Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rudd government more different by the day

The real 'me-too' nature of the one-month old Australian Federal Labor is becoming more apparent with each passing day.

Day One. Kevin Rudd made good his election promise by triggering the instrument that sets in process the Australian Government ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, as his first act of government. It was signed hours after the new Labor cabinet was sworn in by the Governor-General, Sir Michael Jeffrey.

Although climate change policy was a clear point of difference for Labor, Rudd's immediate ratification of Kyoto yielded maximum symbolic impact. For the Australian electorate the surprise was not the signing, but the timing. Kev was telling us, "Ok, I'm onto it".

For the outside world, Rudd's first act of a few hours old government clearly signalled a dramatic departure from Howard's active, overt and covert opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. The significance was not lost on China Daily...

CANBERRA - Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, took the oath of office on Monday and immediately signed documents to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, ending his country's long-held opposition to the global climate agreement.

...not the Beeb...

Australian Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd has been sworn in as prime minister, following a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last week. Immediately after the ceremony, he signed documents to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, reversing the previous administration's policy. "This is the first official act of the new Australian government," he said.

...neither on the NYTimes...

CANBERRA, Australia — Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister of Australia, said on Monday that he had signed the paperwork to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, making good on an election promise that overturns a decade of opposition to the international global warming pact.

...and nor the rest of the world...

And the UN Climate Conference delegates assembling in Bali now loved it, giving Australia a rousing applause that would make an AA convention blush.

Everyone noted the significance... "Australia's new stance on Kyoto will isolate the US as the only developed nation not to have ratified the treaty." read the BBC.

Another dramatic departure from the Liberal's core policy of slavishly following Washington everywhere.

Day Ten. Australia, PNG to 'restore' relationship

Instead of acting the regional bully, the Rudd government has signalled our intentions to move past blunderbuss and fishnet stockings diplomacy.

Australia and Papua New Guinea will work on restoring their relationship after a frosty period under the previous Howard government. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Michael Somare agreed to restore contact after a bilateral meeting in Bali on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations climate change conference. The relationship soured over PNG's involvement in helping disgraced former Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti evade an Australian extradition attempt. But Mr Rudd said both countries were determined to repair the damage after a "good and long" conversation. "I said to Sir Michael, and he agreed, that it was time to turn a new page in Australia's relationship with Papua New Guinea," Mr Rudd told reporters at the Australian consulate. "This relationship has been through a very difficult period in recent times. There has, in effect, been a freeze on ministerial contact between the two governments. I do not believe that's an appropriate way forward for the future. "We have to get on with the business of reviewing the totality of our relationship and taking that relationship forward." Ministerial relations between the two nations will resume and a top-level delegation of ministers will visit PNG early next year for an Australian-PNG Ministerial Forum. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will head the Australian delegation, which will also include Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and economist Ross Garnaut, who is conducting the Rudd government's climate change review. "This is a critical relationship for Australia. We've got to get this relationship right," he said. The two leaders discussed climate change and deforestation. Australian officials will visit Port Moresby in January to discuss ways to stop the cutting down of PNG's rainforests.

Day Fifteen. Parliament to sit for 15 days longer under Rudd

Under the Howard Government it was unusual for the Upper or Lower House to sit on a Friday but now the House of Representatives will regularly sit five days a week.

Apart from allowing greater accountability and scrutiny, and greater access for the backbench, hopefully Australia is getting 25% greater productivity per ton of carbon emissions spent schlepping the parliamentarians in and out of Canberra.

Day Nineteen. Australia leads 31 countries in formal whaling protest to the Japanese Government

Er... Howard would not have done that. He never lifted a finger to stop the Japanese whalers conducting their 'research' in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary that Australia has responsibility for protecting. To be fair, we always had strong leadership in the International Whaling Commissions under Howard. But he would never have risked ruffling diplomatic feathers with our biggest trading partner.

The Federal Government and anti-whaling groups today welcomed as a small victory Japan's decision to suspend the planned kill of 50 humpbacks. But they have pledged to maintain pressure on Tokyo to end the so-called scientific whaling program. Japan said its decision not to catch humpbacks for "one year or two" came after consultation with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), although it noted the strength of the Australian opposition to the annual hunt.

There is a bit of wow factor here. How will this affect the relationship between our two countries, where the whaling issue being is the only note of discord in an otherwise harmonious relationship? Not a jot, I reckon, but who knows? The whaling lobby in Japan must be powerful to persist with their pursuit in the face of diminishing demand for whale meat.

Day Twenty.
Federal Government Paves Way for Haneef To Work In Australia

Former terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef is keen to reapply for his position at the Gold Coast Hospital after the federal government yesterday paved the way for his return. New Labor Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Indian national was entitled to return to work after the full bench of the Federal Court upheld a judge's earlier decision to reinstate his work visa. The doctor's visa was withdrawn by the former Howard government on character grounds despite terrorism charges against him being dropped. Dr Haneef's Brisbane-based lawyer Peter Russo today informed the devout Muslim, who is currently in Mecca with his wife and mother, of Mr Evans' decision not to appeal the court's ruling.

Rudd's Government is signalling that it is not going to run the War on Terror as one of Howard's famous Culture Wars. I so hope this is born out. I am bored to death of 'em. Not only did this culture-skirmish make for bumpy relations with India and discredit us in their eyes, the Queensland hospital system copped collateral damage by losing a good doctor and the generation of bad PR for future overseas recruitments.

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