Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mad Mel, John Howard and the 'Grubby Dictator'

Remember Melanie Phillips working herself into orgasms over the 'principled' stand by John Howard over Zimbabwe? It was an almost sickening piece of lust for the Australian leader. One wonders how she manages to sleep at night with thoughts of the wonderful Mr Howard swimming around her head. Anyway, Melanie was clearly very proud that Howard is the only leader to actually take a principled stand over Zimbabwe, but just how true is this? How deep do Howard's principles go?

It would appear that it isn't very deep at all. The following is a chart taken from the Australian government's website, detailing trade between Australia and Zimbabwe:

As you can see, there is a rise in 2006. That line represents imports into Australia from Zimbabwe. Despite the apparent human rights abuses, and Howard's righteous indignation, it seems that Australia is quite happy to continue doing business with Mugabe. In fact, on closer inspection of the figures, we discover that trade has increased quite dramatically on 2005. According to the Australian government, imports from Zimbabwe have increased by a staggering 87.4% year-on year. And total trade has increased by 33.6% overall compared to last year. This is quite an astonishing rise. Although Australia isn't a major trading partner with Zimbabwe, it has increased trading with the African nation despite the continuous human rights abuses. So much for Howard's principles.

If John Howard really was serious about Mugabe, if he really believes that he is a 'grubby dictator', why is he so happy to do business with him? By doing so, he is helping to prop up the regime. The biggest winner from the trade between the two countries is tobacco. In fact, it is fair to say that the money from tobacco crops is what is keeping the regime afloat. According to The South African Institute of International Affairs, one economist declared that:

‘More than two-thirds of the country’s 1,500 commercial tobacco growers have been run off their land. Some have sought refuge in the urban areas. Many more have been lured by neighbouring governments competing for Zimbabwe’s spoils and big tobacco companies looking for more stable places to do business.

'There is no doubt about the pivotal role tobacco plays in the economy. A drop in tobacco earnings means loss of revenue for the government to pay for fuel, electricity and other essential imports. Downstream, other industries will also be seriously and negatively affected.’

A 'pivotal role'. And yet, Australia has increased trading in tobacco. So, Mugabe may well be a 'grubby dictator', but he is a 'grubby dictator' that Howard helps keep in power.

Does this mean that the love affair between Mad Mel and John Howard is over? I very much doubt it. Facts and figures are alien to Mad Mel, she prefers hard rhetoric and aggressive posturing to any real sense of values and principles. One only has to read the never ending stream of rubbish that she continually spouts about the Iraq war. No, the facts will be brushed aside as Mad Mel maintains her campaign to spread untruths around the globe in her bid to consolidate her rather twisted right-wing ideology.