The member for Mayo, Alexander Downer, has really gone over the top with his fear mongering this time. In the past it has been weapons of mass destruction that Howard and Downer told us Saddam was ready to deploy against us at any moment. Then there were the mobile chemical weapons factories found shortly after the invasion stage of the war against Iraq that Downer insisted was proof that Saddam had WMDs. They turned out to be nothing more sinister than hydrogen gas generators to fill artillery ranging balloons.(1) Now Downer is trying the same fear tactics by telling us that North Korea has the ability of launching a missile capable of hitting Sydney presumably with a nuclear warhead. Why on earth would North Korea want to do that? Apart from anything else, Sydney is around 10000 kilometres away from North Korea. North Korea’s best missile is believed to have a range of no more than 4000 kilometres.(2)
Is this the way a Foreign Minister attempts to pacify and calm an angry nation state by accusing it of something it isn’t even capable of doing even if it was angry enough to want to? Are these really the statesman-like things our top diplomat should say about a nation just prior to visiting that nation to negotiate a peaceful resolution to a serious regional dilemma? Fomenting fear and hatred of another nation that is not a threat to us is not a satisfactory way of moving toward a more peaceful world.
And then, between frightening Sydneysiders and actually visiting North Korea, Downer, while visiting China, tells the Chinese leadership that ANZUS would not necessarily be invoked if there were to be trouble between the US and China over Taiwan. Downer tried to back down from all of these gaffes but in the end simply left himself exposed for what he really is – an inept buffoon trying to play politics by bouncing off two of the world’s most powerful nations.
If the consequences of much of his ineptitude were not serious then his buffoonery would be laughable. Unfortunately, as our Foreign Minister, his decisions can often have disastrous consequences, some of which can cost people their lives. One could only imagine how many Australians would have to die in a hostage situation similar to the one endured by the Philippines recently if Downer is left to play politics with their lives. One can only speculate how many lives could have been saved had Downer told Australians of the dangers he had been warned of. Knowing the danger and failing to warn, other than the usual type of ‘take care’ but otherwise ‘business as usual’ (3) advice that was given, is criminal neglect at best, and, at worst, aiding and abetting murder if the neglect was deliberate in order to procure a political advantage from such a tragedy.
1. Douglas Jehl and Elisabeth Bumiller, “No Weapons in Iraq Trailers”, The Age, 10 August 2003. (Available online): http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/09/1060360546335.html Accessed 26 August 2004.
2. Joseph S. Bermudez, “North Korea Deploys New Missile”, Janes Defence Weekly, 2 August 2004. (Available online): http://www.janes.com/defence/news/jdw040802_1_n.shtml Accessed 26 August 2004.
3. “Downer Pressure on ABC”, The Age, 2 July 2004. (Available online):
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/07/01/1088488099861.html Accessed 26 August 2004.