Downer Squeals Over New Aussie Poll!

A Mark Seymour rant that he posted on his Internet site about a recent Australian poll on attitudes towards the Iraq War.

Author: Mark Seymour.

Date: 2 October 2006.

Original URL:


Article Text

The Lowy Institute for International Policy has found that after surveying more than 2000 Australians, 84% believe that the U.S. led invasion of Iraq has done nothing to lessen the threat of terrorism. Wow. That’s a big majority. You’d think a number as big as that would have some traction in Canberra.

Unfortunately, if my memory serves me well, most Australians polled at the end of 2002 were opposed to military intervention without U.N. sanction in the first place. As I recall there was a massive outcry at the concept of supporting a U.S. led invasion. Despite this, John Howard referred to those who protested publically as “the mob” and he wouldn’t be swayed. Now, the government is as equally dismissive of this latest finding. Given its form, we can hardly be surprised.

Still, one has to ask, who are these 84%? Are they decent, hard working and thoughtful? Are they liberal or labor? Were any of them drunk or on drugs at the time? These questions are what makes this particular statistic so interesting. These people weren’t mere rabble marching in the streets. From a political perspective, we don’t know who they are. You have to wonder then, if Iraq could have some traction in the near future. After all, this question was asked in relation to terrorism which as we are constantly reminded, is a threat to us all, regardless of our political views. Who knows, we might be in for a close election.

In the end, there was a response from the government but it wasn’t what you’d call heart warming. Alexander Downer is a consummate master of spin and he’s only the cabin boy. Somehow he managed to “um and um” a bit and then delicately slid the discussion away from where it could easily have gone; to the question of whether or not the whole Iraq adventure was in fact a really stupid idea in the first place! He started rambling on about how ‘the central question’ should have been about ‘surrendering to the terrorists or staying the course’. You gotta hand it to the bloke. He knows when to talk tough. And isn’t he that?

Hang on! Did I miss something? The Lowy Institute is an independent researcher. It isn’t in the business of doing the government’s work. It hasn’t failed in it’s job. From what I understand it was investigating the effects of terrorism on public opinion, no more, no less. But that said, Downer may well be right. Maybe a majority of Australians really do believe we should hang in there.

So be it. But the fact remains, this particular 84% are clearly saying that the Iraq adventure isn’t doing what Howard and Downer said it would do. In other words, they got it wrong. They got it really wrong. Thousands of Iraqis are dead as a consequence of how wrong they were and you can’t have that much carnage without long term historical consequences.

The whole question of whether we should stay there or not is an attempt to hijack a potentially disastrous debate about Australian Foreign Policy. Like, “Do we have one?”

But hey, if the Yanks pull out, guess what we’ll do?



The amazing thing is that 14% of people in that survey believed that Iraq has reduced the risk of terrorism.

— Stuart Fenech