Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bush Loses Another Key Ally in Australia as Labor Also Wins Majority in Parliament

Sydney, Australia--Today, belatedly, after 11 years of misrule, conservative Prime Minister John Howard is gone. Just as in Spain, Italy, Great Britain--and coming soon--the ending of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's time in office, the rollback of conservative excesses is unfolding globally. After passing legislation with his own party that limited workers' rights in the industrial sector, and for being a 'staunch supporter' of the administration of American President George W. Bush, Howard has paid that highest price and lost resoundingly. His party has also been profoundly marginalized in the Australian Parliament, which takes-effect after July in their senate, the last stage in the changeover of power. The Liberal/National Party's defeat is stunning:
Using those figures, an Australian Broadcasting Corp. analysis showed that Labor would get at least 81 places in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — a clear majority. It was an embarrassing end to the career of Howard, Australia's second-longest serving leader. As little as a year ago, Howard had appeared almost unassailable. But on Saturday he was in real danger of becoming only the second sitting prime minister in 106 years of federal government to lose his own seat in Parliament. ('Labor Party wins big in Australia,' AP, 11.24.2007)
It wasn't simply Iraq, and it wasn't just Howard's refusal to sign-on to the Kyoto treaty to curtail carbon emissions, nor was it his general coddling of George W. Bush's global criminality--the reaction came when Australian workers started feeling the pinch at home, and it's a natural reaction without much parallel in the United States. Americans will tolerate far more than the citizens of the rest of the developed world's democracies. Whether Labor will deliver in Australia is another question altogether, but they hold a clear majority that even the Democratic Party in America does not enjoy. This gives them a very solid mandate.

If they won't deliver reforms in-favor of the average Australian citizen, there won't be anyone to blame as the conservatives won't be able to obstruct them as they do in the American Congress. That said, in America, the Democrats have been all-too-willing to pass legislation that would thrill any conservative in virtually any developed nation. Say hello to Labor's Kevin Rudd (and the lead singer of Midnight Oil!), who has no federal-level ruling experience, since the left party has been out of power for over 11 years. Nonetheless, Rudd has diplomatic experience with China and promises to sign the Kyoto Protocol shortly, which would have never been accomplished under Howard. While Rudd has said he will act as an 'economic conservative' (which is easy to believe in this era), he's dealing a very significant blow to the Bush administration on the world stage, and it's more than a symbolic one.
Unlike his rival, Mr. Rudd promised to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international accord aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so will deprive the U.S. of one of its key supporters on climate change issues and put new pressure on the Bush administration ahead of an important meeting next month (DEC 3-14) in Bali, Indonesia, where world leaders will discuss what to do when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Bush administration has so far refused to ratify the Kyoto plan. Mr. Rudd's party has also pledged to set tough new targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy, and has promised to roll back parts of a Howard government reform giving Australian employers more power to set employee wages and benefits. ('Howard Government Suffers Defeat In Australian Parliamentary Election,' Wall Street Journal, 11.24.2007)
Wouldn't this be great if it happened in America? But it didn't, even with the GOP losing its majority in Congress, since the Democrats are hardly any better. The public has spoken about ending the war in Iraq--and the Democrats keep funding it. The public is growing increasingly vocal about impeachment proceedings--and the Democrats won't allow it (with a lot of help from sexually-impaired GOP incumbents like Larry Craig and David Vitter). The answers aren't simple, but there is one obvious route that Americans must take: creating their own candidates, and perhaps their own parties in-the-face of a two-party system that refuses to represent their wishes and interests.

Whether things will improve for the average Australian after Rudd's election is another 'what if.' Will he walk-the-walk, or just service concentrated international capital like Harold, smiling like the Janus-faced Bill/Hillary Clinton? Granted, Australia's belated signing of the Kyoto Protocols won't fix the climate change problem, but it's a beginning, and not an end unto itself. A related point: at this political moment, Canada is now isolated in the community of commonwealth nations (former British colonies) on climate change. Canada isn't one of the worst offenders in fossil fuel emissions--that would be China, India, and the United States--but stands to become nearly as bad with plans of expanding energy production to feed American energy overconsumption. Canada has been moving for decades in the direction of being an energy colony of the U.S..

Sandra Buckler, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, denied Canada was standing in the way of a Commonwealth resolution. She said the world's biggest polluters will need to be part of any climate agreement, but did not mention India, China or the U.S. by name. "We would not support a binding target only for some emitters, especially if that excludes major emitters," Buckler said. "We are not blocking a binding target. We are, however, looking for a declaration that is as strong as the APEC declaration (which was agreed to by China and the United States) in terms of the importance of comprehensiveness – that all countries, notably major emitters, must contribute to reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions," she said. ('Canada Isolated on Climate,' The Toronto Star, 11.24.2007)

For those desiring a rapid move towards climate change control, the Labor win is a 'baby-step,' but it could be one of the crucial ones. As it stands, international capital is still steering human society and much of the world's natural habitat towards annihilation for the sake of power and wealth. While it's unlikely that Rudd will be significantly different than Howard in Australian politics and the running of their economy, we'll always do worse with the conservatives in power, no matter what nation.

There is a real hope here: even with 14 years of continual prosperity, a strong dollar, almost no remaining national debt, and a compulsory pension program that has kept their economy much stronger than that of the United States, Australians wanted the conservative Howard out. Rudd is unlikely to limit so-called 'market reforms' that were touted so strongly under Howard, but as the leader of a nation that provides crucial mineral resources to China, he has significant leverage to move the climate change issue in a constructive direction. Whether he will rise to the occasion is up to him and the people of Australia. What's George W. Bush going to do once he's run out of allies around the world? Sarkozy's rise in France is mitigated by a coalition-led cabinet. Harper is embattled in Canada and the door out is beckoning. But at least George W. Bush will always have friends in the Democratic Congress, especially in Nancy Pelosi and peers in his own party. It's time that they explained why this is so.