Attila the Pun
Sunday, January 09, 2005
George Megalogenis is having a crack at a few things today, though of course they come back to the general evilness of Howard.
The first question was on Iraq. What did Howard think of a Newspoll showing 58 per cent of voters now believe the war was "not worth going to"?
Not much, as it turned out. Howard was more interested in the separate finding that even more voters were opposed to a hasty withdrawal from Iraq: 45 per cent wanted our troops to remain "as long as necessary", while another 18 per cent wanted them back home in the "second half of 2005".
"The immediate message coming out of that poll is that the Australian people want us to stay and finish the job, whatever reservations they may have had," he said.
A perfectly reasonable response. People are being asked, knowing what they know now, was Iraq "worth going to". 58% think it wasnt. However, that doesn't mean they think we should immediately bail out. What they understand, and what Howard-haters like George don't or won't, is that being wrong (i.e. about WMD) is not the same thing as lying.
Prior to the war, if people knew there were no WMD, then you may have got a similar response. As an aside, I think they would have been wrong, Saddam could and should have been overthrown purely on humanitarian grounds, but that by the by.
The second question was on tax cuts. What did Howard have to say about "the group of Coalition MPs [campaigning for] a reduction in the top marginal tax rate"?
Again, he played a dead bat: "I think everybody is in favour of lower taxation. I have never met a person yet who is not. It's human nature. But you have got to pay for certain things. It's a question of striking a right balance and we will always do that."
A meaningless answer, but I don't imagine the reporter expected anything else, particularly at a press conference held regarding the tsunami disaster.
Obviously, Howard understood that this was neither the moment for candour on Iraq or for a signal on tax cuts. Yet it doesn't take much cynicism to imagine the headlines in a month or two. The clean-up from the tsunami continues, Iraq remains a mess and the Government has begun sifting through the options for the coming May budget. To paraphrase the Prime Minister, it would be human nature for tax cuts to attract a larger slice of the public's imagination then because greed tends to outlast grief.
I love the assumptions here - 1) a Government would only provide tax cuts as a cynical diversionary tactic, and that people wanting tax cuts in a few months time would mean that their greed has outlasted their grief over the tsunami. What twaddle. Who says that you cannot mourn the victims, yet still have an opinion on taxation policy?
Further, how can you characterise a desire for tax cuts as "greed"? A tax cut means that the government is keeping less of our money. We can then spend more of it on things we want - which can include disaster donations.
This is not to diminish the community's response to the tsunami.
Yes it is.
The Australian doctors who cancelled their holidays to volunteer as part of the worldwide relief effort in Asia, and the ordinary people who donated money and gifts to the aid agencies, and the Government's pledge of $1 billion in assistance, have been welcome antidotes to the avarice of the era.
As evidenced by what? It seems to be a point of faith with many that we are getting more greedy, but what measures are they using for this? An increase in aid donation is always criticised if it is not an increase in GDP terms as well (witness the mean spirited response to America's magnificent contribution) Otherwise, cliches are just thrown around with no evidence whatsoever. Further, the donations have only been a welcome antidote to the avarice of the era to George, to others they are antidotes to hunger, injury and disease.
But Iraq is a reminder of how quickly Australians can forget. Voters seem to have absolved themselves of thinking more deeply about the conflict by holding two contradictory positions. They appreciate that toppling Saddam Hussein has created as many problems as it solved. But they are pragmatic enough to see they can't do anything to change the situation. So they settle for a status quo that leads to quagmire.
Again, where is he getting this from? The polls he quoted at the beginnning did not ask "did toppling Saddam create as many problems as it solved?" and "can you do anything to change the situation?" He has just 'divined' public sentiment for his own purposes.
Public opinion is, in effect, frozen. Voters will not tolerate cutting and running, but neither will they countenance extra troops being deployed to help secure the peace. It's the classic "don't bother me" response. This suits Howard because he doesn't need to explain what it is we are supposed to be doing there.
Again - huh? Were they asked whether they would support sending extra troops? And for the record, the classic "don't bother me" response would be "undecided".
Consider the circumstances of his re-election. It had nothing to do with Iraq. The big vote-switcher was the fear of interest rates soaring.
Wow, George should go work for the Labor party. Among all the issues in the election, including Iraq, interest rates, Mark Latham, border control, local issues (e.g. Mitcham Freeway) etc etc, he has conclusive proof that the overwhelming vote switcher was interest rates. The proof being... oh.
But Iraq was also the first example of the Opposition Leader's political immaturity. As such, it played an ironic part in Howard's victory. Last March, Latham promised to bring our troops home by Christmas. Howard says this was his opponent's "first big error".
Why was the part played by Iraq "ironic"? It is because George thinks that it should be a big election negative for Howard, and therefore it is ironic that Latham's cock-up turned it into a positive. This ignores the fact that outside George's dinner party set of friends, it may have been a positive all along.
He finishes of with another sweeping pronouncement, again given with no support whatsoever:
More boots on the ground in the early stages of the insurgency would have made the elections to be held at the end of this month a little less perilous for the Iraqi people.
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