- Is it Back To The Future week or something? Exhibit A: the Foreign Minister repeating the tired allegation of a few weeks ago that Rudd is all about style, not substance. Nevermind the fact that, for example, he hits issues younger voters tend to care about (the environment, education, and so forth) and is doing a much better job communicating with them.
- Howard’s last big speech of the campaign also seems to have been all about past achievements … wasn’t he saying something last week about the future?
- The recorded phone calls from Johnny that were the bane of so many people in 2004 are back!
- Oh, and Pauline Hanson admits she’ll have a hard time getting in to the Senate
But then THE LATHAM BEAST reared its ugly head.
Team Howard says this is proof that Labor intend to backflip once elected, and if they’re to pull a rabbit out of their hat this election, I think a scare campaign along these lines may be their best bet. So it’ll be interesting to see if this story disappears as quickly as the other scandals of the campaign have.
In true Latham style, there’s a kernel of truth in what he’s written — the big announcements from each party really haven’t been far off identical. But then, how does that differ from the 2004 election …?
So neither team ever really tried
To hit the real causes; they’d just fly
From each city to town,
Doling cash from the Crown
And wishing inflation would say bye.
1999 called. They’d like their failed referendum back.
It must be said that acknowledging past mistakes, and offering to give formal symbolic recognition to Aboriginal people, is an outstanding first step. But given the context — indeed, will Parliament be sitting next week or won’t it? — something tells me that step #2 might not come soon, if at all.
And for crying out loud, while a USyd law degree is wonderful it does not qualify you to arbitrarily nominate events as ‘history’, nor to choose words for one of the country’s most important legal documents, no matter how many times you try.
This year’s APEC has brought news of so many deals, you could be forgiven for thinking the delegates tackled every big international issue under the sun … but of course, being jack of all trades usually means being master of none. And so it is that despite the rhetoric, the big-ticket announcement of the Sydney Declaration delivers no more than a bunch of hand-waving statements that are barely worth anything in seriously combating climate change.
The thing is, the Sydney Declaration actually is a decent achievement by APEC standards, which is why it overshadowed much more productive news like the deal between Australia and Indonesia to reduce wasteful burning of peat in Borneo.
The issue on which I was expecting to hear some argument was whether APEC should admit more countries, with the moratorium on new members expiring this year. Alternatively, this year would have been a great opportunity to focus APEC a bit by restricting membership with a strict definition like “must have a Pacific coastline”. Instead, the matter seems to have been swept under the carpet, with the only word in the Leaders’ Statement being a new moratorium that’ll run to 2010.
Meanwhile, the first of the long-touted trilateral dialogues between Australia, Japan, and the US was reportedly dominated by discussion of India, Michelle Bachelet of Chile gave an interesting speech, George Bush took a tiny positive step in handling North Korea, business groups adopted an anti-corruption pledge, and more good work was done in tackling the red tape that can stifle international trade.
But there’s been little motion on the bigger and more important question: how will APEC evolve in future? The hope from the early 90s of an enormous free-trade area seems moribund now, and if it is instead to continue the (probably more important) work of lessening regulatory barriers, why are delegates being distracted with things like weak climate change proclamations?
It’s really very annoying that reports about APEC in the local media are primarily focussing on John Howard, George Bush, and (to a lesser extent) Hu Jintao. Do our journalists need reminding that Sydney is also hosting the prime ministers of Japan and Canada, the presidents of South Korea and the Philippines, the chief executive of Hong Kong, and many more?
With the main leaders’ summit not happening until tomorrow, it’s too early for me to make any sweeping comments, nor will I not jump on board with critics of the cost (running any kind of conference is expensive!). And while the police panic about a few protesters is way over the top (WA police didn’t need to invent new crimes for Hu Jintao’s visit!), it’s also the case that APEC has the heaviest security requirements of just about any major international meeting.
But the meat in the sandwich, if you will, of APEC gatherings has always been the meetings held informally on the side. And so far they’ve been far from stellar: a treaty giving Australia access to American military technology, slightly more funding for APEC’s secretariat, a new security meeting between Australia and China, mutterings about missile defence, and rehashes of supposed commitments to the Doha negotiations.
Really, the most impressive announcement has been the arrest of the Chaser boys.