Help !

I’m trying to write a column which argues that the ‘Tampa’ was John Howard’s ‘conviction politics’ reduced (very successfully) to street theatre. His handling of the Tampa incident enabled him to embody his values in a way that the Australian populace found compelling (however odious I found it).

I reckon these situations come up not so infrequently but that it takes conviction, the courage of that conviction and a certain kind of imagination to seize the moment.

I ran a ‘Tampa’ idea for Paul Keating past Don Watson in 1995. I reckon it could have saved his Prime Ministership. But it was fairly wild (like John Howard’s handling of the Tampa incident) and was rejected out of hand.

In a way Mark Latham’s campaign for reform of super was a mini-Tampa. Audacious and entirely successful, but not so gripping for the electorate as to change the terms of the next election.

My idea for Beazley is only on a similar scale. Not necessarily an election winner, but a way of dramatising an issue in a way that I believe would advantage him in a compelling way. .

Beazley should get a group of eminent and respected Australians together Malcolm Fraser comes most readily to mind amongst others. They travel as far as they can towards Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay with a simple message to the first US official who stops them.

[I don’t regard this as particularly realistic since Kim Beazley doesn’t give a bugger about this stuff. Still, I want help with the last two paras of the piece. (reproduced below). They need to be simple and powerful and they could be improved a lot from what I have so far. If you can help, please feel free to do so in ‘comments’. I need the comments by around 2 pm tomorrow (Tuesday) to be of any assistance. I can’t acknowledge you in the column, but I’ll be grateful, and your contribution will be on the record for Troppodilians. Here’s what I’ve got at present.]

We’re from Australia an ally of America in every major war and a few minor ones of the last century. You’re holding our fellow citizen David Hicks. We don’t want to make a hero of him or obtain his release. But like everyone else, he has the same right to due process and a proper trial before an independent magistrate that you accord your own citizens. We’re very upset about it and we’ll back each month until we can secure his basic rights, the rights that every other Western country has secured for their own nationals.

No doubt such a venture would fail in the short term. It would take perseverance. And conviction. And the courage of that conviction. But it would tap into a powerful part of the Australian psyche. It would be just like the street theatre of the Tampa incident. Only the values and emotions with which it associated Australian nationalism would be those of light rather than darkness, of respect for the rule law rather than power, and of engagement rather than looking away.

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Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
2021 years ago

Leaving aside the symbolism for the moment, if my memory is accurate, Mark Latham tried to play the nationalist card by proposing retrospective legislation and trials for Australian Islamists, such as David Hicks.

It soon became clear that his idea would be disastrous, possibly more disastrous for the rule of law than military kangaroo courts.

Kim Beazley could get a bunch of “eminent persons” together to go on a long march, but I can’t see it working any better than “eminent persons” did for the Republic campaign in 99.

As far as he is concerned, he might as well take Robert McLelland.

The second point is that nobody gives a crap about David Hicks. If it was, say, someone like Schapelle Corby, then yes. I don’t need to elaborate why, because the answer is pretty obvious.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Thanks for the comment Steve. But I think you’re too passive. Especially with our incredibly passive and reactive media (sounds like a contradiction but its not), mainstream parties activities MAKE issues. Its true that Shapelle’s issues took off of their own accord. But mainstream politicians also make issues.

This happens constantly, and one of the major tasks of strategy meetings of press secretaries of the various political parties is how to use the scarce resource of their leaders’ time to MAKE issues.

You could have said the same thing about Parliamentary superannuation, but once Latham went for it, it became an issue that was too hot for Howard to rely on Australian’s apathy about it.

Putting on a stunt to highlight some issue is quite different from having a policy of X or Y. I recall putting something a bit like I’ve proposed to a senior Labor figure who said ‘but that’s our policy’. Well big deal if its your policy. That’s entirely unsurprising. Its when you decide that you’ll do everything to highlight the policy that things hot up. In many ways its a pity the world is like this, but it is. You have to put on a show, and reduce your points to street theatre to show what you care about. Then if you’re a mainstream party, you’ve got a pretty good opportunity to get the issue bubbling along.

kyan gadac
kyan gadac
2021 years ago

Surely the point about ‘enemy combatants’ is not that they are above the law and that therefore the government can act above the law, but that they are not beyond the law.

To construct a ‘kangaroo court’ rather than being prepared to engage in some due process of law, brings us down to the level of Al Quaeda, especially when the purpose of these ‘kangaroo courts’ is to protect reputations that might be damaged by ‘not guilty’ verdicts for people held under the duress of Guantanamo Bay.

Richard Tonkin
2021 years ago

Consider the “tampa-esque” possibilities of the first terror attack in Australia.
My money’s on Adelaide.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Why Adelaide?

Green Orange
Green Orange
2021 years ago

‘Conviction Politics’ and Kim Beazley are, in my opinion, at odds with each other. Beazley would make a fantastic Defence Minister, but never a good Prime Minister. My understanding of his religious affiliations and out look is that there would be not much difference between a Howard and a Beazley Prime Ministership.

‘Tampa’ is where Beazley could / should have stood up and said this is not on. But, no, he went down the road of least resistance. How can I support a party with a ‘leader’ that doesn’t have political conviction.

I appologise for, most probably, not helping your discussion.

Beazley makes me angry because I feel I have to vote for Howard who does not represent my progressive and compassionate ideals, but, Beasley is NO alternative.

Neither of them represent the (mythical?) Australia of egalitarianism and a fair go that I was bought up in.

Mark Latham was somewhat refreshing. Different enough for me to vote easily for the Labor Party.

Richard Tonkin
2021 years ago

Why Adelaide? Look at the advertising (click on my name. We look like a defence corporation, we’re build Australia’s contribution to the missile shield, Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld are visiting. according to Downer just because he lives here. We’re getting ready to supply LNG to New Zealand, the pipelines have arrived, we have a rocket range…..

Collateral damage would be minimal compared to a strike on Melbourne and Sydney, the militarisation of the city could be completed “in response”

According to U.S. Homeland Security consultant Scott Bates, Adelaide is more prepared than any U.S. state capital in conterterrorism.

We’re ready, we’re advertising, we’ll take the heat off the major population centres. Our population is expendable.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

I would have thought the ALP would have learned its lesson with Mamdouh Habib without wanting to trot out another old favourite in David Hicks in front of the media. Mamdouh was going to clean up big in Afghanistan wasn’t he? Make a real killing he was. Then the left go and pin their hopes on Cornelia Rau as a political prisoner of the Howard Govt. Then she gives an interview on national TV that makes Cathy Freeman sound like Alan McGilvray. She finally gets let out of Glenside to go and hear Bob Ellis rave on in Mildura and wanders off to Melbourne, whereupon her sister starts berating the govt for letting Cornelia out of their control again. The other one in Manila doesn’t want to come home after all this conspicuous indignation about her deportation. Sweet Jesus! The left sure know how to pick em. Who’s next for the Robert Starys, Julian Burnsides and doctor’s wives of this world? Jihad Jack, Sheik Omran and then good old Osama himself. Oh and whatever happened to the permanently mentally scarred Peter Qasim after he got what he wanted from the useful idiot brigade? He had a bigger smile on his puss than the astute Laurie Ferguson had at the end of the big charade, that’s for sure. If I were you Pete I’d get as far away from the hangers on and get yourself a kebab shop chain in Sydney as quick as you can mate. Don’t let the bastards drag you down with them. Pete’s not silly. He heard all about the land of plenty under the worlds best PM http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=56755 He’ll probably vote for Howard at the next election.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Now here’s a great idea for a stunt for Labor pollies to get a bit of attention these days http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,16122709-23109,00.html

Arty
Arty
2021 years ago

I’d go with them but I imagine the queue is already quite long.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

nicholas,
you have misdianosed the Tampa episode.

Remember it took OVER 200 leaky boats until Howard suddenly found his conviction.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

“Beazley should get a group of eminent and respected Australians together

yobbo
2021 years ago

Nick I think you’re missing the fact that 80% of Australians couldnt give a shit if David Hicks was executed by firing squad without trial.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

which would mean their morals are no diferent to the terrorists!

Simon
Simon
2021 years ago

Nicholas

If you believed the Tampa “strategy” was so odious, then why did you “float it” in 1995 ?
Your opportunism and cynicism are breathtaking.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Simon,

You have misunderstood me. The ‘Tampa’ idea I ran past Don Watson in 1995 had nothing to do with boat people, or immigration for that matter. It was a ‘Tampa’ idea in the sense that it was a fairly wild reaction to external events.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

of course ‘tampas’ are the exception not the rule.
They work closer to the election day bot this far out.

Simon
Simon
2021 years ago

Fair enough. I’m obviously not up with the jargon.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“They work closer to the election day not this far out.”

They also work only when the issue at which the stunt is aimed powerfully impacts people’s most basic visceral fears or other emotions. Tampa did that not only because fear of the foreign invader/yellow peril has always been a powerful aspect of the Australian psyche (tiny anglo enclave remote from Europe and surrounded by alien cultures and races), but because it coincided with September 11 and with a quite large (comparatively) influx of Asian asylum seekers. Australia’s vulnerability had already been highlighted by the stand-off with Indonesia in the wake of East Timor, and indeed the asylum seeker influx turned out to be mostly if not entirely a direct result of Indonesia’s reaction to ET.

A stunt, however well scripted, highlighting the unfairness of US treatment of accused terrorists like Hicks doesn’t in any sense tap into people’s visceral fears. In fact arguably quite the reverse. As some others have suggested, the vast majority of Australians don’t give a rat’s arse about David Hicks. Sadly, most civil liberties issues fail to arouse popular passions for similar reasons: – people just don’t think the issue affects them because they are not terrorists, criminals etc themselves (and those who are deserve what they get – The Phantom’s “rough justice for roughnecks” slogan is far more popularly resonant than your idea). Abstract arguments of principle and “there but for the grace of God ..” arguments simply don’t trigger visceral fears for the vast majority.

Staging a camera-worthy stunt does not turn an issue in which people aren’t interested into an election winner. Greenpeace stages such stunts on an almost daily basis, but their electoral effect remains marginal.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

I agree with Ken. Fear and the hip pocket nerve is what makes the national body twitch – not big but muzzily-limned issues like civil liberties.

Nic, if yer looking for a stunt that taps into visceral fears, IR would be a much more fertile field.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

I think I’m being misunderstood here. The ways in which I think I’m being misunderstood will be plain enough when I post the full column, though that doesn’t mean I expect to change too many people’s minds. But I’m not trying to tap into fear. There aren’t too many people who fear being locked up in Guantanamo Bay!

But people have a visceral reaction to being pushed around. The arrogance with which the US has locked up an Australian is something that Australians could get pretty stroppy about if it were contested within the political mainstream.

Imagine if we locked up some New Zealander, gave them no due process on the ground that we didn’t like what they were accused of. The New Zealanders would be ropable and rightly so. It wouldn’t be fear of ending up in our jails, it would be anger at being treated without any respect.

I admit the point is increasingly academic, and the piece is quite Quixotic in the sense that Beazley shows no sign of giving a damn about this stuff. Had he done so however my own view is that he could have roused Australians to anger at the contempt with which we’re allowing ourselves to be treated. But I admit, I might be wrong. And we’ll never know if I’m right.

Warbo
Warbo
2021 years ago

“I think you’re missing the fact that 80% of Australians couldnt give a shit if David Hicks was executed by firing squad without trial.”

Couldn’t let this little fascist gem (the sentiment, I mean, not the writer) go past without a wave.

Dean McAskil
Dean McAskil
2021 years ago

“Beazley should get a group of eminent and respected Australians together

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

“But people have a visceral reaction to being pushed around. The arrogance with which the US has locked up an Australian is something that Australians could get pretty stroppy about if it were contested within the political mainstream.”

But Nick I still think the specifics of the case here completely smother the principle here. Furthermore I don’t think it is arrogant of the US to have taken the action it has. We, via, a government since Hicks’ internment have done nothing to suggest that its actions are of concern to us. There was no indication prior to his internment that we may find his internment without trial or charge objectionable, for now. The US is not pushing us around and correctly senses the Australia mood here.

The wider public has considered this case with a little more sophistication than you give it credit for. If for example Hicks had been held on a drug running charge then we would be reacting differently.

I think it is fairly evident that most of Australia does not give a rats about Hicks and they can shoot him tomorrow. It is, understandably, to some an exceedingly unsavoury position and while they detest it they should not assume that the processes by which we came by that conclusion were not sufficently nuanced.

Stephen Bounds
Stephen Bounds
2021 years ago

I think stunts such as these only work as the icing on the cake.

That is, if we have two evenly-matched sides (as Beazley and Howard were for Tampa — almost carbon copies of each other), style becomes the distinguishing factor.

Federal Labor has far deeper problems than getting the public’s attention. People just don’t believe they are competent on the basics — low interest rates, balanced budget, full employment etc.

Latham outshone Howard for most of his time as leader, but people weren’t convinced Labor would make competent economic managers. The Labor frontbench was also seen as risky in terms of foreign policy.

Until Labor can equal or better the Howard government on these basics, any ALP stunt would be all style, no substance.

And no-one is going to eat a cake only made of icing.

Mark Pollock
Mark Pollock
2021 years ago

I remember the Tampa. A group of supposed refugees were rescued by a Norwegian cargo ship. The Captain of the ship set sail for the nearest port, which happened to be in Indonesia. When the refugees realised they were heading to Indonesia instead of Australia they mutinied. The Captain of the ship gave in, effectively giving control of his ship to the mutineers and set sail for Australia. The leaders of the two main political parties agreed that the ship should not enter Australian waters.

What is you problem with this? You would be hard pressed to find one in a hundred people who would disagree with this course of action.

As for David Hicks, in a war, the perfectly legal method of dealing with armed combatants acting independently and out of uniform is to shoot them. Has anyone asked him whether he would rather be in camp X-Ray or be dead?

The boatload of eminent person sailing toward Guantanamo Bay would be locked up by the Cuban coast guard. Try using the lawyers then.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Think about it Nicholas. The left luvvies pinned their hopes on Habib and look where it got them. Mamdouh and his useful idiot lawyer Hopper were chewed up and spat out by Bolt and no lefty media types were game to go near them after that(he’s never explained as promised at that interview what he was doing in Afghanistan) Now Mamdouh baby was clearly viewed by the Americans as not as big a risk as Hicks. That’s why they let him go. Do you really want to hitch the ALP’s star to the one they’ve kept locked up? Think about it seriously. The answer should be obvious even if you don’t like Uncle Sam. Why would he let out swarthy Arab type and keep boy next door Anglo type locked up? Just for appearances? Get real.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Err, my free professional advice is to leave Hicks for the moonbats like Margo Kingston and Bob Brown to burn their consuming passions on.

What Mark Pollock said about Tampa. As well recall boat people numbers had grown in successive years- 250, 1500, 4500 and on the hijacked Tampa 453 were coming. Given that scenario, IMO Keating and Mark Lithium would have reacted pretty much the same as Howard. It’s easy being impotently pure in Opposition over such issues though. How did you like Premier Iemma’s first edict dropping the RE vendor tax? Bloody priceless!

PB
PB
2021 years ago

“…which would mean their morals are no diferent to the terrorists”; have an actual read of the Geneva conventions sometime before climbing on high horse; as a non-uniformed and non-identified hostile, the US or their allies were perfectly entitled to pop a cap in Dave and all of his Taliban pals for that matter. Why should Australians give a shit about him? He’s an enemy combatant; would you have expected Australians to weep and wail if an Australian national joined the Waffen SS in 1938 and was later tried at Nuremburg? The left’s perspective gets dafter by the minute. BTW- by all means send Malcolm Fraser to Cuba, as long as they promise to keep the silly old fart. He’d get on famously with his fellow marxist and failed national leader Fidel.

Gummo Trotsky
2021 years ago

Malcolm Fraser has shifted a lot ideologically since he became a former Prime Minister, hasn’t he? And to think that he was once described by Ayn Rand as a man who could save the world. Or something like that. It happened way back in the pre-Google era, after Mal paid a visit to his favourite writer during a trip to the US.

Let’s get down to the serious stuff.

There’s a handy on-line guide to the Geneva Conventions at http://www.genevaconventions.org. Click on the letter “c” at the bottom of the home page, and it will take you to an alphabetical index of the Conventions, where you’ll find this summary of the Conventions relating to combatant status.

“combatant status

Combatants have protections under the Geneva Conventions, as well as obligations.

Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war. (Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec. 2)

See wounded combatants for a list of protections.

Convention II extends these same protections to those who have been shipwrecked (Convention II, Art. 13)

Convention III offers a wide range of protections to combatants who have become prisoners of war. (Convention III, Art. 4)

For example, captured combatants cannot be punished for acts of war except in the cases where the enemy’s own soldiers would also be punished, and to the same extent. (Convention III, Art. 87)

See prisoner of war for a list of additional protections.

However, other individuals, including civilians, who commit hostile acts and are captured do not have these protections. For example, civilians in an occupied territory are subject to the existing penal laws. (Convention IV, Art. 64)

The 1977 Protocols extend the definition of combatant to include any fighters who carry arms openly during preparation for an attack and during the attack itself, (Protocol I, Art. 44, Sec. 3) but these Protocols aren’t as widely accepted as the four 1949 conventions.

In addition to rights, combatants also have obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

In the case of an internal conflict, combatants must show humane treatment to civilians and enemies who have been wounded or who have surrendered. Murder, hostage-taking and extrajudicial executions are all forbidden. (Convention I, Art. 3)

For more protections afforded the civilian population, see civilian immunity.

Although all combatants are required to comply with international laws, violations do not deprive the combatants of their status, or of their right to prisoner of war protections if they are captured. (Protocol I, Art. 44, Sec. 2)

A mercenary does not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war. (Protocol I, Art. 37)”

Does this support your contention that, under the Geneva Conventions, “the US or their allies were perfectly entitled to pop a cap in Dave and all of his Taliban pals for that matter”? Interesting that I should ask. To get to an answer we need to consider first, whether Hicks and the other Guantanamo Bay prisoners fit the definition of combatants under the convention and second, whether “popping a cap into’ is consistent with the obligations of combatants to comply with international law.

If you agree with Colin Powell, the well known Marxist mole who actually managed to infiltrate the Bush Whitehouse and serve 4 years as Secretary of State, Hicks and his Taliban pals do fit the conventions definiton of combatants and should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. But no-one agrees with him, so let’s move on.

That leaves the possibilities that Hicks et al were either civilians committing hostile acts (and therefore subject to the existing penal laws of Afghanistan at the time of their capture) or mercenaries with no rights to treatment as combatants or prisoners of war. But it still ain’t open slather for a bit of cap-popping sport; there’s still that obligation to show humane treatment and refrain from murder and extrajudicial execution.

You’re right you know; it is a good idea to have a bit of a read of the Geneva Convention before you climb on your high horse. It’s never enjoyable to be caught in the sandwich when a bloody great percheron comes along to root your cute little shetland pony.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

I’ve never liked the Swiss.

PB
PB
2021 years ago

Here’s some lawyers who disagree with your interpretation, Gumby:-

http://eaglespeak.blogspot.com/2005/06/detainees-and-geneva-convention.html

Richard Tonkin
2021 years ago

Today’s Advertiser downplays the likelihood of an attack on Adelaide, suggesting it’s a “secondary target” compared with Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

This smells to me of “psy-op”

The story isn’t in the online edition… click on my name for excerpts.

A pollie will expose a story by “denying’ it. On the merits of today’s article, Adelaide’s in deep trouble