Posted by: bklunk | April 8, 2007

Reputational Matters

Political actors often take actions for reputational advantage, and that is not always a bad thing.  From a utilitarian point of view it is the outcome that matters, not the motives.  But in our media age, we do have to be careful to sort out image and substance.

Save the Trees!

Illegal logging has become a problem world wide, especially for those involved in environmental conservation.  Though Australia has no plans to stop the logging of old growth forests on native soil, Prime Minister John Howard has set a plan for Australia to contribute about $200 million towards a worldwide fund to educate and establish a way to manage the logging of the world’s forests.

This move was done by Howard to gain reputation with the environmentially friendly political party in Australia, known as the Greens.  Through Howard’s recent move to make Australia a world nuclear producer, the Greens have been almost violently opposed to Howard’s administration.  However, with this recent move, Howard has been able to gain some favor back.  The only problem is however, that Howard is not making any moves to stop logging in Australian forests, particularly in Tasmania.

John Howard really seems to be all over the place in his policies.  There does not seem to be any decisiveness in his actions, other than trying to make amends with all the groups that either oppose or he needs support from.  He has obviously been making policies to keep his administration and party in America’s favor, as well as every group opposed to his actions concerning Iraq.  Now, he’s trying to make up ground recently loss with the Greens, while still continuing his work the the nuclear programs.  It’ll be interesting to see what the next election brings to the policies already in action.

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  1. This is an interesting situation I was unaware of. The Prime Minister, John Howard, seems to be in quite a pickle and is contradicting himself.

    It seems as if Howard has been attempting to help the problem of logging, not only in Australia, but world wide. He appears to be environmentally friendly, but how can he be that friendly if he wants Australia to become a world nuclear producer? This seems to complete oppose his previous donation towards the logging problem.

    I’m sure that Howard saw the money involved with nuclear power and jumped at the chance. I cannot believe he will be re-elected if he keeps going though. The groups who were once supporting him with his logging campaign will eventually get frustrated and angry, and for the people who support nuclear power and the logging to build nuclear plants, if Howard doesn’t peruse that they will get upset. I guess he should research what group is larger in population. I don’t know what he should technically do. It seems to me he needs to make a decision to support one or the other. It seems to me he has by stopping to peruse the logging campaign.

  2. I hate to play the devil’s advocate, but Prime Minister John Howard isn’t all that conflicted in his environmental stance. I do certainly disagree with the widespread logging within his country; his commitment to stop it elsewhere around the world is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, there can be an agreement reached with the logging companies and the Australian government to ensure that logging is not only done sustainably but that they are replanting more than they take, thus making up for the devastating losses incurred thus far. This has been a popular step to take in areas where logging is of high economic value and I would be surprised if it doesn’t occur in Australia in the near future.

    Secondly, John Howard’s vision for his country to become a nuclear producer is not an environmentally harmful as some like to portray it. Nuclear power produces significantly less environmental damage than coal, oil, or water power. The nuclear waste issue is no longer as big of a problem as in the past due to new technology to encase and store the waste long term. I personally would suggest the country look more extensively into solar power but nuclear is a good step to take in the mean time.

    Although his political situation is part of his own doing, his stance on environmental issues is not as indecisive as it appears.

  3. I find myself agreeing quite a bit with Stacy’s blog response. I do find it hypocritical that Prime Minister Howard is calling for a change in logging around the world, while he makes no effort to end logging in his own country. At the same time, maybe this is a case of just being grateful for what we can get. It would, of course, be ideal if he were to look at his own country first, but hopefully that will come. Perhaps he is hoping that if enough pressure comes from other countries, Australia’s loggers will look for other options. I find it hard to believe that Prime Minister Howard is unfamiliar with Australia’s own logging situation. Perhaps that is what pushed him to take this step in education against logging. It would be impossible for him to singlehandedly stop Australia’s logging of old-growth forests. As Stacy said, at least this is a step in the right direction.

    This gets to a bigger issue in politics. Operating under a Utilitarian argument, how does a Prime Minister/President make decisions for the good of the majority, knowing that no matter what, someone’s not going to be happy. It is impossible to believe one decision could please everyone. At the same time, does that matter? And what about the danger in consistently disappointing/angering the same group of citizens, such as Prime Minister Howard’s done with Australia’s Greens? At what point do some decisions have to be made to appease one specific group? Is this ethical?

  4. I agree with the two left before mine. While it does seem a bit half hearted for John Howard to denounce logging globally and then do nothing about the logging issues in Australia, at least he is taking a stand against it. Change needs to start somewhere at some time, but change is also a gradual process. Policy change is a lengthy and time consuming process, so implementing new policy cannot occur overnight. This is especially true in a country like Australia where logging is a part of their industry. The fact that the government is taking a stand against logging is quite possibly laying the groundwork for future policy on their own practive of logging.

    What is interesting to me is how this stance came about. Much policy like this comes about from outside groups influencing those with power to stand behind certain policies. This, however, is not a decison that would directly affect Australia, so it makes me think Howard’s intentions are more genuine and have less to do with the influence of political parties. This is evident becuase the Australian Green party, which should be rallying around this decision, is upset with Howard for not takin it a step forward. Further, these actions could alienate his own constituency, especially if he is relying on the logging industry’s support.

  5. Without seeming too preachy I would like to say that it seems as if a lot of people in our modern era, at least in the western world, are looking for the easy way out and a simple solution to all of their problems. The current issue with the environment and the “official” Australian response seems like just that, an attempt at the easy way out. John Howard, the Prime Minister, in an attempt to gain favor with the politicians within his own state is donating money to a program to stop illegal logging, a noble effort to say the least; but this is the easy out. Howard finds it easier to give money and save face rather than clean up the logging issue in his own state. It seems if he were really concerned with doing the “right” thing he would rather actually put a stop to illegal logging rather than just attempt to educate others about the problem. This way he looks like less of a hypocrite too, which usually helps when you’re looking to be reelected; or at least if you want your particular party to stay in favor.

  6. Whenever I tell people that I have political aspirations, and someday hope to hold public office, their first response is, “politicians are corrupt! they only care about their image! they’re hypocrites!” I think political leaders such as John Howard single-handedly create these negative stereotypes. It is absolutely hypocritical of him to oppose logging of forests around the world, but take no action against the logging which occurs in some of Australia’s most precious environmental areas, including Tasmania. Instead of giving money to other countries to enhance their educational opportunities regarding deforestation (which I do agree is extremely necessary) why not just be a real leader and start the process at home? Howard should lead by example rather than through his pockets. I find it especially interesting that he is creating this fund after losing much of his public approval due to his proposed nuclear program, in an attempt to gain support from the “Greens.” One has to ask what his real motivation is behind this seemingly helpful step. Howard should make policy that actually helps solves the problem of deforestation, rather than shove money off on other countries with the hope that they make the change for him (change which I’m sure he will later take the credit for).

  7. The face that Mr Prime Minister John Howard is contradicting himself is of no surprise to me. The man has a long standing history of doing so. Australians in general can’t stand the man so it is also of no surprise that there is general distain that is associated with the mention of his name. When it comes to the protection of the environment Australia has been a world leader for many years. There intentions and plan of action has always been to preserve the natural beauty that is associated with this world and specifically Australia.

  8. Although I do see the problem of contradiction with this man, I agree with others when saying that environmentally, he isn’t all that off track. If he is trying to gain the support of the Greens, its not a completely wrong to look to loggers around the world. Logging is obviously a problem around the world and if he wants to pay to help that problem, why not let him? If it is for political reasons, he is doing some good as well, and if he still isn’t getting the support of the Greens, that’s his problem! At least something is being accomplished.

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