Australian elections: A Bush ally is ousted

And then there were

And then there were … well, none, said Raymond Bonner in The New York Times. When Australian voters last week emphatically rejected Prime Mini­ster John Howard’s bid for re-election, Presi­dent Bush lost the world leader he may have liked best—and his last staunch ally in the war in Iraq. Like Britain’s Tony Blair before him, Howard—an outspoken, even defiant conservative—was one of the original members of the “coalition of the willing” that invaded Iraq, and stood “unabashedly in America’s corner” even as his public turned against the war and mocked him as Bush’s “poodle.” Now, like Blair, Howard is gone, losing his bid for a fifth term. His successor, the Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd, has already pledged to withdraw Australian combat troops from Iraq and take the country on a new course, independent from America’s.

It wasn’t just his support for Bush on Iraq that got Howard booted out of office, said The Seattle Times in an editorial. Australians also were dismayed with Howard’s decision to follow Bush’s lead in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Down Under, the topic of climate change has become “less esoteric” after an epic drought that has wreaked havoc on farming and forced serious water restrictions in major cities. A rise in sea levels, Australians fear, would inundate portions of their own island of Tasmania as well as neighboring New Zealand. So “greens” worked hard for Howard’s rival, Rudd, said Andrew Leonard in The new prime minister said he would approve Kyoto immediately, leaving the United States standing proudly alone as the only developed nation in the world still refusing to mandate any reduction in carbon emissions. Let’s hope Australia’s change of heart is the start of “bigger and better things elsewhere.”

It’s true that John Howard was “an unusually generous and outspoken ally” of the U.S., said National Review Online, but his departure isn’t the dramatic development some are claiming. For one thing, Australia’s withdrawal of a few hundred troops from Iraq will have no real impact. For another, Rudd’s pledge to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is “a claim of virtue rather than a practical policy.” Our other allies have ratified it, too, yet none of them “have reduced their carbon emissions in line with their promises.” As for Rudd, he “is firmly pro-American,” like most Australians. The Aussies may live on the other side of the world, but as citizens of another optimistic, geographically vast, and relatively young democracy, they have a naturally “pro-American disposition, which is unlikely to change.”

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