When the American president addressed joint Houses of the Australian Parliament back in 2003, Greens Senator Bob Brown interjected. In fact so worked up was he that the Speaker ordered his removal from the chamber. He was yelling about Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.Some excellent points made there, and while I have no more love for Peter Costello's party than the ALP - in one sense rather less love because the bastardisation of the word 'liberal' to describe a party of paternalists that like telling other people how to live their lives simply infuriates me - I can't argue that Leftists can be pretty inconsistent if not hypocritical when it comes to the US. The bottom line is this: all the things I disliked about George W Bush, the wars, Gitmo, the loss of individual liberties, cosying up to big business and lobbyists, have by and large continued under Obama.
This time Brown joined a conga line of MPs clamouring to shake hands with the President, Barack Obama. He had to jostle with Greens MP Adam Bandt (who has a PhD on Marxism) to get his chance. Both of them were beaming. It was a good speech. The President declared America's commitment to a military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, including a new proposal to train up to 2500 marines in the Northern Territory. One can only imagine what Bob's reaction would have been had George Bush announced that 2500 US marines would be stationed on Australian soil. They would have had to cart him out of the House of Representatives.
Bob Brown was all worked up about Guantanamo Bay when George Bush visited Australia, but he does not seem to worry so much now that Obama is in charge. Julia Gillard used to complain that Australia was subservient to America. Now she claims she has made our alliance stronger than ever before.
In opposition, Labor harvested votes on the left. In government it wants to appeal to conservatives....
Labor MPs may feel happy to see Obama and Gillard standing in front of troops in the Northern Territory - it is a great photo opportunity for their side of politics. But alliances are between countries. They are designed to outlive the political office-holders of the day. In the future it could be Newt Gingrich and Tony Abbott standing there being cheered by US marines in the NT. The principle is either right or it is wrong and it doesn't turn on who happens to be in office.
That is why it is so useful to have the left of Australian politics now locked in to traditional Coalition policies. Bipartisan support has been firmly established. And in the future if there is ever a complaint about marines based in Australia, just pull out the footage of a beaming Bob Brown grasping the hand of the president who announced it.
I'm aware some that Rightists care less about what is done than that it's one of their men doing it - witness David Cameron's actions of late and the deafening silence from his supposedly right of centre party - but if anything it seems to be even more true of Leftists. Is something bad done by a right winger made less bad when a left winger takes over and carries on?