler.

To succeed we also need urgently to remove the label “made in America” from the Iraqi transition. We need to make the reconstruction a truly international project, one that integrates NATO, the United Nations, and other members of the international community, and that reduces the burden on America and our troops.

We also must bring skill and determination to a task at which the current administration has utterly failed: We can and we must work for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Our alliance with Israel is and must remain unshakeable, and so will be my commitment every day of our administration to work with the parties for a solution that ends decades of blood and tears.

I believe that, with new leadership, and strengthened partnerships, America can turn around the situation in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf. I believe we can defeat terrorism and advance peace and progress. I believe these things because I believe in America’s promise. I believe in our capacity to come together as a people, and to act in the world with confidence, guided by our highest aspirations.

Again and again in America’s history, our citizens have faced crucial moments of decision. At these moments, it fell to our citizens to decide what kind of country America would be. And now, again, we face such a moment.

The American people can choose between a national security policy hobbled by fear, and a policy strengthened by shared hopes.

They must choose between a go-it-alone approach to every problem, and a truly global alliance to defeat terror and build peace.

They must choose between today’s new radical unilateralism and a renewal of respect for the best bipartisan traditions of American foreign policy. They must choose between a brash boastfulness and a considered confidence that speaks to the convictions of people everywhere.

I believe we will again hear the true voice of America. It is the voice of Jefferson and our Declaration of Independence, forging a national community in which “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”.

It is the voice of Franklin Roosevelt rallying our people at a moment of maximum peril to fight for a world free from want and fear.

It is the voice of Harry Truman helping post war Europe resist communist aggression and emerge from devastation into prosperity.

It is the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt insisting that human rights are not the entitlement of some, but the birthright of all.

It is the voice of Martin Luther King proclaiming his dream of a future in which every man, woman and child is free at last.

It is the voice of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton bringing long-time foes to the table in pursuit of peace.

With these legacies to inspire us, no obstacle ahead is too great.

Our campaign is about strengthening the American community so we can fulfill the promise of our nation. We have the power, if we use it wisely, to advance American security and restore our country to its rightful place, as the engine of progress; the champion of liberty and democracy; a beacon of hope and a pillar of strength.

We have the power, as Thomas Paine said at America’s birth, “to begin the world anew”.

We have the power to put America back on the right path, toward a new era of greatness, fulfilling an American promise stemming not so much from what we possess, but from what we believe.

That is how America can best lead in the world. That is where I want to lead America. Thank you very much.

Wake up and smell the wattle!


Hyena 2. Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“After reading Chris Baker’s “View from here” I was inspired to write to Webdiary. His insight into how Australians are changing – overweight, overworked, scared – can be summed up in one word – AMERICAN. That is what Australians are becoming.” Petrina Goksan in the USA

After reading Chris Baker’s View from here I was inspired to write to Webdiary. His insight into how Australians are changing – overweight, overworked, scared – can be summed up in one word – AMERICAN. That is what Australians are becoming.


Being Australian and having moved to California three years ago, I was overwhelmed at the cultural difference to Australia.

After living here a short time my husband and I referred to Americans as “confidently stupid”. After a time, we realised that the “confidence” is actually a cover up of their insecurity and fear – fear of losing their jobs, fear of not being able to afford medical treatment, fear of not being able to afford to send their kids to college. These are the fears of the majority.

For the minority who have the money, they fear is losing it!!

The “stupidity” is actually ignorance, based on the propoganda that is fed them from all directions – the news media, blockbuster movies, their politicians and, most importantly, from advertising.

That’s what it’s all about here, advertising – getting the consumer to buy more of what they don’t need.

Being brought up in Australia, whenever you wanted to abuse someone for taking advantage of other people, you called them a “capitalist bastard” – the ultimate insult Well, in America if you call someone a “capitalist” it’s a very positive and honourable thing. They are the epitomy of what America’s about, making money.

Is that really what’s happening to Australia? Are Australians getting caught up in the illusion of Capitalism? There is no doubt that our Prime Minister is – why else would he sell the soul of our country to the Americans to fight a war in Iraq that was totally self-serving for the American capitalists with vested interests in weapons, oil, construction and all else associated with the billions of dollars that have been spent and will be spent?

For those of you who don’t know what capitalism in the raw really looks like, I’ll tell you. It’s dark and it’s ugly! It takes away all things that makes humans humane – tolerance, trust, generorsity and compassion. Everything comes at a price and the trick is that it is presented in such a way that you pay freely.

For those of you who think that you are not conforming to the dictatorship of capitalism, think about this. Have you ever bought something that you really didn’t need just because it felt good? Do you have a creditcard? Do you feel envy of someone else’s possessions or lifestyle? This is where it all begins, and once started it NEVER ends!

We need to start thinking like Australians again. We are a country of many cultures and many religions and this is something I’m very proud of – this is who we are. We are tolerant, we are trusting, we are generous and we are compassionate – and most importantly, individually we can make a difference.

So don’t let anyone tell you differently. Wake up and smell the wattle!

No spin, come and see the real thing


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

Mark Latham said some shocking things last week if you’re a member of the political establishment, but if you’re a long-suffering voter you might feel Christmas has come early.

Hiya. Here’s today’s Sun Herald column.


No spin, come and see the real thing

G ‘day. Mark Latham said some shocking things last week if you’re a member of the political establishment, but if you’re a long-suffering voter you might feel Christmas has come early.

For a start, he professed pride in his government education and pledged to send his sons to a government school too, as good an indication as any that he’d put our money where his mouth is if he became prime minister.

“I want the same opportunities for my little boys that I’ve been lucky enough to have,” he said. “There’s nothing more powerful for our society than a good government school for people who come from a humble background.” (Disclosure: I attended the Slade Point State Primary School in North Queensland and The Gap State High School in Brisbane.)

Then he said he’d like our head of state – now the Governor-General – elected by the Australian people, because “I believe in the dispersal of power; opening up democracy for greater public participation”. Crikey!

You won’t believe this one either, but he also vowed to return to grassroots campaigning. You mean, actually talk to real people where they live instead of running around staging picture opportunities for the national media? I’d like to see that.

Sydney artist Robert Bosler recently wrote An artist’s blueprint for a Latham win for my Webdiary. Artists think differently to most people – I reckon it’s because they feel significant mood shifts before us plebs. He reckoned Latham’s election was profound for all of us: “We wake up now in a totally different country than we have done for seven years of a dominant Howard.”An artist’s blueprint for a Latham win “Two people who wake up each day to this totally different world are Mark Latham and John Howard. How each of them responds to their new world will create the new road map for our country’s future.” His tips for Latham are:

Remember you don’t have to do too much. “He must not get swept up in other people’s energy or ideas. To win, he must remain himself,” wrote Robert. He’s done that so far, for sure. His language and his style are open, honest, and – what I like most – he says publicly he’s open to persuasion, thus bringing us in on his decision-making. For example, he said of Labor’s refugee policy: “I’m open to any process that helps me to learn, to listen, to build my understanding of these issues.” It’s as if he’s asking us all to have a chat about the things that divide us and see if we can’t reach an agreed position.

Never forget you’re a winner. “He must, daily, feel and enjoy his own winning nature,” wrote Robert. He doesn’t act like a loser so far, does he? He announced during the week that he’d move his family to Canberra if he won the top job, and save us the cost of Howard’s Sydney residence to boot!

Keep your sense of humour. “Mark’s laugh so far has been positively wicked. It’s the laugh that brings out the spirited mischievous schoolboy in us if we are male, and the laugh that puts a mother’s hand to her brow as she faithfully prepares the next load of mud-splattered washing, along with a ‘What am I going to do with you’ comment,” wrote Robert.

That sense of humour must mature now he’s leader, but he’s kept it so far. I liked this line, when asked how his assault on a taxi driver compared to Andrew Bartlett’s touch-up of a Liberal senator : “I wish I had a dollar for every time that one’s been asked,” Latham said, rolling his eyes.

On days it all gets too much, say nothing. “His minders will be screaming at him: ‘You must speak to the media or they will tear you apart’. He must let the media do just that,” Robert wrote. He reckons this approach will create a vacuum which Latham can fill when he’s ready, and thus reset the agenda his way.

Latham’s relaxed refusal to bite at the Government’s barbs is a good example, as was his public apology to Malcolm Turnbull over a defamation allegation, clearing the decks on his own terms.

Stay the real thing, please. “We’re going to go on a roller-coaster ride with him, but isn’t that what life is, in truth? We’re going to laugh with him, shout at him, wonder with him, grow thoughtful with him. Mark has to be comfortable with how we respond to that human intimacy. We are not used to naturalness or intimacy in a leader now and Mark must prepare for our response to it. This way, he stays natural, and he stays the real thing,” Robert wrote.

I had a debate with a Labor numbers man about this in Canberra. I said the strategists shouldn’t ask Latham to argue for things he didn’t believe in. “I’ve had to do that more than once, and so will he. That’s politics,” he replied.

I think he’s wrong on this one. Latham has shown so far he’s ready to listen and to be convinced. But if he starts lying, he’s finished. We’ll see through it and be so disappointed we’ll write him and Labor off. We’re tired of spin politics. We’re ready for the real thing.

Peter Funnell’s 2003 report


Hand in prayer. Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“I reflected on how much I dislike and disagree with where our PM, John Howard, has taken this nation in the last seven years. It is not the world I want for my son. When I talk to other parents, they privately share the same concern. So what stops us all from changing the way it is? Nothing!” Peter Funnell

On Wednesday I picked my son up from school, his last day for the year. It’s a good school with dedicated, concerned and hardworking teachers. The Director of the infants school is a class act – she preparing these little people to have their heads up and looking forward confidently to next year, the next step in their young lives.


I was reminded recently that when ships were prepard for long voyages, they were said to be “Outward Bound”. This little school and it’s staff place great emphasis on equity, good manners, respect for others, firm but fair discipline, development of personal responsibility and self discipline, the quest for knowledge and the need for community at all levels. Parents don’t have the option to opt out.

This day, the children had a “uniform free day”, but it looked the same to me. The children though it was a great concession. It was a joyous scene – children running everywhere, a party, parents who could get time off work, grandparents and neighbors living near the school (whom we frequently inconvenience). Simple and uncomplicated and very real!

Before I left, my son’s teacher gave me his end of year report and a mass of work completed by my son (much of the artwork now adorns our hallway). It had been a good year. The report was a window into our boy, in an environment where we are not readily to hand to lean on or put things aright or correct him. It was insightful and valuable. It was obvious how much they valued him, with all his strengths and irritations and undeveloped potential. He is “Outward Bound”!

And so it would have been for every parent. Our “Director” handed parents a note with the report, encouraging us to engage with our child in the holidays, giving us pointers for our child that will help him next year and reminding us that “they are not little for long, so enjoy every moment with them”. I looked at the playground mayhem and it was hard to hold back a tear.

So many thoughts raced through my mind – a collection of my concerns for our nation, our people and those on this planet with so much less. Funny whats set you off.

We are so bloody lucky to have grown up in Australia. Why are we doing so much to stuff it up? How very stupid we are, I thought to myself – and what am I doing about it?

What sort of end of year report would we get? Not too so good.

Webdiary has had a good year. So many good contributions and a willingness to question and challenge it all.

The year has closed on Latham becoming leader of the Labor Party. A real chance of going forward with hope. A real chance of changing the awful descent into the mean spirited, selfish, user pays, divisive society that we have become courtesy of the Howard years and Howard’s way.

Living in this nation is not easy, material, moral or ethical – it’s increasing hard and for no gain.

I had got the point that I thought it would never end, that I was out of step with the majority of Australians – certainly those that voted again and again for a Howard Government. It’s been a hard couple of years and I wondered and still wonder what they (Howard et al) will do next.

But Latham’s resuscitated my hope. I’m feeling desperate, so may be I’m an easy touch. So what. What he says is good. The last two Webdiary entries hit the spot, No spin, come and see the real thing and Wake up and smell the wattle!

I want to feel as confident and be as trusting of my Government and our nation’s future as I do when I am standing in the playground of my son’s little school. I wish every Australian could feel that way.

I looked at my son and his friends playing and I thought of all the kids and families in detention centres awaiting decisions on their immigration status. I have always had a strong position on border protection, but been repelled by the way many of these hapless people have been treated while in our care. When I discovered how bad it was, I could hardly believe this was Australia.

I have been outraged by the lies and deceit in “children overboard” and SEIV-4, and acknowledged the horrible suspicion that our Government has been involved in the deaths of many in SEIV-X.

I stuck firm with strong border protection. I have shamed myself, because I hardened my heart to their plight, and it was exploited by the Howard Government. I have no one to blame but myself for my stupidity. The end does not justify the means.

I listened, transfixed to Father Brennan’s address to the National Press Club, skewered by his clear thinking and courage of his convictions. They should have been mine. I would have him take my confession now. I will seek another way to deal with this issue and it will not be Howard’s Way!

I did not want us to be at war with Afghanistan or Iraq. I am proud of what we did in East Timor and the Solomons and Bali. I do not want to be a vassal of the USA, no matter what the perceived consequences.

I am very worried by the perceived necessity to give ground on critical civil liberties through greater powers to ASIO or any other Government authority or agency.

Where is our democracy heading? Why do we have a large surplus? Why are we reducing services to the community and placing ever increasing liabilities on charities? Why are we so easily convinced that we do not need to assist and protect those in our society with less or have fallen on hard times? Why do we have to insist they work for society’s assistance and in so doing, make life that bit harder for no gain? Why do we insist on slamming our young Australians with a dreadfully crippling debt for undertaking higher education, when the debt we seek is their duty to excel in service of the nation? Why are we so closed fisted with the aged in our community? Why do we tolerate a health care system that diminishing rapidly in its ability to service the nation and ensure that those with money will get the treatment and those without will suffer? Why cann’t we say sorry? Why have we pursued global economic objectives at the expense of those who produce in our nation? Why are we so deaf to calls to take rapid and radical action over an ever increasing and threatening array of environmental issues? Why don’t we ensure that the Australian film industry is preserved and developed and that our stories, our way, are told? What’s our story lines? Why, why why?

I reflected on how much I dislike and disagree with where our PM, John Howard, has taken this nation in the last seven years. It is not the world I want for my son. When I talk to other parents, they privately share the same concern. So what stops us all from changing the way it is? Nothing!

Smell the wattle – that’s going to be my call for 2004. No more spin, no tolerance for it, no more cheap and dirty tricks – just the real thing! You can’t do much with hope, but you can do nothing without it.

>Well done with Webdiary Margo. At times I have thought it is the one place that I could seek truth and solace. All the best with the book, Xmas and New Year.

A Webdiarist’s speech for a Mark Latham address to the nation


Australian dream. Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“I’m glad to see the year 2003 go, ladies and gentlemen, because, and I’ll be blunt about it, because the year was a thief.” Mark Latham if Robert Bosler wrote his speeches

Robert Bosler is a Sydney artist and regular Webdiary contributor. His last piece was An artist’s blueprint for a Latham win


What would you do if you were the current prime minister and your whole world had just been turned upside down? What would you do to try to claw back some of your lost political image?

Think Christmas. Think the Queen.

Remember, you have all the advantages and trappings of the prime ministerial office, so you can set the stage, assume your sincerity, and, exactly – an �Address To The Nation�.

It would work, tremendously. You’d look sensational; and there on television you would lay it on us all over again.

Let�s be creative. It�s all out of the ordinary, this, our current political moment, so we can be creative with the state of our national debate now. If anything, what is below is at least an example showing it is possible now for someone to participate in it. I personally hope many more people not given so far to speaking up realise this fabulous opportunity in our national history right now and, whatever their view or their forum, come forth.

For us to share in the electioneering process, and so a citizen off the street may possibly add something to the national debate, I’ve made up a speech for a fictional end of year address by the other possible prime minister. Can you see and hear and imagine Mark Latham making the end of year address, written below?

Thank you, Margo, and your Webdiary, for the wellspring of its magic throughout the year – and looking forward to this wellspring, our beautiful national public voice in text, continuing to help shape debate in the most important of years: 2004.


Footprints in the sand

Well, what a year it�s been ladies and gentlemen. What a year. A big year. It�s been a big year, ladies and gentlemen, a big year for us all.

And along with all of you around the country I’ll be celebrating, I’ll be celebrating, but I’ll be celebrating because I’m glad to see it go.

I’m glad to see the year 2003 go, ladies and gentlemen, because, and I’ll be blunt about it, because the year was a thief.

It stole our chance to take the big steps on the world stage that would have coloured us with brilliance and we could have sat there shining for the world to see.

Instead, we have been threatened to become something we are not. Not if I can help it.

This year has seen us named as a terrorist target. I’m here to tell it to you straight, ladies and gentlemen. That�s what we’ve become.

I keep talking about the nation�s future and while it’s End of Year time and we are partying here and there, it’s not the sort of time we want to put our minds towards who we are. It’s enough to say who we are not. Were we ever really meant to be a terrorist target? Is that what Australia is supposed to be?

2003 came to us dressed as a salesman, ladies and gentlemen. Not the harmless salesman selling us the harbour bridge, it was a deceptive salesman, a dangerous salesman because it wasn’t selling us the harbour bridge, it was selling the desert of Iraq. The salesman came all dressed the part but it came selling the desert of Iraq.

It’s not good enough to hear John Howard point to the footprints in the sand that was the year 2003 and say that we’ve moved on. It’s not good enough. I don’t accept that, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t accept that for all of you.

When John Howard talks about our nation�s security having grown because we bombed Iraq he cannot ignore those footprints in the sand. He cannot.

It’s not good enough for John Howard to point to those footprints and say we moved on, ladies and gentlemen – because those footprints of 2003 were the footprints of a thief. A thief and a vagrant, vagrant from the true shining spirit of who we really are. It stole our country�s sovereignty, and our freedom, and it stole the chance we had to show our strength to the world and shine.

We are not a country that bombs other countries without a valid reason. We went to Iraq and we did it. My colleagues and I were opposed to it, you know that. And in retrospect we were proven right in opposing it, but our loyal country�s sons and daughters were sent there and we did it and my heart goes out to all those who served there and the families of those who served there, and I’m here to tell you we won’t be doing it again. Not like that.

To the people who served there and to your families, you are in my heart and you will be with me in my heart through my time ahead and I tell you this, if you are asked to draw upon your loyalty to your service, under my decision, you’ll be doing it with a country proud and united behind you.

Of everyone I ask this question: did we have to go to war when we did? That�s the question. That�s the question I keep getting asked, ladies and gentlemen.

But now we are in this situation, there�s no denying that now. No denying it. We are in it. John Howard put us in it, and I don’t accept the situation, and I’m dealing with it and my colleagues are dealing with it.

And now that we are in this situation, as Prime Minister I will have to ensure the arrest of terrorist suspects. I will do that. But there�s a bigger job I have to do, a bigger job for this country, bigger job for all of you. That�s why I’m talking to you now, to let you know what I have to do.

I will ensure the arrest of terrorist suspects, as Prime Minister of this country, but the bigger job I have to do is to arrest the slipping of the Australian nation down into that black hole of mutual retribution.

It’s slipping that way, and I have to arrest it. That�s what I have to arrest, ladies and gentlemen, I have to arrest the slipping away of our security and our own sense of freedom and of our sovereignty.

All that means is that we have to make our own decisions, and we have to have the time to make those decisions properly, that�s all that means. But you have to be big enough to do that, you have to be big enough. We all have to play a part. All of us. We all have to do it.

So 2003 was a thief, ladies and gentlemen. A thief, it stole our security and it stole our chance to shine. It stole our true Australian way.

I grew up thinking Australia was a masterpiece, a masterpiece in the making. I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved the way the word looked, you know, when it�s written on the page. Still do, I love the way it is written. I love the word: Australia. It looks a proud word, an elegant word, a big thing, something big, and strong. I love the shape of our country, the outline of Australia, when it’s drawn on the map. Love it. No other country looks like ours. Every time I see it I feel this beaut sense of pride that that�s the country where I live. Where we all live. I love it, all of it. It’s ancient. Old, older than all of us, older than any other country. It’s special, a masterpiece.

A masterpiece in the making, it was. We were on our way to finding our oneness with each other. On the way to achieving a sense of balance with our internal cultures, as we share this country, and we all from all different backgrounds add our contribution to making it the masterpiece. There was lots to do, lots to do, but we were on the way.

That�s now gone. We lost it. We lost the way. The masterpiece in the making has been turned into mudpie. I want to get it back for us, for all of us. I want to get it back. That�s why I’m here.

I don’t have all the answers. That�s not what I’m here for. I’m not here to give all the answers. I’m here to help us find our way again. I’m here to pull it all together again as we all rebuild our shining nation. That�s my job.

If you’ve lost something, where do you find it? You find it where the light is brightest, that�s where you find it. Australia�s national light is brightest in our sense of joy and our natural sense of freedom and our natural love of life. It’s brightest in our sense of true Australian freedom as we get on and create and achieve. That is where we will find our future.

And if the light isn’t shining where you lost it, what do you do? You get a torch and you point the torch, you point the torch on the dark issues and we have to look at them.

We have to look at the things that swerved us off the way and look at those things that turned the masterpiece into mudpies. We have to look at them, we have to look at the lies about Iraq, at the lies about children being thrown overboard – goodness sakes! I promised you no crudity but goodness sakes! We have to look at all these things, because this is what has happened to us. Our country, this is what has happened to our country. This is what has made mudpies out of the spirit of our country.

That�s another arrest we have to make, ladies and gentlemen – we have to arrest the thieving of our national spirit.

It�s a bit harder to understand, but you know yourselves that when some precious property of yours is stolen and walks out the door you want to stop it and set it right. That�s what�s been happening to our country, ladies and gentlemen. All our shining glory, everything spiritual we as a nation had achieved and were working hard to achieve, everything we believed in as a free and creative and colourful national spirit, and a developing and learning spirit, is going out the door. Out the door. It’s being stolen.

John Howard and his government, for them to stay in government, it�s not a good enough reason. It’s not a valid reason and it’s not good enough. Having our bright and true Australian way stolen from us, there�s no valid reason for it and we have to arrest it now. We have to stop their politics of fear. We have to stop their politics of division. That is not who we are.

There has been enough of John Howard, enough. Enough: making mudpies out of the masterpiece that is the Spirit of Australia.

This is a land of abundance with a wealth of spirit and in spiritual terms we have been forced to make mudpies and eat the soulless cardboard package.

We have to rise up out of the mud, wash ourselves off, and start clean and fresh. That is Christmas 2004. Arrive there clean and fresh.

My dream is that we all contribute to the new masterpiece, the true masterpiece, the true Australian masterpiece. It won’t happen just by itself, nor can I do it for you – we all have to make the decision to do it together. We have to make that decision every day. We have to take action.

So many of you marched on the streets, you linked arms, and walked towards what you hoped was a world of peace. I urge you to continue doing that. Walk the streets with peace in your heart. Say g�day and smile and shake your countryfolks’ hand. Every day. And if you don’t want to get out of the house to do it, you can do it by sitting right there in your lounge chair and linking arms in spirit with your fellow Australians, and walk forward, walk forward, with me into our new and brighter future.

Australians are not afraid of the task ahead. We are not afraid, that�s not who we are. We are not meant to be made to be afraid. We don’t like it. We live in a land of colour. Colour. I think of the golden sands and the blue skies, the red earth and the silken snow. That�s what we are. This is the true Australia. We are a land of brightness and colour. We are not a land of mudded fear.

We can do the tough stuff in the modern era. We can do it. It’s part of our history, our national history. We can do it, and we do it. It’s part of who we are.

When the time is right, we get stuck in. Stuck in. We are not afraid, we do it, when the time is right, we do it, we get stuck in.

I look at all our great achievements along the true Australian way and I see Australia roll its sleeves up. We do it as a country, we roll our sleeves up and get stuck in and that is what we are.

I look at John Howard getting stuck in, but he never rolls his sleeves up. I look at him and see he lets others do the dirty work or take the rap.

But we know it�s the Australian way: to roll your sleeves up. It�s the true Australian way.

I look at John Howard and he doesn’t roll his sleeves up, ladies and gentlemen, because if he did we’d see his use-by-date. His use-by-date. Stamped on his arm.

I wish you all a true Australian Christmas, ladies and gentlemen, a happy and colourful and joyful Christmas.

And I look forward eagerly with you, my fellow Australians, with all my fellow Australians, next year, for John Howard to call the election and show us that use-by-date.

Goodbye to 2003, thankfully, ladies and gentlemen. Freshness is on the way, Merry Christmas, and enjoy.

The view from here


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“Obviously, my perspective of Australia is filtered by time and distance, and maybe my view is coloured by the emotions of flight and nostalgia: the baggage of immigrants and exiles. But I believe that my view, like those of the other million Australians who live overseas (that’s a diaspora the size of Adelaide), may contribute something worthwhile to our national introspection. The view of Australia that I have as I write here in Hong Kong may be clouded by many personal feelings. However, it seems that my view is shared by many others. And sadly, this view seems to do neither Australia, nor its people, justice.” Expat Chris Baker

G’day. Webdiary will sign off next Friday until the end of January so I can write my bloody book. Latham’s elevation has thrown yet another spanner in the works and I’m a in a bit of a panic, but what’s new? Heh Polly Bush, I hope you can come up with your anual Pollywaffle awards before deadline! I’m angsting over a Latham column for Sunday’s Sun Herald at the moment, but was struck by an email from expat Chris Baker. He wrote:


I am Australian freelance writer and educator living in Hong Kong and I’ve written a piece on international pereceptions of Australia. I argue that in the three years since Australia secured an incredible amount of international goodwill with the 2000 Olympic Games, we have squandered much of the enviable cachet associated with the brand name ‘Australia’. As a result of our policies on asylum seekers, the war in Iraq, our diminished interest in our neighbours and our disregard of international covenants, the international perception of Australia is no longer one of a country that prides itself on its tolerance, openness and fair play.

The article is not simply a narrative of Australia’s diminished international goodwill. It is also a very personal account of the things that I love and miss about my homeland: the sound of laughter in people’s voices; the easy mix of the urban and the natural, and all the things celebrated on the day the 2000 Olympics began. Its my conclusion that the view which much of the world currently has of Australia, does neither the country, nor its people, justice.

So here’s the take of Chris, on Webdiary debut, on us.


The view from here

by Chris Baker

�O wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursel’s as others see us.� Robert Burns

On 15th September, 2000, like millions of others around the Globe, I was deeply moved by the spectacle, beauty, wit, and inclusiveness of the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. When a statuesque Cathy Freeman, the ceremony�s archetypal goddess, invoked the elements of fire and water to preside over the evening�s climax, I was, like most other Australians, moist-eyed and speechless.

In its evocation of the wild magnificence of our natural environment, the dignity of our indigenous people, the diversity of our cultural heritage, and the exuberant creativity of our artists and performers, the Opening Ceremony was an unqualified triumph and cleverly projected an image of Australia that broke far beyond the stereotypes of a sports-mad nation. The ceremony proclaimed an image of Australia that was enviable from many perspectives and self-confidently asserted that we were fit but sexy, playful but sophisticated, technically savvy but happily self-deprecating.

Intoxicated by the effortless brilliance and cultural depth of the occasion, I congratulated myself on how clever and wonderful and lucky I was to be an Australian and to be able to claim some cultural ownership of these dazzling, golden, remarkable few hours.

The following morning, I swaggered into work and like a proud parent waving a child�s Straight A report card and idiotically reminded the international group with whom I work with here in Hong Kong that I was an Australian.

They generously agreed that the previous evening had been an incomparably wonderful show and suggested that the three hour ceremony (and its years of planning and millions of dollars) had bought Australia a lifetime�s supply of goodwill and the sort of positive brand recognition that public relations gurus and advertisers rarely dare to dream of. Asians and Westerners alike, had, it seemed, been suddenly, but most definitely, seduced by the word �Australia�.

In the three years since the Sydney Olympics, the brand name �Australia� seems to have lost some of its enviable cachet. If anecdotal conversations with the Chinese and International communities of Hong Kong are any indication of the global perceptions of our country, the reservoir of goodwill also seems sadly depleted.

Many of my friends and colleagues in Hong Kong delight in visiting Australia. They express a deep affection for our country, and many have strong personal or professional ties to Australia. However, in the last year or two, many of these people have also been asking me some shockingly pointed and challenging questions. Sadly too, the tone with which they ask these questions resembles the tone of an addled, disappointed teacher whose Straight A student has suddenly become the class bully.

Some of their questions are focused on specific domestic or foreign policy, while others are more general lobs at Australian �values�. Why does Australia imprison refugees in the desert? Are Australians frightened of Muslims? Is Australia really racist towards Asians? Why did Australia support the war in Iraq without the support of the UN? Why did Australia close its Parliament to the public during the visit of George W. Bush? Why does Australia admire its sportspeople more than its thinkers? Why aren�t teachers respected more in Australia? Why did Australia ban the movie �Ken Park� (which ironically was screened here uncensored and without much comment the same week that half a million people took to the streets to defend civil society and free speech)?

Most of these questions have left me absolutely gob-smacked. Initially, I was affronted by these prickly political and cultural probings, believing that they were simply borne of cultural misunderstandings and of stereotypes based on the international press� gloss of complex national issues. However, as I reflect more deeply on the salience of some these questions, I now view them as the legitimate enquiries of curious but emotionally removed cultural observers. Furthermore, I am now starting to ask myself many of the same questions.

To provide a coherent, let alone persuasive response to questions such as these requires much thinking on the spot, especially when they are casually asked over the photocopier or on a bus ride home. I have stammered lame replies such as �we�re really not racist� or �the Australian Government does not always speak for the Australian people�, but increasingly I find myself reluctant to defend our country with such platitudes. Instead, I prefer to look to the Australian press and to the international media for ammunition with which to counter my friends� and colleagues� good-natured but merciless interrogations. What I find in our press is generally not helpful.

In most Australian newspapers, I see little deep and thoughtful debate of the bi-partisan political support of the forced detention of people fleeing torture and trauma in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria or Kosovo. Nor do I see much consternation at many of the practices associated with this forced detention. Why, for example, wasn�t the use of water cannons to �control� detained refugees in Woomera a national scandal?

I also see no outrage at the Federal Government contracting out the running of its detention centers to companies such as Wackenhut Inc, a multinational private security corporation that also owns Third World utilities, banks and factories and whose Board of Directors has included a former special agent of the FBI, and a former Under-Secretary of the US Air Force. I have seen no irony expressed at the image of boatload full of Australian sheep (a �sheep of fools�?) not being able to find safe haven in Middle Eastern ports.

I see no studied or serious cultural unpacking of what it says about Australia that its most popular television program in 2003 was about home renovation. Yet I do see almost daily references to �Our Nic�, to Kylie, and to our sports people.

As I read the Australian media, I ask myself whom most Australians might regard as the nation�s prized intellectuals. Who are our cultural heavyweights and our social visionaries? Who are our contemporary dissidents, our satirists, our polemicists?

The international media seems an equally barren source of ideas for supporting my defense of Australia�s international prestige and goodwill. Asian English language papers such as the South China Morning Post, The Straits Times, The Jakarta Post and The Nation have all pitched stories that paint Australia as suspicious of Islam, intolerant towards Asia and Asians, and subservient to the foreign policy aims of the United States.

Does this anecdotal evidence from the press of our closest neighbours (and some of our key trading partners), suggest that like America, Australia is becoming internationally resented?

Is Australia represented more favourably in the media of its �allies�? Not much, it seems. The BBC World Service�s reporting of Australia in 2003 has focused on cricket matches and the Rugby World Cup, Australia�s participation in the �Coalition of the Willing� and the odd story or two about a crocodile hunter.

In the American press and in globally distributed publications such as the International Herald Tribune, little, if any reporting of Australia actually occurs, even though purportedly we are the United States� �staunchest ally�. A search of �Australia� in all the New York Times� 2003 headlines yields just six news stories related to our domestic politics or foreign policy (compared to seven stories about Australian tennis). To supplement its one hard news story about Australia every two months, The Times also features several stories about traveling and dining in Australia: a �good value� tourist destination where the Green Back still enjoys a favourable exchange rate.

Excluding references to our exported entertainers, our holiday spots, our low costs and good exchange rates, and our sporting achievements, we generally don�t seem to rate much of a mention in the rest of the English speaking world.

Australia, however, does seem to be increasingly talked about in non news media publications. A quick glance of the titles of some of Amnesty International�s recent reports on Australia reveals that the word �Australia� has been collocated with phrases such as �Shirking responsibility�, �Picking and choosing human rights standards� and �Offending human dignity�. Similarly, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights has urged the Australian government to ensure that detained asylum seekers �enjoy a secure legal status and humanitarian assistance in accordance with international law� while Human Rights Watch has criticized Australia’s �failure to tackle human rights issues�.

Is this the press that we want to have, and is the image that we sought to project to the world on that September night in 2000? Rather than projecting an image of tolerance, openness and fair play, we suddenly seem to be a belligerent international pariah with a deteriorating human rights record.

From where I look, the view of Australia is not rosy. I believe that the international criticism and indifference that we are receiving is not only valid, but also necessary. To my eyes, we�re not living up to the image that we projected 3 years ago, nor are we living up to our promise as a dynamic, sophisticated, generous nation that is compassionate to the human dramas in other parts of the world.

There seems to be have been little rigorous domestic debates on issues such as our international good standing, our obligations as good global citizens, and the need to honour international covenants on issues such as greenhouse emissions, border controls and human rights. There also seems to be little domestic concern that our regional goodwill is withering. If international criticism or indifference does not arouse concern for how we look to others, what will? Are Australians aware that we�re not universally loved and respected and that people in other countries� unemotionally associate us with words such as �racist� and �repressive�?

Obviously, my perspective of Australia is filtered by time and distance, and maybe my view is coloured by the emotions of flight and nostalgia: the baggage of immigrants and exiles. But I believe that my view, like those of the other million Australians who live overseas (that�s a diaspora the size of Adelaide), may contribute something worthwhile to our national introspection.

I see Australia in many of the same ways that I see my family and friends. Like the daily personal emails that keep me abreast of what is happening in the lives of loved ones, my daily visits to the Australian press give me a general sense of what�s happening �back home�. But obviously, since I�m no longer living in Australia, many of the nuances of the country�s changes pass me.

When I return every six months or so, I not only notice taller teenage nephews, hair on babies� heads, or recently formed crow�s feet on relatives� laughing faces. I also notice changed details on Australia�s beautiful, diverse and sun-damaged face.

Australia looks older (fatter around the hips and a bit overworked) but I�m not sure if it looks wiser. It looks more affluent but I�m not sure if its smile is as generous as the one I left. It�s more sophisticated and wears a cosmetic sheen, but I�m not sure if this sophistication includes a worldly sensibility that makes it aware of what�s happening in other chic (and not so chic) parts of the world.

Australia is definitely more of a homebody and despite a decade of unprecedented positive economic indicators, it seems more scared of its neighbours, reluctant to go outside and disinclined to invite the new bloke in for a drink.

I like to think that that I�m not an expat �knocker� -a breed of �er� nouns that is on a par with �wankers� and �dobbers�- but no doubt some people who read this will react by saying �if you don�t like Australia, why don�t you stay in Hong Kong�. Unlike the many people who are currently in Australia�s detention centres, I had the luxury of choosing the circumstances and timing of expatriation, and hopefully, I will likewise be able to choreograph the happy occasion of my repatriation. I can indeed stay away, or if I so choose, I can also come home.

The point is I do like Australia. It�s the place of my birth, and it�s my childhood, my education and the bulk of my adult life. Australia is more than a word on the front page of my passport. It�s where most of my family live and friends live and the sum of many things physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual that create my inner landscape. I love the sound of laughter in people�s voices; the easy mix of the urban and the natural and all the things that we so grandly celebrated on the day the 2000 Olympics began.

The view of Australia that I have as I write here in Hong Kong may be clouded by many personal feelings. However, it seems that my view is shared by many others. And sadly, this view seems to do neither Australia, nor its people, justice.

No chance to go to the best unis for kids without the cash


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

“If you want to meet certain people, if you want to get a job overseas, if you want to get a post-doc overseas there are only a few universities that matter. Recently, I went to a function at my old university residential college. I spoke to some of the first year law students. There may be roughly the same number of students in first year, but after you take into account the foreign students and the full fee paying students, there is a small handful country kids in first year, there is a small handful of state school and systemic catholic school kids in first year. Country kids and state school/systemic catholic school kids may be going to university, and that may be a panacea to the policy makers. But they ain’t going to Sydney University.” Therese Catanzariti

Therese Catanzariti, an expat lawyer in London, tells head of the university vice-chancellor’s committee Professor Derek Schreuder, interviewed by John Wojdylo in Community is not Communism: The new university battleground explained, to get real about equality of opportunity in higher education. It’s an insider’s response to his claim that access to higher education is getting more, not less, equal.


Professor Deryck Schreuder may trumpet that the participation rate has doubled, but where are the participants going?

I studied economics and law at Sydney University in the late 1980’s. I was from the country. I did my HSC at a small country Catholic school, and survived five years of university on Austudy and student jobs.

There were quite a few of us country kids doing economics/law. There were quite a few state school and systemic catholic school kids doing economics/law. And we did OK.

I later worked at a large commercial law firm, was awarded a scholarship to study at University of London, and went to the NSW Bar. Several of my colleagues are now partners at large commercial law firms, senior policy makers, diplomats, merchant bankers, and successful suburban lawyers.

You can be diplomatic, politic or polite Or you can be blunt and honest. I am under no illusions that some of the successes we had were in large part because we went to Sydney University.

That’s not a criticism of the quality and application of the students at other universities. That’s not a criticism of the quality and rigour of the curriculum at other universities. That’s not a criticism of the quality and commitment of the staff at other universities.

Its just that if you want to meet certain people, if you want to get a job overseas, and if you want to get a post-doc overseas there are only a few universities that matter.

Recently, I went to a function at my old university residential college. I spoke to some of the first year law students. There may be roughly the same number of students in first year, but after you take into account the foreign students and the full fee paying students, there is a small handful country kids in first year. There are a small handful of state school and systemic catholic school kids in first year.

Country kids and state school/systemic catholic school kids may be going to university, and that may be a panacea to the policy makers. But they ain’t going to Sydney University.

I recently heard a colleague explain that the purpose of some of the regional universities was to provide graduates to go and work in the suburbs and in the country. Has anyone explained that to the bright eyed and bushy tailed kids who think that going to Lismore or Armidale is the same as going to Sydney?

Australia is in danger of creating a two tier system of universities. One for the toffs. One for the rest of us.

I think HECS graduate tax was a good idea. It didn’t stop me going. And I paid it when I reaped the rewards of my privileged education. I think all Australian students should have that opportunity.

A society should not guarantee equality of outcomes. However, even Milton Friedman agreed in his book “Free To Choose” and even George Bush’s voucher system for public schools have as their core that a society should guarantee equality of opportunity in education.