Saturday, October 13, 2007

Political pro

With a federal election just weeks away, and his far-right-wing government on the skids, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is frantically trying to reinvent himself after 11 years in power. Having seen how on the nose he is with Australian electors, he hopes to dissipate some of the stink. He has been forced into liberalism against his will.

So, in recent days, weeks and months he has made some remarkable somersaults. When Nobel prizewinner Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, came out only one year ago, Howard dismissed it as the work of a "peeved politician". Howard's long contempt for environmentalists, and one might say even for the environment itself, suddenly reappears as warm and fuzzy environmentalism -- with shiny but relatively hollow statements on carbon emissions. I doubt that any but unread Australians would believe any sincerity resides in Howard's semi-about-face on climate change. But there are more than enough unread Australians to swing the election, a fact that Howard has relied upon in previous elections -- vide his cynical lies about refugees and Iraq.

Howard, known for a political career of staggering indifference to deep indigenous issues, now in the face of electoral annihilation tries to tap into the mood of Australian voters who no longer will countenance government failure to address Aboriginal issues with the historical understanding and respect they deserve.

John Howard is the most professional Australian politician in more than a generation, perhaps two. Few would doubt his consummate political skills, regardless of Howard's patent dishonesty. It would be unwise to write off his chances as turning around the opinion polls that have him and his government trailing Kevin Rudd and Labor by a country mile. Howard might still reel this fish in.

But one hopes that most Australians can see the crafty politician rather than the avuncular fibber who masquerades as a born-again bleeding-heart human being. For, as I head someone on radio say yesterday,

"The man convinced against his will
Retains the same opinion still."

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