The federal Opposition has tried to make a great deal out of Kevin Rudd’s overseas trips. Call me crazy, but doesn’t John Howard hold the record for international Frequent Flyer miles?
Speaking of which, I was no fan of “Jet-setting John”, but all the recent hub-bub has made me realise I don’t mind “Intercontinental Kev”. Rudd was able to achieve the status of “international statesmen” which so eluded (and obsessed) the Howards, in just three months. And he did it by apologising to members of the Stolen Generations. You gotta love irony.
There is, however, one big risk for Rudd. He’s tipped to address the UN General Assembly during a stopover in New York. There’s a very real chance that Rudd addressing the UN might lead to the spawning of a cruel international joke that begins with the phrase, “Did you hear the one about the Australian who stood up at the world’s premiere human rights forum and said…”
In all seriousness, should a first world nation with a third world populace be lecturing North Korea about good governance? Should a nation that summarily jails asylum-seekers be attacking Afghanistan about the Taliban and its treatment of women? We mine uranium and sell it overseas. Should we be wagging our finger at Iran and frowning sternly at them over their nuclear proliferation?
Can we honestly say — with a straight face — to Zimbabwe, “You need to stop stealing land from white farmers and giving it to black people.”
My point being, after years of demonising asylum-seekers and Collingwood supporters, what exactly do we have to offer the UN? What, exactly, is Rudd going to talk about for 20 minutes?
Granted, he could ask the international community to consider Australia’s re-entry to the human race by pointing to his government’s attempts to water down the laws that lock up asylum-seeking children. But that’s only going to take five minutes. How’s he going to fill the rest of his speech?
Tell a joke? Charm them with some Aussie wit? Maybe even warm them up for a few minutes with a fart gag?
That’s a not bad idea, on reflection — Rudd’s an engaging guy with a good sense of humour. And the UN doesn’t have enough fart gags. But at some point in time, someone surely is going to drop the “A” word. And then we’re all in a world of poo.
What happens if Bolivia starts heckling from the floor about Aboriginal life expectancy? And, God forbid, what happens if Namibia points out that one of Labor’s key election promises was to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
Rudd could hardly try and change the subject. He’s at the UN. Making a speech. Why not endorse it now?
And it’s at that point, my fellow Australians, that we should all be able to hear a pin drop. And more. For Kevin is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. He did promise to endorse the UN Declaration but if he does it this week, he’s going to look like a prize idiot.
For as we sit today, of the 21 million people who inhabit this country, only about 60,000 of them do not have access to the Racial Discrimination Act, courtesy of the most overtly racist (and expensive) election stunt in Australian political history.
I am, of course, referring to the Northern Territory intervention, a policy which received the unanimous support of the Labor members of parliament just one year ago.
Rudd has ordered a review into the intervention, and while only Mal Brough and The Australian newspaper still expect it to find the whole exercise was a “supafantastical model of the world’s most bestest practice”, everyone else knows the government’s own review team is getting ready to dump on this vile piece of race-based policy from a great height.
But the report is not due out until September 30. Kev may be a good speaker, but I doubt even he could stretch it out for a week (it’s hard enough getting the United States to sit still until the lunch adjournment, let alone for seven days).
He could point to the fact that the review’s not ready. But I have a sneaking suspicion telling a human rights forum that you needed the advice of a panel of experts and a year-long experiment to tell you the intervention was a load of crap might look a little, well, silly. That sort of argument might play with a dumb Australian electorate, but the UN tends to operate at a higher level.
Rudd could try and distance himself from the whole sordid ordeal. But of course someone might notice that despite its well publicized failings, his government has pressed on with the NT intervention regardless, with virtually no changes after 10 months in office.
There’s also a very real risk that someone might also notice that the intervention — which has been run mostly under a Labor government — has failed to identify any widespread child sexual abuse and has not been able to address some of the most basic needs of Aboriginal people. Believe it or not, the intervention has still not resulted in the construction of a single house, despite millions of dollars being expended for precisely that purpose.
In short, if Kevin Rudd stands up at the UN and expresses the Australian Government’s support for the UN Declaration, thus meeting his election promise, not to mention his basic moral obligation, he will be laughed out of New York.
It would be akin to the State of Texas signing up to a treaty opposing the death penalty. Or Wilson Tuckey agreeing to be relevant.
Rudd faces quite the quandary. He’s a smart guy, and logic dictates that he must have something up his sleeve. Let’s just hope it’s not his left hand wedged in his right armpit, followed by furious pumping.