It had been a key theme beforehand – but the bombing pushed it to the top of the agenda. There is an unspoken fear that the country’s modest contingent in Iraq could have an impact on voting.
It is unusual for foreign policy to receive so much attention in an election campaign, an indication of Australians’ unease with the state of the world. The characteristic warm, cocky optimism that helped make the 2000 Sydney Olympics amongst the best games in modern history has been replaced with a more sombre outlook. The 2002 Bali bombing and later scares have all taken their toll.
The Government’s main anxiety, which was rarely mentioned publicly prior to the Jakarta blast, is a re-run of the March Madrid railway attack. The events in Spain suddenly brought a young and inexperienced Socialist Party leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to power as Spanish prime minister after he had pledged to withdraw the 1300 Spanish troops from Iraq if elected.