Michael Pascoe writes:


After yesterday’s Canberra
showmanship, the big question for those who can still bear to think about
federal politics is: Can you trust John Howard to run the country? Never mind
his party heritage or perceived ideology, can you trust him not to betray us
when offered a perceived political advantage?

For all but Howard loyalists and dopey
Labor leaders, the “clear and present
danger” non-media conference had all the hallmarks of a stunt too poor to make
the final cut of Wag The Dog. This is the urgent threat you have when it’s not
enough of a threat to officially qualify as an urgent threat.

The SMH‘s Peter Hartcher this morning
effectively accuses the Prime Minister of treason:

By announcing the existence of a specific terrorist
threat yesterday, John Howard successfully shifted attention away from Labor’s
favoured focus and onto the Government’s.

But in the process he used a megaphone to give suspected
terrorists notice of raids. With two big, transformative bills coming before
the Federal Parliament, Labor wanted to focus debate on one of them – the
proposed changes to Australia’s industrial relations system.

It’s a big charge – John Howard is prepared
to give terrorists a leg up if it helps deflect attention from his IR bill. It
could come under the “assisting terrorism” provisions of the law Howard wants
passed.

The problem with the allegation is that
even to justify a little rendition to a Guantanamo Bay kangaroo
court, there might have to be some substance to the allegation of a new and
urgent terrorist threat.

And that’s where Dishonest John’s cries of
“wolf” protect him from the treason charge – no-one, except those paid to, can
really believe him any more.

For the State Premiers, it’s a matter of
simple politics – there’s only political downside in not going along with the
stunt. For Kim Beazley, well, it seems that he’s been a sucker for any security
briefing ever since they let him play with the big toys when he was Defence
Minister. Trot out someone in khaki or a trilby and dark glasses and Kim rolls
over and begs.

Which leads to the next big question: Why
should we have any faith in our so-called “intelligence” community?

From what we know of them, they are at best
inept and at worst politically corrupt. There is absolutely no reason to think
the denizens of ASIO and ASIS and the Office of National Assessments and the
Wiggles’ Spook School are any more intelligent or diligent than their fellow
public servants at, say, DIMIA. And we
do know a bit about them.

About the only recent Australian intelligence
official we know to be a man of both intelligence and integrity was Andrew
Wilkie – anyone remember him? He was the poor sod who broke ONA ranks to try to
tell the truth about Iraq. Oh, there was also Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins
who tried to blow the whistle on another aspect of our politicised intelligence
community, but he was shafted too.

Thus we
have a Prime Minister we can not trust to put the nation’s best interests
before politics and an Opposition Leader who either won’t/can’t/doesn’t know
how to take him on.

Depressing,
isn’t it?