Thursday, October 14, 2004

"For many Australian voters, the strong security stance against terrorism of the Howard government was clearly an important voting determinant"

A reader from Down Under complains about the International Herald Tribune's coverage of the Australian election (it is the third letter on the letters page; note, in the first two letters, how anybody defending Dubya's policies is automatically accused of being a poodle).
As one who voted in the recent Australian election, I and many of my friends and acquaintances take strong exception to the line being espoused in the press discounting the Liberal-National coalition's Middle East policy as a factor in its victory (Howard reiterates commitment to Iraq and economy, Oct. 12).

For example, your reportage has attempted to downplay the link in a number of ways: First, by claiming the Iraq policy is "unpopular" — no one is saying any war can be "popular," but if the election was a referendum on the war, which both the Labor Party and the Greens sought to make it, they lost and Prime Minister John Howard's increased majority speaks for itself.

Second, by claiming that the election was fought solely on domestic issues, a contention that ignores the strong antiwar campaign of the competition, all of whom lost heavily.

Third, by downplaying the important Australian military contribution by claiming it to have insignificant size, to be engaged in "noncombat roles" and, just for further emphasis, that "no Australian troops have been killed."

For many Australian voters, the strong pre-emptive security stance against terrorism of the Howard-led government was clearly an important voting determinant.

Those who favor the Middle East policies of the losing political parties may want to dispute this, but theirs is a misinterpretation of the electoral result.

Joe Lederman, Melbourne

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