(by Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com) – In an outcome that deprives President Bush of a close ally and friend on the world stage, weekend elections in Australia brought the John Howard era to an end, making way for a center-left government eager to support the Kyoto Protocol and pull troops from Iraq.
Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party, in a landslide, ended the premiership of the second-longest serving leader in Australia’s history.
The Australian Election Commission reported Monday that with almost 79 percent of votes counted, Labor had picked up 23 seats to win 83 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives. Howard’s conservative Liberal-National coalition stood at 58 seats.
Howard suffered the additional ignominy of losing his own constituency seat to a Labor newcomer and former broadcast journalist.
Rudd, a 50-year-old former diplomat, this week will pick his cabinet, and he says ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is one of two top priorities for the incoming government.
The withdrawal from Iraq is expected to come later: The Labor Party campaigned on a pledge to begin the process in mid-2008.
Bush was among the first world leaders to congratulate Rudd on his victory, and the prime minister-elect told a press conference he had assured the president of “the centrality of the U.S. alliance in our approach to our future foreign policy.” He declined to say whether they had discussed Iraq during the call.
The White House in a statement said Howard, 68, had “served the people of Australia well by pursuing policies that led to strong economic growth and a commitment to keeping Australians safe by fighting extremists and their ideology around the world.”
Although Howard has held office since 1996, it was after 9/11 that the U.S.-Australian political and military alliance moved into a higher gear.
Howard happened to be in Washington the day al-Qaeda attacked, and he was quick to respond, invoking the mutual defense provisions of a half century-old military pact.
In its largest combat deployment since the Vietnam War, Canberra then contributed troops, including Special Forces, as well as aircraft and ships, to the mission to topple the al-Qaeda-allied Taliban in Afghanistan. A tough-on-security, tough-on-illegal-immigration platform saw Howard re-elected in late 2001 with an expanded majority.
A year later, Australia had its own direct experience with Islamist terrorism, when al-Qaeda-linked bombers targeted tourists on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 202 people, 88 of them Australians.
Defying critics at home, Howard the following March became one of the most outspoken supporters of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and, after Britain, the biggest contributor to the U.S.-led military effort.
As Bush’s other Iraq partners — including leaders in Spain, Italy, Poland, Japan and, most recently, Britain — one by one left office, Howard remained a loyal ally, quick to support Washington even during the darkest periods of the drawn-out conflict.
Australia’s initial and continued role in the Iraq mission were issues in a 2004 election campaign, with Labor pledging to withdraw troops and Howard promising to keep them there until the job was done. Despite opinion polls favoring a Labor victory, Howard not only won, but his coalition again increased its House of Representatives majority and took control of the Senate.
Climate change outlaws
Howard’s opponents over the years have painted him as overly close to Bush, not just on Iraq and terrorism, but also on other issues ranging from unease over embryonic stem cell research to a more critical approach to the United Nations.
Perhaps nowhere were their common positions in the face of substantial pressure seen more clearly than with the politically charged issue of global warming.
Howard shared Bush’s skepticism about the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized nations to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases blamed for climate change by set amounts by 2012.
Both refused to embrace the pact, citing risks to their countries’ economies and noting that Kyoto did not require China and India to curb emissions, despite being among the heaviest CO2 emitters.
Their shared stance prompted vilification from green activists, and former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore called the two countries the “Bonnie and Clyde” of global efforts to combat climate change.
In 2005, Australia and the U.S. launched a new Asia-Pacific climate partnership that aims to use technology in the search for cleaner fossil-fuel energy, while also promoting nuclear energy.
Significantly, the partnership brought in China and India, as well as Japan and South Korea. Together, the six members account for more than 50 percent of the world’s energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
With the defeat of Howard’s government, Canberra is now set to ratify Kyoto, even as the U.N. prepares to meet in Bali next month to hammer out a post-Kyoto agreement for the period after 2012.
During a visit to Australia last September, Gore predicted that if Australia joins Kyoto, it would be impossible for the U.S. to withstand the international pressure and continue to hold out alone.
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1. Write the letter of the definition in the blank next to the term that it describes
_____ consumer price index
_____ Federal Reserve Board
_____ monetary policy
_____ interest rate
_____ housing bubble
_____ baby boomers
a – An increase in the general price level of goods and services; alternatively, a decrease in the purchasing power of the dollar.
b – an expert in the science of economics
c – Measures the change in the cost of living for most American families. Widely followed as an indicator of inflation of retail purchases.
d – The cost of borrowing money, expressed as a percentage, usually over a period of one year; The percentage of an amount of money which is paid for its use for a specified time
e – someone born in a period of increased birth rates, such as those following World War II. In the U.S., demographers have put the generation’s birth years at 1946 to 1964
f – a tool by which government can influence the economy by affecting interest rates. In the case of the US, the Federal Reserve Board may choose to increase interest rates thereby slowing the economy and dampening inflation, or decrease interest rates which may stimulate the economy by stimulating investment and consumption
g – a type of economic bubble that occurs periodically in local or global real estate markets. It is characterized by rapid increases in the valuations of real property such as housing until they reach unsustainable levels relative to incomes and other economic indicators, followed by rapid decreases that can result in many owners holding negative equity (a mortgage debt higher than the value of the property).
h – a government appointed organization which runs the central banks in the USA; A group of economists and other experts who set the nation’s monetary policy. The board’s most powerful tool to control inflation is the power to control interest rates.
2. Name the current and the past two chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board.
3. How much of an increase was there in the CPI in 2005? How do you know from para.#2 that that number was a good thing?
4. In what years did the U.S. have double digit inflation? Ask your parents or other adults to describe how that double-digit inflation affected them (their experience with jobs, ability to save money, living expenses at that time, etc.)
5. What happens when inflation is low? What was impressive about the low inflation during Mr. Greenspan’s tenure?
6. What do critics of Mr. Greenspan say is a result of what they think was his “too easy monetary policy”?
Every American should have a basic understanding of economics. Many Americans are in serious credit card debt. You should never buy something with a credit card if you don’t have the money in the bank to pay for it.
For further information on the Federal Reserve, go to the website here.
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