Glass box. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies
“Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling:
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives —
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped, advancing,
And step for step, they followed, dancing,
Until they came to the River Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished. (FromThe Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning)
What a week! Howard was so desperate to wipe the slate clean on his honesty that he chose to go a week early rather than face the music in Parliament. He must have been twitching with dismay as he AND Latham welcomed the athletes home and sent off our troops to Iraq. Latham looked pretty good, like an alternative Prime Minister, in fact. Yuk!
Howard’s masterstroke in coopting the “trust” theme by making it connect with interest rates (Trusting Howard) fell over almost immediately. Senior Queensland Liberal Russell Galt deposed, in a statutory declaration no less, that Howard’s chief defender on children overboard, Senator Brandis, had called Howard “a lying rodent” on children overboard and that “We’ve got to go off and cover his arse again on this” (Poor George).
Brandis issued a counter statutory declaration, but was later forced to admit that he routinely called Howard “the rodent” (… but rats, Lib MP really did call Howard a rodent).
Then the Queensland Liberals began proceedings to expel Galt. For lying, or for telling the truth? I mean, either Brandis or Galt is lying, right?
At the same time, a National Party candidate in Queensland spruiked by Howard, one Nick Withycombe, admitted that his claim that he had served in the SAS was, you guessed it, a lie (Doubts on candidate’s war deeds).
Withycombe appears in full uniform with Howard in his campaign photo, and, you guessed it, he entered politics because of his admiration for the PM.
On Wednesday, whistleblower Mike Scrafton revealed that Howard adviser Miles Jordana had been told very early on in the 2001 election campaign that there were strong doubts about the children overboard claim (Scrafton’s credibility over calls questioned). Naturally Howard won’t let Jordana give evidence. Scrafton also painted an ugly picture of systemic bullying of public servants who dared try to give frank and fearless advice (The catharsis of Mike Scrafton).
Then Brandis, on Howard’s orders, sought to destroy Scrafton using untested evidence based on Howard’s word (Brandis self-destructs to save Howard). I’ve never seen such brutalisation of an ordinary person by a Prime Minister who has refused to make himself accountable on the same matter.
By week’s end, “the rodent” tag was threatening to derail Howard’s campaign as Peter King finally announced he would take on Malcolm Turnbull in a battle royal for Wentworth, Sydney’s blue ribbon seat in the easternsuburbs. And what does King want? Kids out of detention. Aged care reform. And the protection of old growth forests!
Along the way, Liberal marginal seat holder Trish Worth defended her simile of asylum seekers with dogs and cats by spruiking her credentials on trying to get refugees out of detention (MP hounded for refugee quarantine analogy). Um, so when did you cross the floor on conscience, Trish? Conscience votes are dead under Howard’s remade Liberal Party. He killed them.
Worth’s fellow “moderate” Amanda Vanstone then waxed lyrical on George Negus’s program about her core principle as a Liberal: “You want everybody to be able to realise their full potential if they want to. Everybody having the equality of opportunity, accepting that equality the outcome is not going to happen.”
So did she resign from the ministry or publicly protest when Howard systemically destroyed that principle in health and education? No way.
And talk about desperate: Ruddock claimed sombrely that The Coalition was more reliable on national security! (Ruddock under fire for exploiting hostage crisis.) Oh yeah? Is this the government which took us to war on Iraq on a lie, without our consent, despite knowing that it would make Australia, and the world, less safe? The government which issued misleading advice on the safety of Bali before the bombings? The government whose rampant outsourcing has seen cleaners steal computers and other sensitive material from government offices and sensitive government information lost when a private contractor threw the computer tape in the bin?
The more Howard carries on with stuff he thinks will play in the marginals he needs to hold, the more he’ll disgust Liberals in his heartland. Fascinating.
Who won the week? Labor. Who’ll win the election? I still think Howard is favourite, mainly because, as he showed in spades this week, he has no limits when it comes to retaining power. None.
The risk? Australians will begin to see the skull beneath and skin and may conclude that Howard and his tactics are, well, unAustralian. If they do, he and his rats will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.