Have I ever mentioned how much I love Australia?
I think that most Americans, liberal and conservative alike, have admired the antipodean nation. But now, American liberals might just like it a bit less.
Liberal Party leader John Howard just got re-elected Prime Minister. It will be the fourth term for Howard, and is the second-longest term ever served by an Aussie PM. Howard is a staunch ally of the U.S. and a major ally in the War on Terror/in Iraq. His win assures that Australian troops will remain in Iraq.
If Mark Latham’s Labor Party had won, all 850 Australian troops would have been brought home by Christmas (or so he promised). It could have been disastrous, as the Coalition had already lost Spain in March after they’d been attacked by Al-Qaeda with the Madrid commuter-train bombing.
Instead, Australian voters decided their stable economy was of greater concern and trusted Howard to keep it on track. Their housing market is affordable, there is strong employment, interest rates are low and the stock market riding high. A free trade agreement with America, that Howard negotiated (and which the opposition Labor party itself endorsed), will only help.
Mark Latham, in addition to his endorsement of the free trade agreement, had also tried to paint himself as pro-American and strong on security by backing the U.S. Alliance, striving to put his differences with Bush aside. But Howard has already proven himself with regard to security issues with his pro-active stance toward terror and strong border control against illegal immigrants. Australians may have decided that, despite their opposition to the Iraq War, that maintaining strong ties to the United States and Britain is pragmatic and sensible.
In fact, Howard’s victory reminds of a sign I saw in the Marxist Society’s office at the university I used to work for. In April, they posted a sign in their window that showed:
Aznar’s name was crossed out. The point? We’ve gotten rid of one evil member of this war coalition, so said the stupid-ass campus socialists, and soon they’ll be many others. They expected Howard to fall next, followed by Bush, followed by Blair.
But Blair is expected to win Britain’s 2005 General Election, Bush is in a tight race with Kerry, but is by no means out; Americans still trust him more with national security issues. And as for Howard, well, Mark Latham and Labor were a dead cert with their promise to pull out of Iraq.
Think again. The rest of the coalition won’t be broken up that easily, as Australian voters proved.