This took place during my downtime last month, and I had trouble tracing it back to its source, but John Howard used the D word for the third time on June 15. That's three times in the past six months, but none of them in a constructive light.
It was in an interview with journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald, and it was in response to a query about the foot-in-mouth Defence Minister Brendon Nelson's announcement that Australia would not be joining the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The Herald of June 16 quoted JWH as saying:
"To meet a sizeable commitment in Darfur, we would have to pull forces out of other parts of the world. Once you make commitments, you have obligations not to arbitrarily terminate them."
In other words, we have too many troops in Iraq to offer any additional help in Sudan. (We already have a rugby team full of troops committed to southern Sudan.)
John Howard's apathy towards Darfur is truly appalling, but then again so has his apathy on humanitarian issues much closer to home. And Darfur is not going to be an election issue in this country. Here's what Global Village Idiot Downer had to say on the peacekeeping force issue on The World Today on June 15.
And let's go back a few days to June 12, when Downer tabled a reply to a Question In Writing in the House of Reps relating to the Australian Government's position on Darfur. The full response is here, but I'll conclude with this extract:
Australia shares the widespread international concern at the extreme urgency of the humanitarian and security crisis in Darfur, and considers that strengthening of the international peacekeeping mission in the region is essential.
Essential, so long as we don't have to do it ourselves.