Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

On War and Remembrance

Since I took up studying teaching, all that half-silly/half-sinister commentary that happens from time to time alleging Australia’s school children are having their brains filled with left-wing propaganda – especially when it comes to history – has become a bit more directly relevant for me. Although it’s pretty clear that fact-free fumigating by some random politician – even a random Education Minister – has little direct effect ...


Peace Convergence against war games in Yeppoon

I wrote on this blog four years ago about going to Yeppoon to participate in the Peace Convergance, protesting against the Talisman Sabre military exercises, which are held nearby in the beautiful Shoalwater-Byfield area. This weekend I went to Yeppoon for the same purpose, speaking at a rally held on the beachfront. I speak at and support such events because I believe it is important to encourage more ...

Progress in efforts to ban cluster bombs

Last week, the international convention to ban the use of cluster bombs and other munitions was ratified by two more countries, providing the 30 ratifications needed for it to become officially binding international law.  The Convention on Cluster Munitions will now come into force this year on 1 August, little more than two years after it was first adopted in Dublin in May 2008. Since then, movement on this convention ...

The Speech

As the speech itself acknowledges, a single speech can't resolve things.  But it is impossible to overstate how significant it would be if the vision President Obama expresses and aspires to in this speech is successful.  The text of the speech is here, or here for translations into 14 other languages.  It is worth taking the time to listen to and watch as well.

War on ‘War on Terror’?

Larvatus Prodeo draws attention to a significant and sensible comment by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who has acknowledged the unhelpfulness and inaccuracy of the “War on Terror” phrase and indicated the British government stopped using it some time ago.  Anyone in Australia who has made the same point over the last seven or so years has usually been branded as being at best “soft on terror” or ...

New opportunities for peace?

I went along to a meeting of peace activists held in Brisbane over the weekend, examining ways forward in the current political and social environment.  I suspect promoting peace above conflict has always been a far harder row to hoe, but it’s still something worth struggling for wherever possible. The urgency of now does tend to make us overemphasise the present situation compared to the past, which now seems ...

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 40 years on

This week saw the fortieth anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). One thing that has often perplexed me is how much the public anxiety about the proliferation of nuclear and other armaments has diminished over the last twenty years. The end of the Cold War could explain some of it, but given the repeated references by various political leaders to the threat of terrorism, a ‘War on Terror’, rogue ...

Better controls over committing troops to war

It was 1981 when an Australian Democrat Senator first proposed to amend the Defence Act to require the approval of Parliament before our troops could be sent overseas to war. It has been proposed many times since - I still have a Bill before the Senate which would achieve this.- but has never gained the support of a major party. Prof George Williams has a good piece in ...

US soldier refuses to serve in ‘illegal Iraq war’

A US soldier has appeared at Congress, stating his refusal to serve in Iraq, citing grounds that the US military presence there “is unconstitutional and illegal.” Sergeant Matthis Chiroux had already served in Afghanistan, Germany, Japan, and the Philippines before he was honorably discharged and placed in the reserves, which immunises him against any cheap shots that he is just a coward. As a reservist, he was due ...

Forgotten casualties of Iraq war

It is understandable that the media and community tend to focus on the people killed in action in wars, as well as on the civilian casualties in the war zone. But it does mean that the ongoing impacts on the soldiers who return home can be forgotten – especially those who return apparently unwounded. It is an unfortunate tendency of governments to be more enthusiastic about sending people to ...

Small defence cuts make big splash

Cutting ten billion dollars in spending from the Defence Department sounds dramatic – until you notice it’s to be spread over ten years. Apart from the basic mathematical fact that this immediately reduces the cuts to just $1 billion a year, government money announcements – for both cuts and spending – that are spread over ten years have a strong tendency to be back-ended to the outlying years, which ...

Iraq War 5 years on

The fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has provided plenty of reflections on the consequences and correctness of that decision. The Easter long weekend is probably as good a time as any time to read back over some of what was said at the time of the invasion. One quote from around that period which is worth revisiting is that of former Prime Minister, John Howard, who ...

Canada debates troop deployment in Afghanistan

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the lack of public debate in Australia regarding our ongoing troop commitment in Afghanistan (also touched on over at Larvatus Prodeo).  This contrasts with Canada, where that country’s Liberal government has given notice that it wants to extend the country’s combat mission in Afghanistan until 2011, which will trigger a debate and vote on the matter in their Parliament next ...

Time to rethink our approach to Afghanistan?

Sometimes I find it strange that there is so little public debate about the ongoing engagement of Australian troops in Afghanistan. As this piece from The Age last October noted, "recent polling indicates declining public support, with half saying the troops should be pulled out", even though "there is bipartisan support for that war from the major parties" and "Labor leader Kevin Rudd has gone so far as to ...

Parliamentary Approval for War

Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser gave an interesting speech last week entitled “Finding Security in Terrorism’s Shadow: The importance of the rule of law”. It is an interesting and thought provoking speech. It is appropriately scathing of the neo-conservatives and their malign influence not just in the USA but on the globe. But it also goes beyond that into the history, role and importance of the rule ...

Our War

While our government makes every effort to distract the public with their undefined, ever-shifting ‘war’ on terror, there is a real war and real ever-present terror going on – one which our government, and thus our country, initiated and continues to support. The USA based magazine The Nation has just published a series of in-depth interviews with 50 combat veterans of the Iraq war. Our war. ...

Peace Convergence at Talisman Sabre

I'm in Yeppoon this weekend attending some of the Peace Convergence – a gathering of people protesting against the Talisman Saber defence exercise (also known as 'war games'), which are taking place in nearby Shoalwater Bay, next to Byfield National Park. Some protestors and activists have been here during the week, but the main actions are over the weekend. Tonight, over 300 people packed out the Yeppoon Town ...

Shrugging our shoulders at torture

The Senate has been sitting last week and this week. The Parliament will then rise, returning in the second week of August (missing the period which is usually the harshest part of Canberra's winter). Pre-election hysteria has very much hit inside the sealed off bubble that exists around Parliament House, and any issue that doesn't fit into the chosen storylines and mantra of the political spin ...

Government seeks jail for nonviolent peace protestors

I wrote a piece on this blog last year about four Australian peace protestors being put on trial for entering the Pine Gap intelligence facility as part of a nonviolent protest (which I note attracted a much larger than usual number of comments from readers). Even though many people have been charged over the years with basic trespass offences as part of protests at Pine Gap, this time ...

Honouring Defence personnel: words versus actions

A piece in The Australian states that our Defence Force is “losing its new soldiers, sailors and pilots at an accelerating rate, with more than one in five army recruits quitting in the first 12 months.” As well continuing difficulties with retention, we are also falling short in initial recruitment numbers. No doubt there are many reasons why this is so, but I am convinced that a key ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.