Few prime ministerial policy statements are so comprehensively previewed in the press as the defence directions John Howard is outlining today.

Perhaps this is all to do with homeland defence – or home turf defence.

Yesterday, Labor leader Kevin Rudd unveiled what he called a radical new direction in the opposition’s foreign policy, committing a Labor government to developing a Pacific Partnership for development and security with Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

This morning, he delivered a speech to the Lowy Institute on tackling the root causes of terrorism.

The government appears to have attempted to deliver a pre-emptive strike to blow Rudd’s comments off the news agenda – but have come up with a strategy that risks nasty friendly fire incidents.

The government has admitted the need to secure oil supplies is a factor in Australia’s involvement in Iraq.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson told ABC Radio this morning oil was a factor in Australia’s contribution to Iraq, saying energy security and stability in the Middle East would be crucial to the nation’s future.

The opposition leader has said this contradicts the PM’s comments when the war began.

“When Mr Howard was asked back in 2003 whether this war had anything to do with oil, Mr Howard said in no way did it have anything to do with oil,” Rudd said. “This government simply makes it up as it goes along on Iraq.’”

And, it appears, in its day-to-day tactics.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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