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.