The Guardian May 28, 2003


Behind the Liberal and Labor Party leadership manoeuvres

Tensions within the Liberal and Labor Parties on the future leadership 
of these parties continues to simmer among the party membership and the 
parliamentary caucuses.

The media has concentrated mainly on the much more public brawl between 
Simon Crean and Kim Beazley, but the conflict in the Liberal Party may 
erupt just as publicly in the future.

Liberal Party divisions were revealed by the obvious differences on 
Howard's insistence on going all-the-way with Bush and the invasion of Iraq 
and on the question of the Governor-General. They may also break out over 
the "free" trade agreement with the US that would have a very negative 
effect on some sectors of Australia's economy. So far the Howard iron grip 
over the Liberal Party leadership and membership has silenced every public 
manifestation of difference.

Kim Beazley has made it very clear that he is just awaiting any slip by 
Simon Crean to pounce and grab the ALP leadership by default.

But, there is another behind-the-scenes player in this leadership game. It 
is the United States. The US played a major role in the dismissal of the 
Whitlam Government, a role that has yet to be brought fully into the open. 
By its training of Labor Party and trade union leaders at Harvard and in 
other ways, it has worked assiduously to have figures favourable to itself 
in key positions.

Given the US agenda for more wars in the future, it is vitally important 
that Australian Prime Ministers be thoroughly reliable and a compliant tool 
in its hands, willing to do its bidding on all occasions. Australia is an 
important strategic base for the US to be used against the countries and 
governments of the Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

The US sees only two such reliable leaders -- Howard and Beazley.

However, Howard is reaching the end of his time and his most likely 
replacement is Peter Costello. But Costello has blotted his copy book in US 
eyes. He was exceedingly slow to give any endorsement to the US war against 
Iraq. Furthermore, he broke ranks again by making critical remarks directed 
at the Governor-General's position when Howard was overseas.

So, Costello would be regarded as unreliable in US eyes and could not be 
relied on to give the unquestioning allegiance demanded by Bush -- "if you 
are not with us you are against us".

Simon Crean also showed himself to be less than enthusiastic about the 
Iraqi war, despite considerable waffling. He fairly consistently insisted 
on a major role for the United Nations and opposed the invasion of Iraq 
without UN sanction at a time when the US wants to ditch the UN altogether. 
Crean as PM would also be unreliable in the eyes of the US as they ratchet 
up for new wars.

But Beazley is a safe bet for the US. He was not given the name of "bomber 
Beazley" for nothing as Minister for Defence in the Keating Government. He 
has been a consistent supporter of US policies and did not join in any 
substantive criticism of the US invasion of Iraq, preferring to remain 
quietly in the background.

So, the US has two preferred options -- that Howard continue as Prime 
Minister for another five years (and he cannot be sure of winning the next 
election given the unstable economic situation and the massive opposition 
in Australia to war), or, a Labor Party led by Beazley who would ensure the 
continuation of basically the same foreign policies pursued by Howard.

The wider options for the Australian people are either to remain as a 
virtual prisoner of US policies with all that that means in terms of wars 
of aggression, alienation from our Asian neighbours and main trading 
partners, and subjugation of Australia's economy to the US through a "free 
trade" agreement.

Or, that Australia strike out for an independent foreign policy, refuse to 
blindly follow the US into its planned endless wars, give priority to 
friendly relations with our Asian neighbours and refuse to be tied hand and 
foot to the US economy.

US manipulation is an important factor behind the current leadership 
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