Tweedledum and Tweedledee

September 5, 2007 at 2:30 am (Uncategorized)

It’s a shame this week’s APEC conference is happening now rather than in a few months time when we’ll hopefully have a new prime minister in Kevin Rudd. As Bill Leak’s cartoon in today’s Australian so masterfully illustrates, it’s kind of a wasted opportunity, more like a retirement party for George and John than a much-needed look to the future.

George isn’t staring down the barrel at an election. He’s already been elected President twice, and, thanks (praise be) to the US Constitution, that’s the end of the road. Oh, yes, I know the Republican party wants to see a Republican replace George in the top job, but does anyone think that’s going to happen? It doesn’t feel like it, at least not from here. Then again, I’m much more exposed to the Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination simply by virtue of my own politics, so perhaps the Republicans are smokin’ the polls elsewhere and I just don’t know about it. Either way, George can look forward to even more rounds of golf as whoever replaces him inherits the scorched earth, ethics, and economics he will leave behind.

It’s not so for his good mate John. Nope, John’s going to have to call a federal election soon, and it’s tipped for a day in November. If Australia went to the booths today, the polls suggest John Howard’s government would be, not to put too fine a point on it, annihilated. Ground into the dirt. Smashed. Crushed. Crucified. So let’s hope the current national sentiment lasts long enough to carry election day.

In the meantime, John’s started spending some of the billions in surplus tax dollars on advertising. Lots and lots of advertising. Lots of expensive, targeted, pre-election advertising. He evidently has so much to tell us, now, urgently, in the next couple of months before we go off to vote (which in this country is compulsory for people aged 18 and over, so politicians don’t have that pesky problem that exists in the US of trying to rouse enough interest that people will actually exercise their hard won right to vote. It’s a process that must use up incredible amounts of money and resources – I’m curious that the US has not adopted compulsory voting).

The other day a thick A4 booklet, covered in plastic, arrived in the mail from the federal government, authorised by John Howard. It was about ‘Teaching Your Kids About Drugs.’ I assume every household in Australia got one, even though many households don’t have kids. It’s ironic, too, because it was the sort of dense, paternal, out-of-touch, prescriptive material that… well, let’s face it, sends any self-respecting teenager (and parent for that matter) fleeing from the room screaming. I turned it over in bewilderment, flicked through the pages bemused, and then consigned it to the recycling bin, swearing under my breath (or not so) about the flagrant waste of tax payer money at this particular time. Because the fact is, insisting in full colour gloss that the government is on the job in the war on drugs does absolutely nothing to address the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s just a waste of money, money that could have been spent (and I do not pretend to have the answers, I just know they’re not in that booklet) going into schools and universities trying to figure out why so many kids are taking drugs, and what, if anything, would make them reconsider that course. I suspect it’s as much to do with availability and affordability as with peer pressure and pleasure, and I have no confidence that the government is tackling any of those factors in a meaningful way. John Howard proudly announced the other week that he’s never visited a strip club. To me, that speaks volumes about his total inability to access and understand the youth of today. Has he any idea what their lives are like? What they get offered, how often and for how much? I doubt it.

So I suppose it’s nice for John to be surrounded by his old buddies at APEC this week. It’s a shame for Kevin Rudd, who speaks fluent Chinese and will hopefully be the man negotiating on Australia’s behalf at the next meeting of APEC, but it must be a real relief for John Howard to find at least one person in the room, good old George, still speaking his language.



  1. Tim said,

    The drug booklet, to be relevant to today’s youth, should have a line of coke affixed to the back of it.

    US doesn’t have compulsory voting because it would cost the republican party millions of votes. That’s why Howard wants to abolish it, and why he introduced the rule (this year) that you can’t enroll to vote after an election’s been called. Keep the disadvantaged off the ballot at all costs, even if it means eroding democratic rights. Or especially.

  2. doctordi said,

    Or perhaps a little tab with Howard’s beaming visage pressed onto it.

    But don’t you think it’s weird that a past Democratic government hasn’t taken up compulsory voting as a way getting disadvantaged, disaffected voters to the polls? I think it’s a shame, don’t get me wrong, that Australia threatens a monetary penalty in order to be assured of voters showing up, but it does at least mean those who can least afford the fine will thereby rightfully contribute to the election result. I didn’t know he’d introduced that rule. And surprise, surprise Howard wants to abolish compulsory voting. Mongrel. Cynical, elitist mongrel.

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