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CONVENTIONAL POLITICAL WISDOM August 30, 2004

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Hugh MacKay and Sol Lebovic were on the 7.30 Report representing the qualitative and quantitative strands of Australian thought and voting behavior. Hugh, in particular, was expounding the normal tedium, based on long experience I do not have, that the election will be decided as all elections always are on narrow self interest. A similar view is adopted by Louise Dodson in the SMH.

However, the issue of the need at the last resort, for example when the nation is committed to war, for truth and trust has not run seriously before. And perhaps it will run as the background program, the DOS program, crossing political boundaries. At least in my view the issue of truth in government is a transcendent political issue that certainly requires institutional and other measures, even if these were practical they would never be enough.

Significantly John Howard, in my judgment, has failed this test. He must go. And so should any other Prime Minister, regardless of party, who fails to honor the trust inherent in the office. In this judgment, I am supported by Andrew Wilkie:

“John Howard knows the game is now up. He’s called the election at a time when the latest poll puts the liberals well behind Labor in two party support because he’s so desperate to avoid further damaging parliamentary scrutiny of his long track record of dishonesty. Australians are about to participate in the most important federal election in our nation’s political history, Mr Wilkie said today.



By voting out John Howard, we can save our withering democracy, our values, our civil rights and our sovereignty as a nation from further erosion, Mr Wilkie said. By voting Howard into oblivion we’ll be able to start restoring truth, integrity and accountability to our political system. On John Howard’s watch it has become routine for our politicians to lie. Plus, we’ve seen a systematic erosion of civil liberties under the guise of anti-terrorism. We’ve seen more than enough evidence that our federal civil service, intelligence agencies and even our armed forces have been politicised by Howard to support his obsession with Iraq.”



Andrew Wilkie further comments

“Parliament will close on August 31st, meaning there will be no session of the House of Representatives before the election. This follows new allegations on the Children Overboard affair which were expected to be raised in parliament this week. Although the Senate will still be able to establish a Senate inquiry, Howard will not be facing direct questions on his duplicity.

And if that isn’t enough, Howard has let Australia down badly on national security, Mr Wilkie said. On his watch, the risk of terrorism has increased, as has the likelihood of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Plus he has virtually withdrawn Australia from the United Nations and managed to get many of our regional neighbours offside. Howard isn’t tough on national security, he’s incompetent.”



Notwithstanding these opinions, Howard is not yet finished and may yet be returned to government. And yet, regardless of how biased you think these comments are, Howard’s position is not looking strong going into the front end of the formal and official election campaign. On that basis the truth and trust issue has has already damaged him, if it has not yet sunk him. Curiously, perhaps paradoxically, his position now is somewhat like the refugees adrift in the ocean on an unseaworthy craft. Perhaps the Tampa may appear over the horizon and save him.

What will be the issue that will clench the marginal electorate swingers? We might expect both parties to mount highly targeted advertising campaigns directed at the marginal electors, who may return the complement by turning the remote down and leaving their decision to last moment.

With the truth and trust issue running in the background, and with the six week campaign, I suspect that conventional political wisdom could go haywire. We are, I believe, in unknown territory.


CONVENTIONAL POLITICAL WISDOM August 30, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Hugh MacKay and Sol Lebovic were on the 7.30 Report representing the qualitative and quantitative strands of Australian thought and voting behavior. Hugh, in particular, was expounding the normal tedium, based on long experience I do not have, that the election will be decided as all elections always are on narrow self interest. A similar view is adopted by Louise Dodson in the SMH.

However, the issue of the need at the last resort, for example when the nation is committed to war, for truth and trust has not run seriously before. And perhaps it will run as the background program, the DOS program, crossing political boundaries. At least in my view the issue of truth in government is a transcendent political issue that certainly requires institutional and other measures, even if these were practical they would never be enough.

Significantly John Howard, in my judgment, has failed this test. He must go. And so should any other Prime Minister, regardless of party, who fails to honor the trust inherent in the office. In this judgment, I am supported by Andrew Wilkie:

“John Howard knows the game is now up. He’s called the election at a time when the latest poll puts the liberals well behind Labor in two party support because he’s so desperate to avoid further damaging parliamentary scrutiny of his long track record of dishonesty. Australians are about to participate in the most important federal election in our nation’s political history, Mr Wilkie said today.

By voting out John Howard, we can save our withering democracy, our values, our civil rights and our sovereignty as a nation from further erosion, Mr Wilkie said. By voting Howard into oblivion we’ll be able to start restoring truth, integrity and accountability to our political system. On John Howard’s watch it has become routine for our politicians to lie. Plus, we’ve seen a systematic erosion of civil liberties under the guise of anti-terrorism. We’ve seen more than enough evidence that our federal civil service, intelligence agencies and even our armed forces have been politicised by Howard to support his obsession with Iraq.”

Andrew Wilkie further comments

“Parliament will close on August 31st, meaning there will be no session of the House of Representatives before the election. This follows new allegations on the Children Overboard affair which were expected to be raised in parliament this week. Although the Senate will still be able to establish a Senate inquiry, Howard will not be facing direct questions on his duplicity.

And if that isn’t enough, Howard has let Australia down badly on national security, Mr Wilkie said. On his watch, the risk of terrorism has increased, as has the likelihood of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Plus he has virtually withdrawn Australia from the United Nations and managed to get many of our regional neighbours offside. Howard isn’t tough on national security, he’s incompetent.”

Notwithstanding these opinions, Howard is not yet finished and may yet be returned to government. And yet, regardless of how biased you think these comments are, Howard’s position is not looking strong going into the front end of the formal and official election campaign. On that basis the truth and trust issue has has already damaged him, if it has not yet sunk him. Curiously, perhaps paradoxically, his position now is somewhat like the refugees adrift in the ocean on an unseaworthy craft. Perhaps the Tampa may appear over the horizon and save him.

What will be the issue that will clench the marginal electorate swingers? We might expect both parties to mount highly targeted advertising campaigns directed at the marginal electors, who may return the complement by turning the remote down and leaving their decision to last moment.

With the truth and trust issue running in the background, and with the six week campaign, I suspect that conventional political wisdom could go haywire. We are, I believe, in unknown territory.

PRIME MINISTERIAL AUDACITY August 29, 2004

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On the news this afternoon, immediately after the announcement of the Federal Election, John Howard and his advisers have it seems adopted the audacity principle. The federal election, John proclaimed, “will be about trust”. Then there is a list which it presumably thought that his government has delivered and will continue to deliver.

“This election, ladies and gentlemen, will be about trust,” Mr Howard told a press conference.Who do you trust to keep the economy strong and protect family living standards? Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust to lead the fight on Australia’s behalf against international terrorism?”

Others will be better qualified than I am to assess the accuracy of such claims. What he forgot to mention is the trust we must have in a Prime Minister and a Government to tell the unvarnished truth.

It has become unbearable to continue to be constantly subject to the spin. Take a case in point. The Ministry of Defence issued a statement proclaiming that David Hicks was receiving clean clothes and towels and so forth, while somehow omitting to report that he was confined in isolation in a small cell and subject to constant visual (and we might presume auditory) surveillance every hour of the day. It is true that they have not lied in what was said, but they have omitted to tell the full truth, which we made assume was made available to them.

The Prime Minister simply fails to understand that we must be able to trust the Prime Minister. He fails to understand that all of us, at least most of us, understand this principle very well. It is with us everyday at work and away from work. Next week, for instance, I will be put to sleep, perhaps to dream, while a surgeon and a team of people around him, removes my spleen. I would like to think that I was contributing to medical science – although this suggestion was not supported.

PRIME MINISTERIAL AUDACITY August 29, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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On the news this afternoon, immediately after the announcement of the Federal Election, John Howard and his advisers have it seems adopted the audacity principle. The federal election, John proclaimed, “will be about trust”. Then there is a list which it presumably thought that his government has delivered and will continue to deliver.

“This election, ladies and gentlemen, will be about trust,” Mr Howard told a press conference.Who do you trust to keep the economy strong and protect family living standards? Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust to lead the fight on Australia’s behalf against international terrorism?”

Others will be better qualified than I am to assess the accuracy of such claims. What he forgot to mention is the trust we must have in a Prime Minister and a Government to tell the unvarnished truth.

It has become unbearable to continue to be constantly subject to the spin. Take a case in point. The Ministry of Defence issued a statement proclaiming that David Hicks was receiving clean clothes and towels and so forth, while somehow omitting to report that he was confined in isolation in a small cell and subject to constant visual (and we might presume auditory) surveillance every hour of the day. It is true that they have not lied in what was said, but they have omitted to tell the full truth, which we made assume was made available to them.

The Prime Minister simply fails to understand that we must be able to trust the Prime Minister. He fails to understand that all of us, at least most of us, understand this principle very well. It is with us everyday at work and away from work. Next week, for instance, I will be put to sleep, perhaps to dream, while a surgeon and a team of people around him, removes my spleen. I would like to think that I was contributing to medical science – although this suggestion was not supported.

NAJAF AFTERMATH August 29, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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I am tying to get my head around what has taken place in Najaf. As in the old Wild West, as least during this time of turbulence, the writ of the rule of law does not appear to run very far, and worst still, the Iraqi nationalists opposing the American invaders and their puppet government, can be very brutal indeed as is reported by this article from the Guardian. An article in the NYT observed that:

“Moqtada Sadr has also lost ground on balance, and will lose more if Sistani is seen to be the successful peacemaker. Still he defied the Americans for weeks on end, and looks likely to live to tell the tale. Among his core constituency this will count as a win. “



John Guiggin has an analysis of the role of the Grand Ayotollah Sistani in setting up the peace and protecting the holy Shiite sites. Juan Cole, referred to by John Quiggin, on Friday evaluated the winners and losers from these events:

” I think the big losers from the Najaf episode (part deux) are the Americans. They have become, if it is possible, even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The US is perceived as culturally insensitive for its actions in the holy city of Najaf. The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, as they had hoped, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists. The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf. For Muqtada, it is a wash. He did not have Najaf until April, anyway, and can easily survive not having it. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened.”

John Guggin’s conclusion in his assessment sounds about right:

Moqtada Sadr has also lost ground on balance, and will lose more if Sistani is seen to be the successful peacemaker. Still he defied the Americans for weeks on end, and looks likely to live to tell the tale. Among his core constituency this will count as a win. It’s increasingly obvious that the Coalition should have held interim elections at the earliest opportunity using ration books for an electoral roll. Almost certainly, Sistani’s supporters would have won. If the elections planned for January 2005 go ahead, the same outcome will probably be achieved, with a delay of more than a year, and a loss of thousands of lives. A Sistani-dominated government would be Islamist, but not in the Khomeini theocratic mould. It wouldn’t be liberal in any sense, but it’s by far the best option that has any chance of coming to pass at this point. The alternatives include an authoritarian regimes headed by Allawi, Sadr or someone similar, or a descent into outright chaos.”



The real question is how much closer are the people of Iraq closer to peace, good government, and hope for the future. The answer, I think, not much. Democracy does not look as if it is about to be put in place anytime soon. They will have to resume control over their national natural resources. I can see no other solution other than the replacement of the American occupation with a United Nations force. In this context it is worth concidering further report from the NYT. The sooner this happens the better. If the report from the Guardian is correct, then it is disturbing to say the least, that Muqtada may ultimately replace Saddam. We will have to hope that an alternative, perhaps Sistani, will prevail.

NAJAF AFTERMATH August 29, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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I am tying to get my head around what has taken place in Najaf. As in the old Wild West, as least during this time of turbulence, the writ of the rule of law does not appear to run very far, and worst still, the Iraqi nationalists opposing the American invaders and their puppet government, can be very brutal indeed as is reported by this article from the Guardian. An article in the NYT observed that:

“Moqtada Sadr has also lost ground on balance, and will lose more if Sistani is seen to be the successful peacemaker. Still he defied the Americans for weeks on end, and looks likely to live to tell the tale. Among his core constituency this will count as a win. “


John Guiggin has an analysis of the role of the Grand Ayotollah Sistani in setting up the peace and protecting the holy Shiite sites. Juan Cole, referred to by John Quiggin, on Friday evaluated the winners and losers from these events:

” I think the big losers from the Najaf episode (part deux) are the Americans. They have become, if it is possible, even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The US is perceived as culturally insensitive for its actions in the holy city of Najaf. The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, as they had hoped, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists. The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf. For Muqtada, it is a wash. He did not have Najaf until April, anyway, and can easily survive not having it. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened.”

John Guiggin’s conclusion in his assessment sounds about right:

Moqtada Sadr has also lost ground on balance, and will lose more if Sistani is seen to be the successful peacemaker. Still he defied the Americans for weeks on end, and looks likely to live to tell the tale. Among his core constituency this will count as a win. It’s increasingly obvious that the Coalition should have held interim elections at the earliest opportunity using ration books for an electoral roll. Almost certainly, Sistani’s supporters would have won. If the elections planned for January 2005 go ahead, the same outcome will probably be achieved, with a delay of more than a year, and a loss of thousands of lives. A Sistani-dominated government would be Islamist, but not in the Khomeini theocratic mould. It wouldn’t be liberal in any sense, but it’s by far the best option that has any chance of coming to pass at this point. The alternatives include an authoritarian regimes headed by Allawi, Sadr or someone similar, or a descent into outright chaos.”


The real question is how much closer are the people of Iraq closer to peace, good government, and hope for the future. The answer, I think, not much. Democracy does not look as if it is about to be put in place anytime soon. They will have to resume control over their national natural resources. I can see no other solution other than the replacement of the American occupation with a United Nations force. In this context it is worth concidering further report from the NYT. The sooner this happens the better. If the report from the Guardian is correct, then it is disturbing to say the least, that Muqtada may ultimately replace Saddam. We will have to hope that an alternative, perhaps Sistani, will prevail.

THE DAVID HICKS STORY CONTINUES August 28, 2004

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Some letter writers, perhaps reflecting the attitude of many more people, and even the Government, have expressed the view to the effect that David Hicks is a terrorist, and therefore he deserves the treatment that is he getting from the Americans, including if not torture, at least deprivation. It has not been shown that he is a terrorist, or that he has undergone training as a terrorist. According to the information I obtained he was captured fighting for the Taliban government of Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance, allies of the Americans, who in turn handed him over to the Americans, who have incarcerated him as an “unlawful enemy combatant” for three years at Guantanamo Bay. According to this report from Iraq the standards in relations to human rights and competence of the US Army are not high.

It seems that the Military Commission set up by presidential executive order and organized by the US Defence Department is not competent to make a judgment in relation to the Geneva Conventions and so compromised in its composition as to make a fair and impartial judgment possible, notwithstanding other matters that relate, for example, to the admission of evidence. It is worth repeating that Australia is the only Western government to accept the military commission trial procedures. I am not sufficiently well-advised in these matters, but it seems that Attorneys-General do not provide independent legal advice to governments in Australia, but it seems they do, or at least they do sometimes in the UK.

While we do not accept that all people accused of murder, for example in NSW, will not be found guilty, although we retain the presumption of innocence, while at the same time providing them with full provisions of the legal process. Hicks has not had any of this. He has been presumed to be guilty, exactly on what evidence has not been made publicly available, not least by the Australian government, who have conceded that he could not be guilty of breaking any Australian law at the time of the event. This judgment is somewhat surprising given the charges the Americans have made against him , which are supposedly spelled out in this article.

Meanwhile, the lawyers for the other Australian, Habib, have had to abandon their trip to Cuba because the American military authorities have not charged their client with anything. In this case, it seems, someone has judged that Habib should be incarcerated by not charged with any crime.

.

PROMISE: A BREAKING STORY August 28, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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Come Tuesday at the latest, I should be in a position to relate a story about the behavior of one of the prominent telcos in relation to their treatment of casual labor. This will have relevance to all who are enthusiastic, or alternatively concerned, about the new labor laws which degrade labor terms and conditions. so believed in and promoted by the serial liar who, it is assumed, will soon be presenting himself for re-election, at some date in the future.

OK, I know few people visit here, and do not stay long, but the casualization of the labor force is affecting an increasing number of people, who it should be remembered also are voters.

THE DAVID HICKS STORY CONTINUES August 28, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Some letter writers, perhaps reflecting the attitude of many more people, and even the Government, have expressed the view to the effect that David Hicks is a terrorist, and therefore he deserves the treatment that is he getting from the Americans, including if not torture, at least deprivation. It has not been shown that he is a terrorist, or that he has undergone training as a terrorist. According to the information I obtained he was captured fighting for the Taliban government of Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance, allies of the Americans, who in turn handed him over to the Americans, who have incarcerated him as an “unlawful enemy combatant” for three years at Guantanamo Bay. According to this report from Iraq the standards in relations to human rights and competence of the US Army are not high.

It seems that the Military Commission set up by presidential executive order and organized by the US Defence Department is not competent to make a judgment in relation to the Geneva Conventions and so compromised in its composition as to make a fair and impartial judgment possible, notwithstanding other matters that relate, for example, to the admission of evidence. It is worth repeating that Australia is the only Western government to accept the military commission trial procedures. I am not sufficiently well-advised in these matters, but it seems that Attorneys-General do not provide independent legal advice to governments in Australia, but it seems they do, or at least they do sometimes in the UK.

While we do not accept that all people accused of murder, for example in NSW, will not be found guilty, although we retain the presumption of innocence, while at the same time providing them with full provisions of the legal process. Hicks has not had any of this. He has been presumed to be guilty, exactly on what evidence has not been made publicly available, not least by the Australian government, who have conceded that he could not be guilty of breaking any Australian law at the time of the event. This judgment is somewhat surprising given the charges the Americans have made against him , which are supposedly spelled out in this article.

Meanwhile, the lawyers for the other Australian, Habib, have had to abandon their trip to Cuba because the American military authorities have not charged their client with anything. In this case, it seems, someone has judged that Habib should be incarcerated by not charged with any crime.
.

PROMISE: A BREAKING STORY August 28, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Come Tuesday at the latest, I should be in a position to relate a story about the behavior of one of the prominent telcos in relation to their treatment of casual labor. This will have relevance to all who are enthusiastic, or alternatively concerned, about the new labor laws which degrade labor terms and conditions. so believed in and promoted by the serial liar who, it is assumed, will soon be presenting himself for re-election, at some date in the future.

OK, I know few people visit here, and do not stay long, but the casualization of the labor force is affecting an increasing number of people, who it should be remembered also are voters.

DIRECT RESPONSE August 27, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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I am keeping the stats on myself. I am my own most often frequenter. Yet, as I have mentioned before, I try not to let the opportunity to interest my friends and acquaintances in at least the existence of this blog. I took this opportunity again today, among other things pointing out they could leave a message. But the real surprise, and satisfaction came today when somebody laughed in an appropriate way at what I had written.

DIRECT RESPONSE August 27, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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I am keeping the stats on myself. I am my own most often frequenter. Yet, as I have mentioned before, I try not to let the opportunity to interest my friends and acquaintances in at least the existence of this blog. I took this opportunity again today, among other things pointing out they could leave a message. But the real surprise, and satisfaction came today when somebody laughed in an appropriate way at what I had written.

A VERY COY PRIME MINISTER August 26, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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John Howard is showing increased sensitivity over the accusations of lying. I can only conclude that he has been reading my blog, although I have to say at this point I have no corroborating evidence from the ducks. I am wondering, in a tendentious spirit, whether I have the answer to the question I raised some days ago.

The following is taken from the ABC News (via email) this evening:

“The Prime Minister has revealed internal Liberal Party polling shows the Government is in a “very strong position”. John Howard has not ruled out calling the election immediately after the Olympics end this weekend. He has refused to say whether Parliament will sit next week. Mr Howard is continuing to fight off questions relating to his credibility and has defended his move to issue a detailed rebuttal of Labor’s list of 27 alleged lies during his time as Prime Minister. He says Labor’s accusations are false and he has a right to respond.”I’m not going to have my reputation, which I have fought very hard to protect and defend and build over 30 years in public life, I’m not going to have my reputation dented by scurrilous accusations and false accusations that I’ve told lies,” he said.”



If I were advising Howard, I would suggest that he not show any sensitivity about the lies thing – the public record is too damming. Still he has nothing to worry about has he, given the “very strong position” shown by the internal polling. Now might be a good time to set the election date. “Where is your ticker John?”



UPDATE:

Poor John Howard. Dammed if he does; dammed if he does not. Personally, in the light of the stong internal Liberal Party polling results, I am advising him to go now, but in doing so, the ALP will accuse him of ducking parliamentary scrutiny, as reported by the ABC. More, election speculation and comment can be had at Back Pages.

A VERY COY PRIME MINISTER August 25, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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John Howard is showing increased sensitivity over the accusations of lying. I can only conclude that he has been reading my blog, although I have to say at this point I have no corroborating evidence from the ducks. I am wondering, in a tendentious spirit, whether I have the answer to the question I raised some days ago.

The following is taken from the ABC News (via email) this evening:

“The Prime Minister has revealed internal Liberal Party polling shows the Government is in a “very strong position”. John Howard has not ruled out calling the election immediately after the Olympics end this weekend. He has refused to say whether Parliament will sit next week. Mr Howard is continuing to fight off questions relating to his credibility and has defended his move to issue a detailed rebuttal of Labor’s list of 27 alleged lies during his time as Prime Minister. He says Labor’s accusations are false and he has a right to respond.”I’m not going to have my reputation, which I have fought very hard to protect and defend and build over 30 years in public life, I’m not going to have my reputation dented by scurrilous accusations and false accusations that I’ve told lies,” he said.”


If I were advising Howard, I would suggest that he not show any sensitivity about the lies thing – the public record is too damming. Still he has nothing to worry about has he, given the “very strong position” shown by the internal polling. Now might be a good time to set the election date. “Where is your ticker John?”

UPDATE:
Poor John Howard. Dammed if he does; dammed if he does not. Personally, in the light of the stong internal Liberal Party polling results, I am advising him to go now, but in doing so, the ALP will accuse him of ducking parliamentary scrutiny, as reported by the ABC. More, election speculation and comment can be had at Back Pages.

THE TRIAL OF DAVID HICKS August 25, 2004

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Perhaps, I have to accept that David Hick’s lawyer knows more than I do, especially in regard to law, which should surprise no one. According to the SMH report :

“Over 50 members of the international media, from Al-Jazeera to The New York Times, along with lawyers from around the world, will join David Hicks’s father, Terry, and stepmother, Bev, to observe the most important test of America’s commitment to the international rule of law in the past 50 years.The first hearings of the military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try unlawful enemy combatants captured in the “war on terror” are set to unfold and with it a new chapter in legal history. Australia, the only Western government to endorse the commissions, will be sending two observers from its embassy in Washington.”



Both the British Attorney-General and Hick’s US Military lawyer has said that the trial will not be fair. The Law Council of Australia is sending an independent witness to observe the trial. Background Briefing did a good job in discussing the rationale for Military Tribunals, and there related problems here. The Law Institute does not believe that the process and procedures are adequate or appropriate. The incarceration of Hicks appears to be in violation of the principle of Habeas Corpus.

Just a quick summary of some of the facts in relations to David Hicks, gives pause about the position of the Australian Government. Hicks was captured by the Northern Allianceand handed over to the Americans. The position of the Australian government is that while Hicks has not broken any Australian law, the United States is “the detaining power”, and that, if found quilty will guilty will serve his sentence in Australia.

The basis of the imprisionment of Hicks is further discussed here by former Attorney-General Daryl Williams. Aside from the obvious concerns about rules of evidence and lack of appeal, there are obviously questions about the legitimacy of the trail itself. For example, it would be interesting if the trial is justified in terms of international law. However, the Attorney-General in a recent speech set out the policitized view of the Australian Government here .

As previously mentioned, according to the Attroney-General, Hicks and Habib are facing trial in Cuba because they breached US law in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they did not breach Australian law. Charges were laid by the US Secretary of Defence.

I assume that the Australian Government takes independent legal advice in relation to all the relevant matters, and I have been trying to find where has been published. They do claim to have obtained concessions from the Americans including serving any sentence if convicted in Australia.

UPDATE: The SMH had an editorial and further report today (now yesterday)

UPDATE # 2 : The SMH, showing good judgement, continues to cover the story here, here and here today.

So what can I conclude, although much more must be said (but perhaps not by me) that:

1. I am not sure about the extra-territoriality of US laws – surely the Australian Government should be promoting international law and legal process. Hicks, according to the sources here, was originally captured by the forces of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan before being detained by the Americans.

2. I find it contradictory to say that Hicks has not broken any Australian law, but is regarded by the government as potential danger to the Australian public, and yet that same government provides the assurance that the legal process will be fair. If it were true now, it could not have always have been so, since the Prime Minister among others claimed that requested improvements to process have been accepted.

3. It is that American prisioners were not seen to Guantanamo Bay and subjected to the Military Commission process.

4. Even accepting, the proposition that trial of suspected terrorists requires different measures than ordinary criminals, there must be an inherent problem in an apparent judicial process, that holds people incommunicado for three years, and then charges with crimes that lack specificity.

5. It is not without significance that the British A-G repudiated the trial process. The Australian Government, as far as I am aware, has never sought independent legal advice. This issue reminds me of the politicizing of the refugess situation, so that refugees could not claim political rights.

6. Furthermore, I believe, we see evidence again of the Howard Governments subservience to thedirection of the Bush Administration.

7. I am reminded of John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. . .”

THE TRIAL OF DAVID HICKS August 24, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Perhaps, I have to accept that David Hick’s lawyer knows more than I do, especially in regard to law, which should surprise no one. According to the SMH report :

“Over 50 members of the international media, from Al-Jazeera to The New York Times, along with lawyers from around the world, will join David Hicks’s father, Terry, and stepmother, Bev, to observe the most important test of America’s commitment to the international rule of law in the past 50 years.The first hearings of the military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try unlawful enemy combatants captured in the “war on terror” are set to unfold and with it a new chapter in legal history. Australia, the only Western government to endorse the commissions, will be sending two observers from its embassy in Washington.”


Both the British Attorney-General and Hick’s US Military lawyer has said that the trial will not be fair. The Law Council of Australia is sending an independent witness to observe the trial. Background Briefing did a good job in discussing the rationale for Military Tribunals, and there related problems here. The Law Institute does not believe that the process and procedures are adequate or appropriate. The incarceration of Hicks appears to be in violation of the principle of Habeas Corpus.

Just a quick summary of some of the facts in relations to David Hicks, gives pause about the position of the Australian Government. Hicks was captured by the Northern Allianceand handed over to the Americans. The position of the Australian government is that while Hicks has not broken any Australian law, the United States is “the detaining power”, and that, if found quilty will guilty will serve his sentence in Australia.

The basis of the imprisionment of Hicks is further discussed here by former Attorney-General Daryl Williams. Aside from the obvious concerns about rules of evidence and lack of appeal, there are obviously questions about the legitimacy of the trail itself. For example, it would be interesting if the trial is justified in terms of international law. However, the Attorney-General in a recent speech set out the policitized view of the Australian Government here .

As previously mentioned, according to the Attroney-General, Hicks and Habib are facing trial in Cuba because they breached US law in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they did not breach Australian law. Charges were laid by the US Secretary of Defence.

I assume that the Australian Government takes independent legal advice in relation to all the relevant matters, and I have been trying to find where has been published. They do claim to have obtained concessions from the Americans including serving any sentence if convicted in Australia.

UPDATE: The SMH had an editorial and further report today (now yesterday)
UPDATE # 2 : The SMH, showing good judgement, continues to cover the story here, here and here today.

So what can I conclude, although much more must be said (but perhaps not by me) that:
1. I am not sure about the extra-territoriality of US laws – surely the Australian Government should be promoting international law and legal process. Hicks, according to the sources here, was originally captured by the forces of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan before being detained by the Americans.
2. I find it contradictory to say that Hicks has not broken any Australian law, but is regarded by the government as potential danger to the Australian public, and yet that same government provides the assurance that the legal process will be fair. If it were true now, it could not have always have been so, since the Prime Minister among others claimed that requested improvements to process have been accepted.
3. It is that American prisioners were not seen to Guantanamo Bay and subjected to the Military Commission process.
4. Even accepting, the proposition that trial of suspected terrorists requires different measures than ordinary criminals, there must be an inherent problem in an apparent judicial process, that holds people incommunicado for three years, and then charges with crimes that lack specificity.
5. It is not without significance that the British A-G repudiated the trial process. The Australian Government, as far as I am aware, has never sought independent legal advice. This issue reminds me of the politicizing of the refugess situation, so that refugees could not claim political rights.
6. Furthermore, I believe, we see evidence again of the Howard Governments subservience to thedirection of the Bush Administration.
7. I am reminded of John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. . .”

PRIME MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY August 23, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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I do not know whether John Howard has lied more than other prime ministers. The point is that it is now misleading the public has become apparently demonstrable that he and future holders of that public office can get away with it if they are of a mind to. Perhaps we might expect more accountability, even responsibility, from our political leaders.

The number of times John Howard has misled the public is overwhelming, if the ALP is to be believed. However, I think this is the wrong approach. It is better to concentrate on fewer cases, in which the evidence is clear, and the decision is important. Similarly, I think it is a wrong approach to become a Howard-hater as Miranda Devine suggests in her somewhat tendentious observations. A Prime Minister should have a sense of personality responsibility, especially one who makes such a principle so compelling for those who are unemployed.

And yet the question is why do not we apparently have effective institutional mechanisms. One reason is the party control of the House of Representatives, and the interest of the Opposition, as the alternative government, in the status quo. Henry Evans, Clerk of the Senate, sees the solution in the non-governmental party dominated Senate. However, the Senate enquiries into the Children Overboard Affair was limited by the Governments action to exclude ministerial advisers, and the refusal of the Opposition to invoke subpoenas. Henry Evans seems to be agreeing with me, that we should consider, a change to the electoral system for the House of Representatives.

We should keep in mind that even improvements are not perfect. Our reform needs to go deeper. But it is hard to see how the electorate, through referendum or election, will act to remedy this situation. It always comes down to individuals.Robert Mann considers:

“On the balance of probabilities it is likely that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the people on November 8, 2001. Even more importantly, from the constitutional point of view, it is likely that he deliberately misled the Parliament on a dozen occasions in February 2002. There is almost no Australian constitutional convention which goes deeper than the one which says that when a minister deliberately misleads the parliament he or she should resign. Indeed it is genuinely difficult to see how the Westminster system of responsible government could survive in the absence of a convention of such a kind.”



We cannot blame John Howard for everything, and in this case he should not let what is happening to Hicks and his family occur. We should have a constitutional charter of social, political and legal rights. But on reflection, I cannot agree with David Hicks lawyer, as least to the extent that he seems to blame Howard entirely:

“I can’t believe that I’m taking an Australian family over to the trial of their son in an American court to a standard of justice that is not acceptable to an American citizen, is not acceptable for a British citizen, but our Prime Minister believes it is acceptable for an Australian citizen.”



Obviously, the prime minister, whoever that may be, will always have more direct responsibility for truth in government, and for that matter protecting the rights of individual Australians than I do as an individual citizen. It remains to be seen how this issue plays out in voting, but I think that will be difficult to determine. So while I conclude it damages Howard, in a way I cannot remember ever before, it does not throw him out of the contest, although perhaps it should.

Post Script: I had an attack of conscience and junked my previous post. So it joins Aaronson’s and Rutherford’s photo in the memory hole – I hope.

Post Script # 2: I am going to have to do better with my original editing.

PRIME MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY August 23, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
add a comment

I do not know whether John Howard has lied more than other prime ministers. The point is that it is now misleading the public has become apparently demonstrable that he and future holders of that public office can get away with it if they are of a mind to. Perhaps we might expect more accountability, even responsibility, from our political leaders.

The number of times John Howard has misled the public is overwhelming, if the ALP is to be believed. However, I think this is the wrong approach. It is better to concentrate on fewer cases, in which the evidence is clear, and the decision is important. Similarly, I think it is a wrong approach to become a Howard-hater as Miranda Devine suggests in her somewhat tendentious observations. A Prime Minister should have a sense of personality responsibility, especially one who makes such a principle so compelling for those who are unemployed.

And yet the question is why do not we apparently have effective institutional mechanisms. One reason is the party control of the House of Representatives, and the interest of the Opposition, as the alternative government, in the status quo. Henry Evans, Clerk of the Senate, sees the solution in the non-governmental party dominated Senate. However, the Senate enquiries into the Children Overboard Affair was limited by the Governments action to exclude ministerial advisers, and the refusal of the Opposition to invoke subpoenas. Henry Evans seems to be agreeing with me, that we should consider, a change to the electoral system for the House of Representatives.

We should keep in mind that even improvements are not perfect. Our reform needs to go deeper. But it is hard to see how the electorate, through referendum or election, will act to remedy this situation. It always comes down to individuals.Robert Mann considers:

“On the balance of probabilities it is likely that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the people on November 8, 2001. Even more importantly, from the constitutional point of view, it is likely that he deliberately misled the Parliament on a dozen occasions in February 2002. There is almost no Australian constitutional convention which goes deeper than the one which says that when a minister deliberately misleads the parliament he or she should resign. Indeed it is genuinely difficult to see how the Westminster system of responsible government could survive in the absence of a convention of such a kind.”


We cannot blame John Howard for everything, and in this case he should not let what is happening to Hicks and his family occur. We should have a constitutional charter of social, political and legal rights. But on reflection, I cannot agree with David Hicks lawyer, as least to the extent that he seems to blame Howard entirely:

“I can’t believe that I’m taking an Australian family over to the trial of their son in an American court to a standard of justice that is not acceptable to an American citizen, is not acceptable for a British citizen, but our Prime Minister believes it is acceptable for an Australian citizen.”


Obviously, the prime minister, whoever that may be, will always have more direct responsibility for truth in government, and for that matter protecting the rights of individual Australians than I do as an individual citizen. It remains to be seen how this issue plays out in voting, but I think that will be difficult to determine. So while I conclude it damages Howard, in a way I cannot remember ever before, it does not throw him out of the contest, although perhaps it should.

Post Script: I had an attack of conscience and junked my previous post. So it joins Aaronson’s and Rutherford’s photo in the memory hole – I hope.

Post Script # 2: I am going to have to do better with my original editing.

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING August 22, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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I should warn you that your visits to this site are noted by Site Meter, located at the foot of the comments section page, which you can open. Allowing for the fact, that I probably spend visit most often and spend most time at the Duckpond, I am interested by your interest.

As I have mentioned previously I do not expect that many visitors. I would be happy if it were just the people that I knew, but the internet is not that kind of place. Always feel welcome, if you are so inclined to make a comment, but more importantly read the other blogs. And as I have also said before go troppo to check these links out.

I have spent most of the day doing other things. For example, reading Peter Singer’s, THE PRESIDENT OF GOOD AND EVIL – The Ethics of George W Bush, Text Publishing Company, Melbourne (2004). I also went up and checked out the real “duckpond”, or more exactly the dam up the back.

For now, I am testing out the Site Meter to see how it works. Please let me know if you have relevant experience.

If you have followed the comings and goings of the ducks around this pond, you might have expected this title to come around. Orwell has be right about the the pervasiveness of surveillance. He may have been wrong about the telescreens – or at least I do not think my television is watching my every move – but he was right in general about the technology.

Furthermore, it is interesting to reflect, that torture is back as a major tool of government – perhaps it never went away. It would still seem more expedient to use chemistry, as Huxley suggested.

UPDATE : Visitors are few, and fewer not including myself

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING August 22, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
add a comment

I should warn you that your visits to this site are noted by Site Meter, located at the foot of the comments section page, which you can open. Allowing for the fact, that I probably spend visit most often and spend most time at the Duckpond, I am interested by your interest.

As I have mentioned previously I do not expect that many visitors. I would be happy if it were just the people that I knew, but the internet is not that kind of place. Always feel welcome, if you are so inclined to make a comment, but more importantly read the other blogs. And as I have also said before go troppo to check these links out.

I have spent most of the day doing other things. For example, reading Peter Singer’s, THE PRESIDENT OF GOOD AND EVIL – The Ethics of George W Bush, Text Publishing Company, Melbourne (2004). I also went up and checked out the real “duckpond”, or more exactly the dam up the back.

For now, I am testing out the Site Meter to see how it works. Please let me know if you have relevant experience.

If you have followed the comings and goings of the ducks around this pond, you might have expected this title to come around. Orwell has be right about the the pervasiveness of surveillance. He may have been wrong about the telescreens – or at least I do not think my television is watching my every move – but he was right in general about the technology.

Furthermore, it is interesting to reflect, that torture is back as a major tool of government – perhaps it never went away. It would still seem more expedient to use chemistry, as Huxley suggested.

UPDATE : Visitors are few, and fewer not including myself

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