Movers and shakers

We mourned the loss of two icons, while the res­cue of two un­der­ground min­ers and the Soc­ceroos’ World Cup glory cap­tured our imag­i­na­tions this year. DOUG CON­WAY re­views the ma­jor news of 2006

Townsville Bulletin - - Weekend Extra -


With vi­o­lence es­ca­lat­ing and no exit strat­egy in sight, Amer­i­can vot­ers de­liver a sting­ing protest vote to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Aus­tralia’s key in­ter­na­tional ally, by tak­ing power from his Repub­li­cans in both houses of congress. The re­buff forces Pres­i­dent Bush and Prime Min­is­ter John Howard to dis­cuss new strate­gies for Iraq at a meet­ing in Viet­nam, iron­i­cally the coun­try nom­i­nated by war crit­ics as a prime ex­am­ple of fu­tile and costly for­eign in­ter­ven­tion. Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment stretches be­yond the time it fought in World War II. In more than 3+ years of war in Iraq the death toll among coali­tion troops climbs close to 3000, pass­ing the num­ber killed in the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks which prompted Bush’s war on ter­ror­ism. Es­ti­mates of Iraqi civil­ian deaths reach over 50,000. An in­quiry into Aus­tralia’s first mil­i­tary fa­tal­ity in Iraq finds that Private Jake Kovco was shot with his own hand­gun while sky­lark­ing in his Bagh­dad bar­racks. The re­turn of the Vic­to­rian sol­dier’s body is bun­gled af­ter the body of a Bos­nian car­pen­ter is sent to Aus­tralia in­stead.


La­bor dumps its fed­eral leader Kim Bea­z­ley for his for­eign af­fairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, as Prime Min­is­ter John Howard con­sol­i­dates his decade-long grip on power. Rudd wins a party room vote 49-39, with Ju­lia Gil­lard re­plac­ing Jenny Mack­lin un­con­tested as deputy. La­bor MPs grow rest­less af­ter Mr Bea­z­ley fails to gain ground on Mr Howard in the polls, de­spite the quag­mire in Iraq, a fourth suc­ces­sive in­ter­est rate rise since the 2004 elec­tion, the AWB scan­dal, tough in­dus­trial re­la­tions changes and per­cep­tions of a tardy re­sponse to cli­mate change in the midst of the worst drought for decades. La­bor’s cause fed­er­ally is not helped by a suc­ces­sion of sleazy scan­dals at state level, in­clud­ing the charg­ing of NSW min­is­ter Mil­ton Orkopou­los with drug and child sex of­fences. Mr Howard, mean­while, thwarts his am­bi­tious heir ap­par­ent Peter Costello by declar­ing he will seek a fifth suc­ces­sive elec­tion vic­tory in 2007. Mr Howard digs his heels in af­ter Mr Costello airs claims of a 1994 lead­er­shiphan­dover pact.


Aus­tralians are shaken by the sud­den, tragic deaths of two na­tional icons, Steve Ir­win and Peter Brock, in the same week. Ir­win, 44, television’s in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous Croc­o­dile Hunter, is pierced in the chest by a stingray’s barb while film­ing off Port Douglas, Queens­land. Brock, 61, a nine times win­ner of the Bathurst 1000 tour­ing car race, dies when his sil­ver coupe slams into a tree dur­ing a rally in West­ern Aus­tralia.


Tas­ma­nian gold min­ers Todd Rus­sell and Brant Webb pro­vide the good news story of the year by sur­viv­ing for two weeks trapped al­most a kilo­me­tre un­der­ground fol­low­ing a cave-in which kills their work­mate Larry Knight. The two col­leagues be­come na­tional folk he­roes and sign a lu­cra­tive me­dia deal which means they will never have to work be­low ground again.


Syd­ney ar­chi­tect Fa­heem Khalid Lodhi, 36, be­comes the first per­son con­victed of pre­par­ing a ter­ror­ist at­tack on Aus­tralian soil. He is sen­tenced to 20 years for plot­ting to blow up the na­tional elec­tric­ity sup­ply sys­tem. Vic­to­rian Jack Thomas, a sus­pect with­out a charge, be­comes the first Aus­tralian to have his move­ments re­stricted by a fed­eral con­trol or­der. Al-Qaeda’s chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zar­qawi, is ‘ter­mi­nated’ in a US air strike. Bri­tain foils a plot to blow up trans-At­lantic jets. Je­maah Is­lamiyah’s spir­i­tual leader Abu Bakar Bashir is re­leased af­ter 26 months in jail for his part in the 2002 Bali bomb­ings. Aus­tralian




ter­ror­ist sus­pect David Hicks spends his fifth year un­der Amer­i­can de­ten­tion in Guan­tanamo Bay as the US Supreme Court de­clares il­le­gal the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion sys­tem which was pre­par­ing to try him.


Eleven for­mer ex­ec­u­tives of wheat ex­porter AWB, in­clud­ing ex-chair­man Trevor Flugge, and one for­mer BHP ex­ec­u­tive, could face crim­i­nal charges af­ter the Cole in­quiry finds they were part of a de­cep­tion that il­le­gally chan­nelled $290 mil­lion to Sad­dam Hus­sein’s regime in Iraq. The scan­dal casts a pall over Aus­tralia’s in­ter­na­tional trad­ing rep­u­ta­tion. The in­quiry finds noth­ing to im­pli­cate Prime Min­is­ter Howard, any of his min­is­ters or any gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats, al­though se­ri­ous ques­tions re­main over the gov­ern­ment’s com­pe­tence.

7The Soc­ceroos pro­vide Aus­tralia’s sport­ing high­light with storm­ing per­for­mances at the World Cup in Ger­many af­ter a 32-year ab­sence. Coached by Dutch mas­ter Guus Hid­dink, they come from be­hind to beat Ja­pan 3-1, lose un­luck­ily to Brazil 0-2 and draw with Croa­tia 2-2. They reach the last 16 only to fall vic­tim to an in­fa­mous last­minute ‘dive’ which hands 10-man Italy, the even­tual win­ners, a penalty and a con­tro­ver­sial 1-0 vic­tory. The Soc­ceroos’ show­ing eclipses an­other wildly suc­cess­ful Com­mon­wealth Games in Melbourne and pro­vides some com­pen­sa­tion for the shock re­tire­ment of Aus­tralia’s most dec­o­rated Olympian, swim­mer Ian Thorpe, and the end of Shane Warne’s ca­reer as Test cricket’s most suc­cess­ful bowler.

8Ex­treme weather in Aus­tralia — in­clud­ing a on­cein-a-cen­tury drought, Queens­land’s cy­clone Larry and si­mul­ta­ne­ous snow­falls and bush­fires in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber — un­der­line the cat­a­strophic en­vi­ron­men­tal warn­ings of Bri­tain’s Stern re­port. Cli­mate cru­sader and for­mer US vice-pres­i­dent Al Gore ham­mers home the theme on two vis­its down un­der, and Prime Min­is­ter Howard sig­nals both a soft­en­ing of his op­po­si­tion to the Ky­oto pro­to­col and his vi­sion for a nu­clear power in­dus­try.

9Aus­tralia sends troops to the Solomon Is­lands, East Ti­mor, Tonga and to the wa­ters off Fiji as ri­ots, un­rest and coups con­tinue a wor­ry­ing trend of in­sta­bil­ity around the Pa­cific. Two Aus­tralian sol­diers die when a Black Hawk he­li­copter ditches off Fiji as an ADF con­tin­gent stands by to evac­u­ate con­sular staff ahead of the fourth mil­i­tary coup in Suva in 19 years. Com­modore Frank Bain­i­marama is con­demned in­ter­na­tion­ally for seiz­ing power from Prime Min­is­ter Laise­nia Qarase. Vi­o­lence also forces Solomons leader Sny­der Rini out of of­fice. For its trou­bles Aus­tralia is ac­cused at the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum of ‘bul­ly­ing’ coun­tries in the re­gion.


New laws prompt a shake­upof Aus­tralian me­dia own­er­ship. James Packer’s PBL sells half of its me­dia in­ter­ests for $4.5 bil­lion to an Asia Pa­cific private eq­uity group. Kerry Stokes’s Seven net­work fol­lows with a sim­i­lar $3.2 bil­lion sale of half of its TV, mag­a­zine and in­ter­net busi­nesses to a US group. Fair­fax Me­dia swal­lows ri­val news­pa­per pub­lisher Rural Press Ltd to cre­ate a $9 bil­lion me­dia em­pire, the coun­try’s big­gest, in a deal which makes it harder for po­ten­tial suit­ors to buy Fair­fax. This comes af­ter Ru­pert Mur­doch’s News Cor­pand Seven buy strate­gic stakes in Fair­fax.

BIG STO­RIES . . . clock­wise from top, Bindi Ir­win reads her trib­ute to her fa­ther Steve Ir­win; mo­tor rac­ing leg­end Peter Brock died; the Soc­ceroos cel­e­brate a World Cup goal; min­ers Todd Rus­sell and Brant Webb greet their fam­i­lies af­ter

two weeks trapped un­der­ground

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