You can’t fault the timing. AWB corruption and the comments of British Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt and our own former defence boss Peter Cosgrove are running strong in the news – and it’s expected the Republicans will receive a thumping over Iraq at the mid-term elections in just a few weeks’ time.

It was no wonder that Labor brought the strands together to launch an attack on the Government over Australia’s involvement in Iraq yesterday. The tactic itself, however, may be flawed.

After a question time dominated by Iraq, Kim Beazley moved to censure the Prime Minister for his decision to commit to the action in Iraq.

“This Prime Minister and this Government have played a small but substantial role in creating a set of conditions which has played right into the hands of the terrorists,” Beazley said.

His speech was a little hyperbolic – but his foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, performed very well indeed. It’s a good issue for Labor to deploy against the Government – now. Whether or not it remains one is yet to be seen.

The Government’s response was predictable. It accused Labor of cut and run politics. It pointed out that Australia was a terror target before the toppling of Saddam’s regime.

The Lowy Institute found just a few weeks ago the 84% of Australians believe the war has not reduced the threat of terrorism . The public mood on the war might be shifting, but is the public mood on security?

Crikey commentators who dwell on the left side of the grassy knoll have speculated that the alleged August bomb plot by Islamic extremists to destroy British and American aircraft over the Atlantic was a concoction of security authorities. It seems that the tinfoil lining their hats has blocked out recall of the very similar al-Qaeda plot to destroy 12 US passenger planes as they crossed the Pacific Ocean foiled by Philippine authorities in 1995. That was a long time before 9/11, a longer time before the invasion of Iraq, and a clear threat to our region.

Iraq is a mess. So is Afghanistan. Yet security has still been a winner for the Howard Government. Labor might be able to land some blows now, but will it be able to keep on pummelling all the way to the next election and turn the issue? That’s the real question.

PS, Independent MP Peter Andren might like to explain his comments in yesterday’s debate on Page 35 of Hansard about “the pre-emptive strike against the Lebanese people”. Is he in favour of peaceful terrorist rocket attacks on Israel?

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW