ush's "Australian poodle" is no longer in charge. In fact,
Howard has been so thoroughly rejected that he's likely to be out of
Australian politics altogether.
After a landslide shift to
the left by the Australian electorate, Howard -- who was every bit as
nasty and gaffe-prone as his pal Dick Cheney -- will be replaced by a
left-leaning intellectual who was elected on a platform that promised
to withdraw his country's troops from Iraq, and to develop a new
foreign policy that will be more independent of the United States.
in Spain, Italy, and a number of other former "coalition of the
willing" countries, the Australian electorate has effectively voted the
troops home. Australia has only about 500 troops in Iraq, but that
contingent is one of the larger of the non-U.S. "coalition" forces left
in the country.
Australia's abandonment of the Iraq project
is not the only change that is coming to the country that had, under
Howard's leadership, been the steadiest U.S. ally of the Bush era.
new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, will adopt a radically different
approach than his predecessor did when it comes to global warming.
Where Howard was one of Bush's few allies in international debates
about climate change, Rudd promises to sign the Kyoto Protocol and to
make Australia a greener and more pleasant land. And He will be
assisted by his Labour Party's pointman on environmental issues: Peter
Garrett, the long-time lead singer of the rock band Midnight Oil, a
veteran anti-nuclear weapons campaigner who left the stage to become a
member of parliament.
So committed is Rudd to shifting his
country's approach to climate change that the new prime minister is
expected to lead Australia's delegation to the upcoming United Nations
climate change conference in Bali.
Rudd is no radical. He's
the mildest of socialists in what is today only a mildly socialist
Labour Party. But compared to Howard, who followed the Bush line so
slavishly, Rudd promises a welcome change of course for a nation that
remains a significant player in the politics of the planet.
Rudd has a mandate. After 11 years out of power, Labour went into last
Saturday's election with a 16-seat deficit in the parliament. It now
has a majority of at least 22 seats over Howard's right-wing Liberal
party. Among many prominent Liberals headed for defeat was the prime
minister himself, who acknowledged late Saturday that he was likely to
become the first head of government to lose his own seat since 1929.
And so it was.
To understand the scale of the rejection of
Howard -- who has for 33 years represented the historically
conservative seat for Bennelong in suburban Sydney -- imagine Bush
losing in the Houston suburbs. Of course, recent surveys have
consistently shown that a majority of Texans disapprove of the American
president -- indeed, a July Survey USA poll found that 57 percent of
the voters in Bush's home state object to his approach.
perhaps, the only difference between Australia and America is that
there was an election in Australia Saturday. Had there been one in the
U.S., it wouldn't have just been the poodle who was tossed out -- the
master would have gone, too.
is the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine.
Copyright Â©2007 The Nation
Released: 26 November 2007
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