Friday, March 24, 2006


Cyclone Larry presented Prime Minister John Howard with another opportunity to show just how compassionate and caring he really is, even if the Innisfail locals didn't want unsolicited hugs, perhaps they Food? Water? New shoes maybe?

Regardless, Howard was on a hugging streak. The poor child pictured above was innocently walking past, looking for a pair of shoes, when the Prime Minister spotted a gaggle of photographers and snatched the poor lad to his humidity-sodden chest.

The child was less than impressed, probably because he saw the extreme grimace on the face of his Prime Minister. Is close contact with the real people of Australia really so unplesant?

When Howard first walked through the storm-savaged town, he was greeted by a cyclone of boos and shouts of "Bloody Howard! What are you doing here?"

Of course, that cursed damn lefty-bias ridden ABC cut these scenes of genuine Australian honesty from all their news reports. The boos and yells turned to mild cheering when he announced big fat cash handouts....not right now, of course, later on, when all the details were sorted out, of course. This will allow him to announce the same $100 million aid package twice, maybe even three times.

The Cyclone Tour Of Opportunity moved onto Babinda where he stumbled into a building, its floor an inch deep with rainwater, then grabbed a broom from a local and made a surreal attempt to sweep up the water. Nice photo op, of course, hey look, the Prime Minister knows how to hold a broom. Howard tried to laugh it up when he realised he was surrounded by desperate locals who were getting edgy now the food and water supplies were almost gone. Howard laughed, cracked some pitiful joke, and nobody else laughed.

Howard left soon afterwards, and the people of Innisfail went back to lining up in the town square for two more days to get a few hundred dollars in cash.

Howard then stopped off in another town for a chat with a heart-broken banana farmer, who wasn't in the mood for a laugh either.

Now he's back in the warm, safe studios of Sydney media, Howard's been talking about how hard it's really going to be to get the North Queenslanders back on their feet, and although he understands their frustration (how exactly?), he told them they shouldn't expect miracles.

On the anger of Innisfail's locals, Howard managed to warp reality, "...I didn't find that was the case with the....great majority of people I spoke to, including in that long queue that has featured in the news reports this morning, that long queue at Innisfail, the majority of them were stoically understanding that everything was being done."

Yeah, whatever you reckon.

The Australian Army is on the ground and working their guts out, but they're struggling. They're short of manpower, they're short of equipment. After all, most of the Australian Army's heavy vehicles and the kind of equipment that would be perfect for this kind of operation is still in Iraq, along with at least eight of the Airforce's helicopters, two and a half years after Howard said he didn't expect the Iraq deployment to last more than six months.

On Monday, as soon as John Howard realised the extent of the destruction and the desperate situation of thousands of Australians, he quickly left Sydney and flew to the warmth and comfort of the VIP boxes at the Commonwealth Games.

But then it was straight onto Innisfail....the next day. First he had to do another round of media interviews to talk up his trip and the government's generosity. The people of Innisfail had to know, you see, directly from the PM what was going to be done to ease their pain and suffering. Pity most of them didn't hear those broadcasts. There was no electricity to plug their radios in.

Did Howard really need to blow a few hundred grand of taxpayers money invading Innisfail? Couldn't he have simply announced the relief packages from Sydney? Or spent the day with the Red Cross or Smith Family in Sydney helping to pack up supplies being rushed to the desperate people of North Queensland and to do some on the ground recruiting for much needed volunteers and donations? Sure he could have.

But there were desperate, freaked out Australians in suddenly-the-most-famous-town in the country, and they needed him, dammit, they needed to know that their Prime Minister was going to be there for them, with the media, for two or three hours, for a gratuitous photo opportunity. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley was there as well, of course. He wasn't going to miss out on the biggest human interest news story of the year so far.

At least State Premier Peter Beattie hung around to cop the wraith of the locals while Howard and Beazley jetted back to Sydney. Beattie even returned the next day to cop another serving.