The birth of a new prime minister, Julia Gillard:

Megan Stoyles writes: First Dog on the Moon’s Julia the People’s Princess T-shirt provided an amazing coincidence for my husband Melbourne journalist Barry Donovan when he opened his happy birthday presents this morning (June 24).

The Julia gift was bought some time back by me for his mature birthday today. The Julia for PM surge started yesterday and was confirmed this morning, just two hours after the gift was unwrapped in Brunswick. Thank you First Dog — it was time for a new Princess for Australia.

100624_amazing dogonmoon prediction

David Hand writes: So the NSW Right, having destroyed the ALP government in NSW, has started to consume the Federal party.  One the main things in NSW that has put the ALP on the nose with voters and has so infuriated its traditional base is this anti-democratic power broking that has delivered the Premier, and now Prime Minister, chosen by back room factions rather than the government actually voted in at the election.

If Iemma was still running NSW, I don’t think the ALP fortunes would be as low as they are today and they are taking a big risk in voter land by doing it to us federally as well.  It is this deep antipathy that has Labor’s NSW heartland voting Liberal for the first and probably only time in their lives, a deep need to get rid of the stench of entitlement and corruption that wafts from the back room movers and shakers in Sussex St.

I’m no fan of Kevin but this is an unseemly and humiliating execution of our prime minister who was 52-48 ahead in the 2pp polls.  Might he have lost the election? Maybe, so I await the sweeping changes to policy they’ve all supposedly decided are necessary. Or is it just that Kevin didn’t give the factional bosses enough respect?

Who does Julia represent now? Factional bosses like Mark Arbib? Union bosses like Paul Howes?

Mike Carey writes: So mining shares rose in London on the news of the Gillard challenge. I heard Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Mining Companies and former Woodside director, Gary Gray saying he played no role in the putsch but it’s obvious a deal has been done.

Rudd, for all his faults, challenged the multi-national miners and he has paid the price. With corporate money buying Coalition support and probably backing the deal to oust Rudd it appears we are heading down an anti-democratic road with the US model at journey’s end.

The Australian people will no longer elect their parliamentary representatives instead they will be bought and sold by corporate money.

Michael R. James writes: There is a curious symmetry to these events. Rudd did an astounding job with his CPRS manoeuvrings to destabilize the Coalition such that he totally undermined Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

Now Abbott has so destabilized Rudd and Labor by killing the CPRS and getting Rudd so panicky he delayed it, the fatal miscalculation that undermined his leadership so that he too has been replaced as leader by someone who will be even more effective at defeating the Coalition!

Just one more bizarre twist is needed: come back Malcolm!

Donald Dowell writes: Julia Gillard has become Prime Minister today. News Ltd , which has been building Gillard up recently to destabilise Rudd , will turn its attack dogs onto her and we will see endless articles magnifying every perceived flaw or past mistakes.

Does News Ltd even pretend to have any degree of impartiality nowadays, or do they see themselves as a major player for the Coalition. Old Frank Packer would be proud.

The actual birth of a prime minister:

D L  Lewis writes: I read with interest the “Tips and Rumour” on the potential countries of birth of our new Prime Minister and Mr Abbott, and I also read, with pleasure, the letter from Gavin R. Putland (yesterday, comments) who questioned the interest of this factoid, and mentioning Chris Watson, who, as he said, was born in Chile to a German father and Irish mother.

One small pedantic correction: John Christian Watson (known as Chris) was actually born Johan Cristian Tanck. His father was not Chilean, but was a sailor of German origin living in Valparaiso, Chile — a major port. This type of detail is relatively unimportant in a discussion such as this (if he was Tibetan, or Egyptian, the discussion is the same: the point is he wasn’t a British subject) but the pedant in me couldn’t resist. I did, however, wish to look at Chris’s question of nationality.

There is no doubt that the man who became the world’s first national Labor Prime Minister was not born a British subject. However, I believe that as he moved to New Zealand when he was around 18 months old, with his Irish mother, who married a New Zealand Scot (whose name he took), Watson saw himself as a British subject by allegiance and emotion, if not by paper.

So far as we know, he never knew his German father. Nor did he ever show much interest in Germany (except as any British subject did during his life) or Chile. We cannot know why he didn’t nationalise: perhaps he didn’t feel he needed to, and certainly no-one asked until much later where he was born. Perhaps he didn’t know till it was too late.  Watson’s papers were accidentally thrown out by a gardener, so any personal details about this (if they ever existed on paper) were probably  in there anyway.

A better example of a politician who held a position as an MP while not being a citizen was that old huckster King O’Malley, who’s birthplace varied depending on the audience he was addressing — almost certainly the United States (he admitted as much at the end of his life.)

In any case, neither man sought to undermine nor subvert the idea of the Australian Federation, particularly in its membership of the British Empire. (Watson was expelled from the ALP for his support of conscription, for example; O’Malley’s only Americanism was to force the ALP to adopt the American spelling of “Labor”.) Illegal? Probably. Illegitimate? 100 + years down the track it seem churlish to agree.

Further information on them can be found in Grassby, A., and Ordonez, S., The Man Time Forgot, Pluto Press, Annandale, NSW, 1999 (particularly good on Watson’s early life), McMullin, R. So Monstrous a Travesty, Scribe Press, 2004 (very good on Watson’s political career) and Hoyle, A. R., King O’Malley: The American Bounder, MacMillan, Sydney 1981.

I would further say that there is something (small) in the idea that our Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister were both born in the UK: it demonstrates, to my thinking anyway, how far we have come (I hesitate to say progressed or regressed).

No-one really minds where either was born (unlike in 1904), as long as one or the other is a worthwhile potential Prime Minister. I wonder whether there would be the same amount of apathy though, if an Australian of Lebanese or Vietnamese origin was to ascend to the leadership of either party. (I make no assumptions of Mr Putland’s attitude towards this, by the way.)

(Declaration: I worked on Grassby and Ordonez’s book as an editor. It is now out of print, I believe.)


Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The steady and widespread erosion of support for the Afghan conflict” (Tuesday, item 1). It is a bit incongruous to discuss Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan when troop numbers are so minimal. A withdrawal would have no effect on the course of the war.

It is even dubious whether the situation should still be called a war. It would be better described as a military occupation where American and allied forces are confronted by a variety of uncoordinated local militia who for public consumption are labelled “the Taliban” (the “Students”) or al-Qaeda (“The Base”). Gains by “the Taliban” have only reflected the withdrawal of occupying troops. This situation could continue indefinitely.

There is no reason for America and its allies to stay apart from prestige. There is nothing strategic about Afghanistan, never was. The claim that it was a launching pad for terrorism was just a propaganda line. September 11 was launched in America by non-Afghans. It might have been planned in Afghanistan but could have been planned anywhere.

The half-hearted way that the American government has pursued the war (and Osama bin Laden) shows that not even the Washington is believes in the cause.

James Burke writes: Is Nicholas Brody (yesterday, comments) talking about the international law of the Earth, such as it is, or of some other planet?

The US was under no legal obligation to provide anything to the Taliban, who were recognised as a legitimate government only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As “non-state actors” occupying the territory of a failed state, they could be dealt with in the same manner as terrorists, bandits or pirates.

If you think this is unfair, remember why recognition was withheld, despite the Taliban controlling most of Afghanistan after 1996. It had to do with their vicious totalitarianism, genocidal tendencies, and harbouring of Al-Qaeda and other terror groups determined to enslave the Islamic world and destroy all infidels.

Still, the tale of the Great Satan’s sinister refusal to furnish the noble warriors with proof of their guest’s guilt must be comforting to some. Especially to the “Truthers”. They, of course, will grasp at any straw.


Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Miners not interested in compromise: coal industry source” (yesterday, item 1). Wow those coal and oil magnates must be really running scared of what they must know to be the very real threat to their lifeblood, their lifetime achievements, their financial futures of renewable energy sources and carbon trading schemes worldwide.

Wanting to squeeze every last bit of profit out of their operations before it’s just too late. Can’t someone throw the poor b-ggers a lifeline? Offer them a plan and tax rebates for transitioning to a sustainable business with a future?

They might just not be getting that there is one for them.


Olivia Wirth, Head of Communications, Qantas Airways, writes: Re. “Qantas CityFlyer 767s could crack under pressure” (yesterday, item 12). Contrary to the headline in today’s Crikey, passengers can be assured that Qantas’ Boeing 767s will not crack under pressure.

The current challenges being faced by American Airlines are simply not applicable to Qantas. The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) in 2001 requiring some wing strut modifications on aircraft powered by General Electric and Pratt and Whitney engines.

Qantas responded quickly, and over and above the AD requirements, and our B767 fleet is fully compliant with the AD.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey