Tim Blair continues to insist that the election was about Iraq. I’ll look at his arguments in a moment, but first let’s look at what everybody else says about this.
Tom Allard and Mark Metherell in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Iraq flared briefly after the Jakarta bombings—most notably in the leaders’ debate—but was mostly left alone by the Opposition, even though Mr Howard refused to talk about the issue, betraying his fears the missing weapons of mass destruction and increased terrorist threat could hurt this chances.
A “Labor Insider” in Crikey:
Labor’s Iraq policy. Latham’s on the run promise to “bring the troops home by Christmas” cruelled this potential vote winner for Labor. Even opponents of the war think this a bad policy and it cast doubt on his grasp of security issues. Howard wasn’t able to use it during the campaign because of his lies on Iraq, but it meant Latham wasn’t able to use it either.
Greg Sheridan in the Australian
Iraq hardly figured in the campaign
The Associated Press:
Iraq played only a minor role in Australia’s election campaign.
Sally Young in the Herald Sun:
Another factor that went in the Coalition’s favour was that an issue which could have caused some difficulties for the Coalition—the Iraq war—did not turn out to be a major issue in the campaign
John Black in the Courier-Mail:
Error 8: Don’t mention the war. Labor ran no effective campaign on Iraq
John O’Sullivan in NRO:
Iraq has scarcely been an issue.
Australian warblogger Arthur Chrenkoff:
If the issue of Iraq did not seem to have been on the forefront of the Australian election campaign, it’s because by contrast with the US presidential campaign it wasn’t there to anywhere near the same degree.
John Quiggin at Crooked Timber:
Anyone with any knowledge of Australia, or even with the capacity to read Australian papers on the Internet, would know that Iraq was barely mentioned either during the election campaign or in the subsequent analysis.
And there’s plenty more where those came from.
How does Tim Blair attempt to make a case that the election was about Iraq? Well, he gathers together all the mentions of Iraq that he can find. Trouble is, there aren’t that many, so he even has to pad out the list with lots of stuff from March, well before the election campaign. So, what did he find? Well, as mentioned above, Iraq flared briefly as in issue in the leaders’ debate after the embassy bombing. Following the Iraq Survey Group’s finding that Iraq had no WMDs Howard got four questions about Iraq after his Press Club appearance (Blair counts this as 27 mentions). That’s pretty much it.
Probably the best indicators of the relative importance of the issue are Howard’s and Latham’s policy launches. Howard devoted just one out of sixty-five paragraphs in his policy launch to Iraq. Latham only mentions Iraq briefly, almost at the end of his speech. Compare the amount they talk about Iraq with how much they talk about taxes, unemployment, interest rates, health care, education, the environment, industrial relations, childcare, the economy and pensions
So does anyone agree with Blair’s position? Blair claimed that Robert Corr did, but Corr repudiated him:
Tim Blair also puts my name forward as someone who thinks the war on Iraq was a significant election issue. I do not.