A postcard from… Australia

From reading The Australian during an antipodean holiday over the last three weeks, a few national Australian issues stand out:

The state of the Australian government

There are great paralells with the UK here in terms of the actual form of the government. Both countries had elections in 2010 where no party had an overall majority. Despite her many faults, Julia Gillard has been remarkably successful in holding together her government, some might saying “clinging on by her fingernails”, relying on a handful of independent MPs and one Green. During my stay, there was an example of her Houdini-like political escapism skills. The Australian dragged up some accusations of impropriety in her past career as a lawyer. The way she, eventually, took these accusations head on, in an extended press conference (despite the arguably disingenuous nature of at least one of her tactics) was a Masterclass in political escapism.

The Pacific Solution, version 2.0

Grimly holding onto power has involved U-turns, notably on the carbon tax, but also on immigration. The decision, following the advice of an expert panel, to use the islands of Nauru and Manus as centres for processing asylum seekers is very concerning. It goes back to the John Howard dog whistle days. Indeed, Labor have seen a poll bounce since announcing the new policy. The Australian has had a couple of interesting profiles on Nauru. The island has already been exploited for phosphate mining. One can only hope this latest use will lead to some restoration of the environment of the island.

One key question is: Will the policy work? In terms of improving Labor’s poll rating, the answer seems to be “yes”. In terms of stopping the string of tragedies amongst the boat refugees, the jury is still out. The tragedies are continuing.

The Chairman of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catherine Branson QC has attacked the new policy:

Australia should treat all asylum seekers in the same way, regardless of how they arrive in Australia. Treating people who arrive by boat differently from those who arrive by plane by sending them to a third country undermines Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Revelations concerning the 1975 constitutional crisis

The Australian reports:

REVELATIONS in the new biography of Gough Whitlam, along with Sir Anthony Mason’s breaking of his 37-year silence, offer new insights into Whitlam’s 1975 dismissal and provide further evidence of the abuse of power and process in the nation’s most revered institutions.

The disclosures in Jenny Hocking’s biography based on Sir John Kerr’s archival notes, and Sir Anthony’s clarifying article in the Fairfax papers on Monday, reveal the subversion of the office of governor-general and the extent to which the High Court was compromised. This week’s disclosures are remarkable. Many will find them “shocking”, to quote Hocking from yesterday’s launch.

She uncovered Kerr’s archival record of his talks and meetings with Mason during the 1975 crisis and, while there are substantial differences between Kerr’s record and Mason’s version, there is much common ground.

It is now apparent that Kerr’s secret meetings and private discussions during the crisis as he planned Whitlam’s dismissal were more extensive than previously known.

In an opinion piece in The Weekend Australian, Troy Bramston hit the nail on the head:

…Notwithstanding the Whitlam government’s many achievements to match its many mistakes and scandals, it did enjoy a mandate from the people that was fatally undermined by secrecy, collusion and deceit, which stretched from the executive to the legislature and the judiciary.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • I didn’t think a Liberal Democrat website would be plugging the Murdoch press or using it as the main source of news for a country. If someone had come here and done that they wouldn’t have heard of the Lib Dems until the Sun’s creative smears in the 2010 election.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 5th Sep '12 - 4:29pm

    Have you actually read The Australian? It seems, to me, to be good, attractive, thoughtful broadsheet newspaper and I can’t see why on earth there is a comparison with The Sun except that it is owned by the same multi-national firm.

    Are you saying that any of the stories I have quoted – on the Julia Gillard law issue, the Nauru situation or the 1975 constituional crisis – were covered in a biased way through the stories I have linked to? Are you saying that there are some major stories in Australia right now which have not been covered by The Australian and therefore did not come to my attention? And are you saying that if I had quoted stories from the Sydney Morning Herald you would have been happy?

    70% of the newspapers read in Australia are produced by News Limited. It would seem to be a bit bizarre for me to boycott 70% of the market on a holiday because of the actions of a “newspaper” in the same stable 10,000 miles away.

    Is Fairfax, the main alternative, any better or worse?

    If it helps, I was also watching ABC television for my news a lot.

    By the way, this is not a “Liberal Democrat website”. It’s an independent website by and for Lib Dems, run by a collective of Liberal Democrat members, activists and bloggers. There is a distinct difference. We are not a party website. Hence, we don’t feel obligated to buy certain newspapers when we are on holiday….

    thanks for your stimulating comment and best wishes, Paul

  • .. a postcard? I visited a postcard factory once, it was boring… nothing to write home about..

  • You could’ve just said what’s going on in the country and linked to the stories. You don’t always have to use the same source when you have the internet. The first thing you mentioned was the newspaper, rather than events in Australia, and then you refer to it five times in the same article. It’s great to know you get news from elsewhere, I’d never have guessed. There is a difference between using a source and giving free advertising, your article is closer to the latter.

    Oh, and being part of ‘the same multi-national firm’ wouldn’t matter if they were selling chocolate bars, but as News Corp’s business is selling news, and has an owner who likes to influence politics, it is worth mentioning.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 8th Sep '12 - 5:15pm

    It was a holiday and I enjoyed reading The Australian, so take it or leave it. This was my personal postcard, not some journalistic enterprise. I have quoted from and mentioned the Guardian scores of times more than I have quoted from and mentioned the Australian, or any other Murdoch paper for that matter. Since starting blogging in 2006 I have linked to and quoted from the Guardian about a thousand times, roughly. It is my automatic source of choice. In that time I have linked five times from the Australian and about ten times from The Times or The Sun. So, you should be taking me to task for advertising the Guardian, not the Murdoch papers.

    You’re making me feel rakishly broad-minded. Blimey! -Panned for advertising a Murdoch paper! What an old devil I am! I will look forward to the Christmas card from “The Digger”! 😉

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