Who was the bright spark that chose Alexander Downer to run interference for them?
Alexander Downer is an Australian legend.
A man who was nearly Prime Minister of Australia.
Who headed our secret service for a while.
Who was Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
He has been heavily involved with the Australian Government for 4 decades.
He is Australian Royalty.
Diplomatic to the Nth degree and the absolutely top notch English accent.
But sadly gaff prone.
The Peter Principle guaranteed bright outcomes for this wealthy young man.
Good schools. Good, excellent education.
The right circles, the right girlfriend.
Jobs in various industries, then a career in politics.
Whats not to like?
But very sadly gaff prone.
In the end he could have had a career on the stage, he tried his hand at writing, he tried his hand at spying, but he chose politics. Or did politics choose him?
The world is full of not very bright politicians, but he had an education.
Politics is full of nepotism, but he had a flair, a gift of the gab, that would have had him elected anywhere in England, and perhaps in very English, suburban, South Australia.
He should have been in the Senate but instead ran for the House of Representatives in Downer, His father’s old seat, His daughter’s attempted seat and one that he held for 25 years.
Gaff prone or not.
For all his proud achievements two things stand out the most. He had taken over from the toffee, even more unaware John Hewson as leader of the Australian Liberal Party after he lost the unloseable election to Paul Keating.
Paul Keating was a pirahna when it came to Liberal politicians. He would eat them up and spit them out. But he was also like a cat, he liked to play with his food before he killed it.
And Alexander was, did we mention it? Ah, yes, Gaff prone.
He made the mistake of appearing in a picture wearing lace up stockings. True it was for a fancy dress party, Sure he had a plum accent and true he did come from South Australia with all it’s English public schoolboy connotations.
But he made a serious gaff doing this with Paul around.
Secondly he had backed Andrew Peacock in a previous leadership challenge over John Howard. When push came to shove John Howard was just as piranha like as Paul Keating. Alexander lost the leadership to the blandest, simpering, small schoolmaster man in Australia. Which showed that the Australian Liberal Party had a slight IQ potential.
Some one there had registered what had been obvious to 90% of ordinary Australians for the 8 months of his leadership.
Cue Keating the Musical, a gaudy, rude and very funny musical of the events of the Machiavelli of the Australian political landscape. With its picture of Alexander in stockings, with his character in stockings and a Boa.He had to leave Australia and was appointed Ambassador to England. For many years Australia had had the indignity of being landed with the absolute chumps of the British Parliamentary system. Now it was time for our revenge, in spades. Alexander could out talk, out mince and out drink the most poshest Bertie Wooster England could produce. and look good at it. After all he had found the land where Gaffs live and in his top hat and tuxedo and champagne at the Ascot Races with her majesty you would have almost thought of him as one of the family.
What could possibly go wrong??
Who was the bright spark that chose Alexander Downer to run interference for them?
There are many intelligence agencies in the world.
Feared, Feral, Secretive and Deadly.
There are ones you have heard of, the KGB, Mosad, The French.
There are the ones you do not hear of.
The Chinese, The Indian, The Japanese and The Egyptian.
There are tinpot ones like the Danes and Swedish.
Dark ones like the Saudis.
Private ones like Facebook, Google and Murdoch.
And then there are the CIA and MI5.
Agencies that can sometimes make the term Intelligence agency an Oxymoron.
Here we have the problem.
All the intelligence in the world cannot prevent a 9/11.
because they do there jib so well that most 9/11 are found out, investigated, stepped on and eliminated. We do not get told about all the successes and there are many of the them,because it is not a good idea to scare the people you are protecting and you do not want to advertise to your enemies what you are doing so they will keep making the same mistakes.
Gaffes do not happen, are not supposed to happen, are not allowed to happen.
Was there a plot, a conspiracy to bring the President of the USA down to his knees? To force him to resign or else run the risk of impeachment.
By the Intelligence Agencies of America and Britain?
Of course not.
Consider this, a properly run operation by these agencies would already have worked. There would be no slop ups no trail. Seamless.
Chapter 3 Conspiracies.
Conspiracies exist in many areas of our lives, in small groupings, because the image of a conspiracy is that it is secretive and hidden, you cannot have a conspiracy without other people to conspire with and you cannot have other people to conspire with that you cannot trust.
Some conspiracies and groups are able to overcome this by fear. Think Mexican drug gangs. Wow. Think the Sopranos or years ago for Americans the Mob. Think of the Unionists and what it meant to be a scab.
But even these organizations, with their well drilled businesses, are not immune to people breaking down and betraying the confidence. Not even the threat of broken legs, concrete boots or worse can overcome a desire for revenge or a need for money. That is how we know about them. Shadowy, very powerful, conspiring but not completely hidden.
Other areas have their illegal activities Most conspiracies are illegal in some shape or form. Sports teams and sport stars use performance enhancing drugs. The world of road cycling was at one stage unusually prone to this. As a conspiracy it worked well. If you did not fit i, join the group you were ostracised and excluded as a way of keeping the secret. Of course when you did very well you conspired to get other non performance enhancing drugs or enhancing in a different way..
Even well meaning groups, the police , the army the priesthood have their rituals and conspiracies. Doctors as well though it is more one of being with the group. Politicians and journalists. Though police and journalists are often tasked with the responsibility of trying to break other conspiracies
Spies. The Illuminati. The knights Templar. The youth gang down the road.
So which group did Donald Trump belong to and how did it work?
The foolishness of the Democrats. The counterpoint to this is the assumption that a conspiracy was working to bring Donald Trump down. I hope to show in this book just how foolish that idea is as well. But this does not distract from the notion of the foolishness of the Democrats.
The first thing with a good conspiracy theory is that it has to have a nugget of believability. Then you sell it as hard as you can. But it has to have a nugget.
What if Melania was born in Russia. What if Donald had been sent to school there for 2 years. How about if he had a half share in a Russian company.
Well the first thing is he would not have been made President. Americans know a commie when the see one. Forget the birther certificate row. He would have been toast.
So no real dirt on him. What would it take to conspire with the Russians. If you were really going to do it? What would you be offered in exchange.Who could you trust, the nub of all conspiracies. And where was our vaunted Secret Service.
No person running for office of the President could or would be foolish enough to ever enter a conspiracy with the arch enemies of America. There is no reward great enough for having to sell your soul and expect people to never find out. Blackmail. Impossible for the same reasons.It is an obvious no brainer.
So the American people know they are being sold a pup. Blatantly lied to. But half the people are Democrat. They do not want Trump at any price. They are able to pretend they don’t notice the lie, even though they know it instinctively and intuitively. But they know.
The Republicans know as well but cannot do anything about it. The people pushing the lie, journalists working for major news companies, console themselves with their paychecks. Why the news companies are so Anti Trump is a mystery. One view is that they pushed to get him in as a candidate never believing he could win as an alternative to some of the stronger Republican candidates and to help Hilary win.
But that is conspiratorial thinking of the worst kind. The facts are that American News owners are liberal, christian and push family values which were at odds with candidate Trump. They thought they were doing their country a service in attacking and tearing him down.
Nonetheless the idea of Russian collusion in the sense of working for, doing deals with the Russians to the detriment of the American people is one of those theories which make us rubbish conspiracy theories. It has no legs no wings, cannot run and cannot fly and deep down everybody knows it.
Does that mean there was no Russian interaction. A group of Russians reaching out with secret information garnered from Hilary’s well guarded computers. What could they give that did not already arise from the fact that she left her computers open to hacking by anyone. The Russians were only 5th in line and that was after a couple of amateur 11 year old hackers.
What would they have done if they had got any information and the impact of what they had done sank in. Did they involve the Secret Service. On the Russian part why would they voluntarily admit to spying on Americans with all the damage that could do.
So no. The Russians would never have done it. Trump would certainly not do it.
Chapter 5 What do we know.
This involves a lot of Conspiracy theory with a lot of actors and some common threads.
and Alexander Downer.
So lets get the fishnet stockings out and see what we can put together.
This was meant to be a novel on the tumultuous events surrounding a plan to bring down the Trump presidency and to destroy DonaLD tRUMP, WHETHER HE WON THE WHITE hOUSE OR NOT.
It is also the story of one Alexander Downer, set as a counterpoint to the Donald told from an Australian perspective
Penned in a burst of creative energy by Casey Bennetto on the eve of the 2005 Melbourne Comedy Festival, “Keating!” is an hourlong, high-energy rock opera that rampages across the last 15 years of Australian politics with wit, unrelenting mirth and an accuracy of flavor, if not facts.
.Current toffy foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer once was photographed wearing a garter and stilettos to promote the Adelaide season of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” That pic has been reprinted hundreds of times since, but Bennetto takes Downer’s misstep farther, having Cam Rogers warble about being misunderstood while wearing the Frank ‘N’ Furter get-up.
Now I must admit that I was not a fan of Alexander based on my dislike of privilege and I have no doubt that in real life he is as genuine a person as you or I. But he does have a curse over him of forever being in the wrong place, or the wrong stockings at the wrong time. This is the story of two star crossed lovers of life, a Romeo and Juliet of modern times.
Born into a well to do South Australian Family in 1950 Alexander attended Kings College in SA and went on to do University first at Adelaide then later at Cambridge,. This later time developed his already English South Australian into full blown plum English of the “Woyal” persauasion.
Alexander John Gosse Downer AC (born 9 September 1951) is a former Australian politician and diplomat who was leader of the Liberal Party from 1994 to 1995, Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2007, and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2018.
Downer was born in Adelaide, the son of Sir Alick Downer and the grandson of Sir John Downer. After periods working for the Bank of New South Wales and with the diplomatic service, he was appointed executive director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in 1983. He also served as an advisor to Liberal leaders Malcolm Fraser and Andrew Peacock. Downer was elected to parliament at the 1984 federal election, winning the Division of Mayo in South Australia. He was added to the opposition frontbench in 1987.
After the Coalition lost the 1993 election, John Hewson‘s position as leader of the Liberal Party came into question. Downer successfully challenged for the leadership in May 1994, thus becoming Leader of the Opposition. He initially had high approval ratings, but after a series of gaffes resigned the leadership in January 1995 and was replaced by John Howard. He was the first Liberal leader to fail to lead the party to an election, and remains the shortest-serving leader in party history.
When the Howard Government came to power in 1996, Downer was made Minister for Foreign Affairs. He served until the government’s defeat in 2007, making him the longest-serving foreign minister in Australian history. Downer left politics in 2008, and was subsequently named Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Cyprus. He held that post until 2014, when he was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom by the Abbott Government.
On opposition leadership, he said in 2008, “The moment when I wanted to [leave] was just about the first day I started in the job. There was many a time from the first day onwards when I thought to myself, How the hell can I get out of this?”
Following the Howard Government‘s defeat at the 2007 federal election, Downer declined to make a comeback to the leadership and to serve on the Opposition frontbench, amid widespread speculation that he would resign his seat and seek new employment. He subsequently resigned from Parliament on 14 July 2008. His resignation triggered a by-election in the seat of Mayo.
On 3 July 2008, the University of Adelaide announced Downer’s appointment as Visiting Professor of Politics and International Trade in the School of History and Politics, including contributions to teaching and research, and work with the University’s Institute for International Trade. He was also the vice chairman at Carnegie Mellon University, South Australia.
At about the same time, he went into partnership with Ian Smith (a former Liberal Party advisor and husband of former Australian Democrats leader and Senator for South Australia Natasha Stott Despoja) and Nick Bolkus (a former Labor Senator for South Australia) in a boutique consultancy firm, Bespoke Approach.
Also in 2008, Downer discussed the possibility of working as a United Nations envoy to Cyprus with the UN Secretary-General to help revive the peace process. The appointment received the support of the Rudd government, via the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, and it took effect on 14 July 2008. He resigned in February 2014 to take up the post of Australia’s High Commissioner in London.
He has had a number of board appointments, including the Advisory Board of British strategic intelligence and advisory firm Hakluyt & Company, Merchant Bankers Cappello Capital Corp., the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Huawei in Australia, and the board of Lakes Oil. Downer has said that Huawei should not be considered a potential national security risk. Downer’s comments are at odds with an October 2012 US congressional panel’s findings that have deemed Huawei a security threat to the US and other nations.
In 2015, he was recommended by British and Australian officials as a possible compromise candidate for Commonwealth Secretary-General but Baroness Patricia Scotland was ultimately elected to the post at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
On 10 May 2016, according to The New York Times, Downer met with George Papadopoulos in London and information from this meeting caused the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 US Presidential election, and whether there was any involvement by Donald Trump’s associates. Downer told The Australian in a 28 April 2018 interview that, “nothing [Papadopoulos] said in their meeting indicated Trump himself had been conspiring with the Russians to collect information on Hillary Clinton.”
In 2017, it was announced that Downer would join UK think tank Policy Exchange as Chair of Trustees. In June 2018, Downer became the Executive Chairman of the International School of Government at King’s College, London. He is a non-executive director of CQS and of Yellow Cake plc.
In 2003, Downer was accused of not passing on intelligence reports he received before the 2002 Bali bombings. He countered that the warnings were not specific enough to warrant their further release to the Australian public.
Downer supported Australia’s participation in the Iraq War. He argued that Iraq, the Middle East and the world would be better off without the regime of Saddam Hussein and he defended the claim that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq.
In 2005, Australian members of the spiritual group Falun Gong launched action against Downer in the ACT Supreme Court alleging that his department had unfairly limited their freedom of expression.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under Downer was accused by Chinese diplomat and defector Chen Yonglin of closely collaborating with the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, even to the extent of “giving suggestions to the Chinese Government on how to handle difficult political cases.” Downer was accused of pursuing an unduly strong pro-China policy and failing to address human rights violations adequately.
In March 2006, Downer said the Australian Government opposed selling uranium to India. Downer was quoted as saying “Australia had no plans to change a policy which rules out uranium sales to countries like India which have not signed the UN’s nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).” Following the conclusion of the US-India nuclear agreement, the Australian Government said it would export uranium to civil nuclear facilities in India subject to several conditions, one of which was the conclusion of a bilateral safeguards agreement.
In April 2006, he appeared before the Cole Inquiry regarding the oil for food scandal and testified that he was ignorant of the huge kickbacks paid to the Iraq government, despite claims by the Opposition Labor Party that many warnings that had been received by his department from various sources. The Cole inquiry made it clear Downer had been unaware of the kickbacks.
In July 2006, it was claimed that six months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Downer had argued that participating in the invasion would be commercially beneficial for Australia. Downer expressed concern that the war might lead to America taking all of Australia’s wheat market.
In August 2006, it was claimed by a former weapons inspector Dr John Gee, that Downer had in 2004 suppressed accurate and provable information that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was fundamentally flawed. This claim was false.
As Foreign Minister, Downer initially supported the United States Government’s incarceration of two Australian citizens, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Downer later told the US he wanted both released if they were not to be charged. On that basis, Habib was released and Hicks charged.
A major challenge for Downer was handling relations with Australia’s most important neighbour, Indonesia. Downer negotiated the 2006 Lombok Treaty to put security relations between the two countries on a stable footing, built bilateral co-operation to fight terrorism, people smuggling and illegal fishing. One of the recent difficulties which erupted between Australia and Indonesia was when Australia accepted a boatload of asylum seekers from Indonesia’s Papua province in March 2006.
In September 2007, on the sidelines of the 2007 APEC Conference in Sydney, Downer indicated that Australia planned to launch bilateral ministerial-level security talks with the People’s Republic of China. Downer also stated, “China is a good partner of Australia. Whatever the differences there are between us in terms of our political systems, human rights issues, China is a very important part of the strategic architecture, the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region and it’s important we have good forums to discuss any issues of that kind with them.”
Hakluyt & Company
|Private limited company|
|Predecessor||Hakluyt & Company Limited|
|Founders||Christopher James, Mike Reynolds|
|Paul Schreier, Managing Director
Paul Deighton, Chairman
|Revenue||£44.7 million (2015)|
|£11.4 million (2015)|
Hakluyt & Company is a British strategic intelligence and advisory firm, and since 2011 has been a trading name of the renamed company Holdingham Group Limited. Pelorus Research is another trading activity of Holdingham Group, started in 2011, providing research to investment managers. The company is headquartered in London and has subsidiary offices in New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney.
Hakluyt avoids publicity, but is regarded as having a reputation for discretion and effectiveness among its client base. Hakluyt was founded by former officials of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). It attracted controversy in 2001 when Hakluyt was alleged in the Sunday Times to have employed staff to infiltrate environmental groups when working for BP and Royal Dutch Shell.
Hakluyt’s international advisory board comprises senior figures with backgrounds in business and government. It is chaired by Niall FitzGerald, KBE, former CEO and chairman of Unilever, and its current members are:
- Professor Sir Roy Anderson — Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and former Rector, Imperial College London
- M. S. Banga — Partner at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and former Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever
- Keith Craig — Former Managing Director, Holdingham Group Limited
- Amaury de Seze — Vice Chairman, Power Corporation of Canada
- Sir Christopher Gent — Former Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline and former CEO, Vodafone
- Dr Jurgen Grossmann — Founder and Shareholder, Georgsmarienhutte Holding GmbH
- Irene Lee — Chairman, Hysan Development Co. Limited
- Sir Iain Lobban — Former Director, UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
- Minoru (Ben) Makihara, KBE — Former President and Chairman, Mitsubishi Corporation
- Trevor Manuel — Former Minister of Finance, South Africa
- Akio Mimura — Chairman, Tokyo and Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry
- Lubna Olayan — CEO and Deputy Chairperson, Olayan Financing Company
- Sir John Rose — Former CEO, Rolls-Royce
- Andreas Sohmen-Pao — Chairman, BW Group
- Ambassador Louis Susman — Former US Ambassador to the UK ****
- Ratan Tata, GBE — Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons
Keating! The Musical
Bennetto’s inclusion of Alexander Downer’s ‘fish net stocking’ moment is always a highlight of this show – and Jonathon Holmes does it in style. He struts, poses, thrusts and shimmies, neither losing the sting of the lyrics nor the pace of the pretty racy choreography. Holmes also plays John Hewson in a less suggestive costume but a similarly spicy performance.
Coustley shows his versatility a little later when, dressed in fishnet stockings and tights, he gives us a racy Alexander Downer to remember. The Adelaide Hills will never be the same. Eddie Perfect’s moment of glory comes as Alexander Downer. He appears in fish-nets and corsetry, and gives pressing the flesh with the audience a whole new meaning.
Keating! – Alexander Downer: Freaky
Alexander Downer, Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister, is set to quit politics. TonyWright examines a colourful career.
ALEXANDER Downer has long been a runaway favourite with cartoonists. The fishnet stockings, the penchant for off-key karaoke in foreign climes, the apple-red cheeks. Here was a fellow, surely, who could be produced only by Adelaide society and centuries of gentle breeding.
His political foes saw Downer as splendid sport: a sort of throw-back to the foppish drones of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, minus the Catholicism (Downers are, of course, Anglican). In doing so, those who sought to lampoon him also underestimated him.
Here is the former South Australian Labor Senator Chris Schacht in full cry in June 2001, after an Australian ambassador had been withdrawn from his post in Chile, allegedly after Downer became outraged because the envoy had not sent a car to meet him at the Santiago airport.
“This is typical of the background of Alexander Downer,” Schacht railed. “He is the last vestige of 18th century Australian aristocracy – a bunyip aristocracy. He was brought up in the Adelaide Hills at Arbury Park, with 200 acres, deer running around, a dolls’ house for the children to play in, gatekeepers and gamekeepers. He inherited the seat. His mother won the preselection for him.”
The late Mick Young, intellectual shearer and Hawke government minister, used to tell of turning up to the Downer estate to pick up a cheque for shearing and being dumbstruck at the immensity of the mansion. That wasn’t the mansion, a Downer manservant told him. That was simply the gatehouse, where young Alexander kept his dolls.
Stripped of its colourful rhetoric, it is true that Downer is from a privileged, dynastic background, though his own home these days is a relatively modest house modelled on a log cabin. Son of Sir Alexander Downer, cabinet minister in the Menzies government and later Australian high commissioner to London, young Alexander, born in September 1951, was educated at Australia’s leading school for the squattocracy, Geelong Grammar, and later moved among minor British aristocrats at a boarding school in Oxfordshire, Radley College, and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
His grandfather, Sir John Downer, was the premier of South Australia and a founding father of Federation. His mother, Lady (Mary) Downer, is a Gosse, from early South Australian stock.
Yet to paint Downer, for all his plummy tones, as a cardboard cut-out upper-class twit, who Paul Keating once called “the idiot son of the aristocracy”, is to sell him short.
Rather than pursue the life of a dilettante, he chose the path of public service – first as a diplomat and then, for the past quarter century, a politician utterly dedicated to the conservative side of political philosophy.
Now, with him about to assume the post of United Nations envoy to the divided island of Cyprus while working also in a new Adelaide-based lobbying company, it is impossible to judge him as anything less than one of Australia’s most influential figures over the past 12 years.
It is equally impossible to find agreement among political players and commentators about whether that influence was predominantly positive or negative. The very name Downer tends to polarise, because even if compromise is supposed to be the heart of diplomacy, this is one diplomat who has no taste for compromise in politics.
He has long been detested by the left – both within and without his own party – and in turn he detests what he perceives to be the left.
Last year, ABC-TV’s Australian Story followed him and his family around. His wife, Nicky – a former journalist – revealed a little of Downer’s view of the world.
“He often gets very passionate about the ABC; politics on the ABC,” she observed. “If the Liberals, you know, aren’t getting what he believes to be a fair go, he’ll go, ‘Oh the bloody ABC, you know, if they’d only put our point of view, you know’. And then, ‘that one’s a leftie, you often hear this sort of thing you know, lefties, and you know, everybody’s a leftie who’s interviewed on the ABC.’ In fact, I’m quite surprised you’re interviewing us at all!”
Downer’s private rages are said to have been volcanic (and whispered still by staffers and public servants) at the media’s depiction of his appearance at the Cole inquiry into AWB’s Iraq wheat scandal. There was widespread incredulity when he testified that he knew nothing of the kickbacks paid to the Iraq government.
Despite recent suggestions that the Rudd Government was interested in re-opening the inquiry with an eye to placing Downer under harsher scrutiny, the prospect appears to have evaporated. Downer has the Rudd Government’s backing to become UN envoy on Cyprus, and it would be, to use a Rudd-ism, more than passing strange for the new Government to seek to blacken the reputation of one of its own nominees on the world stage.
Now, about to retire from politics, Downer retains the record as Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister – a man who moved easily through the corridors of power across the world for more than a decade, and whose influence over many crucial federal government decisions was second only to that of prime minister John Howard himself.
He was intimately involved in Australia’s military intervention in East Timor after earlier keeping secret Australia’s knowledge of Indonesia backing murderous militias. The Tampa incident, the Pacific Solution, the peace negotiations in Bougainville, peace keeping in the Solomon Islands, and every other major Howard government decision relating to the rest of the world bore Downer’s stamp.
Indeed, it was Downer who formed Australia’s first serious relationship with a Texas governor who would become a US President – George W. Bush – whose international policies would draw Australia into the international conflicts that would define this first decade of the 21st century: the war on terror in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.
Downer, aged 46, had been foreign minister for less than a year and a half when he met then governor Bush, and they got on so famously that Bush wrote to him later declaring he was “very impressed that your country would have a foreign minister who was so youthful and so bright”. The letter has been pinned on Downer’s office wall ever since.
Downer kept in touch as the governor became President and sparked in John Howard an enthusiasm for Bush that, in the days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, would bind Australia to the US and Britain as original partners in the “Coalition of the Willing”. Indeed, just a day after the 9/11 attacks, it was Downer who advised Howard that there was nothing to stop the prime minister invoking Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty, which required Australia to “meet the common danger” and go to war with the US, in this case against terrorism. Downer has never backed away from his belief that Australia was absolutely right to accompany Bush’s troops into Iraq.
Fourteen years ago, there was a brief shining period when it appeared Alexander Downer might become prime minister himself. Elevated to leadership of the Opposition after the failed years of Dr John Hewson, Downer found himself an immensely popular leader of the Liberal Party: so popular that Newspoll had him ranked number one in 374 polls listing the approval ratings of all Opposition leaders since the mid-1980s. It was July 1994.
And then, through his own spectacular lack of judgement – a penchant for off-colour jokes turned his own party’s policy on domestic violence into a tasteless spoof : “The things that batter” – he ensured his own fate would be that of the Liberal Party’s shortest-serving leader. He remains the only Liberal leader who never got to contest an election.
The Newspoll list that ranks Downer top of the approval ratings also ranks him at the very bottom of that list of 374 polls – by December 1994, he had turned a net approval rating of 34 into a shattering minus 49 (a figure reached by subtracting the satisfaction rating from the dissatisfaction rating).
In early 1995, Downer sat at dinner with John Howard in Melbourne’s Athenaeum Club and agreed there was no reasonable alternative but to sign up to a bloodless leadership handover. It was this agreement – tantamount to a concession that leadership would never be his – that granted Downer almost unmatched influence in the parliamentary Liberal Party in the years to come.
Once Howard became prime minister, Downer was granted the right to choose his own cabinet post – Foreign Affairs – and over the years he became the prime minister’s closest confidant, not simply in international affairs, but in the politics of government. He was much given to sitting in his Parliament House office, his shoes off, sucking merrily on his pipe, plotting the course of conservatism and the fate of colleagues.
It was his status as confidant that caused an anxious Howard to send Downer on his last fraught diplomatic errand. This time, it was to seek the views of his cabinet colleagues. Last September, with political clouds threatening and an election looming, Howard wanted to know if he still had the confidence of his ministers. Unhappily for Downer, the answer was no. More unhappily, Howard didn’t want such a message brought to him.
Downer, who had eased Howard’s way to the prime ministership, was cast as the unwelcome messenger. The election last November brought the Howard government’s final message, and Downer, so fed up with politics that he did not even attend Howard’s own farewell to The Lodge and his ministers, has been waiting ever since for the right moment to make his own exit.
The cartoonists – and, one suspects, his foes – will miss him.
Tony Wright is National Affairs editor.
Trump What can one say?
Like Downer I must admit to having formed an antipathy to him based on my semi Presbyterian upbringing and our version of CNN transmitted news.Again I have no doubt that in real life he is as genuine a person as you or I. Just not one that you would want one’s friends to think you knew, other than in a Kardashian celebrity way.
The Cabal is this the C in Covfefe? or is it for Conspiracy?
A cabal is a small group of people united in some close design, usually to promote their private views of or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue and usually unbeknownst to those outside their group. The use of this term usually carries negative connotations of political purpose, conspiracy and secrecy. It can also refer to a secret plot, or a clique of people, or may be used as a verb (to form a cabal or to conspiresecretly]. When half the