Major parties aren't perfect. Our job is to do what we believe is in the national interest. Sometimes doing what is best for the nation is not popular, and inevitably it will disappoint some. But this is not failure. It is the nature of government and it isn't meant to be easy. At a time when the political stage is more crowded than ever - more players, more voices, more opinions - the debate can become congested. In this frame, the national interest is our key test. This is despite pressure for politics to become focused on the short-term gain, on satisfying immediate wants, rather than long-term needs.
The official hymn of the US Marine Corps famously begins with "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea." The reference to Tripoli alludes to the Battle of Derna of 1805, the first overseas land combat fought by US troops and a decisive American victory. Recent fighting in Libya prompts a question: Should the marines be sent anew to the shores of Tripoli, this time to protect not the high seas but the rebellious peoples of Libya rising against their government and calling for assistance as they are strafed from the air by troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi?
Greens leader Bob Brown looked like the "cat that got the cream" on Sky News's Australian Agenda yesterday, according to George Brandis, deputy leader of the opposition in the Senate, who appeared on the program shortly afterwards. And why not. Brown admitted that after having been treated like a political outsider by Kevin Rudd during the last term of parliament, he is now very much an insider - the recipient of weekly meetings with Julia Gillard. During the interview yesterday, Brown declared that the multi-party committee on climate change was a "cabinet sub-committee". A slip of the tongue perhaps, but a sure sign that Brown sees himself and the Greens as very much part of this government's executive decision-making team. After all, he meets with the Prime Minister more than most cabinet ministers do. And that's Gillard's major problem at the moment.
With the Middle East in the throes of a major political re-alignment, the best Julia Gillard can say in Washington is to praise the US position on Israel and to flick the question on a no fly zone over Libya to the UN, while Rudd continues to press for it. Asked as to a possible Australian contribution to a Middle East initiative by the West she responded that Libya was a long way from Australia – so is Afghanistan. Rudd presses for a no fly zone when Australia has no capacity to contribute. The F35 program to supply Australia with jet fighters has stalled in the face of financial and developmental problems in the US. The Australian Air Force is in a similar position to the Navy, it does not have the assets to project and maintain a force offshore. At the moment Australia is an unreliable military ally.
A Bureau of Statistics bid to revise the method of calculating national homelessness has provoked concern among advocates for the homeless who fear the statisticians will undercount the realities of the street. The ABS will revisit figures based on the 2001 and 2006 censuses using a new formula devised by in-house statisticians in a discussion paper to be released this month.
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February 18, 2020
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