An inevitable backlash against a far away war. Fighting wars in far away places is a difficult thing for a democracy. As the deaths mount so does the questioning. What the hell are we out there dying for? The British Government, once so gung-ho about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is beginning to notice the pressure. Yesterday it was the London Daily Mail with its emotion ridden front page. A few days ago it was the turn of the Independent and the London Sunday Telegraph.
The pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to get the hell out of those foreign parts and to bring the troops home. In Australia it is only the very small number of casualties that has stopped the development of the very same sentiment. As the fighting gets fiercer and the death toll rises Kevin Rudd can look forward to his own version of those front pages reckon it will not be long before our Labor Government starts being afflicted with the same sentiment.
What a difference a day or two makes. On Monday in The Australian they were urging Kevin Rudd, in quite an hysterical fashion, to start talking tough to the Chinese Government on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. This morning the paper’s national affairs correspondent Jennifer Hewett is cautioning that the moderate words Mr Rudd did utter on the subject yesterday “will make it even harder for any possible resolution to be quietly negotiated through diplomatic channels.”
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The mind of a politician. Gordon Nuttall, convicted yesterday on charges of corruption, thankfully is not your normal Australian politician. Most of the ones I have met and dealt with over 50 years of my working life are good and honourable and honest people. Most of them. For there have been a few about whom I had my suspicions that there was a backhander here and a brown paper bag there. And then there are those not personally known to me who ended up in the slammer when caught copping a bribe to shorten someone’s prison sentence or helping a property developer do a bit of developing. But not until this morning had I come across a corrupt politician who could not see that the corrupt behaviour was wrong.
Gordon Nuttall is the exception. During his last few days of freedom before being found guilty, the former Queensland State Labor Minister has been talking with the journalists Andrew Fraser and Michael McKenna. The story he told them has produced a great piece of journalism about a man who regretted taking $360,000 in secret payments from a couple of businessmen only in the sense that he got caught. “In hindsight, of course, I regret it because of the pain and agony it has caused to my family and friends,” Nuttall told The Australian. “I didn’t do anything wrong, that’s my honest belief, because all I was doing was trying to set up a family plan for the future.”
Inopportune timing. The middle of a man’s trial on a strongly defended charge of rape is surely an appallingly tasteless time for speculation about the outcome of Labor Party pre-selections for the seat he will not be able to contest if he is found guilty. Yet Paul Austin in the Age this morning has done just that with a nasty little piece saying that Theo Theophanous has caused a headache for the Brumby Government by nominating for preselection for next year’s state election. According to Austin, many senior Labor figures had hoped Mr Theophanous would quit politics, enabling Premier John Brumby to campaign free from any lingering distractions caused by the sexual assault accusation. Some of us intently following press coverage of the trial hope that talk of “lingering distractions” wait until after the jury has delivered its verdict.