According to the Newspoll published in today's The Australian, 49% of respondents said that the Coalition (Liberal/Nats, not The Willing) would best handle national security, while 26% said the Labor Party. (And 25% either uncommitted, or with another choice.)
I really can't understand for the life of me how anyone could argue that the Libs have demonstrated competence in handling national security.
Consider their record:
- They have heightened Australia's risk as a terrorist target by participating in the war in Iraq - a war based on either faulty or false intelligence and without either popular or bipartisan support in Australia.
- They failed to heed repeated warnings that AWB was paying $300 million in kickbacks to the Iraqi government, then led by Saddam Hussein, in return for maintaining wheat contracts, in contravention of UN sanctions.
- The Defence department's procurement strategy under Brendan Nelson have undertaken some bizarre priorities.
- The Foreign Minister's woeful performance in international relations in the South Pacific region, having succeeded in the past few years in putting almost every regional government's nose out of joint with heavyhanded or simply insulting comments and actions. Especially of note: Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru.
- The failure to acknowledge climate change as the biggest long-term threat to national security, and the apparent lack of any plan to (a) protect Australia's borders from climate-change-driven invasion, and (b) demonstrate any compassion whatsoever to nations facing inundation from rising sealevels (for example Tuvalu, Niue, Kiribati).
- A perceived buddiness with the Bush Administration which goes far above and beyond the so-called "US Alliance".
It's hard to imagine a government led by Kevin Rudd, who absolutely ran rings around Downer when he was shadow foreign minister, being lax on foreign policy and national security.