Gillard bombing on moral leadership

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Cluster BombJesuit bishop Enrique Figaredo of Batambang Cambodia recently called on the Australian Government to ratify the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comes into force on Sunday. His plea will probably fall on deaf ears, but there are strong reasons why it should not.

The Convention outlaws the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of the insidious and destructive weapons. They are large bombs that scatter thousands of small 'bomblets' over a wide area. While the bomblets are intended to explode before or upon impact, this doesn't always occur. The unexploded munitions can lie buried and dormant for many years until they eventually explode and maim or kill innocent civilians. They caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapons.

Australia was one of the 107 countries that adopted and signed the convention in 2008. However we have not proceeded to ratification despite Foreign Minister Stephen Smith declaring earlier this year that 'Australia is committed to a world free from cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war'.

In fact, before it eventually signed in December 2008, Australia was one of the nations actively frustrating international attempts to ban cluster bombs. At the time, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that France and Britain supported the ban, but Australia wanted to maintain the right to engage in joint operations with nations such as the US and Israel which were major users, producers and stockpilers of the weapon. Australia's Defence Department maintained that a ban would 'put Australia at a serious military disadvantage in future conflicts, which would be detrimental to our national interest'.

It appears that national interest and national self-interest are one and the same thing.

Australia dragging its heels on ratifying the cluster munitions ban is unconscionable. But what is worse is that, unlike Kevin Rudd during the 2007 election campaign, current Labor leader Julia Gillard appears to be in no mood to countenance conviction politics, which would be needed to move forward on ratifying the cluster bomb treaty without further delay. This and other moral concerns will always receive less priority when consensus rules.

It's easy to recall the glory days of the Kevin07 era when Rudd said he would ratify Kyoto, and he did exactly that as soon as practicable after his government was elected. This time around, it's consensus all the way. Increasingly it's looking as if the Gillard Government does not deserve to be elected if Australia is serious about wanting to be a morally responsible international citizen.


Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Enrique Figaredo, Batambang Cambodia Jesuit, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Kevin07, Kyoto, Gillard


 

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Existing comments

Thank you for this compassionate & reality based article Michael Mullins. You know, I have just realised that, in all the years I have been reading about cluster bombs I have never read one word from a supporter of these diabolical items.

Would it not be fascinating to hear from a supporter ? And equally fascinating to follow the money trail from the people [ presumably 'human beings' ] who make these things & then sell them on to the Generals. Also fellow 'human beings' who fight wars PREDOMINANTLY against woman & children & the elderly in foreign far off lands folorn ? Who are these people that PROFIT from the pain & suffering of innocents . I would be personally very interested in meeting with such persons & getting to know the rationale for their behaviours.

Hey! Does anyone out there in Aussie Paradise Land know any arms merchants ?? Please introduce me! Seriously.
DAVID MELBOURNE HICKS | 26 July 2010


Give us a break editor - what about Tony Abbots lack of moral leadership all his has done since he disposed Malcolm on a genuine moral issue what moral leadership has he shown Eg sink the boats. shot immigration stop health reform- how about you write about that
Jan Payne | 26 July 2010


For the sake of balance, perhaps the editor would slso like to comment on the "Buddy" Abbott policy of turning the refugee boats around. Or, is that outside the editor's political agenda. No, I not a member of the Labor Party. But I am looking for fairness in this papers political comment.
John Morgan | 26 July 2010


Julia Gillard is full of spin. I look in vain for nuggets fo principles amidst what she says.
Skye | 26 July 2010


If you want a 'moral' politician then vote for Senator Fielding or Fred Nile; they may not represent your morality but they sure operate from a moral perpective.

I actually prefer my politicians to be pragmatic and seek consensus over major and divisive issues such as climate change. Otherwise it will remain a political football and any policy will be chopped and changed every time an election comes around. As result of the failure of Copenhagen and the inaction of the major industrial nations anything that Australia does or doesn't do is practically irrelevant to the process of global warming. As a result we actually have time to develop a policy that is supported by the Australian community, I have no problem with Gillard's policy.

It is a very long bow to draw to blame non-ratification of the cluster bomb treaty on Julia Gillard's 'amorality'; perhaps she has other priorities at this time.
chris | 26 July 2010


Rudd also said he would 'close the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Saying sorry to the Stolen Generations holds little substance when it doesn't extend to policy change and action. Talk is cheap. Politicians and political campaigns are expensive.
Damien | 26 July 2010


It's right that we should consider Julia Gillard's lack of moral compass. But bad as she is, she's an angel compared with Tony Abbott. Do we have some sort of residual loyalty to Tony as an outspoken Catholic? If we do, it's misplaced.

Just to tidy up, can someone tell us whether Tony intends to ratify the ban on cluster bombs?
Jim Jones | 26 July 2010


Perhaps the Gillard government does not indeed deserve to be re-elected, but is there an acceptable alternative? Abbott has publicly taken up the morally repugnant position of wanting a foreigner succeed to the position of Head of State, and by a mere accident of birth.
Peter Downie | 26 July 2010


In Jan Payne's ideal world Abbot's faults would be revealed. Gillard's peccadilloes would remain hidden. Remember our PM is the lady who when asked on ABC radio what attracted her to politics unashamedly declared, "The power."
A fair go | 26 July 2010


Didn't notice any consensus when we got the GST or when we invaded Iraq, yet the Howard government was re-elected. I'm getting the impression Gillard is trying more not to lose the election rather than win it. I think Paul Keating said something like 'if you're a leader then lead'.
Lynn Davidson | 26 July 2010


Where's Tony Kevin when we need him?

He would tell how the Department of Defence can get away with its "military disadvantage" argument re- cluster bombs.
I bet if the government did hint that it was considering ratifying the Convention every possible scaremongering story would appear in the media. Not only would our borders be at risk but our brave lads fighting overseas would be deprived of crucial weapon in pacifying recalcitrant villages in war zones.

The military-industrial complex is a powerful political force.

Gillard has enough opponents without taking it on.
Morally irreponsible? Maybe.

Pragmatic? Definitely.
Uncle Pat | 26 July 2010


The safety and security of Australia has to come well before any well-meaning agreements. I am sure that our Australia's Defence Department knows a bit more about what is needed to defend our country then some bystander. I am sure that Labor and Liberals already know all the tricks and spins of people trying to undermine the defence of Australia.
Beat Odermatt | 26 July 2010


When will we finally destroy all the cluster bombs we dropped on Vietnam and Cambodia. When we do, we could then take a more informed decision on this international Convention on Cluster Bombs. Any volunteers to help in the land-clearing?

Ray O'Donoghue | 26 July 2010


It's right that we should consider Julia Gillard's lack of moral compass. But bad as she is, she's an angel compared with Tony Abbott. Do we have some sort of residual loyalty to Tony as an outspoken Catholic? If we do, it's misplaced.

Just to tidy up, can someone tell us whether Tony intends to ratify the ban on cluster bombs?
Jim Jones | 26 July 2010


I give up, the severe right-wing conservatism with a twisty tail expressed in most Eureka publications is a form of intellectualism I find tedious.

I wonder why the participants don't stand for election themselves?

anastasia | 26 July 2010


Everyone should have realised years ago that Gillard has no moral compass.
Marilyn Shepherd | 26 July 2010


A clarification - I certainly did not intend to imply that an Abbott Government would be more likely than a Gillard Government to ratify the Cluster Munitions Convention, and therefore more 'moral' than Labor. I would assume that the Coalition would be less likely to ratify the Convention. My intention was to publicise the fact that the Convention is coming into force on Sunday, and the lack of action from Australia.
Michael Mullins | 27 July 2010


"I give up, the severe right-wing conservatism with a twisty tail expressed in most Eureka publications is a form of intellectualism I find tedious."

???

As a free-market, hard money, "no foreign entanglements" Jeffersonian, I beg to differ with this assessment of this site.

To be sure, I commend the E.S. skepticism with regard to the prudence of our ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, whilst deploring, on my own behalf, any suggestion that such interventions are entirely reducible to base political motives.

That's hallmark Jeffersonianism.

But I challenge anyone, right or left, to furnish substantial evidence that E.S.'s overall position as "right-wing conservatism"!

Seems to me, in most other respects from that suggested above, E.S. is the Greens at prayer. Some of which I agree with. Most of which I think is utter bosh.
hh | 28 July 2010


As a Vietnam Vet I saw the result when a civilian child was hurt by one of these hideous things. Sadly neither side of politics will ban them as the Military/Industrial Lobby is a powerful force indeed and will engage in a similar program to the big mining companies protest about the so called super mining tax. I am not sure what the military brass feel but as an ordinary ex soldier, I can't see any justification for their use. As for cleaning them up-that is for the too hard basket!

Micheal I am glad that you have noted the hypocrisy on both sides!
Gavin | 28 July 2010


What is going on behind the scenes? I would have hoped that ratification of the CCM would have been a nonpartisan, lay-down misere.

Certainly the UK, with its prominent alliances, managed to ratify by 31 May, and they will be a fully-fledged States Party at the First Meeting of States Parties, in Vientiane, this November.

The CCM is one of the best international treaties ever signed, in terms of human rights measures for survivors and their communities,and preventative measures against indiscriminate weapons manufacture, deployment and use.

A measure of the current stigmatisation of cluster munitions is that they appear not to get any mention in the Wikileaks War Logs - seems as though our ally got the message after they dropped food parcels and similar-looking cluster bombs in Afghanistan, back in 2002 or so.

All you posters who think Mr Abbott could do better than Ms Gillard, or worse perhaps, take the time to ring up their offices and ask.

If only Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese villagers had nothing better to worry about than who will be Australia's next PM.
Robert Rands | 28 July 2010


What is going on behind the scenes? I would have hoped that ratification of the CCM would have been a nonpartisan, lay-down misere.

Certainly the UK, with its prominent alliances, managed to ratify by 31 May, and they will be a fully-fledged States Party at the First Meeting of States Parties, in Vientiane, this November.

The CCM is one of the best international treaties ever signed, in terms of human rights measures for survivors and their communities,and preventative measures against indiscriminate weapons manufacture, deployment and use.

A measure of the current stigmatisation of cluster munitions is that they appear not to get any mention in the Wikileaks War Logs - seems as though our ally got the message after they dropped food parcels and similar-looking cluster bombs in Afghanistan, back in 2002 or so.

All you posters who think Mr Abbott could do better than Ms Gillard, or worse perhaps, take the time to ring up their offices and ask.

If only Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese villagers had nothing better to worry about than who will be Australia's next PM.
Robert Rands | 28 July 2010


Anastasia, if E.S. is "severe right-wing conservatism", I'd hate to see what you would call left-wing. For my money, H.H. got it right.
Patrick James | 29 July 2010


Did you know that ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank both finance companies that manufacture cluster munitions? Type Worldwide Investment in Cluster Munitions into Google and click on the recently released report (Banking Hall of Shame given from page 13 of summary report). Then I encourage you to write to ANZ and CommBank to protest.
Michelle Fahy | 29 July 2010


I agree with some of the undersigned. If Labor loses this election we will end up with a party in power which has transgressed just about every moral principle you care to mention. That the secular media, dominated by commercial interests, is so one-sided, is a given, but when a journal like this one begins to join the chorus of anti-Gillard attacks and ignores the weakness in the Liberal case, then the Liberals must be laughing their heads off. And once again, one of our senior Bishops gets all selective in his criticisms...I despair. I would rather have a principled agnostic or atheist as PM than a so-called Christian who in deed or word betrays the message of the Gospel and plays on greed (No Great Big New Tax) and fear (Turn the Boats Back) in its electoral propaganda.
Ann | 30 July 2010


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