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Published: Canberra Times – Letter’s to the Editor

Re: Joyce, Abbott (almost) shed an electoral liablity

Increasingly people are asking a question that seemed silly several months ago, can Tony roll Kevin?

By any yard stick Tony Abbott is doing well as Leader of the Opposition. He is doing what opposition leaders should do by taking the fight up to the Government. He is feisty and combative. He has put some cracks in Rudd’s glass jaw. He gained good mileage on the insulation debacle, effectively ending the political career of Peter Garrett, at the same time exposing him as a lightweight who allowed himself to be bullied by Rudd.

Abbott has guts, no doubt about it, he is a risk taker, a can do sort of individual in the best Australian tradition. I would want him in my battalion. Whatever his faults he is an on the spot leader. He can mix it, he is a go forward, never retreat bloke, the Albert Jacka of Australian politics.

Rudd on the other hand, like Beazley, is your classic staff officer, safe and sound behind the lines, knows everything without ever going to the front, gaining promotion by brown nosing the brass and shafting those below.

As the archetypal Australian, leading by example, with humour, optimism and energy, Abbott should be a shoe in for Prime Minister, but it is unlikely that he will be.

Abbott also has a few political faults and liabilities that will deny him the prize, amongst them is a belief that he can get away with saying whatever he believes is necessary to get wavering troops on side. Take his maternity leave proposals. A very good headline grabber, but few really believe that it would survive an Abbott administration unscathed.

Rudd’s profligate panic in the face of a possible dive in the Australian economy in 2008/09 means that patching up the economy will be the number one priority for an incoming Coalition Government. No one wants a hefty new tax, no matter how desirable the policy it supports.

Brought up believing in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Abbott has a need for father figures, whether that be, the Pope, Pell or Papa Howard. Abbott might be happy to have them in his parlour as frequent guests but many of the rest of us do not. Howard was voted out at the last election and that is where he (and Keating) should remain, unless of course he would like to busy himself with issues of social justice.

Abbott’s single biggest failure to date has been his inability to capture the middle ground. His appeal has been to people who will vote for him anyway. His foray into maternity leave appears to signal an awareness of his electoral weakness, but it was clumsy and as time transpires is being taken less seriously. When Bob Brown endorses a Coalition proposal, cynicism, sarcasm and farce are more in evidence than serious sentiments.

Rudd and Abbott outdo each other in their demonization of so called boat people, has it not occurred to either, that people in the middle of Australian politics are sick of the bullying implicit in this puerile display of machismo and the lie it gives to their much touted Christian beliefs. The issue, as played by both parties, is not an election winner.

Abbott, apparently without much thought, has endorsed the defence expenditure program of Rudd. Some big ticket items in that program do not make sense. The money does not exist to implement them. The decision to buy the F35 was driven from Howards’ office; if pursued it will result in a very expensive second rate aircraft. The decision to build 12 submarines was driven out of Rudd’s office. It is a political rather than strategic decision, it will be hugely expensive and in the light of previous experience an off the shelf purchase of half that number would be more prudent, certainly much cheaper and easier to man.

Abbott needs to identify policy that appeals not only to the right but also to the middle. There is altruism and tolerance in the middle. The middle is concerned about the environment; water; Australia’s place in the world, badly damaged by Howard and unrepaired by Rudd; racism; childcare, from birth to school; the cost of education, both secondary and tertiary; aged care; infrastructure, particularly public transport; public housing and of course sustainable and equitable improvement to health delivery.

Rudd goaded Abbott into the debate at the National Press Club on health care. Abbott accepted, wanting to intimidate and carve out some ground for himself. The debate was uninspiring and uninformative.

The troglodyte right remains Abbott’s biggest problem in wooing the swinging centre.

Abbott has done well to rid himself of Barnaby Joyce as Finance spokesman. What some see as calling a spade a spade might on deeper reflection be seen as dogmatic ignorance and prejudice. Joyce has not shown a capacity to learn, his views on water are simplistic and dangerously ill- informed. Rural Australia has been lumbered with a loud mouth when what they require is a reformer, Bill Heffernan, despite his limited social agenda, would have fitted the bill.

The retirement of Nick Minchin is no bad thing either, but the ideal for Abbott’s re-election prospects would be the departure of Wilson Tuckey, Bronwyn Bishop, Kevin Andrews and Philip Ruddock.

Andrew Robb will perform well as Finance spokesman and hopefully his health will hold, but Abbott needs to over-ride the self destructive right and get Turnbull on board in a senior position that reflects his intelligence and experience. Leaving him on the back bench will not help win an election, nor does it display sound leadership of the type respected by decent Australians.

Abbott will not disgrace himself at the election, in fact if properly handled he will cause Rudd to eat humble pie, which will be no bad thing, but he will probably not be Prime Minister, not this time, but who knows with Joyce out and Robb in and Turnbull getting closer maybe he might just pull it off.

Published: The Drum Unleashed and Online Opinion

Link to article and comments: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2851846.htm

Increasingly people are asking a question that seemed silly several months ago, can Tony roll Kevin?

By any yard stick Tony Abbott is doing well as Leader of the Opposition. He is doing what opposition leaders should do by taking the fight up to the Government. He is feisty and combative. He has put some cracks in Rudd’s glass jaw. He gained good mileage on the insulation debacle, effectively ending the political career of Peter Garrett, at the same time exposing him as a lightweight who allowed himself to be bullied by Rudd.

Abbott has guts, no doubt about it, he is a risk taker, a can do sort of individual in the best Australian tradition. I would want him in my battalion. Whatever his faults he is an on the spot leader. He can mix it, he is a go forward, never retreat bloke, the Albert Jacka of Australian politics.

Rudd on the other hand, like Beazley, is your classic staff officer, safe and sound behind the lines, knows everything without ever going to the front, gaining promotion by brown nosing the brass and shafting those below.

As the archetypal Australian, leading by example, with humour, optimism and energy, Abbott should be a shoe in for Prime Minister, but it is unlikely that he will be.

Abbott also has a few political faults and liabilities that will deny him the prize, amongst them is a belief that he can get away with saying whatever he believes is necessary to get wavering troops on side. Take his maternity leave proposals. A very good headline grabber, but few really believe that it would survive an Abbott administration unscathed.

Rudd’s profligate panic in the face of a possible dive in the Australian economy in 2008/09 means that patching up the economy will be the number one priority for an incoming Coalition Government. No one wants a hefty new tax, no matter how desirable the policy it supports.

Brought up believing in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Abbott has a need for father figures, whether that be, the Pope, Pell or Papa Howard. Abbott might be happy to have them in his parlour as frequent guests but many of the rest of us do not. Howard was voted out at the last election and that is where he (and Keating) should remain, unless of course he would like to busy himself with issues of social justice.

Abbott’s single biggest failure to date has been his inability to capture the middle ground. His appeal has been to people who will vote for him anyway. His foray into maternity leave appears to signal an awareness of his electoral weakness, but it was clumsy and as time transpires is being taken less seriously. When Bob Brown endorses a Coalition proposal, cynicism, sarcasm and farce are more in evidence than serious sentiments.

Rudd and Abbott outdo each other in their demonization of so called boat people, has it not occurred to either, that people in the middle of Australian politics are sick of the bullying implicit in this puerile display of machismo and the lie it gives to their much touted Christian beliefs. The issue, as played by both parties, is not an election winner.

Abbott, apparently without much thought, has endorsed the defence expenditure program of Rudd. Some big ticket items in that program do not make sense. The money does not exist to implement them. The decision to buy the F35 was driven from Howards’ office; if pursued it will result in a very expensive second rate aircraft. The decision to build 12 submarines was driven out of Rudd’s office. It is a political rather than strategic decision, it will be hugely expensive and in the light of previous experience an off the shelf purchase of half that number would be more prudent, certainly much cheaper and easier to man.

Abbott needs to identify policy that appeals not only to the right but also to the middle. There is altruism and tolerance in the middle. The middle is concerned about the environment; water; Australia’s place in the world, badly damaged by Howard and unrepaired by Rudd; racism; childcare, from birth to school; the cost of education, both secondary and tertiary; aged care; infrastructure, particularly public transport; public housing and of course sustainable and equitable improvement to health delivery.

Rudd goaded Abbott into the debate at the National Press Club on health care. Abbott accepted, wanting to intimidate Rudd and put him on the back foot in the run up to the election. Abbott is a better fighter, a better performer; Rudd will show up by comparison. Rudd is a corridor man, a backstabber and as such he does not readily handle open and upfront competition. He needs clear air in order to perform. Rudd can’t brawl, Abbott can.

The Press Club debate was uninspiring and uninformative. Without a policy Abbott did not have a platform. He performed below expectations and sealed opinion on who took honours with a silly (slightly hysterical) laugh toward the end. Rudd was as vacuous as ever. To get any traction in the next two or three leaders debates Abbott will need to have policy and facts at his finger tips. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Scrapping, and winning, will not deliver Abbott the election because for as long as he carries Minchin, Tuckey, Andrews, Ruddock and others of the Liberal Party troglodyte right he will remain in opposition; and despite what he might believe, Barnaby Joyce is an electoral liability. With Abbott in full cry, Joyce is a supernumerary, he is not needed.

Abbott will not disgrace himself, in fact he will probably cause Rudd to eat humble pie, which would be no bad thing, but he will not be Prime Minister, not this time, and maybe not ever, but he will pave the way for change in the Liberal Party and perhaps the Labor Party.

Published: ABC The Drum Online

Link to article and comments: http://bit.ly/akR8mK

For those of us who lived through the pain, dishonesty and frustration of the war in Vietnam, Afghanistan is shaping up as a passable recreation, but not for Clive Williams who, as he wrote this week on The Drum – Unleashed, wants Australia to increase its role in Oruzgan Province.

He concedes our real role for being there is to bolster the US alliance and that if we continue to shirk our responsibilities it will hurt the alliance, getting bigger and bolder is his answer. He also sees value in enhancing our role from a training perspective.

But then he marginalises these justifications for our involvement by asking, “Can we succeed in defeating religiously-driven Taliban zealots?” The answer is no because the causes behind the fighting in Afghanistan are more complex. Poverty and Pakistan would be good starting points. Then there is the uncomfortable fact that many Taliban leaders and their armed supporters were members of the mujahedeen, which US Senator, Charlie Wilson, made such great sacrifices for. Others are members of warring tribes, which in the absence of NATO forces will turn on each other over the share of spoils from the heroin trade.

Clive Williams argues that Australia might win hearts and minds in Afghanistan by deploying Australian Muslims to help run the civil aid program, as if being Muslims was somehow a generic trait. I thought our level of understanding and sophistication was beyond that, but clearly not in the Australian intelligence community. He argues that Australian Afghans should be part of this Peace Corps. Afghans exist in the minds of western planners not in Afghanistan, where they are Pashtuns (Pathans), Tadjics, Hazaras and Uzbeks, the last three of whom at any point in time might get along with each other, but remain united in their hatred of the Pashtuns who treat them as second class citizens or slaves. And it is the Pashtuns that NATO both support in Kabul and fight in the provinces.

Clive leaves the questions hanging, what do we hope to achieve in Afghanistan, what are we doing there?

The US said the war in Vietnam was to contain the spread of Communism and thwart Chinese and Russian ambitions in South-East Asia. Never mind that the two were deeply suspicious of each other, the US had them in bed. For the US, Communism was monolithic and controlled out of Moscow.

The war in Vietnam consumed my generation in protest, fear of conscription or service in the Army. There was wall-to-wall media coverage with anti-war songs, literature and movies. The mistakes were there for all to see, except the US Administration and the military leadership. As always, Australian politicians, the military, significant sections of the media and the churches, particularly the Catholic Church, went along with the US establishment.

The war in Vietnam produced search and destroy, which saw civilians killed, whilst the Vietcong and North Vietnamese regular troops went underground or in other ways made themselves scarce only to re-emerge once US troops had moved on. The US troops were able to hold towns and villages for as long as they could be supplied, but they were unable to hold the countryside. The best they could do was patrol.

The war in Vietnam also produced some notable statements such as, ‘We had to destroy that village in order to save it.’

The democratic regime in South Vietnam was corrupt, so corrupt it was rotten. Young men did not want to fight for it. Torture of prisoners was common. Yet these were the goodies, the champions of a brighter and free future.

It all went pear shaped and for awhile, until 9/11, it seemed the only people in the free world who thought otherwise were George Bush and John Howard.

Bush let his dogs off the lead and they tore into Afghanistan, crushed a very surprised and unprepared Taliban and shot through with the blood of Iraq in their nostrils, but without the scalp of Osama bin Laden.

The Inter Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) recovered their balance and began training a new generation of Taliban fighters, which like the mujahideen before them, had many reasons for fighting but eventually were loosely united through the common enemy of a foreign occupying army, of which the US was the largest and driving force.

The US and its reluctant allies are locked into a war with no exit strategy. After 9/11 the US decided to go to war against global terrorism which they defined as radical and fundamental Islam. It is a rebirth of the mindset that fought radical and fundamental communism; America the knight in white armour, freeing the world from the evils of the Kaiser, Third Reich and Japanese militarism. With those considerable successes it took on world communism and helped the collapse of the Soviet Empire, but China lives on and prospers. Even so America has opened another front by taking up arms against international terrorism. Maybe it can win that war, but Afghanistan is not the place to do it.

The topography, lack of infrastructure, climate and a culture which rested on the use of arms defeated the British and the Russians. They were reduced to living in forts, which is what the US forces, NATO and other friends are forced to do now in Afghanistan and which also defined an aspect of the war in Vietnam.

The government in Kabul is chronically corrupt and would not survive the pull out of foreign forces. Yet one aspect of the hackneyed ‘mission statement’ is to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Afghanistan. The Kabul government doesn’t give a toss about that and neither does the US otherwise they would not be droning to death innocent women and children and, as in Vietnam, creating new recruits for the forces they are fighting.

The US is looking for an exit strategy which involves everything but talking to their loathed enemy. For years it was the same in Vietnam.

This is a war of the insurgent, which means they live amongst and draw sustenance from civilians both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is little the US can do about that, other than kill civilians. To avoid being killed many flee as refugees, which is a concept beyond the comprehension of government in Australia, even though they have eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan.

Denial was a feature of the war in Vietnam and so it is in Afghanistan.

America learnt little from the war in Vietnam. Operation Moshtarak in Helmand Province in February 2010, which entailed the ‘occupation’ of the town of Marjah, is a case in point. A ‘classic’ search and destroy, where the Taliban fade away only to return when US and NATO forces withdraw to their vending machines at the Bagram Air Base.

Published: Online Opinion

Authors: Bruce Haigh and Kellie Tranter

Link to article and comments: http://bit.ly/bOa2bj

With ongoing investigations into the tragic deaths of six Afghan civilians killed last year in a raid by Australian forces, alleged “warnings” by US General Stanley McChrystal that Australia’s restrictions on the deployment of its troops in Afghanistan is impairing the US-led war effort and the upcoming visit to Australia by President Barack Obama, perhaps now is the time for Australians to reflect and think about the legitimacy of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan at all.

For those of us who lived through the pain, dishonesty and frustration of the war in Vietnam, Afghanistan is shaping up as a passable re-creation.

The war in Vietnam consumed an earlier generation in a decade of protest, fear of conscription or service in the Army. There was wall-to-wall media coverage with anti-war songs, literature and movies. The mistakes were there for all to see, except the US Administration and the military leadership. As always Australian politicians, the military, significant sections of the media and the churches, particularly the Catholic Church, went along with the US establishment.

At the time, the US said the war in Vietnam was to contain the spread of communism and thwart Chinese and Russian ambitions in South-East Asia. Never mind that the two were deeply suspicious of each other, the US had them in bed together. For the US, communism was monolithic and was controlled from Moscow.

Nowadays the fight is against so called “enemies of freedom”.

Bush let his dogs off the lead and they tore into Afghanistan, crushed a very surprised and unprepared Taliban and hastily departed Afghanistan for Iraq with blood in their nostrils, but without the scalp of Osama bin Laden.

The Inter Service Intelligence Agency, ISI, recovered their balance and began training a new generation of Taliban fighters, which like the Mujahideen before them, had many diverse reasons for fighting but eventually were loosely united through the common enemy of a foreign occupying army, of which the US was the largest and driving force.

We will rue the day when the then Prime Minister John Howard committed our country to this “war of aggression”. In his address to the Australian Defence Association on October 25, 2001 Howard said, “The UN Security Council unequivocally condemned the attacks in New York and Washington, and affirmed the need for all nations to combat by all means the threats to international peace and security caused by such terrorist acts.”

The public protests that did occur were simply ignored. Where was the silent majority? Sitting silent in the audience.

In 2003, the then Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd delivered The Annual Castan Lecture at Monash University. In it he not only gave a damning assessment of the Howard Government’s decision to invade Iraq, but he also said:

… The relevant Security Council resolution on Afghanistan post September 11 explicitly drew on Article 51 in authorising military action by member states. Furthermore, we had direct alliance obligations at stake because the metropolitan territory of our American ally had been attacked. But when it came to Iraq, no linkage could be established between Saddam Hussein and September 11 …

Where was the silent majority? Still sitting silent in the audience.

In fact, Rudd didn’t look carefully enough at the legitimacy of the invasion of Afghanistan. In February this year a paper prepared for Members of Parliament in the House of Commons “The legal basis for the invasion of Afghanistan” confirms that:

The military campaign in Afghanistan was not specifically mandated by the UN, but was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter. … The initial invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was therefore not conducted with the authorisation of a specific UN Security Council Resolution. Instead, the United States and the United Kingdom said that military action against Afghanistan was undertaken under the provisions of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which recognises “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence” if an armed attack occurs, and requires states to report such actions immediately …

Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, said in a recent interview:

… Article 51 of the UN Charter that determines what is and is not self-defence does not apply here … They [United States] got a UN Resolution within 24 hours … but [it] did not authorise the use of force …

Her opinion is reinforced by the carefully worded House of Commons report.

The ongoing justification based on “self-defence” is over the top: neither our actions nor those of the US are even remotely proportional to the harm threatened by terrorists on Australian or American soil.

Where is the outcry about this conduct? Where is the outrage? Where were and are the media? The Australian public has been lied to and still the silent majority sits in complacent silence. Why are our members of parliament not calling for an immediate inquiry into the legality of the invasion of Afghanistan? Isn’t it about time we had a serious public debate about the need for parliamentary approval before governments send Australian troops to war? The war continues, the death toll of young Australians and innocent civilians continues to grow and we accept it.

Instead of focusing on real issues and root causes our politicians distract us with a shameful hysteria surrounding “boat people”, people who in many cases have been driven from their families, their homes and their land because of our very own actions or inaction.

The blanket of silence, the de facto censorship surrounding the facts and circumstances of “the war in Afghanistan” is obscene. Every Australian who chooses to remain ignorant or sits silent in the face of this orchestrated and unjustified and murderous invasion is complicit by his or her failure to speak or act.

Of course, it doesn’t help that media reporting is so shallow. Where have we heard in the “news” about the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan in Tokyo where George Bush was charged with crimes against Afghanistan? In March 2004 the ICTAT found George Bush guilty of attacking civilians with indiscriminate weapons and other arms during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and issued orders banning depleted uranium and other weapons.

Even though the findings of this “unofficial people’s tribunal” are not binding the information unearthed by its investigations is disturbing to say the least: blatant lies, concealment of information, and death and destruction writ large. The Tribunal’s determination warrants close examination, particularly in relation to its findings about the use of depleted uranium weapons, the use of Cluster Bombs and Daisy Cutters and the torture of prisoners. All conduct that is disturbingly reminiscent of the horrors that led to large scale global protests to end the war in Vietnam.

It was particularly interesting to note that Major Doug Rokke, Director of the Depleted Uranium (DU) project from 1994 to 1995, told the Tribunal that:

… military officers from the UK, Australia, Canada and Germany participated in the project to study the risk of DU weapons and I was directed by the Army to direct the team …we submitted recommendations which were completely ignored … the US army has not taken any measures to protect soldiers. Although we made a proposal that clean-up is essential, complete clean up is impossible. Therefore we proposed not to use DU weapons any longer. However our proposal was ignored by the upper level of the government and completely ignored by NATO, UK, Australia and others.

Is that true?

Late last year Senator Ludlam asked a Senate Standing Committee “Have any of our coalition partners used Depleted Uranium munitions to Afghanistan at the time or since their deployment in the country?

The response:

There is no specific prohibition in international law on the use of Depleted Uranium munitions. There is considerable international controversy over the alleged health effects of Depleted Uranium. Therefore, as with any weapon system the intended use of Depleted Uranium munitions must be assessed by the State proposing to use them in accordance with its obligations under the laws of armed conflict and other international law.

Use of Depleted Uranium in Afghanistan is at the discretion of other nations, after considering the implications under international law. It is understood that some foreign defence forces may use or reserve the right to use, Depleted Uranium ammunition in Afghanistan, however others do not, based on their own National policies and international agreements.

Coalition partners have not provided any information on their use of depleted uranium munitions.

I think we can take it that’s a “yes”.

Are the same governments that permit the use of depleted uranium going to accept responsibility for the long term health consequences exposed civilians and service personnel are likely to suffer? Not if the denials and “defences” that were trotted out against calls for compensation by victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam are any guide.

There are many other disturbing similarities. The war in Vietnam produced search and destroy, which saw civilians killed, while the Vietcong and North Vietnamese regular troops went underground or in other ways made themselves scarce only to re-emerge once US troops had moved on. The US troops were able to hold towns and villages for as long as they could be supplied, but they were unable to hold the countryside. The best they could do was patrol.

The democratic regime in South Vietnam was corrupt, so corrupt it was rotten. Young men did not want to fight for it. Torture of prisoners was common.

Afghanistan’s the same.

The US and its reluctant allies are locked into a war with no exit strategy. After 9-11 the US decided to go to war against global terrorism of the kind driven by radical and fundamental Islam. It is a rebirth of the mindset that fought radical and fundamental communism: America, the knight in white armour, freed the world from the evils of the Kaiser, the Third Reich and Japanese militarism, and with those not inconsiderable successes it took on world communism. The Soviet Empire collapsed, but Vietnam was a disaster and China lives on and prospers. Even so America has opened another front by taking up arms against international terrorism. Maybe it can win that war, but Afghanistan is not the place it’s likely to do it.

Afghanistan’s topography, lack of infrastructure, climate and tenacious people defeated the British and the Russians: they were reduced to living in forts, which is what the US forces, NATO and other friends are forced to do now in Afghanistan. That also was an aspect of the war in Vietnam.

The government in Kabul is chronically corrupt and would not survive the pull out of foreign forces. Yet one aspect of the hackneyed “mission statement” is to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Afghanistan. The Kabul government doesn’t give a toss about that and neither does the US, otherwise they wouldn’t be droning to death innocent women and children, and as in Vietnam, thereby creating new recruits for the forces they are fighting.

The US is looking for an exit strategy which involves everything but talking to their loathed enemy. For years it was the same in Vietnam.

This is a war of the insurgent, which means they live among and draw sustenance from civilians both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is little the US can do about that, other than kill civilians. Many civilians flee as refugees to avoid that, but that concept is beyond the comprehension of government in Australia even though they have eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan.

Denial was a feature of the war in Vietnam and it’s exactly the same in Afghanistan.

America learnt little from the war in Vietnam. Operation Moshtarak in Helmand Province in February 2010, which entailed the “occupation” of the town of Marjah, is a case in point. A “classic” search and destroy, where the Taliban fade away only to return when US and NATO forces withdraw to their vending machines at the Bagram military and air base.

In both Vietnam and Afghanistan the guiding principle is that military might just succeed, and that there is no alternative. If the government’s hands are clean and its actions legally and morally justified what does it stand to lose by holding an inquiry into the legitimacy of Australia’s participation in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and into the conduct of each of those “wars”?

Published: Australian Financial Review

The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, arrives on an official visit to Australia today. One of the topics to be discussed is people smuggling. Yudhoyono has already put his neck on the line for Kevin Rudd and the result of that intervention lies mouldering in the port of Merak in Indonesia.

The vessel has 246 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on board. It has been sitting in limbo for 150 days because the Rudd government refuses to accept responsibility for the people on board. There are 31 children, 27 women and 196 men living on a vessel designed to take 50 at most. There is only one toilet on board, if it can be called that. Nothing is hygienic on board that vessel.

Manju who is 37 weeks pregnant, her due date is 5.4.10, has contracted chicken pox.

Mrs. Rudd, Threse Rein, as a patron of UNICEF, was written to by Tamil organisations in Australia seeking intervention and support on behalf of this women and by implication the other women and children on board. She has not responded.

Rudd will be seeking undertakings and guarantees from Yudhoyono relating to the interception and warehousing of asylum seekers who make it to Indonesian shores as part of his obtund and indifferent attitude and policy toward asylum seekers and refugees. Before agreeing to help the recalcitrant Rudd, Yudhoyono should demand, as a precondition, that Rudd process on board and accept into Australia all those asylum seekers on the vessel in the port of Merak found to be refugees.

Published: Australian Financial Review

The need to control comes naturally to Kevin Rudd, the ability to lead does not.

By any yardstick Peter Garrett lost the plot in relation to the delivery of a multi-billion dollar tax payer funded project. Exposure saw Rudd prevaricate. He sought to spin the issue along the lines of a public servant before a Senate estimates committee. Eventually Rudd was tapped on the shoulder, he agreed to demote Garrett and give responsibility to Greg Combet to wind down the old roof insulation scheme and get a new one off the ground – by June! A big ask.

Capable, big hearted and loyal Combet agreed. He now has as much responsibility as Julia Gillard and yet he has been left out of cabinet, while Garrett with responsibility for whales, rivers and national parks has been left in.

Rudd’s push for the rapid roll out of the insulation program and his prevarication of election promises on whales make Garrett look incompetent and weak; his career in politics is all but over.

Rudd has sought to avoid difficult decisions. He must make Combet a minister or look incompetent as a leader. He looks like he is taking a great big lend of Combet and that is exactly what he is doing.
Combet should be the Minister for Defence and Energy Technology. It should be a senior ministry.
Rudd does not reward loyalty or competence, if he did all of his parliamentary secretaries would have ministries.

Rudd has kept Garrett in cabinet because he believes Garrett’s former job as a rock star will pull some votes from amongst his fan club. Rudd, as always, is trying to have it both ways, trying to control, in this case, nonsensical outcomes. Cabinet efficiency should not be held hostage to this lack of commonsense and gutlessness.