Conservative American values an ex-Republican soldier in Iraq doesn’t see in Bush

Webdiarist Alun Breward translated a piece from Der Spiegel before the US, Britain and Australia invaded Iraq called A think tank war: Why old Europe says no which is Webdiary’s most read entry. In this piece, he translates a weblog about a speech to the US Democrats Convention published by Germay’s national broadaster that will get no publicity here. The speech was by Steve Brozak, a registered Republican voter who served in Iraq last year and is now a Democrat candidate for Congress.



Conservative American values, that Brozak doesn’t see in Bush

by Rainer S�tfeld, 29 July 2004

John Edwards has had plenty of coverage from those who witnessed his performance at the Democrats Convention or at the Press Centre. But who witnessed Steve Brozak�s speech?

Brozak spoke too, sometime during the shutdown of TV coverage, after the evening news and before Wheel of Fortune. His speech won�t register in any transcript. But nonetheless he represents the great hope of the Kerry campaign, the essence of this four day stageshow, which aims to show an electorate which craves national unity that Democrats are just like them.


Steve Brozak is an ordinary American and Democrat, but only since the war on Iraq. One Friday afternoon, just after the attack on Baghdad, this ordinary, short man (a serving Lieutenant of the Reservist Marines) walked into the Westfield Town Hall. He had his name struck off the Republican voter roll and registered as a Democrat. One small step for mankind, but for this conservative businessman the greatest possible protest against his Commander in Chief, George W. Bush.

The forty-three year old is living proof that not every soldier is game to follow Bush; that the Republicans do not own the votes of the armed forces.

Bush began to lose the support of this firm patriot long before the Iraq adventure, when Brozak noted that Bush�s allies were treating Vietnam Vets like John McCain and Max Cleland like dirt.

His anger grew as he realised how the Bush administration treated armed forces Reserves. Seventy percent of Brozak�s New Jersey National Guard are on deployment – more than at any time since World War Two. Their tours of duty are constantly extended, with the result that they lose their jobs and their businesses fail. But in response there has been no sign of help from the top brass in Washington.

This made him increasingly angry. It drove him to change sides. The Republican Party under Bush had shifted ground, leaving Brozak, with his political convictions unchanged, firmly in the camp of the Democrats. That is why he stood at the lectern that Clinton, Carter and Edwards had used, and where Kerry will soon speak.

And Steve Brozak, the man you�re unlikely to hear of again, is not stopping there. He will be standing as a Democrat for Congress. He wants the USA to be strong and respected once again. He wants no-one to look askance at the US soldier again, on some future unilateral USA deployment. It�s not about political parties any more, it’s about the America that you learnt about in school.

Welcome back, Webdiary conservatives!

G�day. As I noted in Webdiary’s ethics, my piece on the evolution of Webdiary, whenever its content tilts strongly to the �left�, whatever that means these days, readers self-balance the forum.


On July 26, Webdiarist Shaun O’Brien emailed me this complaint:

I sign off to Webdiary oblivion since really I have more fun watching my kids videos than I do trawling through Webdiary these days. I always understood that I would be in the conservative minority but now it has come to such a state that no longer does Webdiary stand for hearing alternative views. Fellow conservative and webdiary columnist Noel Hadjimichael hasn’t had an entry since April 23 and I have hardly read a dissenting view over the last couple of months – please point me to one. (Margo: Brian Harradine, man of honour.)


Maybe Webdiary no longer stands for different views as much as for scaring them away.

Margo, by all means press for “regime” change with the Federal Government, but it�s ironic that you have lost all sense of perspective in your pursuit of this goal.

Anyway I will continue to browse Webdiary on occasions to see if the tide has turned, but given the latest lot of articles I will next expecting to see that Howard/Bush were really the ones hiding behind the grassy knoll that fateful day or that Michael Moore is now your latest Webdiarist.

I still offer you my best for the future but you now have lost one dissenting voice in a roar of screaming anti-Howard vitriol.

The very next day, Noel sent me a column. The hiatus was due to a change of jobs, from solicitor to lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Western Sydney. I emailed Shaun with the good news, and got some strong views on current issues in reply. So, first Shaun, then Noel�s column, and a tidying up of the now-closed �Z� debate � a correction from Steve Sher, and what happened to the content of Rubenstein strikes again: Now Howard’s a champion of human rights!


Shaun O�Brien

Expecting me to stamp my foot and exclaim out my indignation to the horrible tree hugging leftie propaganda that has populated Webdiary over the last few months? You have certainly copped a pummelling over the Zionist article. I am strangely ambivalent over that topic since the whole Israel-v-the rest of the world is a very circular argument that will not be resolved without some sort of “big bang” event. Terrible thoughts I know, but having a pragmatic view of the world allows me to see what will probably happen versus what should happen. Israel and the Arabs act like the line out of the movie The Untouchables – “They pull a knife you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital you send one of theirs to the morgue”.

Let�s get to some topics:

(1) The US

Its funny seeing everyone viewing the US through their own eyes rather than stepping back and really understanding the US psyche. I am amazed that so many think that the woes of the world have only come about because GWB is in power. How stupid are people?

Most people think that Reagan was a great president, but I see more of today�s events falling on his legacy more than any president after him, especially in the Middle East. Think about his support of the mujihadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets that led to the installation of the Taliban, cosy relationships with Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war, backroom deals with Iran (Iran-Contra affair), poor strategic and tactical decisions made in the occupation of Lebanon and wasting so much energy on what was happening in Central America when it was never going to have an impact on the US/world anyway.

It would be ironic that in 10 or 20 years time we look back at the whole Iraq invasion and see that it led to an improvement in the Middle East. It my feeling that GWB and his invasion will ultimately be seen in this light, even though I think he is thick as two bricks.

(2) Intelligence Agency Failings

If the intelligence agencies of the world ever worked as well as the media believed they should have then we would not have had any of the two world wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the two Iraq wars, Sept 11 or Bali. The Pearl Harbour attack would have been stopped and the West would have not wasted so much energy in seeing the end of the Soviets, since their system of government was never ultimately going to work. The only time we have seen intelligence information working in the world was the Cuban affair, and that�s because the US had supposedly someone on the inside of the Soviets giving them info on the capabilities that allowed the US to stare them down.

But since Saddam had such tight control over his entire country, the chances of getting good intelligence from a source was near impossible, and if intelligence history tell us anything it is that the human element inside is the only way to have reliable intelligence – why do you think the Mossad is so good for Israel? – rather than the guesses we had on Iraq�s WMD.

(3) FTA

It�s good to see Latham sweat over the FTA, especially since it shows that the ALP is beholden to the unions still, and as such are the ultimate “special interest” lobby group in politics. After all the whinging about Hanson and her impact on the Liberal�s policies, it�s a pity the media don�t treat the ALP in the same vein with the unions (my favourite whipping horse).

I wonder how many of the ALP supporting music bands are complaining about the laws that are supposedly being offered in the FTA with copyright infringements. It�s my understanding that they would get much more protections from the law in stopping piracy from the internet, but not a word from them. Where are Garrett�s comments as a former musician?? I could be horribly wrong about this part of the FTA, but if so it�s the media�s fault, since that�s where I heard it from.

(4) Commonwealth-v- the States

Why is there so little comment in Webdiary over one of the most negative impacts on this country – the constant bickering and bureaucratic wastage with the responsibilities over the same areas between the Federal and States? And to have Latham and the Labor premiers all sit down for a love fest made me laugh. Just wait to the next split of GST revenues and see how long the togetherness lasts, or maybe when the southern states want Queensland to lose more water rights for the Murray. How much money is wasted in doubling up the bureaucracy? How much money for schools, unis and health benefits could be increased?

Shame on you Margo for not highlighting what REALLY is impacting on this country rather than some ideological rant about Iraq.

(5) The Media

Again this is crystal balling, but imagine if the Hawke/Keating government had as much scrutiny from the media, especially from the internet, as the Howard Government has and tell me if their standing would not have fallen just as much. I know you don�t have a good word to say about the Carr Labor government and I know that Beattie here in Queensland is a master manipulator, so it is just a change in politics that has to adapt to the greater and minute coverage offered by the media of everything it does.

The Hawke/ALP government would not have lasted as long as they did, and poor old Joh and the Nats in Queensland would not have had the chance to set up all their corrupt activities.

I see that the poor pollies have greater exposure from the media than ever before and the ridiculous standards (outside of corrupt practices of course) which the media judge them sometimes make me fear what sort of person will choose to be a politician in the years to come. If you journalists keep to a standard of reporting of the politicians that doesn�t allow some of the freedom the rest of us are afforded in our lives then the quality of people taking up the responsibilities of running our country will be bland bunch of Howard�s (see I am not a Howard lover!!!). Heaven help us!!!!!

Sorry if the above is a bit all over the place but I did have plenty on my chest to say. Till next time (maybe!!)


Conviction politics, please!

by Noel Hadjimichael

Give me conviction leadership over convenience pollies any day.

The last three months have seen Latham Labor take a few steps forward and a lot of steps back.

Latham has reinstated Kim Beazley to the ALP front bench to deflect worry about Mark Latham�s line on defence, security and all that scary stuff. Don�t expect the leader to allow Kim to speak to toddlers or even voters in outer suburban marginals in case they like him more than the boss.

We have seen Simon Crean achieve what only obscure backbenchers aim for: total and complete absence from the policy debate and the television screens of the nation. No cheerful visit to the Kerry Anne show or even the SBS news.

This new Labor crowd have done a great job on the hard issues. They have either sent them to committees (the Free Trade Agreement), left things up in the air (funding for private schools) or tried to please everyone (no tax policy until it is too late). But we have enjoyed a vision of things that matter: a return to the tired old Republic, the ambiguous offer of a better deal to East Timor on energy resources and humanitarian aid to Iraq (pity about the security situation).

What we need is to discover who the conviction politicians are – the people who actually believe in something, stand for something or even take unpopular decisions because they think them right, not expedient. Leadership is not a mastery of focus groups, it is more a reflection of strategic vision coupled with the courage to see things through. This is not a time for leadership that is untested or suspect.

This is no time for the crash through or crash politics of the trendy 1970s courtesy of Mr Latham�s apparent return to the good old days of Mr Whitlam.

Whether the progressive left like it or not, both John Howard and Bob Brown have carved out a very powerful status as conviction politicians. It is possible for voters to easily comprehend where these leaders are coming from in terms of values, heritage, policy framework and track record.

Labor must be very frightened about their prospects in seats like Banks and Greenway in Sydney�s suburbs. The appeal of generation X gimmicks will win precious few voters in the trendy cafes of Haberfield or Paddington. However, the priorities of sound economic management, security with the US alliance intact and a growing sense of mature nationalism will sway more voters in the key seats that Labor will have to keep.

A rushed spending spree from Labor funded from the black hole of waste reductions will rock interest rates. A union leadership endorsed industrial relations policy will defeat the very aspirational small business voters that Mr Latham was chosen to appeal to.

Reading books to kids will win applause from parents, jeopardising their access to affordable private schools will create distrust and a backlash.

Standing in front of an American flag will calm fears of diplomatic disasters; a lack of clarity on the war on terror will rob Labor of its right to a return to government.

Giving working families a helping hand with tax cuts would be welcome step, attacking relief for employees on about $55,000 a year is just old style class envy.

If I want a real left party with its commitment to big picture social justice, I can punt for the Greens any time soon. If I want a government that will offer a package to promote and prosper middle Australia I just can�t go past the Coalition.

Sadly, Labor has seen its star peak and must now be thinking about an exit strategy from the politics of young blood, Generation X stunts and keeping the frontbench away from the media.



Steve Sher

With regard to the recent debate about alleged Zionist “Media Control” a link was posted supplied by Ronald H Tolkien in The post-apology debate . It was to media and contained a report quoting the Israeli PM, Ariel Sharon allegedly saying to then Foreign Minister Peres in 2001: “Don’t worry about American pressure; we the Jewish people control America.”

Media Monitors’ website listed the source of this quote to “I.A.P. News”. Upon previously hearing that this quote had been fabricated, I endeavoured to contact “I.A.P. News” and get and answer. After all, surely this organisation could put the matter to rest once and for all. Alas, has anyone here actually done a search for an I.A.P. News Service?

I did, with interesting results. It appears there is no international media organisation by this name, as the web link implies.

I.A.P., where this quote originated, is the Islamic Association of Palestine. Here is a sample of their “news”. Hardly a neutral and unbiased organisation.

Upon undertaking an internet search following the alleged quote by Ariel Sharon, all reported mentions of his words alluded to it being reported by “I.A.P. News”. I.A.P. claimed the words were broadcast on Israel Radio (Kol Yisrael), in Hebrew. Israel radio denies this was ever broadcast. Interestingly, no other source has picked it up. I could not find reference to it being reported in any other media outlet. All trails appeared to lead back to I.A.P.

And I.A.P. itself is an interesting outfit. It would appear this “News Service” has been the subject of federal US investigations for possible links to terrorist groups, such as Hamas. Note the details of the FBI raid on their services as reported in The Guardian.

Margo, the alleged comments were reproduced by prominent American Universal Press Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, in the May 10th edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Following complaints that the quote was false, Universal Press’s own research into the source of the comments led it to release a statement that the alleged words by Sharon were “widely reported in the Palestinian press but cannot be confirmed in independent sources. Geyer and Universal Press Syndicate regret not having attributed the quote more specifically”.

In fact, there was no quote by Ariel Sharon claiming “control” of America as alleged. I challenge any Webdiarist here to present its transcript, in full, as reported by any reputable news organisation.

It is a worrying sign of the times that such a blatant falsehood like this could even get a run. When false statements like this are fabricated and then propagated, they lead to further cementing of a mindset that promotes racial division.

How does it make Jews look? How did it impact upon people’s thoughts after opening the offending falsehood on Tuesday? And now, to discover that it is not true? Richard Tolkien has done himself a disservice by not investigating the links fully contained in Media Monitors.Net.

The quote contained a myth designed to sustain an even longer and more hate-filled canard, that being supposed Jewish/Israeli “control”. It would appear to me, by the amount of readers who readily swallowed this tripe, that the Palestinian PR campaign probably has the better oiled machine.

Thanks again for the opportunity to write in.


My ethics and Rubenstein strikes again: Now Howard’s a champion of human rights!

The Australian�s diary column yesterday included this item:

Fundamental foibles

AT Fairfax, after commenting in her online “Webdiary” last Thursday that “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”, online journalist Margo Kingston went into damage control on Monday, apologising to those she’d offended. However, Diary understands Kingston posted the following even more incendiary remark on her website on Friday night: “Far from protecting Jewish people against future atrocities, the Fundamentalist Zionist lobby is actually promoting anti-Semitism by its actions and tactics. Neither major party in either country is game to protest, because the power of the lobby is such that careers can be ruined. It is becoming increasingly obvious that John Howard is the lobby’s strong choice to win the election, and that means big money and big power will be behind him.”

Mysteriously, as Kingston confronted claims of anti-Semitism over her earlier remark, the later comment disappeared from her website. We’re waiting to see how this squares with Webdiary’s own code of ethics, which states: “I will let you know when archives have been changed except when changes do not alter their substance, for example corrections to spelling or grammar.” Pretty rich from someone who frequently attacks the ethical standards of other media outlets.

Soon after publishing the item concerned on Friday night, I read an email from a work colleague who had found my comment in the previous day�s entry On the road again offensive. I then looked at the Rubenstein piece and cut out everything which I thought could conceivably offend anyone. I have no wish to personally offend people on Webdiary.

As often happens with ethics codes, a conflict can sometimes arise and a judgment must be made. Do I keep the lines I�d taken out in and cross them out? Or do I delete them and note that I�ve deleted unspecified material? Since the piece had not been published for long, and was published at night, when few if any people would have read it, I chose to leave it at that. So I breached one ethic to protect another. I explained this to The Australian when it called before publication of the item. I received no complaint about the Rubenstein piece in the subsequent deluge of emails about �On the road again�. It�s a bit strange, I reckon, that The Australianthen publishes a phrase it clearly finds offensive, but that�s the way it goes, I guess. In retrospect, I should have told you in my next Webdiary that I had deleted certain unspecified comments from the Rubenstein piece. My apologies for not doing so.

PS: I was about to press the ‘publish’ button on this entry when I read this email from Imre Salusinszky, the bloke from The Australian who rang me before publication of the diary entry I’ve been discusing. Here it is.

Imre Salusinszky

As you know, an item in The Australian on Thursday, July 29 claims that you wrote, and later silently removed, the following comment from your July 23 posting, “Rubenstein strikes again”:

“Far from protecting Jewish people against future atrocities, the Fundamentalist Zionist lobby is actually promoting anti-Semitism by its actions and tactics. Neither major party in either country is game to protest, because the power of the lobby is such that careers can be ruined. It is becoming increasingly obvious that John Howard is the lobby’s strong choice to win the election, and that means big money and big power will be behind him.”

Allow me to quote from your own code of ethics:

6. I will let you know when archives have been changed except when changes do not alter their substance, for example corrections to spelling or grammar. I will amend archived Webdiary entries to include corrections of fact and advise you accordingly.”

Surely you who have been so unrelentingly critical of the ethical standards of “big party” politicians and “big media” journalists are not going to try and ignore the “posting overboard” allegation?

So are you prepared now to check the electronic record and tell readers exactly when the comment was deleted? On what other occasions has the archive been silently altered? What made this case different to “On the road again?” where you eventually did insert a comment that material had been removed? And how does the secretly removed material affect your postings on Monday and Tuesday, in particular the claim that your earlier remark on the “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” was merely a “throwaway line”? To quote again from your own code of ethics:

“I want you to trust Webdiary. Trust is the ideal at the core of all professional ethics codes, which are guidelines for conduct which aim to achieve that ideal.”

Not happy, Margo!

Margo: I don’t know how to check the electronic record but I’ll ask someone who does on Monday. I amend the archive on occasions for spelling and grammar mistakes, often picked up by the army, it sometimes seems, of people scrutinising Webdiary. This situation has never before occurred. The difference with ‘On the road’ is that people had read it, and reacted, whereas the other comments were removed before – on the evidence of my email traffic – anyone who was offended had read it. The removed material, in my view, is not relevant to the debate over the comment which has generated the debate. I did not say the “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” part of the comment was throwaway, and have not retracted those words. I’ve retracted the word “controls” and explained what I meant in ‘The post apology debate’. I hope I’ve proved that Webdiary is trustworthy through my postings since this furore began.

Another Let’s-Attack-A-Minority-Group-Wheel of Fortune, by John Howard

Polly Bush’s blow by blow account of the people, the politics, the parliamentary debate and the tactics in Howard’s dog whistle on homosexuals.

Polly Bush is a Webdiary columnist. Her spoof of Howard�s anti-gay laws is at Keeping it queer.


Another Howard election, another Let’s-Attack-A-Minority-Group-Electoral Wheel of Fortune, with the Howard Government seemingly perfecting the wheel’s spin.

A couple of years ago, shortly after the US President’s infamous ‘axis of evil’ state of the union address, a mate of mine suggested Howard had his own ‘axis of evil’. It went something like this: Blacks � not stolen, no land rights. Asylum Seekers � shouldn’t come here, could be terrorists. Gays � shouldn’t breed, don’t have real relationships.

As fear and loathing is one of Howard’s election specialties, the news of the Government’s proposal to write in legislation to ban gay and lesbian couples from marriage and overseas adoption rights came as no surprise.

Indeed, the gay wedge potential was flagged on Webdiary by both Margo and long-time gay rights activist Rodney Croome in Wedge watch.


The “sweetener” to these pieces of legislation was the Government finally agreeing to give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in superannuation (albeit under the vague definition of interdependence). Given the one step forward, two steps back approach, the victory was bittersweet for many in the gay and lesbian community.

“The Howard Government has had their hands in our coffins for nine years and are now trying to create a diversion while denying our rights,” the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Group’s David McCarthy said.

Behind the proposal to enforce a ban on gay marriage was a group of backbenchers led by Liberal Senator Guy Barnett.

In a piece published in The Australian (�Guy Barnett: Let’s not get mixed up on matrimony�, 27 April 2004), Barnett wrote:

“To remove the growing doubt about the future of marriage as a fundamental institution in society, I drafted a letter to the Prime Minister that was signed by 30 of my federal Coalition colleagues, and it recommends federal amending legislation to achieve this objective. Marriage is a rock-solid institution. It’s not a fashion to be updated.”

Still, it must be trendy to persecute people. When the trendsetting Attorney-General Philip Ruddock first announced amendments banning gay and lesbian couples from marriage and overseas adoption rights, one of the intentions would have been to sit back and watch the Opposition implode – a mini Tampa take two of sorts.

The Opposition had the usual suspects vocal about the amendments discriminatory elements, but the ALP toed Howard�s line on accepting � while referring the matter to a Senate Committee – the Coalition’s rewrite of marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman.

What Howard may not have expected was the small but passionate uproar amongst his own team, a team normally resigned to sewing their lips together on Government policies they oppose.

Warren Entsch, a North Queensland member, who admitted Howard might be surprised by his views, joined Chris Pyne, Peter King, Mal Washer, Alan Eggleston, Judi Moylan, Petro Georgiou and Senator Marise Payne in voicing their opposition to the amendments in what was described as a �heated� party room debate.

Wentworth MP Peter King told the Sydney Star Observer:

The important thing is that commonwealth legislation not discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. And I’m concerned, as I’ve said in the party room, that the danger of this is it looks to be a gratuitous insult. I’m also disappointed this is not a conscience vote. Normally such issues are treated as conscience votes, and I can see why that would be appropriate in this case.

Also vocal in the party room was Trish Worth, fearing such legislation could mean the loss of her Adelaide seat. Worth also suggested Howard was getting right behind George W. Bush with the sudden introduction of the issue.

And in the wake of a travel rorts expose, Trish Draper probably breathed a huge sigh of relief and privately pondered the meaning of ‘spouse’.

As former Liberal and now Democrats member Greg Barns wrote in Online Opinion, such a proposal ten years ago would have sparked a healthy debate within the Liberal Party. But not now, not under Howard’s regime:

Media reports that Mr Howard’s Cabinet last week decided to amend the Marriage Act to insert the common-law definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman should disturb liberals like Defence Minister Robert Hill, Communications Minister Daryl Williams and Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone. Yet there is no sign that they are dissenting from the Cabinet decision on this issue. What sort of signal does that send to backbenchers like Senator Marise Payne, New South Wales backbencher Bruce Baird and Victorian MP Petro Georgiou � about the only three MPs in Mr Howard’s Party who have put their heads above the parapet over the past decade to assert liberal values of tolerance and respect?

While the Government had its small group of dissenters, most members were willing to sell the Government�s line. In a debate with Labor’s Tanya Plibersek on ABC’s Lateline, Parramatta MP Ross Cameron made clear the Government�s superannuation sweetener wasn�t really about gay couples:

CAMERON: In relation to superannuation, the provision is not specifically directed towards same-sex couples. It relates to a concept of interdependence which will specifically benefit for example carers of children with profound disabilities or even perhaps members – elderly sisters who may live together in an interdependent relationship.

PLIBERSEK: You wouldn’t want to accidentally do anything good for same-sex couples, god forbid.

Within the ALP, Plibersek was part of the vocal opposition to the Government’s marriage amendment, and while the Party rejected the proposal of banning overseas adoption rights for same sex couples, in the end, it lent its support to Howard on the marriage reforms.

“Labor has made clear that we don’t support gay marriage,” Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said as the Party’s immediate response, but shortly after her statement generated media coverage, she sent an email to Labor colleagues:

Despite the extensive reporting that Labor has declared its support for the Government’s Bill, caucus and staff should note that at no time has such a commitment been made by me. My doorstop yesterday expressly indicated that this Bill must go through the usual caucus process prior to stating our formal position. I have indicated, consistent with past statements, that we would not support same sex marriage. I have also confirmed Labor’s position that we intend to remove all other forms of discrimination against same sex couples. Naturally, Shadow Cabinet and caucus will examine the Bill to see if it is consistent with this and with our platform.

Roxon’s �consistent with past statements� comment may have been in reference to the stifled debate on gay rights at the ALP’s National Conference early this year. As website Crikey reported on February 3, the debate never even properly made it to the floor:

News from the ALP Conference floor, or its back room, is that the first ever attempt by the ALP’s new gay and lesbian sub-group (Rainbow Labor), was defeated by the God botherers before anyone had time to reflect or genuflect. Rainbow Labor (which has apparently been boasting in the gay press about it’s power and influence with the Latham regime), had circulated a rather benign motion before the Conference and which called on the ALP to support same-sex relationships under Commonwealth law. Hardly revolutionary stuff, and something on which Latham has already indicated support.

But the ALP’s resident homophobe and Vatican virtuoso, Joe De Bruen (Shoppies Union), was having none of that! Sweeping around the conference floor like a bat wind, Joe foamed at the mouth and put the fear of God into anyone who would listen, telling them that the motion was all about (SHOCK! HORROR!) – “gay marriage.” It wasn’t, but enough ALP delegates and minders were intimidated enough by the Catholic mafia to put the thumbscrews on the queer lobby, which then meekly withdrew the motion and shied away from a fight with the bible bruvvers. Catholic Right – 1, Rainbow Labor – Nil.

During the IVF debate, Joe de Bruyn�s conservative Catholic views earned him the label of the �Dutchman who doesn�t like dykes� courtesy of Gough Whitlam. The Shoppies Union represents the single most powerful voting union bloc at ALP conferences. The Union is considered extremely right-wing, particularly when it comes to voting on social policies.

It was largely the Party’s dwindling lefties, and inner-city members, who were most vocal against the marriage amendment. As Victoria and Tasmania gay community newspaper MCV reported on June 25, according to a �federal parliamentary analysis� of 2001 census figures, four federal seats, all held by Labor, contain the biggest concentration of gay couples.

According to the research, seats held by Tanya Plibersek (Sydney) and Anthony Albanese (Grayndler), contain nearly one fifth of Australia�s �declared� gay couples, while the seats of Melbourne (Lindsay Tanner) and Melbourne Ports (Michael Danby) also register significant numbers of same sex couples.

And it was these four members who spoke out against the issue during the caucus meeting.

Plibersek argued the common law definition of marriage was adequate and as such, the legislation unnecessary. Tanner called for the ALP to introduce civil unions for same sex couples, but with no success.

Labor Senator Penny Wong, who outed herself as a lesbian, compared the legislation to defunct inter-racial marriage legislation in the United States. While many heralded Wong’s caucus “outing” as brave, she supported the Party line on gay marriage. Others who spoke out included ALP President Carmen Lawrence, and Michelle O’Byrne. The end result was the ALP would oppose the adoption amendment, support the Government on the marriage amendment, but refer the Bill to a Senate Committee. Like the Government’s stance, there was a bittersweet response from the gay and lesbian community.

“Obviously we are bitterly disappointed that Labor did not oppose entrenching discrimination in the Marriage Act, but we believe that once a Senate inquiry has raised awareness of the issues at stake, support for full legal equality will inevitably grow,” Rodney Croome told the Sydney Star Observer.

The ALP’s “sweetener” was that it would conduct an audit of all federal legislation when in Government. While commendable, it was nothing new – flashback to the ALP’s National Conference where the audit was first mooted.

John Howard referred to Labor’s response as trying to have “two bob each way”. The same could be said about the Government with the superannuation reforms. And both Ruddock and Roxon took similar lines – they both had parties providing �practical� reforms to the gay and lesbian community – flashback to the Howard Government�s �practical reconciliation� approach.

Ruddock and Roxon were interviewed by Melbourne’s Gay and Lesbian radio station JOYFM’s Damien Nicholas shortly after the amendment was announced. Roxon continually tried to diffuse the issue, telling Nicholas “it is a bit silly for us to get too hot under the collar or too excited about something which is actually not taking away people’s rights”.

True, but when you don’t have such rights, you are still being denied them. Writing in such legislation would make it absolutely clear that both the Government and Opposition do not equate gay relationships to the same status as heterosexual relationships. Put simply, the proposed legislation is discriminatory.

While Roxon seemed on the defensive, Ruddock was more relaxed during his JOYFM interview. Nicholas posed a rare question to the Minister:

Nicholas: How have your gay friends reacted to this news?

Ruddock: Well, some have said they think it’s targeting them and I assure them that it’s not, but others don’t necessarily put the same weight on it. Some do, some don’t.

This flies in the face of the argument that gay Australians are not interested in gay marriage. As Ruddock rightly suggested, some are, some are not. Most, however, would agree that they want the same rights as heterosexual couples.

The Marriage Bill’s debate in the House of Representatives on June 17 was filled with hate and hope. What was particularly curious was the passionate speeches from some Labor members, who sounded like they vehemently opposed the legislation, until the pinch of reality of voting in support of the Government’s amendment set in at the end of the debate.

After the Liberal Member for Patterson Bob Baldwin quoted biblical passages in support of the Bill, Labor’s Carmen Lawrence provided a lesson on the wider history of marriage, one that went beyond Nicola Roxon�s remarks that Australia’s history of marriage was a “heterosexual institution”. People who rabbit on about the ‘history of marriage’ should be careful. It was only a couple of decades ago, when it became illegal for husbands to rape their wives. Family violence and rape, is hardly a “history” of marriage the Shadow Attorney General would be advocating. As Lawrence explained:

Indeed, if you go back through the history of marriage as an institution you will find�I think this is correct; I have not been able to fully check it, but the research seems adequate�that between the fifth and the 14th centuries, for instance, the Roman Catholic Church conducted special ceremonies to bless same-sex unions which were almost identical to those they used to bless heterosexual unions at the time. At the very least these were spiritual if not sexual unions�it is not altogether clear�but there existed a form of ritual even within the Catholic Church.

Along with debunking the notion marriage was necessarily tied to religious doctrine in Australian society, Lawrence questioned the Government’s motives with introducing the provision without community debate:

No matter how you look at the proposals that this legislation embodies, they have a nasty political whiff about them, because the Howard government has shown itself capable on many occasions of pulling out an issue that it regards as likely to divide the community and to result in the expression of certain prejudices for its own political advantage. You have to ask: why are we debating this right now? This government has been in office since 1996. It has had many opportunities to open up this question to the wider community.

Lawrence then touched on Howard’s ‘axis of evil’ and the ‘Let’s-Attack-A-Minority-Group-Electoral Wheel of Fortune’ strategy:

I have no difficulty at all in seeing this as just another form of �divide and conquer�. You sow seeds of bias, prejudice and discrimination out in the community, just scatter them around a bit, and then allow them to grow for your political benefit. It is a very nasty tactic. I have seen this government do it with Indigenous people. It has tried it before with lesbian couples in relation to the IVF debate. It has done it with asylum seekers. In my view, history will judge this Prime Minister very harshly for having implemented this strategy so comprehensively and so often in Australian political life since 1996.

Lawrence’s speech came under immediate attack due to her Party’s support of the amendment. Pat Farmer, former ultra-marathon runner turned Liberal questioned the ALP’s approach to the amendments:

I believe that as elected representatives we should stand up for those people and for what they believe in. But those opposite agree with one side of politics and then leave it up to the Senate to come up with a different answer because they do not have the spine to stand up for what they should truly represent in this place.

The independent member for Calare Peter Andren took a similar line to the ALP by supporting the Government’s marriage amendment on the grounds it reflected the legal definition, but he questioned the Government’s notion same sex marriages would erode the “institution of marriage” and indeed, Howard’s ‘survival of the species’ purpose of marriage. It’s a valid argument, as how can allowing more people to embrace a concept destroy it? As Andren said:

As far as I can see, if this place were to allow same-sex marriages, the end result would have no effect on the incidence of heterosexual marriages and heterosexual couples willing to contribute to the survival of the species.

Andren was harsher on the Government’s adoption amendment, explaining how the bulk of the states already don’t provide such rights for same-sex couples anyway. He also explained the loophole in the adoption legislation:

This policy is full of holes. Even in those states and territories where same-sex couples are banned from adopting, there remains an indirect mechanism for a same-sex couple to adopt, as most allow single persons to adopt�albeit in special circumstances. One partner of a same-sex couple could well take this approach. However rare a successful adoption in these circumstances may be, the opportunity legally remains. This is policy on the run, and the government is scraping the bottom of its wedge politics barrel.

Another MP who spoke passionately on the adoption element of the Bill was Labor’s Tanya Plibersek. Plibersek was scathing of the Government, and the tone of her speech suggested her own Party�s stance may have not sat well with the Member for Sydney. Plibersek spoke of the inevitability of legally acknowledging same sex relationships:

Some time in the not too distant future, there will be formal recognition of same-sex couples, and the sky will not fall in, and we will not be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, and life will continue. The main difference will be fewer violent or abusive attacks on gay men and lesbians, and fewer teenagers suiciding, because they will not be taught to feel shame about their sexuality as many are now.

Plibersek questioned the authority of politicians, who spend many nights away from their families, as being in a position to dictate the nature of families in legislation. She also praised the parenting abilities of same-sex couples:

I have to say that the same-sex parents I know are often more thoughtful, dedicated parents than the average parent. They have made a clearer, more considered decision to have a child�there are no unwanted pregnancies in lesbian relationships.

Indeed. Despite supporting the Government’s amendment, Plibersek’s speech was in stark contrast to Costello clone Anthony Smith’s, who equated society’s success to heterosexuality:

Marriage is between a man and a woman. It is the bedrock of our society, it is a fundamental reason for the success of our society and it will be a fundamental ingredient to the future success of our country and the wider society in the years ahead. In passing this amending bill, the parliament is doing precisely what it should be doing.

The Greens� Michael Organ Cutting countered Smith�s notion of who contributes to a successful society:

The contribution of gay and lesbian people to our community has been enormous. Despite this, we still seem to be determined to discriminate. Some are willing to give in to the rantings and ravings of homophobes. For centuries many gay and lesbian people have been forced to hide their sexuality through fear of discrimination. Let us make no mistake: this legislation sets their cause backward� back to the fifties, I would suggest, a time period that the Prime Minister is obviously very comfortable with.

I believe that acknowledgment and acceptance of the legitimacy of gay and lesbian people and of their love is inevitable; the community is very much supportive of that. But the government and opposition are today making that journey that much harder.

Organ referred to the Marriage Bill debate of 1961, and how a Country Party Senator tried to introduce an amendment dictating marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The last amendment was put to the vote and defeated by 40 votes to eight. While it can be argued that for the purposes of Australian law �marriage� does not include unions between persons of the same sex, it is also true that our understanding of who can contract a valid marriage under Australian domestic law is changing.

Liberal MP Alby Shultz then joined the Government�s chorus in support of the Bill and in doing so provided a potential “pollie waffle” joke for 2004 when referring to the Government’s relationship with the predominantly conservative Murdoch broadsheet:

Those of us on this side of the House know that The Australian is not a print media outlet that has any great love for the government.

Shultz quoted The Oz’s editorial �Gay Marriage not needed’, which oh-so-sensitively suggested gay people who wish for the right to get married “should get over it”. He also provided the precursor to Ruddock’s argument by justifying discrimination against gays as really fighting discrimination against heterosexuals:

Each of us should have the opportunity to participate in our community and to experience the benefits and accept the responsibilities that flow from such participation without fear of discrimination. It is clearly in the best interests of children for them to have, all other things being equal – as the Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions – the care and affection of both a mother and a father.

Shultz also took issue with the Greens Michael Organ�s defence of gay rights:

I take very strong exception to people coming into this place and making loud noises about minority groups.

Gawd forbid. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock rejected the idea these amendments were about wedge politics. Instead, the urgency to introduce such provisions was in response to pending legal challenges by same sex couples who had married overseas. In some respects, this whole debate is another instance of the Howard Government’s attack on the judiciary.

When questioned by the Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon about the number of such cases, Ruddock responded:

A number of them. I understand there are as many as five. They have been reported in the press, so the information is as much available to the member for Gellibrand as it is to me. The fact is that in the government�s view, with those proceedings afoot seeking a declaration of validity, this is not a matter in which the government should abdicate its proper leadership role in relation to families.

In defence of the Government’s adoption amendment, Ruddock wheeled out the �genuine� couples argument:

It is ensuring that priority will be accorded for genuine couples, a male and a female, and that same-sex couples would not be proposed as suitable under the scheme which permits overseas adoptions.

Ruddock took the point further while arguing against Labor’s proposed audit of federal legislation, openly suggesting there were instances of sexuality based discrimination that should remain in place:

In relation to an audit of all Commonwealth legislation and a statement that, regardless of what that audit might discover, measures that are discriminatory on the basis of sexuality might be removed, the only comment I would make is that there may be for some reasons in some parts of Commonwealth legislation valid differences that some might want to maintain. Ruddock also made clear that for him the matter was an immigration issue, wheeling out the ol’ ‘we will decide’ argument:

The Commonwealth legislates on who does or does not get a visa to enter Australia. Under inter-country adoption arrangements, where the proposers for adoption are a same-sex couple a visa for a child to enter Australia will not be granted.

Roxon’s main beef with the Government was on adoption. Throughout this debate (and outside of parliament), Ruddock stressed the Opposition’s stance on adoption rights for same sex couples was prioritising these rights over heterosexual couples. Roxon rejected this:

To suggest that we are seeking to prioritise same-sex couples is totally wrong and totally inappropriate. What we are saying is that your government, Attorney, is trying to interfere to say that they should never be on the list. We all know that no overseas country at this point in time recognises or allows adoption to same-sex couples. We know that most of the states in Australia do not permit it. But we do not think it is necessary for the federal government to intervene in the way that it is simply to make its point about its view of what a family should look like and what it thinks is always in the best interests of the child.

We do not believe that, if a child is in traumatic circumstances, if they are living in poverty or if they have been involved in a country which is war torn or has some other civil disruption, there will never been a good home for them here in Australia with a same-sex couple.

Gawd forbid same sex couples should have access to adopting babies from less traumatic situations. Circumstances aside, the Bill made its way to the Senate, where the focus shifted on a Committee reporting date for the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.

There were six matters the Committee was asked to investigate:

(1) The legal interpretation of the marriage power in the Constitution, and the extent of this power with regard to the creation of marriage law and the recognition of foreign marriages;

(2) Whether the Bill raises international comity issues, or inconsistency with laws, policies and standards of domestic and overseas jurisdictions;

(3) Whether the Bill breaches international instruments including the Hague Convention and human rights mechanisms prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation;

(4) Whether the Treaties relied upon in Schedule [2] of the Bill provide the Commonwealth with the necessary power to act, and how this action interferes with state and territory responsibilities to legislate for and to run adoption processes;

(5) the consequences of the Bill becoming law, and those remaining avenues available to the Commonwealth for legally recognising inter-personal relationships including same-sex relationships;

(6) The government�s insistence that this Bill be introduced as a matter of urgency when there has been no demonstrated reason for its urgent introduction and no community consultation on the provisions of the Bill.

Democrats Senator Brian Greig led the charge, requesting a Committee Reporting date (through the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee) of October 7. He said one of the Democrats main reasons for an Inquiry process was to avoid gay and lesbian people and their families “being used as punching bags for the purposes of an election campaign”:

These are very serious issues. These are issues of relationships that affect people immediately and personally. These are issues of children and family that affect people immediately and personally. The polarised and volatile environment of an election campaign is not the place to properly discuss, debate and resolve such issues.

Senator Greig also rejected the notion that this legislation needed to be urgently implemented:

An argument has been presented by some religious commentators and conservative politicians that there is urgency in this, that there is a crisis within marriage and the parliament must move swiftly. We argue that that is a nonsense and point out that civil marriage has been available in Canada for exactly one year this month. So the government has known for one year that it was obvious that test cases were going to be taken in Australia. Why then has it been raised at the eleventh hour? We are arguing that has been done for cynical political and election campaign reasons and must not be pandered to.

The Government’s insistence that the reporting date be changed to August confirmed Democrats fears that this Bill would indeed become part of an election campaign, but the Senate rejected the Government�s attempt to change the reporting date to August 5.

But within a day of the Senate deciding on an October 7 reporting date, Ruddock re-introduced the Marriage Legislation into the House of Representatives. He said he was re-introducing the Bill urgently because “there is significant community concern about the possible erosion of the institution of marriage”.

Ruddock cited cases currently seeking “recognition of offshore arrangements” as part of the urgency. It was a direct challenge for the ALP to fast-track the legislation and ignore the Senate’s pending review:

It is the government’s view that the provisions of the Marriage Act which we are seeking to enact should not be delayed and should not be the subject of Senate referral. The opposition having indicated its support for these measures should ensure�having restricted it to those matters that relate to a definition of marriage and the recognition of overseas marriages, which they say they support�that they receive a speedy passage. I invite the opposition to accede to that.

The Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appeared shocked by the move:

This is extraordinary. Not only does the Attorney want to use the processes of this House to get around procedures that have been agreed to in the Senate – which is of course something that we have come to expect from the Attorney – but it seems that the government cannot even manage the order of business in terms of the debate today.

Roxon also addressed Ruddock’s claim for the need of legislation in the face of cases before the courts:

The Attorney would have us believe, in the comments he has made, that the reason for needing to urgently press ahead with this matter is that, if we do not, there would be a major crisis in this country. This is because two applications have been filed seeking to have gay marriages recognised, but they are 99.9 per cent likely to be rejected by the courts.

I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will appear in these matters and make its views known. Frankly, I have no doubt that it is most likely that they will be rejected. It is just not credible for the Attorney to come into the House and say, ‘Unless this bill is passed, the world as we know it will come to an end.’ We are sick of dealing with an Attorney who thinks that crisis is just a way of life. He has manufactured a crisis out of this matter. There is no crisis.

Yet the ALP supported the Bill! Roxon said:

The content of the bill is something that we do not have an objection to, and obviously we will not be voting against the bill. But we object strenuously to the process which is being used.

However she warned the Government the ALP might not be so supportive in the Senate.

Greens Member Michael Organ again attacked the Government and the Opposition:

Marriage does mean, in part, the union of a man and a woman, but, as I have pointed out, in this day and age in this country, marriage is more than that. There are individual gay and lesbian couples living in loving, caring marriage relationships, asking that they not be discriminated against in the many areas that they are� for example, superannuation, entitlements, living as married couples et cetera. It is not up to this parliament to interfere there�not at all. I condemn the government for this bill and I condemn the ALP for supporting its introduction.

Organ also moved this amendment to the legislation: “Marriage means the union of (a) a woman and a woman, (b) a man and a man, or (c) a woman and a man, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

The only minor party member of the House of Reps appealed to the Government and Opposition to consider the issue of democracy and representing all Australians:

We are here in 2004. We have come a long way since the bad old days of gay bashing and homophobic behaviour and things like that. Hopefully we have come a long way. We are an open democracy here in Australia. We should be sending a clear message to the community that discrimination against people based on their sexuality and on homophobia is not to be condoned at all. Unfortunately, this Marriage Amendment Bill does send the wrong message out there to the community. It caters to some of those homophobic attitudes in the community and it is the wrong message to be sending. But it is a message that this government seems happy to send and unfortunately it is a message that the opposition seems happy to support as well.

During the Senate’s marathon last sitting that went well into the weekend, the Ruddock amendment was defeated in favour of the already agreed Committee process.

Since then, with the opportunity of an early August election date now closed, this issue could still become an election battle ground. And with the possibility of parliament sitting again, there’s speculation Ruddock would try to introduce yet another marriage amendment to test the Opposition.

Submissions to the Senate�s Inquiry closed Friday, July 30, but late submissions can be accepted. For more information go to senatecommittee

Since the publication of Margo’s book ‘Not Happy John!’ the book�s website has sparked debate on how citizens can reclaim their democracy. One avenue, open to all citizens, is to write a submission to the Committee and actively contribute.

Unfortunately, as demonstrated in this debate, the major parties have prevented members from voting for what they truly believe in, or at least pay lip service to. Yet while the Government and Opposition have taken collective approaches in our parliament, individual members are quietly letting their views be known.

A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed Liberal Trish Worth sent a letter to constituents in her Adelaide seat airing her distaste for this legislation. According to the Adelaide Advertiser, the letter labelled the legislation “completely unnecessary and could be seen to marginalise a section of the community for no sensible reason”.

Likewise, the ALP Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby recently sent out (no doubt selectively) a completely gay focused newsletter.

Ideally, these members should have the courage to stand up in parliament and challenge their party lines through voting means.

Prior to this legislation being introduced, if gay marriage wasn’t an issue for gay and lesbian Australians, it is now � largely thanks to John Howard putting it on the agenda. Thanks John.

The U.S. Free Trade Agreement – always a silly idea, now a deadly trap for Australia

It now seems that Labor will decide to support the US �Free� Trade agreement as early as Monday. Back to the small target strategy, with the national interest left out in the cold, again. And why? So as not to upset the Americans! As Webdiary�s conservative columnist Noel Hadjimichael emailed today, �Labor should stand firm on the FTA to differentiate itself on economic management – but it is gutless! Voters I suspect are suitably keen to vote for someone with a commitment to some values versus the ambiguity of the Latham soft sell lifted from the Dick Morris school of Clinton-era propaganda.�


Webdiarist Brian Bahnisch, a retired public servant who has studied trade agreements closely for years, reports. He also recommends Ross Gittins� pieces No free trade in so-called free trade agreement and Costs aplenty in ‘free’ trade IP deals with US. For the grave warnings of Australian scientists on the deal, see Subsuming us into America – the economic aspect.


The weird thing about Labor�s expected capitulation is that opposing the deal or requiring substantial amendments would allow the Australian people to get an idea of the enormous stakes and risks involved and could even be a potential election winner for Labor. At times like these it�s easy to believe we live in a one party state.


Picking the low-hanging fruit first

by Brian Bahnisch

The distinguished American scholar Immanuel Wallerstein sees multilateral trade negotiations as a means for the core economies of the world, North America, Europe and North Asia, to open the peripheral economies to trade and investment, while protecting their own. He sees this as part of the structure of capitalism and what he calls the World System. It is not a mere policy option, but rather an inherent structural feature.

Whether Wallerstein is ultimately right or not, he bases his remarks on a lifetime of study of the 500 years or so that capitalism has prevailed. We must expect, therefore, that the tendency of the strong to exploit the weak is very durable.

Trade in agricultural produce has been especially difficult to negotiate. Agriculture is heavily subsidised in the advanced economies, to the extent of about US$1 billion per day. (This figure moves, but the last authoritative figure I recall is US$312 billion about 6 months ago. Since then the dollar has fallen against most currencies.) It is generally accepted that if poor countries had access to wealthy countries for their agricultural produce, this would do more to assist them in economic development than direct aid, but only if their markets could be protected from subsidised exports from the likes of the US and the EU in the meanwhile.

In many of the advanced economies, farm subsidies are essential for the survival of many farmers, especially family farmers, and the continuance of subsidies is highly sensitive politically.

Through the many years of the GATT minimal progress was made in freeing up trade in agriculture. The WTO (World Trade Organisation), established in 1995, has fared no better. The entire WTO agenda fell in a heap in 1999, partly because of the ‘anti-globalisation protests’ but substantively because the poor countries were in open rebellion over the hypocrisy of the major powers and the unfair procedures adopted within the WTO by which the major powers controlled the agenda.

The Doha WTO ministerial meeting got things back on track largely because the major powers promised to wind back domestic agricultural subsidies, and to provide greater access to their markets for the produce of poorer countries, dubbing the Doha Round the “development round”. Also, the meeting was held in November 2001, two months after the S11 attacks. The US saw a favourable result as essential to establish faith in the ‘free world’ after the attacks of S11 and conducted a blitz of arm-twisting diplomacy before the meeting.

Even so there were no concessions on procedures made by the WTO – indeed a blatant abuse of procedure continued. And the final mix of concessions and undertakings was not particularly attractive to the poorer countries, as they had to make real concessions for promises in return. Past practice would lead them to believe that the usual hypocrisy and cynicism would result.

They were not disappointed in this sense. The US and the EU went off and increased their farm subsidies, but expected the poor countries to honour their side of the deal. The result was the collapse of the Doha Round in Cancun in September 2003.

As I write, efforts are being made in Geneva write to revive the Doha Round. The prospects are not good. It is true that the US and the EU are talking sweet about the desirability and their willingness to free up agricultural markets. Neither will do it unilaterally, however. It is a case of one in, all in. Moreover, Japan and South Korea are not showing the slightest interest in freeing markets and winding back subsidies. We need to recall that their intransigence was a large part of the problem in Cancun.

It is not surprising in this context that the focus has moved from multilateral trade negotiations to bilateral ones. The pure free traders see bilateral deals as preferential trade deals, rather than ‘free’ trade deals, as they actually disrupt trade with non-participating countries and divert it to the preferred partners. So bilateral deals are essentially a pragmatic second-best approach.

Australia is not well placed to conduct bilateral deals, as it has almost completely open markets anyway. Whatever the purists say, trade deals are about trading concessions. At the conclusion of the agreement you would expect to be doing less of the things you are not so good at and more of the things you are good at. As the whole thing nets out both sides are supposed to gain, in large part because your competitive industries become even more competitive and can sell more effectively into third markets. In addition, there are supposed to be general ‘dynamic gains’, which flow from the greater ease of transactions and interchange between the economies. This, I think, is why free traders will always recommend a deal even when no tangible benefits can be identified.

Another way Australia is different is that our farm sector is virtually unsubsidised, so it is in our interest to open all agricultural markets. We established the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting markets to further this agenda. This does not go down well in the third world, as most of those countries need to protect their markets in the short to medium term while they develop their infrastructure and industry. Robbing peasant farmers of income from cash crops causes great personal and social stress.

The US FTA – always a silly idea

The notion of a free trade agreement with the US was always a silly idea for three reasons.

First, every-one saw that we needed to make gains in terms of access for our agricultural produce if it was going to make sense. Howard reminded us at the time that we would need to make concessions in other areas, for example in our culture, if we were to make the necessary gains in agriculture.

Yet how could this ever happen? We were asking farmers in politically crucial areas of electoral support to the Bush administration to put their livelihoods in jeopardy for what in return? It doesn’t profit American farmers one bit if Hollywood or Big Pharmaceutical companies make more money out of our markets. Certainly US farmers want to weaken our quarantine provisions and get rid of our single desk selling in wheat and other grains, but this was never going to be enough. Indeed here too the benefits sought by the US do not apply to and hence mean nothing at all to the US sectors where we would make our biggest gains – beef, dairy and sugar.

So there was no pre-existing complementarity in our rural economies.

Second, if you want to take on a big guy you best get some mates to join you. It is an absolute rule of thumb, I would think, that you don’t take on the big guys bilaterally unless you have significant leverage or they particularly want to confer favours upon you. We didn’t have any leverage and conferring favours in trade matters is not generally the American way.

Third, there is a real question as to why we would give priority to the US rather than a range of other options. Both Japan and the EU (Brussels has the carriage on trade rather than individual countries) are bigger trading partners, for example. There would also be less risk involved in dealing with smaller economies. Given the size and transnational reach of US corporations, signing up with them would seem to be a recipe for becoming a branch office nation.

We need to remember, then, that we initiated this thing. It came out of Howard’s think tank just after the Ryan byelection disaster early in 2001. Howard was a dead man walking politically. The FTA was one of the ideas for making him look like a half-decent politician, let alone a statesman.

The Americans were initially bemused, but the multinationals soon saw the potential and in no time there was an organised lobby of 60 corporations, which rapidly became 120, lobbying for the deal. Trade Secretary Robert Zoellick, known for the occasional charming choice of phrase, muttered something about “picking the low-hanging fruit first”.

What’s in it for the Americans?

First of all there are strategic geopolitical considerations. You do not have sign up to every military adventure, but you do have to behave. New Zealanders need not apply. The US does see trade in terms of national security, indeed in terms of consolidating their hegemonic position in the world.

Second, the US will always act to further the interests of its corporations.

Third, this FTA is said to be the first with an advanced economy. (I’m not sure where that leaves Singapore!) As such it is important in setting standards for further deals, both bilateral and multilateral.

The US has declared themselves well pleased with their handiwork.

Where we are now – up to our navels in alligators, that’s where!

Should we be pleased?

I invite you to look at AFTINET’s summary Ten devils in the detail. Just in terms of the threat to our culture and the democratic deficit (constraints on what laws and regulations can be passed or allowed to stand at every level of government) the price seems too high. That is before you come to the lean pickings in actual monetary benefits.

On the lean pickings, $6 billion in 10 years time is the figure calculated by the government-funded study. Other studies have found lesser figures or even negative benefits. For a convenient overview of the said benefits see the graph on Professor John Quiggin’s website.

The $6 billion figure needs to be considered in the context of a GDP, which, on present trends, should be worth well over $1 trillion dollars per annum by then. Consider also that the changes in copyright and trademarks, the changes in broadcasting and quarantine, as well as the changes in the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) will have no significant effect according to the study. Some of the other assumptions in the study are similarly heroic.

Consider also that a major part of the gains are said to come from the so-called ‘equity premium’ which I take to mean the cheaper cost of capital because it will be easier to take over our most dynamic companies. This too seems to be based on what may roughly be termed a guesstimate, with no consideration of the negativities. There was a vigorous discussion on this issue on Quiggin’s website herehere and here.

Professor Quiggin, in his Senate submission, has termed the agreement an economic integration agreement rather than a free trade agreement. You really must ask, then, how much we will change as a nation and whether we really want to go there. American capitalism does have its own value assumptions and operating style.

Given the size disparity in the two economies it is probably a case of economic absorption, an absorption that constrains our own democratic capacity whilst giving no access to the greater polity. Nice work, John!

State Premiers have come out in favour, but I doubt whether any single one has contemplated how they may be required to change laws or be constrained in making laws and setting standards in such matters as professional practice, safety and the environment as a result of this agreement. Or how they may be required in the future to put out to tender some aspect of their portfolio of responsibilities simply because an American multinational wants to make some money out of it. If they had, they would surely be telling us loud and clear.

Nice work, John

We do need to be clear that we owe our current position squarely to our fearless leader. It was his idea in the first place, not, I think, for the general good, but to make him look like a leader when he manifestly didn’t.

At the other end of this tale, it appears from this story and others like it that the negotiators found the task undoable. Enter a little chat between George and John. To quote: “A weekend telephone conversation between Mr Howard and Mr Bush was credited by US negotiator Robert Zoellick with saving the deal.”

The problem is that the deal was resuscitated at the expense of John giving away the farm. Essentially our John gave up the gains in agriculture that were always seen as sine qua non to the deal. Unfortunately he didn’t retract the concessions already made to secure those very gains. That is my best guesstimate on what actually happened. The ungarnished truth is probably forever beyond our reach.

Labor’s self-inflicted web

Labor has got itself into a jam over this one. There seems little doubt that the left in the caucus is solidly against, but is likely to get rolled by the rest. Stephen Conroy has clearly been unable to resolve the differences. This is not a surprise. In my view the caucus contains other members with more aptitude and grasp in trade matters than Senator Conroy.

A more apt spokesman could have made hay on the FTA, which was immediately recognised as a dud by all but the most ideologically committed. The benefits are quite hard to find while the negatives stick out all over the place.

Peter Cook, who is both apt and knowledgeable, chairs the Senate Committee. My feeling is that he will leave the issue finely balanced, thus allowing it to be moved either way, a true servant to his master.

It is said that the Greens have made the rejection of the FTA a condition, not the only one, for a preference deal with Labor.

Which ever way Latham jumps now Howard will term him weak, a flip-flop merchant acting out of political concerns rather than out of principle and probably anti-American to boot.

Latham cannot pass it with loud reservations and promise to renegotiate it if he wins. Trade deals don’t work that way. While there are longer term provisions for review, no American administration is going to sit down next year and renegotiate an outcome less favourable to them. In the longer term a review is likely to tinker with the administration and the machinery of the agreement rather than throw the whole thing into a melting pot.

Should Labor be inclined not to pass the enabling legislation, the Americans do have some leverage and you can be sure Labor knows it. Much of our access to the American market and even visas are on the basis of quotas, which could be unilaterally cut back or withdrawn and allocated to other more compliant partners. Like our beef exports to the US, for example.

Right now we only have days left to influence Labor’s decision as Peter Cook has said there may be virtue in finalising the Senate Report before it is due on 12 August. I must go and send a few emails to caucus members other than those on the left who may just still be open to persuasion.

From what Kevin Rudd has said on radio it seems the first consideration will be by shadow cabinet early next week. Best concentrate on them.

Returning to Wallerstein, it is interesting to contemplate whether we are truly a core country, commanding the heights of capitalist power. I tend to think that even now we are just across the border in Wallerstein’s intermediate category, the semi-periphery. If we enter the FTA there is no doubt in my mind that we will lose some capacity to transact or to exert influence (let alone power) across the board.

Ask yourself if the Kiwis cheer every time we take over another of their companies and celebrate their good fortune? Still, on their example a pleasant enough life will still be available. But some of us will think about what might have been.

The post-apology debate

G’day. The Zionism debate is running hot after my mea culpa yesterday in Zionism: too many meanings make communication too hard?, and readers have sent in lots of information deepening it. I’ll start with this challenge from Lucy Idoleyes:

“I’ve read the waffling drivel you present as a response to the anger over your KKK-style assertion, and I’d still like to know, do you stand by your assertion that Jewish people control the media and politics in Australia? Zionists aren’t Lutherans or Catholics, so let’s be blunt about what you said. Do you stand by it?”

MargoLucy, I did NOT say that Jewish people control the media and politics in Australia. I said that “fundamentalist Zionists” did. My understanding is that most Jewish people are Zionists, but that most Jewish people are not fundamentalist Zionists who believe that they have a right given to the Jewish people by God to appropriate Palestinian land. Wikipedia defines Zionism as “a political movement that holds that the Jews are a nation, and as such are entitled to a “Jewish National Homeland”, and also as “a movement to support the development and defense of the State of Israel, and to encourage Jews to settle there.” Therefore, Anti-Zionism can be opposition to either of these objectives or their implementation”.


Some Jewish people are anti-Zionist, for example jewsagainstzionism. Some fundamentalist Christians in the United States are anti-semitic Zionists: wikpediastates that “Christian Zionism is the belief among some denominations of Protestant Christians, mainly in the United States, that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, through the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy, and is a necessary precondition for the return of Jesus to reign on Earth.”

I unreservedly retract my statement that fundamentalist Zionists “control” politics and the media in Australia. ‘Raymond Allen’, a Jewish bloke who wrote to me privately yesterday and agreed to be published under a nom de plume, expressed what I meant: “Australia’s “No Vote” on the General Assembly resolution was because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby is highly influential in politics and the media in the US and Australia on the issue of Israel/Palestine”.

I again apologise for causing offence to many readers, and I’ve removed the phrase in question from the original piece, On the road again.


Webdiary columnist Jack Robertson defends my honour in a ‘Meeja Watch’ piece at Robbo-v-Bolt on anti-semitism, over a whisky perhaps? In this entry I publish every critical email I received that was not marked “not for publication” since yesterday’s piece, and some emails in my defence. Let’s start with Raymond.


Raymond Allen

I read your follow-up piece after you wrote that “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” and admired that you would soul-search publicly as to how that sentence would give offence. You said you thought (in so many words) that everyone agreed. But from the examples you gave it seems that what you meant was only “control” as related to discussion of Israel/Palestine.

But what you actually wrote was “control politics and the media”. You didn’t make it issue-specific so it read exactly as the sort of far-fetched ambit claim that neo-Nazis make. To control politics and the media is to be a “secret government”. If you control politics and the media you control everything, you rule autocratically. I am not twisting your words to say that they meant that you are claiming that we are living in a Fundamentalist Zionist dictatorship, that’s precisely what “controlling” politics and media means. How can you be so terribly surprised that people took offence at such a hugely exaggerated claim normally the province exclusively of neo-Nazis?

OK, let’s assume you didn’t really mean ALL of politics of media, in which case you must admit your language was careless in the extreme. (Margo: Admitted!) I still say using the word “control” is far too strong even if you are just talking about the Israel/Palestine issue. You can’t waste a word like “control” for what happens here on any issue. Many Governments around the world really do control their media and what that means is NOTHING unfavourable to their specific cause gets published, absolutely nothing. That’s what “control” means.

To suggest that the Zionists “control” the media and virtually in the same breath to link to Moir’s passionately anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian cartoon just proves that your point is false – surely that cartoon would not get published if the Zionists really did “control” the media. Actually, take it a step further: that you can make the claim that the Zionists “control” the media and the claim gets published in that self-same media itself demonstrates the falsehood of the claim! Be realistic, the Zionists score goals in lobbying but there is heaps published every day that they have no control of and obviously would not permit if they truly had this control and did decide to use it to stifle all dissent. Anyway, the Fundamentalist Zionists as you call them really do (currently) control the Israeli Government (in this case by virtue of the democratic process) and they do not “control” the media even there – you can read many daily pieces hostile to Sharon’s policies, including the security fence, in the left-wing Israeli media (like Ha-aretz) where dissent is not stifled.

Because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia: That’s the “secret government” neo-Nazi claim. How could you not have noticed?


If you really only meant because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media [on the issue of Israel/Palestine] in the US and Australia, then OK, it’s not quite as neo-Nazi, but crazily far-fetched because in that case it would be impossible for anyone to publish a piece critical of Israel, just as it was impossible to publish a piece critical of the Communist Party in Soviet Russia. This is a middle-class Western disease, exaggerating and being far-fetched about the degree of the perceived outrage which leaves no language left to describe the true extremes which still do exist but are so alien to us so we tend to forget what “control” of the media really does mean, where journalists such as yourself can be imprisoned, tortured and killed for dissenting from the party line.


I think if you’d written that Australia’s “No Vote” on the General Assembly resolution was because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby is highly influential in politics and the media in the US and Australia on the issue of Israel/Palestine very few people would have blinked or played the “anti-Semite” card. Not everyone would have agreed with you. They might say “I have formed my own opinion that the Israeli security fence is justified without being lobbied by Zionists, so I don’t see why the Australian Government might not have come to the same conclusion independent of lobbyists”. That’s debate, your opinion is arguable and so is theirs, they can’t prove that the vote wasn’t a result of lobbying and you can’t prove that it was. It’s all legitimate opinion.

But your careless language, which I accept was unintentional, shows that there is a line to be crossed between legitimate criticism of Israel and the Zionist lobby and language that at least at face value is certainly anti-Semitic. “Control” is far too strong a word, connoting unlimited power. Intellectually it’s dishonest. Morally it’s bankrupt because the “control” claim (the secret Jewish Government) is at the heart of every fatally poisonous anti-Semitic canard. So double reason not to use the word “control”, it’s dishonest and false, and the same untrue allegation that anti-Semites regularly make.

How could your alarm bells not go off? (Margo: I’m inexperienced in this debate, which I avoided before Ashrawi and have promised myself I will never enter again! It was a throwaway line that I deeply regret.)

I was surprised that you virtually re-iterated the claim in your follow up piece, saying that you thought everyone agreed that the Zionists had this “control”.

I think that was the problem and what was missing in your follow up. It was the word “control” that was way over the top, and is precisely this same over-the-top-ness that has had such a terrible legacy in the hands of real anti-Semites. Ultimately your use of it plays into those very hands, makes the extreme mainstream. (Margo: Agreed!)



Ronald H Tolkien: Sharon to Peres: “We Control America”: Congressional Pandering to Israel.

Sol Salbe recommends Tactic of intimidation by smear utterly repugnant, on theAustralia/Israeland Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) response to the attempt by Israeli spies to obtain New Zealand passports under false pretences.

Scott Burchill recommends Israel expands West Bank settlements: aerial photos reveal extent of land grab, say peace groups.

Allen Jay: “I suggest you read ‘The Politics of Anti-Semitism’, published by Counterpunch and edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. See also Uri Avnerey’s The Hoax of Paris andChirac v. Sharon on how it all works – spin included. Sau Landau’s website on the media is also interesting.



Steve Sher

I just wanted to point out to Allen Jay in his off-target comparison of Israel and the “Nazi plan” yesterday that his recounting of Sharon’s political history is incorrect.

Allen states that “Sharon come to power on the back of the assassination of a PM who made peace with the Palestinians, promising to destroy that peace…..”. Well, not quite.


In fact, there were three (3!) other Israeli Prime Ministers who served between the time of the assasinated Rabin and Sharon coming to power. They were: Shimon Peres (1995-97), Bibi Netanyahu (1997-1999) and Ehud Barak (1999-2001)


Sharon’s entry into power in 2001, 6 years after the 1995 shooting, can hardly be categorised as on the back of the assasination (thereby implying a link). Sharon came to power in a completely different context, in the wake of the Camp David Peace Accords attended by Clinton, Arafat, and Barak in October 2000. Thanks for the opportunity to write in.



Boss Hog: Margo must have won a life-time free membership to the Klan with her anti-Semitic rave. Is it true that the SMH is changing its name to “Juden Raus”?


David Langsam

The current definition of anti-Semitism in common useage is anyone who disagrees with either Sharon or Colin Rubenstein. They are Jews so whatever they say must be Jewish and to oppose even their most ludicrously inhumane or stupid beliefs is ipso facto anti-Semitism. Colin likes John Howard, so criticism of John Howard may be anti-Semitism, too!

Now, I just happen to be Jewish. Pretty much as Jewish as you get. Not half, not quarter, but a full-blood, bull’s blood Kike. (Ich bin der uberJuden, jedes Deutsche schlimpster auptraum.) The sort of investigative journalist the Nazis would have been proud to pop in the head and throw into a mass grave, like more than 90 percent of my family.

So, of course, anyone who disagrees with me, particularly on matters relating to the State of Israel, is another bloody anti-Semite. The only minor technical problem we have here is that all Jews know the dictum: Two Jews, Three Opinions, so all Jews by definition must be anti-Semites.

Over the top? This abuse of language goes back a long way. Many on the non-extreme right of Israel and Jewish affairs are appalled when the extremists use the Holocaust – the deaths of our families – for their own cheap political points.

Isi Liebler is apparently fond of describing Jews critical of ultra-right wing Israeli governments as “self-hating Jews”. Others call them “Isi Liebler hating Jews”.

But the bottom line on this gang of language-abusers belongs to the mentor I share with Robert Manne – Dr Franta Knopfelmacher: “At least Spinoza was excommunicated by Rabbis. I was excommunicated by travel agents.” A reference to Liebler’s then travel agency.

As for Zionism, I am reclaiming the term and I am a Real Zionist – one who supports the Hollywood Paul Newman version in Exodus, where Jews are prepared and able to defend a homeland for Jews, while treating the indigenous peoples with the respect demanded by UN Resolution 181 (II) and be light on the hill to all nations on peaceful coexistence. I want an Israel for perpetuity, not just for Chanukkah.

PS: Note to the AIJAC functionary tasked to criticise this article – humour has been included, along with irony, so please ask a grown-up for help.


Exchange of emails between Jonathan Baral in Chippendale and an online editor, sent to me by Jonathan

Jonathan Baral: Why do you continue to publish Margo Kingston’s work (Monday 26th July- Zionism – too many means make communication too hard)? In the name of free speech? Even though it incites hatred of Jews (whether they be from Israel or Australia). Every time I read her work (published in SMH) I feel vilified. I thought that this kind of thing went out with Nazi Germany. Shame! Shame!! Shame!!! I ask you what is the legal responsiblilty of the editorial department? I for one will be finding out, and if possible will be looking to sue. How dare you publish offensive propaganda. At the barest minimum, I would expect SMH to put forward a retraction (you do bear responsiblity as you published it, even if you do not agree with it). Please note, if you choose to employ a racist, that is your perogative. But to publish their works (ongoing), that is just offensive. I look forward to your most urgent attention to this matter,

Editor: Surely the piece you refer to is self-explanatory? It sets out Margo’s explanation of her use of language and what others thought about it at considerable length. If Margo was a racist, why would she bother writing at the conclusion of the piece: “To conclude, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused, and will be happy to publish reader discussion on the matter. ” If you wish to discuss it further with her, why not take up her offer?

Jonathan: Was the put down necessary? And if it is self-explanatory, then why do you think I took so much offence? Perhaps you agree with Ms.Kingston? Please read some of Ms Kingston’s work. I am not a part of some “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” that Ms Kingston is trying to draw attention to while trying to apologise for it, or use someone else’s statements to do so. Ms.Kingston’s constant referal to “The Protocols of the elders of Zion” (the foundation for the Nazi extermination of Jews in Europe) and her suggestion that this Zionist lobby is in control of Australian/US politics and media, while apologising for making these statements is offensive. (Margo: I don’t beieve I have EVER referred to “the protocols” – could you refer me to your evidence, please?)

My family through the Holocaust in Europe (sic). This article is offensive to those that survived and those that did not. It is also offensive to those who are trying to survive now in Israel.

Why write something (and publish it!) if you know it will cause offence and then apologise for it?! Does that excuse the content? I think not. To discuss the matter further with Margo Kingston would achieve nothing. She has made her opinion very clear over a very long time. This is not a topic for discussion and I will not bring myself down to the level of this person by debating with her my right to exist (and yes, it is that personal). How can you discuss/debate with someone who clearly won’t listen anyway. This woman’s work is offensive to most Jews who live in Australia (check with the Jewish Board of Deputies – Jeremy Jones care of nswjbd). Again I urge you to take action in this matter.

Alternatively I am happy to air Ms Kingston’s article and our emails on various websites with people who share my views. Perhaps you might like to hear from them as well.

Editor: Jonathan, far from seeking to put you down, I’m encouraging you to use the vehicle of the Webdiary and contribute to the debate to get your point of view across. If Margo doesn’t listen, why would she seek – as in the piece of which you complain – to try to understand how she has given offence? I’ll copy her in on this exchange.

Jonathan: Perhaps both you and Ms Kingston might choose to read some of the letters and editorial comment from the Jerusalem Times. I would also recommend honestreporting.

Jews the world over feel as though they are under seige. Most are scared by what they see happening in the world (note metal detectors and armed security at places of worship; also concrete barriers at high holy days!). They have heard the stories of what happened 60 years ago, and see the same thing happening again. The Jewish people are being dehumanised by the world media; their enemies seek to disarm them (ie the World Court/UN resolution); the next step………..

The Webdiary is not the place to discuss this. This is not a debate – how can any Jew debate their right to exist? How can any people debate their right to exist? How can anyone debate their identity and the right for their identity to exist? How can any country debate its right to exist? These matters are not for debate or up for discussion. And anyone who wants to…how dare they!


Rami Banna

Disclosure: I was born in Damascus, Syria, raised a Christian, am existentialist by thought and don’t do hate. Unfortunately, my name and my background tend to sideline me when it comes to discussing issues of Jewish statehood or Zionist agendas ESPECIALLY in Australia: Oh, OF COURSE you’d think that, you’re an Arab! Take a number. I understand (but do not accept) that.

I too read that line and did a double take. Not because it offends. Not because its outlandish. No, I re-read it several times thinking “There goes Webdiary”! It wouldn’t go down well, and Margo/Webdiary was in real danger. Funny, because that re-enforced your point precisely!

The first international Zionist convention held towards the end of the 19th century was formed by a minority with a Fundamentalist Jewish agenda. A majority of Jews world-wide did not agree with it or condone it. In fact, many labeled it anti-semitic. The aim of the Zionists was clear. The method, however, is largely unspoken: their mission statement specifically identifies the use of lobby groups to influence international governments for the interests of the Zionist movement.

So, how can you, Margo, be labeled anit-semitic for simply stating that the Zionists have been very successful in their mission ?

Zionist does NOT equal Jew, fundamentalist does NOT equal majority Jewish practice and belief, and the use of the phrase Zionist Fundamentalist in no way misrepresents the minority agenda you refer to. Unfortunately, anti-semitic is just too easy to say and is a fast twitch reflex to any text containing both Zionist and Fundamentalist.

I applauded the Ashrawi chapter in ‘Not Happy, John!’ It promoted an open discussion of the Zionist state-of-play which was otherwise taboo. Open and frank discussion is WAY overdue in this country. And I feel very responsible as an educated positive example of a person of middle eastern descent to contribute, not for me, but for everyday Australians to understand. Middle Eastern ignorance is only going to hurt this country more in the years to come.

The tricky part about this discussion, though, is that you must approach it very humbly, diplomatically and above all, intelligently – that’s what I’ve learnt, anyway. One must be very clever in conceding the right ground, avoiding the anti-semitic trump card, and getting the facts and truth across.


Barrie Stephens

Margo, is the Israeli Labour Party a fundamentalist organisation? Which group of Israelis in Israel who support the existence of the State of Israel is not “fundamentalist”? Your answer to these questions will assist you to realise that the term “fundamental Zionist” is an anti-semitic term. If by “Zionist”, you mean someone who supports the notion of Israel’s right to exist then my guess is about 90% of the world’s Jewish population would be Zionists and, moreover, would come within the ambit of your term “fundamental Zionist”. Perhaps my analysis is wrong. I guess I could be proved wrong by your defining for me who exactly is a non-fundamentalist Zionist.

Margo: A Zionist who opposes the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and thus the appropriation of Palestinian land. Wikipedia states: “Zionism holds that ‘Jewish people constitute a nation and are entitled to a national homeland,’ but is often used by opponents to label the much stronger viewpoint of some in the Israeli settler movement who wish to build a “Greater Israel” on the West Bank and Gaza strip at the expense of Palestinians. Supporters of the former interpretation of Zionism regard it as a combination of nationalism and democratic plurality.”


Philip Uebergang

It seems to me that every comment made about Judaism today is made under the cloud of the Holocaust. Sadly, and ironically, fundmentalist Zionism has hijacked the Holocaust to its cause, to be dragged out as the ‘no-brainer’ for every criticism of anything Jewish. The reaction you received is the reaction of a public that has been trained to tread delicately to the point where free thinking has been suppressed.

I recently visited Gross Rossen Concentration Camp in Poland, just outside my ‘ancestral’ hometown (ancestors long gone). A marvellous young Austrian chap showed me around, working there to fulfill his National Service duties. After the experience I can honestly say that the tragedy of the Holocaust crosses all cultural and religious barriers, and it is a continuing tragedy that we stand back and allow it to be constantly misused as a tool for political and monetary power struggles.

Lest we really do forget…


Yosi Tal in Leichhardt, Sydney

This is the letter the SMH wouldn’t print.

“If we were to see the words, “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” we may think we were reading something from the Ku Klux Klan, or perhaps the League of Rights. No-one should expect such comments to come from a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, yet SMH web diarist Margo Kingston posted them on the site on July 22 in response to a reader comment. If Ms Kingston does not understand that the SMH is not the place for old fashioned Jewish conspiracy mythology, the SMH needs to find itself a new diarist.”


Jackie McKerrell in Bonbeach, Victoria

Perhaps the missing words in your comment were “the views of” and “on the Israel/Palestine issue”, i.e. [the views of] the fundamentalist Zionist lobby [on the Israel/Palestine issue] control politics and media in the US and Australia. I think an extremely robust argument can be mounted in this regard, and does not imply that all Jews are Zionists or fundamentalist Zionists or even the requirement of a direct “all-powerful” Jewish hand (see the influence of the extremely dangerous and profoundly anti-semitic Christian Zionists in the US).

I think it is deeply troubling that the privately funded right wing think tank AIJAC is perceived as the voice of Australian Jewry by both the politicians and the media, and that it seems virtually impossible for alternative views to be heard, including from the left, opponents of Israel’s military occupation, supporters of a just peace with the Palestinians or even voices on the right who do not support the excesses of the Sharon Government and even less the blatant racism and ethnic cleansing aspirations of the lunatic fringe who wield inordinate power in Israeli politics.

The automatic response from the media to turn to the Rubinsteins and the Lapkins as the “voice of Australian Jewry” at every opportunity does a grave disservice to Australian Jews who do not share their reflexive pro-Likudnik stance.

It goes without saying that the coverage of the Middle East in Australia is extremely poor and almost unrelentingly pro-Israeli largely due to omission of Palestinian voices and presentation of the Palestinian experience of 37 years of military occupation, dispossession and colonisation. And what of the cost to Israeli society of this four decade long military occupation, compulsory military service and the financial and moral burden of the Jewish settlers on Palestinian land – increased crime and violence, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, marginalisation of already beseiged and disadvantaged non-Jewish minorities, racial purity laws (see new legislation regarding marriage), and the coarsening of public and parliamentary debate where talk of ethnic cleansing of non-Jews, excising whole Arab communities from Israel or withdrawing even the right to vote from Israeli Arabs are OK topics for discussion?

Why do we not hear the voices of outstanding Israeli journalists like Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon or Meron Benvenisti in Australia? The profound and considered analysis of Ilan Pappe or Baruch Kimmerling? It is not just the voices of Palestinians that are silenced by the predominance of the fundamentalist Zionist viewpoint, it is also the dissenting voices of Israeli and Australian Jews.


Annabel Delaunay

I am not Jewish nor do I have a any close Jewish friends, nor do I have any particular ideological sympathies with Israel. Having said that I am appalled and disgusted by the blatant anti-Semitism displayed by your employee, Margo Kingston. Her subsequent ‘explanation’ merely emphasises her hate and arrogance. I will no longer subscribe to a newspaper which publishes such strident prejudice.”


Steve j. Spears in Henley Beach, South Australia

Well, who’s a naughty girl? Some folks want to hang you for — “… the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”. Seems to me that fewer feathers would have been ruffled had you said “has massive influence over” instead of “controls”. But, really, big f…ing deal. The Ultra-Sensitive wings within both Judaism and Zionism would be screaming “anti-semite” at you even if you’d replaced “controls” with “has no influence whatsoever over”.

The insult is the issue itself. How dare you use words which don’t parse in praise of them and all their works?

In her well-reasoned letter yesterday, Webdiarist Jenny Green says – “You have to remember that that label (“Jew”) has variously been a source of shame and fear and danger within the lifetime of my own grandparents”.

She better keep schtum about that lest the Ultra-Sensitives decide to ban goys using “Jew”.


Daniel Boase-Jelinek in Perth

I am disappointed by the attacks on you regarding your comments on the political activities of various Jewish groups in Australia and the USA, and their turning a blind eye to Howard’s violations of human rights.

I had no sense of anti-semitism while reading your column. What struck me were the parallels between Isreali displacement of Palestinians and the displacement of Aboriginal people in Australia, and the continuing denial of human rights in both places. It seems to me that what is happening in Israel may be a preview of what could happen in Australia if we continue to deny justice to Aboriginal people.

What I do find offensive is the refusal by our Government and mainstream media to consider the possibility that the festering sore of Israel is at the root of terrorism around the world, and that the war on terrorism would be much further advanced if this was addressed.


Ian McPherson

“The fundamentalist Zionist lobby influences politics and the media in the US and Australia” – OK, we can live with that. “The fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” – Aaarrrrgggghhhh!!!! Death to the unbeliever!!! I suggest that Israel, which is happy to be the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (much of it military), has failed to convince the world that it is using that support morally. I am not anti-semitic, and I’m not anti-Israel. I am, however, anti-oppression, and Israel has ignored more UN resolutions on its conduct in the occupied territories than Saddam Hussein.


Tim Gillin in Kensington, Sydney

Margo, you seem to have had a close encounter with what libertarian New York Jewish writer Murray Rothbard called Organised Anti-Anti-Semitism(OOAS). He wrote a fun article about this in the early 1990s when Richard Nixon’s former speech writer Pat Buchanan urged the US to revert to Ike’s “even handed” policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also opposed Gulf War 1. For these “radical” views Buchanan was smeared as an anti-semite. I think you’ll enjoy Rothbard’s description of how fellow journalists use the anti-semite label, the whole Smear Bund spin cycle and his premonitions of things to come.

I suppose your words “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” could have been better chosen. I would have said the “Likudniks” rather than “Zionists” and “dominates” rather than “controls” myself. But free speech is about saying what you want, how you want. So I may disagree with your adjectives and adverbs, but I will fight, or at least cuss, to the death, or at least to my old age pension comes in, for your right to use them.

There may be some good to all this. Now you know how us conservatives feel when your mob toss buckets of political correctness, anti-racism, anti-sexism etc at us for not gasping in awe at the self evident worth of all pronouncements from Philip Adams!

Is Bali bomber verdict another Howard fix gone wrong?

G�day. I�ve just heard the news that Indonesia�s top appeal court has ruled the conviction of a Bali bomber unconstitutional because he was convicted under retrospective criminal laws in breach of Indonesia�s constitution. This could be another Howard scandal in the making.


How on earth did it happen that Australia endorsed retrospective criminal laws in Indonesia when it refused to do so itself so Hicks and Habib could be charged if returned to Australia from Guantanamo Bay? It�s a fundamental democratic principle that you can�t be convicted of a crime for conduct which was not a crime at the time. It�s likely Australia�s High Court would overrule such a conviction, even though the principle is not entrenched in our constitution.

Questions for Howard and co. What involvement did Australia have in encouraging or pressuring Indonesia to enact special terrorism laws after the event and charge the alleged Bali bombers under them rather than under existing murder andconspiracy laws? Why did it not strongly press Indonesia not to do so, to avoid the real risk of the tragedy dragging on for survivors and the families of the dead?


Was this yet another quick Howard fix in defiance of legal advice? Yet another “ends justify the means” play which yet again will end in tears? Let the Freedom of Information requests roll in.

Here�s what I wrote way back in August 2003 in The danger for Australians of approving death for Amrozi:

…Then there’s the question of our blatant double standards on due process. Neither Australia nor the United Kingdom passed retrospective new criminal laws against terrorist acts after September 11. The reason is simple – it is bedrock basic to a Western democracy that the country is ruled by laws, not men. In other words, if your liberty is at stake, as it is for a criminal offence, the law as it is laid down at the time you do something is the law that applies. Otherwise, the society is wide open to capricious ex-post-facto abuses of power by political leaders and the enforcement apparatus of the state.

Yet Indonesia did make its anti-terror retrospective, and charged Amrozi under that law. That law is in clear breach of a specific clause in the Indonesian Constitution banning retrospective criminal laws, the core fact Amrozi’s lawyer will argue on appeal. The Indonesians failed to also charge Amrozi with murder or offences under the law as it stood at the time of the Bali bombing, meaning that if appeal courts strike out his conviction as unconstitutional, he will walk free.

So how could Australia, through Howard and Crean, back a death penalty resulting from the degradation of the rule of law, a core standard the principle our nation says it’s fighting for in the war on terror? Did Australian authorities assist Indonesia in laying the charges against Amrozi as it did in investigating the bombing?

If Australia did not help ensure that the Indonesian judicial process was watertight and scrupulous, our government has failed us in a profound sense. The precautionary principle is crucial in handling the war on terror. It appears this principle has been ditched along with quite a few others in this trial.

A legal injustice – and this one is blatant – gives explosive ammunition to our enemies in the war on terror. How, for example, can we now credibly lobby other governments on behalf of our citizens caught up in overseas criminal proceedings on the basis that our citizens did not receive a fair trial? For the values we are fighting for to survive, we must consistently apply those values in practice.

Sounds so naive now, doesn’t it. But it’s still true.

Willing Howard out, through song and standing

Jimmy Willing. Photo by Amelia Ahern

Just days after Linda Ronstadt was escorted off the premises of a Les Vegas casino for daring to introduce �Desperado� with a recommendation to see Michael Moore�s new film, a group of NSW north coast artists announced a �Rage against Howard� gig in Lismore. This election will be like no other. Apathy rules? You�ve got to be kidding! WebdiaristAndy Gough sent me the details:


Musicians and performers from across the Northern Rivers region of NSW have clamoured to be on the bill for a unique �Rage against HoWARd� benefit gig at the Italo Australia Club, North Lismore, on Saturday, July 31. There will be non-stop entertainment from two stages upstairs; in the main auditorium and in the lounge bar.

“The response has been incredible � I wasn’t even promoting the gig yet, but everyone heard about ‘Rage Against HoWARd’ and immediately wanted to be involved,” said organiser, Mr Jimmy Willing. “My phone ran hot and the bill was full very quickly. That’s incredible considering it’s going to be a benefit for the Greens � nobody is even getting paid! If we let everyone play who wanted to, we could have had a week long festival on our hands.”


Confirmed bands include The Re-Mains, Red Eyed Frogs, Proem, teen heroes Brittle Fex, The Box Monsters, The Real Gone Hick-Ups, Willie McEllroy and special guest Tim Freedman of the Whitlams. Local comedians S Sorrensen and Mandy Nolan will share their side-splitting thoughts and feelings about the PM.

�We want everyone who is enraged by John Howard�s policies on refugees, the US Free Trade Agreement, health, education, the arts, the GST and especially his role involving Australia in the United States� unlawful invasion and occupation of Iraq to come along and express themselves. While it�s a benefit for the local Greens party, supporters of all parties are welcome to attend. Page is now a marginal (National Party) seat� ‘Not happy, John’ is absolutely the feeling and sentiment driving this gig.” Jimmy said.

The gig will be smoke free and family friendly with great food available, a separate �kid�s space� and entertainment for all ages. Young people under 18 will be welcome in the company of an adult. “There will also be a kids program and supervision for sleepy children in a quiet space, to allow parents to come and enjoy the night.�

Lots of lawyers are taking a stand too. Barrister Neil Francey will stand as an independent against the appalling Tony Abbott in Warringah, and is hosting a screening of Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 9/11 at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne, on Monday 26 July 2004 to launch his campaign. He�ll introduce the film at 6.45pm: for tickets call Neil�s Chambers on (02) 9232 4466.

New mystery Webdiarist �JR� recommends jibjab for a piss-take on the narrowness of American�s choices at the presidential election.

To end, Webdiarist Peter Funnell reckons I�ve done the right thing going independent (see On the road again) and Labor staffer Mark Hough reckons that me and everyone else who voted for Howard in 1996 deserve what we�ve got.


Peter Funnell in Farrer, ACT

Hi Margo. Change and risk is definitely stressful, but this life is no rehearsal. Webdiary is real good and this medium will become (as it has for so many) the preferred means of communication between people. It’s accessible, it is incredibly inclusive, people say what they think and engage with other ideas. That is so difficult to do today.

People need to talk more than ever and when we talk we understand, we get informed and we reach conclusions, form views and participate. People access this medium a home and at work. Webdiary has broken completely new ground over the last few years and it’s only the start in this medium. Good decision Margo.

I have just read the report �Internet under surveillance� by Reporters without Borders – fascinating! The thing that strikes me is how hard it will be to stop people communicating, and how hard it will be to conceal truth. The internet, exploited by a determination to inform and engage people is unstoppable – and as a number of countries are trying desperately to close it down or control it.

People are incredible – they find a way.


(July 30: Email by Mark Hough removed at his request)

Rubenstein strikes again: Now Howard’s a champion of human rights!

The Fundamentalist Zionist lobby appears to have decided to ignore � and thus condone – human rights abuses by the political supporters of their cause. Colin Rubenstein, the head of the lobby�s most powerful group in Australia AIJAC, even endorsed the allegations of George Brandis last yearthat the Greens were today�s Nazis, explicitly contradicting the view of the Jewish community�s elected leadership. The Greens crime? To interrupt George Bush’s speech to Parliament to plead for the human rights of our citizens in Guantanamo Bay, in detention US Supreme Court since decided was illegal.


John Howard has led a government which has ignored or abused human rights through systematically humiliating genuine refugees and their children in detention centres, and by refusing to overturn the Northern Territory�s mandatory detention laws for children (targeted at Aboriginal kids) for a first stealing offence, even after this led to the suicide of an Aboriginal boy in jail. During the tumultuous 1997/98 Wik debate when Howard tried to wind back Aboriginal land rights – a cause championed by Jewish barrister Ron Castan QC – prominent Melbourne Zionist Joseph Gutnick said he would no longer donate to the Liberals because he knew what it was like to have land taken away from a people.


Several UN human rights bodies have condemned Howard’s actions and found his government in breach of many of our international human rights obligations. He�s followed this up by allowing Australia to be an accessory after the fact to the torture of Iraqi prisoners by the Americans in breach of the Geneva Conventions against torture of prisoners of war � and by refusing to demand basic human rights for two Australian citizens illegally detained without charge in Guantanamo Bay.

As the UN vote on the Sharon wall this week showed, Australia and America are even prepared to defy an international court ruling declaring illegal the Sharon wall � which is excluding Palestinians from their own land – to placate the Zionist lobby. Today’s Moir cartoon tells the story.

With the endorsement of Rubenstein�s crew, John Howard received a human rights award from the American Jewish Committee during his last visit to the U.S. Peter Jull sent me this piece on the award by Australian Jewish academic Geoffrey Brahm Levey, Coordinator of Jewish Studies at the University of New South Wales. It first appeared in Forward on June 25.


Honoring Australia for Misguided Policies

by Geoffrey Brahm Levey

Earlier this month, the American Jewish Committee bestowed on visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard its highest honor, the American Liberties Medallion. Previous recipients of the award include Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky and Elie Wiesel.

The citation for Howard’s award reads: “in recognition of [his] longstanding commitment, as a member of the Australian Parliament for more than 30 years, and as prime minister since 1996, to championing democracy and human rights, and his unequalled friendship toward the United States and support of Israel.”

On Howard’s support for the United States and Israel, there can be no question. The war on terrorism has been a major concern of Jewish organizations around the world since the September 11 attacks, and the Australian prime minister’s steadfast backing of Washington and Jerusalem no doubt factored into his being honored. But Howard’s record in and out of government stands against almost every significant domestic policy for which the AJCommittee stands.

On human rights, for example, the AJCommittee advocates “the investigation and prosecution of those indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes” and ratification of major human rights instruments, including the International Conventions on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

As federal opposition leader of the conservative Liberal Party of Australia in the late 1980s, Howard opposed the then-Labor government’s Nazi war criminal legislation. Last year, the Howard government sought to downgrade the work of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission by abolishing the dedicated commissioner-level posts of no less than five departments: race discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, human rights, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice.

On immigration, the AJCommittee endorses the Jewish tradition in which “‘strangers’ are to be welcomed and valued.” It supports “generous immigration policies regarding refugees who are fleeing persecution” and “efforts to reduce the flow of illegal immigration within the context of established civil liberties protections.”

The AJCommittee expressly opposes mandatory detention, the “detention of aliens for an unspecified period of time” and “automatic bars to re-entry.” The Howard government incarcerates asylum seekers for unspecified periods of time, even though the overwhelming majority turn out to be bona fide refugees – and even to the point of redefining the borders of Australia to escape human rights obligations.

On public education, the AJCommittee “believes that there must be a re-dedication to public education on the national, state, community, and family levels, so that the public schools can fulfill their promise as democratic institutions and launching pads of opportunity for all children.”

In particular, the AJCommittee believes “that gaps in educational resources and opportunities between our nation’s disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students must be narrowed.” The Howard government has presided over an education policy that privileges already well-resourced private schools and that has exponentially increased the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students in Australia.

Why, then, would the AJCommittee, a bastion of Jewish and American liberalism, be moved to honor a politician so antithetical to its own political principles? Enter the ustralia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, with which the AJCommittee entered into a partnership in 1997. By far the best resourced of Australian Jewish lobby groups, AIJAC is an independent body with no official status within the Australian Jewish community.

Though its spokesmen like to claim bipartisanship in Australian politics, this means only that AIJAC is perforce willing to work with, and on, any government of the day.

National Chairman Mark Leibler, a prominent Melbourne tax lawyer, and Executive Director Colin Rubenstein both have close links to either Howard or the Liberal Party. Leibler, a longtime Likud supporter and conservative activist on the local and world Jewish scenes, was among a select few who Howard invited to his private barbeque for visiting President Bush last year.

Rubenstein is a Liberal party activist and a member of the Howard government’s Council for Multicultural Australia. He also unsuccessfully sought Liberal Party preselection in 1990 to contest a seat in the Australian Parliament.

The American Liberties Medallion is not the first honor the AJCommittee has bestowed on John Howard. In January 2002, AIJAC had Howard receive the AJCommittee’s Distinguished Public Service Award at a ceremony in New York. “No one in Australia is more deserving of this honor than Prime Minister Howard,” Rubenstein told those assembled.

This, just weeks after the most controversial Australian federal election in recent times, in which Howard cynically played on Australians’ deep-seated fears of invasion by whipping up a frenzy against asylum seekers and falsely claiming that some had thrown their children overboard.

This, just months after Howard refused a Norwegian trading vessel, which had saved a boatload of desperate asylum seekers, entry to Australian waters because it would trigger Australia’s refugee and human rights obligations.

This, just a few years after Howard’s public service of encouraging the populist xenophobia of Pauline Hanson – Australia’s version of Jean-Marie Le Pen – despite the pleas of Jewish and other community leaders for him to denounce her tirades.

No doubt the AJCommittee had its own reasons for honoring the Australian prime minister. Yet working with AIJAC on issues of mutual concern, such as counterterrorism and support for Israel, is one thing. Showering tributes on a politician whose politics are so clearly anathema to one’s own is quite another.

Either the AJCommittee has decided in recent years to place support for Israel and the United States above its domestic social justice convictions, or someone on their Asia-Pacific desk failed to ask the standard questions of their Australian bedmate.

Geoffrey Brahm Levey, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, is co-editor of “Jews and Australian Politics” (Sussex Academic Press, 2004).

On the road again

G�day. I�ve just made a big change in my life � from August 14 I�ll be self employed. Under a package negotiated with Fairfax, I�m contracted to run Webdiary for three years and am free to write for whoever I like bar News Limited (as if!). I�m also independent, and can speak to groups without permission from my former employer. I�ve now done my grieving at leaving the organisation I�ve been in love with for decades, and as a child of working class parents am working through my fears of being destitute. Once my accountant�s been through all the issues and I�ve worked out how to survive as a self-employed person, I�m bound to be a better writer, as until now I�ve always had the security of permanent employment. I�ll move back to Canberra next month and maintain my press gallery pass, so it�s a case of in, out and in again. I�m trusting Webdiarists to stop me getting too insider again, a complaint that has gradually died out since I�ve been in Sydney for the last three years.


My book Not Happy John is selling well � the first run of 10,000 has sold out and another 9,000 have been reprinted. The book�s website nothappyjohn is going great guns, with wild new ideas to help defend our democracy. For a doozy of an example, see HOT ‘DIGGER’S OATH’ IDEA TO DEFEAT HOWARD IN BENNELONG.


If you live in Sydney and feel like some grassroots politics this Saturday, I�ll be chatting with the former federal Liberal Party President turned anti-war activist John Valder in the Blue Mountains. The event is at the Springwood Civic Centre from 2pm, when John will announce how he plans to do his pre-election activism.

In the run up to the election, I�d like to focus on what citizens are doing rather than on the maneuvres of the pollies, and am looking for reader profiles of the seats they live in and what citizens are doing to make a difference.

Before your direct actions, there�s some great stuff going on to make the media accountable for their errors in the lead up to the Iraq war, and the false claims of some mainstream media that they�re working for you, the reader, rather than for their owner�s corporate agendas. Harry Heidelberg recommends Petition for initiation of complaint against Fox News Network for deceptive practices, where moveon has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action against Murdoch�s Fox Network for deceptive advertising by promoting itself as the �fair and balanced� network. And see details of the moveon-inspired Outfoxed movie, which �provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public’s right to know�. The Not Happy John Website is pulling together a mailing list of readers who we hope will help the site morph into an Australian version of moveon to help defend our democracy.

Antony Loewenstein recommends the media matters announcement of how it’s going activist.

John Bennett recommends The lies of the press, where George Monbiot argues that newspapers too must also be held to account for the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times, after apologising for its false �reporting� of deeply compromised claims of Iraq�s WMDs by journalist Judith Miller (see Sleeping lies dogging the media over Iraq) has issued another mea culpa at ‘NY Times’ Admits ‘Mistakes’ in Iraq War Editorials.

The New York Times has proved itself a great newspaper with these actions: don�t expect to see anything like them, or anything at all in the way of accountability to readers from Murdoch�s war machine papers here.

Ian McPherson recommends “Be it resolved that…What has been accomplished? by Col. Dan Smith on the state of world democracy, which Ian reckons �sort of sums it up�.

Tony Kevin has written a great piece on his website arguing that “Labor’s decisions over the next 17 days will decide the election”, particularly on whether to pas the Free Trade Agreement with the US. The Yanks love it,which means we’ve been dudded, as usual. Tony writes:

“Mark Latham will win or lose the Prime Ministership of Australia on the basis of two decisions Labor will have to take � if it has not taken them already � between now and 6 August. This will be the end of what will probably be the first and last federal parliamentary sitting week, before Howard calls the election for – I will punt – Saturday 18 September, six weeks later.

The key decisions now confronting Latham and his Caucus are:

1. Whether the Australian Senate should pass laws agreeing to the US FTA as passed by John Howard and now the US Congress, or should call for a different policy: a break for consultations and rethinking, and then resuming talks with US after both countries have got their elections out of the way?.

2. Whether to use the release of the forthcoming Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Report into the Bali bombings (FADC reference: Security Threats to Australians in South-east Asia) to put the responsibility for serious government negligence of our citizens� safety of life overseas where it properly belongs � with the Australian Foreign Minister and, in terms of command responsibility, with this Prime Minister…”

I’m launching Tony’s book A certain maritime incident – the sinking of SIEV-X at Gleebooks in Sydney at 6pm on August 6.



Tim and Anna-Maria Stephens in Haberfield, Sydney

Hi Margo. Please see below our e-mail to Minister Downer today concerning Australia�s vote in the UN General Assembly on the West Bank wall. This one has really slipped under the radar. Why, we can all ask, was there no public debate about this? (July 27, Margo: I have removed my response to this question after extreme sloppiness in my use of language caused offence to many readers.)


Dear Minister,


We were shocked to hear that Australia voted against the UN General Assembly Resolution passed today calling upon Israel to comply with the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 9 July 2004 which declared the construction of a separation barrier in and around the West Bank to be illegal. Australia was one of only six nations to vote against the resolution (along with Israel, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the United States). The resolution was adopted with an overwhelming vote in favour (150 to six, with only ten abstentions).

As you will be aware, you have today authored a radical shift in Australian foreign policy. Although in the past Australia has supported Assembly and Security Council resolutions calling upon Israel to comply with international law, the Australian Government now appears to take the view that our vote in the political organs of the United Nations must always follow that of the United States regardless of the merits of the Resolution under consideration. In addition, when coupled with the unprecedented submission by Australia to the ICJ in relation to its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it appears that Australia no longer recognises the authority or legitimacy of the ICJ as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

In its Advisory Opinion, the ICJ called upon all states �not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem� and �not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.� (Advisory Opinion, Paragraph 159). Australia has now acted clearly and deliberately in contravention of this duty. It has recognised the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall, and has assisted Israel in its continued breach of the laws and customs of war.

Like the ICJ, we support Israel�s right to security, but this right must be pursued in accordance with international law. As the ICJ Advisory Opinion made clear, there is nothing stopping Israel building the barrier, so long as it does not traverse occupied territories.

Your government�s foreign policy decision today is full of profound implications for Australia, yet it is one which has occurred without the benefit of any public or Parliamentary debate in Australia. We are writing to you to seek an explanation as to why Australia decided to exercise its vote in the Assembly today in this way and why it was done, in effect, secretly. We are tremendously disturbed that the Howard Government could make such a momentous, and potentially dangerous, foreign policy decision in this fashion.


James Graham in Canberra

Hi Margo. Here’s an email I just sent to my local federal member, Bob McMullan, Labor. I�m 30, a 6th generation Aussie of Anglo-Celtic descent and a tertiary educated IT worker.


Hi Bob

I�m one of your constituents in Belconnen and I�ve voted Liberal federally 3 times in a row. I will probably vote Labor at the next federal election. Why? Because I disagree with �our� association with the �pre-emptive� invasion of Iraq. I believe much harm has been caused it (both the act itself and the actions taken beforehand).

In my opinion the morality of an action depends on the motivation behind it. The reasons behind the invasion of Iraq were not moral in my opinion. I have been absorbing information and opinions on it for many, many months and believe I have arrived at my final stance.

Bob, I believe the Labor party has not done well in countering the Howard government�s line on this matter. I believe you could make very damaging arguments to counter theirs and yet I don�t see them. They are unquestionably defending an invasion on weak premises in my opinion. I believe extremism breeds extremism and invading Iraq has arguably made the moderate Muslim more likely to be a fanatic – and where there’s a will there’s a way.

At the end of the day I appreciate this is only one issue out of a myriad of them (taxes, welfare, health, etc) well it�s the one that�s probably turned my vote. There�s a vox pop for ya Bob, make of it what you will.


Greg Neill in Brisbane

Margo, a small sentence by Michael Riggall in Liars for Howard in relation to a lack of communication from his local ALP member Wayne Swan made me realise I am not alone. I have written about three times to my local ALP member, Kevin Rudd seeking information on contacts for the Brisbane Airport Consultative Committee and Mr Rudd�s submission on our behalf on the master plan, due December 2003. I advised him that his web site had not been updated in relation to matters on the airport since June 2002. I have not received a reply.

I wrote more recently complaining about the quality of service from his electoral office and asking that I receive a personally signed letter from Mr Rudd so that I could ensure that he was aware of my complaint. No reply or acknowledgment after 3 months. I recently sent an email to Mr Rudd at his Parliament House address with a copy to his leader, Mr Latham, expressing my concern at his lack of service to his constituents (his employers) hoping that the new leader might pull him into line. After 3 or more weeks not a word from either office.

This is not a democracy if the electors cannot communicate with their elected representatives.

I am hoping that we will have a choice of more than two candidates in Griffith electorate. Just about any candidate would better than our current options, a shame because I think that Mr Rudd would be a good Foreign Affairs Minister, but I need a representative that will respond to my concerns.

As Michael says in his closing sentence we need to keep the bastards on their toes. If that means voting completely out of the square of the current duopoly so be it.


Alice Booker

Thank you for providing such a forum as Webdiary. The quality content has left me feeling mentally stimulated and with heartfelt hope. Although once in my youth I handed out how to vote cards for the Liberals (oh the shame now) and I have voted for the Democrats and Greens in the past (I sound a political tart) I now desperately hope Mark Latham will win the coming election, because I feel so much disquiet at John Howard’s erosion of our values.

My kids, young tertiary educated adults, were until recent years, mostly apolitical. They and most of their friends returned from abroad loathing the John Howard government. Explanation: as young backpacking Australians, the warm welcome they were accustomed to as ‘Aussies’ had turned to having defend their nationality through John Howard’s alignment with the Bush government.

John Howard’s love and disappointment

John Howard may be the doyen of the aspirational middle class, but if you�re gay and aspire to marry and adopt children, then forget it. John Howard would surely balk at being termed homophobic, yet his record on the subject is grim, to say the least.


Imagine the following hypothetical scenario. The Prime Minister�s only daughter, Melanie, skips in the door one day and announces she�s in love and wants to marry. John and Janette are thrilled. Then suddenly a dark cloud emerges. John and Janette discover Melanie�s beau is Chinese-Australian. They grimace, gulp, and try to put a brave face on things.

John says openly to his daughter, who seeks his approval, �I don�t love you any less, but I am disappointed.�

The above was his response when Ray Martin asked what if one of his sons turned out to be gay. If such a comment had slipped out with regards to interracial marriage, he would have recanted quicker than you could say Bob Menzies. Yet it is acceptable to make such comments about gay and lesbian people.


The Prime Minister elaborated on the matter in a Triple J interview conducted by a group of students in August 2001. Asked where he placed himself on a scale of acceptance of homosexuality, one end being total acceptance and the other total rejection, he replied, �Oh I�d place myself somewhere in the middle. I certainly don�t think you should give the same status to homosexual liaisons as you give to marriage, I don�t.�

Not only did he disapprove of gay marriage, but refused to even give relationship status to gay and lesbian couples, preferring the tawdry term �liaisons�. It�s as if he�d never heard of famous couples like Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris, or Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

The Howard attitude to homosexuality became darker the following year in 2002, when the Prime Minister was all but accused by former comcar driver Wayne Patterson of plotting, in league with Senator Bill Heffernan, Justice Michael Kirby�s downfall. The details seem like something out of an ancien regime court intrigue, not the workings of a democratic polity.

On March 12 of 2002 Senator Heffernan delivered a speech in the Senate he�d been brooding on for over a year. In lurid language he accused Justice Kirby of hiring underage prostitutes and illegally using a commonwealth car. Justice Kirby, Heffernan informed the Senate, ��regularly trawled for rough trade at the Darlinghurst Wall…� The Judge also, �…played out his fantasies in a fee-for-service arrangement.�

The Senator produced a Comcar document claiming to prove Kirby�s movements through notorious pickup spots for young male prostitutes, or �rent boys�. On March 18 the seven-day wonder came to an end when Labor MP Laurie Brereton blew the whole fiasco out of the water. His name had appeared on the Comcar document produced as evidence. A quick check through his diary brought the whole circus crashing down around Heffernan�s ears. Brereton had actually been on holidays with his family in Queensland on the day in question, April 2, 1994, not where the Comcar document claimed him to be. The document was proved a fake.

One of the murkier aspects of the affair was, how much did Howard know? On channel nine�s Sunday program the Comcar driver who fabricated the document, Wayne Patterson, spilled his guts. �Senator Heffernan related to me, yes,� Patterson told the program, �that he had shown the Prime Minister and Mr [Darryl] Williams the document, which I was quite surprised at.�

Howard said he had discussed the matter in a general way previously with the Senator, but would not elaborate further. Did the two hatch the plot together, in secrecy, with the over eager Heffernan ready to cop the worst of it should their plan go belly up?

According to Patterson, Heffernan assured him he had a lot of backers. �He mentioned to me that he had a lot of very, very high people, you know, all backing him.�

The truth we may never know, but in public Howard was determined to turn the screws as tight as he possibly could without seeming partisan. In parliament he said the allegations needed to be further assessed. When then Opposition leader Simon Crean called for Heffernan�s sacking, Howard replied, �The Senator in question enjoys both my affection and friendship�.

In an interview with John Laws, the Prime Minister shoveled as much coal on the issue as possible, stating that proven misbehavior would be enough to remove a High Court judge. �… your listeners will know that any kind of misbehavior involving people under age would disqualify people from a whole [lot] of positions, not just being a High Court judge.�

In the end, Howard refused to apologise. He had had nothing to do with it. Skillfully, he turned the morality of the affair on its head, pleading Christian compassion for a beleaguered man. �Look, I have always been a friend of his, and I don�t even in their difficulty … I don�t abandon friends.�

But what kind of friends? At the height of the affair, in a truly bizarre episode, when the media were trying to question Heffernan on the allegations he had made, the Senator ran off like a naughty child, trying to evade trouble. This is one of Howard�s �mates�?

No one should be surprised at the most recent move by the Howard Government to change the marriage act, in effect an attempt to ambush �activist� judges before they find in favour of gay marriage test cases. With George W. Bush moving to ban gay marriage, it was only a matter of time before Howard would launch his own pre-emptive strike. What is surprising � or maybe not � is the prime minister�s desperation in trying to create a gay wedge. So far the public don�t seem to be running for the hills.

Senator Brian Greig, the Democrats Attorney General and Justice spokesperson and a long time gay activist, thinks that anti-gay politics doesn�t have the power it once had. �Every coalition MP would now know lesbian and gay people in their wider families, circles of friends and supporters, and in their electorates,� he says. �We are no longer the bogey men, we are voters.�

The Senator sees the Prime Minister�s current move as lowest common denominator politics. �The motive is simple,� he says. �Howard is reaching, once again, for the lowest common denominator in an election year – popular prejudice. And, perhaps more importantly, he is looking for a divisive wedge with which to target Labor to try and create disunity between its left faction and its Catholic right faction, in this, an election year.�

Indeed, Labor appears to know very well what Howard is up to. In a statement Labor�s Shadow Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, aired the Party�s suspicions:

�While Labor questions the PM�s motives and reasons for bringing on this debate now, and questions whether it is necessary � Labor does not oppose these parts of the Bill which merely confirm existing laws…�

�Disgracefully gutless,� is how Senator Greig sees Labor�s position on the issue. “Confirming existing laws” suggests there is unquestionable merit in allowing existing laws to continue. I mean, there was a time when women were denied the vote. Would Ms. Roxon have argued in 1901 that the ALP would �confirm existing laws�, just because most people�s understanding of voting franchise excluded women?�

Labor, under Latham, is determined not to suffer another Tampa. Howard may have lobbed what he thought was a political hand grenade, but Latham, Third Way Jedi Knight, has moved quickly to defuse it. You can imagine all the hair raising scenarios that the Howard Government would have outlined in parliament, trying to paint Labor as hostile to normal, happy Australian families. Rather than get bogged down in a gay quagmire, Latham is going with the conservative flow.

The Latham position is hard to pin down, as he sends out his positive messages, then sides with the government. On same-sex and different sex relationships, he has said, �I don�t draw a distinction.� However, when the Playschool two mums segment caused outrage amongst coalition MPs, he did draw a distinction, siding with the Government.

Although Labor has sent out all the signals that it will move with the Government to pass legislation banning gay marriage outright (leaving gay adoption to the states), it has at least agreed to put the Bill to a Senate Committee, which will report its findings in October.

Asked of his hopes for Senate Committee, Senator Greig says, �I would hope and expect that the Committee, when it reports, will at the very least, argue for partnership recognition for same-sex couples to address all current areas of discrimination under Commonwealth law � in the event that civil marriage is banned to same sex couples.�

Despite what appears a setback for the gay rights agenda, Senator Greig remains positive. Asked how hard it may be to get our laws changed in future to recognise gay marriage, the Senator responded: �Not as hard as you may think. I can imagine a future ALP Government moving to recognise gay marriage, as more and more countries around the world recognise gay relationships, and as Australia looks more and more isolated. The recent SBS poll of 1,200 people showed that the greatest support for gay marriage was with those under 35 years of age. This means that, over the next decade, as older Australians die off � taking their conservative attitudes to the grave with them � the younger generation, those under 45, will be supportive of gay marriage, and the balance on the scales will be tipped.�

Going by the SBS poll, Senator Greig believes the two major parties have misread the electorate, perceiving more anti-gay sentiment in the community than actually exists. �The SBS poll showed that 44% opposed gay marriage (note that this is under half the population), 38% supported it, and 18% were undecided. I think these results shocked both parties, neither of whom would have felt that gay marriage had such low opposition or high support.�

Howard�s most successful wedge, the Tampa, produced the famous declaration that none of those on the boat seeking asylum would set foot on Australian soil. That didn’t happen. In fact, some have now been recongnised as genuine refugees and now reside in Australia. The PM�s gay wedge seems to have fizzled so far. Australian culture may be beyond his powers to mould.