Let’s get one thing out of the way up front. Of course Iraq is about Oil. Always, was – always will be. If the oil was in Africa instead of the Middle East, we never would have heard of Kuwait, Iraq or Iran unless we delved into the pages of exotic coffee table books and obscure Lonely Planet issues.

All the fuss about the alleged differences between the PM and the Defence Minister on what boils down to a definition of language and phrases in each of their respective utterings on the subject yesterday is of course really about the need to highlight any perceived inconsistency in policy in the leadup to the election.

The point is – all but the most professionally outraged of the punters are only too well aware, and greet this sort of “revelation” with a universal “ho-hum” and quickly turn to the sports pages.

In Australian politics there has come to be a well-earned expectation that facts will be subject to their own fairness test, and never more so than with a poll looming on the horizon.

This is in itself alarming, but the subject of a separate discussion, and while it’s clearly tempting for some to crawl through dictionary definitions and read through small print to shine a bit of torchlight onto inconsistencies and mis-statements, at the end of the day it’s a bit like the debate over whether or not Clinton inhaled, and really serves no purpose.

The real sting in the “Aha!-I-told-you-it-was-about-oil… No-that’s-not-really-what-I-said” discussion for the ALP is to lead us into a genuinely important issue for the future interests and policy directions for Australia.

Paul Kelly is right on the spot with his article in today’s Oz, which correctly points out that we now have battle lines being drawn along traditional Liberal-vs-Labor territory in terms of defence policy, i.e. do we focus on local and regional issues or should we cast a broader view when it comes to national security strategy?

By highlighting the inconsistencies in the narrative pitched by the Coalition over the stretch from March 2003 when we first went into Baghdad, the ALP’s plan (and it’s a good one) is to paint the government as unwilling or unable to come up with a good, solid, strategic reason for why we went in, are still there and plan on being there in the future.

Rudd’s speech yesterday to the Lowy Institute attempts to paint a starkly contrasting picture of where he sees Australia’s future geopolitical strategic priorities.

The logical conclusion to the discussion thread set down by Mr. Rudd is that we should adopt a small target policy for terrorists and concentrate on regional influence and security (it seems to be working a treat for him in the opinion polls, after all).

The PM meanwhile was talking about the new paradigm and that only the Coalition is up with the times, countering the ALP position with derision. The ALP makes the point that we are currently mired in a self-fulfilling prophecy where our presence creates more work for us to do, requiring our continued presence. As defined, it is actually quite hard to see how these different views can be reconciled.

Now we have a clear contest – the Coalition as part of the global “war on terror”, Labor defending the homeland. 

Read more at Henry Thornton.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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