Australia’s worst government?

John Quiggin blogged yesterday on the fact that John Howard manifestly lied to Parliament over the Manildra/ethanol issue, and the equally manifest prospect that he’ll get away with it. John also pointed out in a post-script that a former Howard Chief of Staff is now a Manildra employee!

It provides an opportune moment to clarify my personal attitude towards the Howard government (to the extent anyone cares).

As regular Troppo Armadillo readers will know, I supported (albeit cautiously and with serious reservations) Australia’s Iraq involvement. I also endorse generally the so-called Pacific solution for offshore processing of asylum seekers, although I deplore detention of children and dislike the mandatory detention regime in general (I would prefer open accommodation on Christmas Island and/or permitting asylum seekers to remain at large , with the system being supported by an effective national photo ID system).

In addition to those two areas of agreement with Howard government policies, I also acknowledge that it has generally been a prudent and competent economic manager. However, despite those significant items of approval, I regard the Howard government as possibly the worst Australia has ever seen, certainly since the Second World War. On second thoughts, the economic incompetence of the first Whitlam government (but not the second, when Bill Hayden became Treasurer) would also make it a strong contender for the title. The reasons I rate the Howard government so poorly are almost wholly moral/ethical ones:

  • Howard pursues an unremitting continuous campaigning strategy of creating social division for political advantage, and it’s made Australia a much more hateful, intolerant and divided society than we previously were;
  • The standards of probity, honesty and personal integrity demanded (and practised) by Howard are almost non-existent. Conflicts of interest, lying and deceit at all levels are now the norm.

Although such things were certainly not unheard of under previous Prime Ministers, there’s simply no doubt that Ministerial (and Ministerial staff) behaviour that would previously have meant instant resignation or dismissal now seems to be regarded by media and public alike as unremarkable and even acceptable.

One can only hope that this resigned acceptance of endemic sleaze is solely a consequence of the perilous times in which we live. Many people are prepared to trade off sleaze for strong, decisive leadership during such times, especially when the current ALP alternative is so utterly uninspiring. As the terrorism threat eventually recedes (or we learn to live with it and Howard’s tactic of regularly ramping up fear levels becomes steadily less effective through repetition), Australians will hopefully manifest a renewed interest in honest, open, decent government. Observing and writing about federal and international politics at the moment often feels like bathing in raw sewage. I grew up in Manly before they built the deep offshore effluent pipe, so I know what I’m talking about.

Update – Margo Kingston’s story this morning titled Brendan Nelson hides behind Sir Humphrey provides a further illustration of what I’m talking about. She may be a shrill, silly harpy, but it doesn’t mean she’s always wrong, and in this case I agree one hundred percent.

Update 2 – John Quiggin picks up and further fleshes out this post and discussion.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

This is just another Howard-hating rant of the type that has become endemic and endlessly repeated since 1996 by those on the left of politics who have never accepted that the other side had any right to form a government in Canberra. I’m surprised you’ve now fallen for it too.

As for the ramping up of fear bullshit, terrorism is fearsome, we do need to be alert to it and John Howard and Alexander Downer’s responses have been restrained and measured. The majority of the public certainly appreciate it and retain a massive confidence in Howard.

Biggles
Biggles
2022 years ago

Expect to be sued for defamation by the Federated Harpies Union. They wash and flush more often than Margo.

wen
wen
2022 years ago

Ken,

While I’d agree with much of what you’ve said, I just can’t see that we’ve become “a much more hateful, intolerant and divided society than we previously were”.
In what way?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ron,

Your reaction isn’t unexpected. But that doesn’t make it right. You insist always on seeing things in simplistic left versus right terms. If anyone dares disagree with the Howard government, they’re exhibiting a “left” tendency. In fact there are very few of my political philosophies that could reasonably be labelled “left”, and I have an equally sceptical attitude towards both main parties (and an utterly dismissive one towards the Greens and Dimocrats). I simply object strenuously to Howard’s endemic sleaze and his creation of social division and hatred as an embedded, standard political strategy.

There are plenty of “small l” liberals like me, many of them life-long Liberal Party voters, who feel exactly the same way but, like me, have nowhere to go because the ALP under Crean is such a hopeless alternative. Why not stop looking at this on a kneejerk partisan level and start examining the facts? Honest, decent government really does matter; if you simply take a “my party right or wrong” attitude then you get the government you deserve. It’s time we all took a leaf out of the guy in the movie Broadcast News who throws open the window and shouts “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”. Try it. You might feel a lot better.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

As for the ramping up of fear bullshit, terrorism is fearsome, we do need to be alert to it and John Howard and Alexander Downer’s responses have been restrained and measured.

But how do we know Ron? All this war and security stuff demands a much higher level of trust than in most other areas of government, because it is by definition based on confidential information and therefore is not transparent. Thus, it’s wide open to political abuse. I’m not saying Howard has abused it, I’m just wondering how you can form a confident judgement that he hasn’t. This is where the rest of the guy’s record with the truth kicks in. Is it just coincidence that the alerts go up when he’s in political trouble?

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

This morning’s news item about the ALP returning a donation received by the ALP TWO MONTHS AGO, from Manildra presumably shows the heightened ethanol, er ethical, sense developed by the ALP since this beat up started. Cynics would say opportunistic, but then I’m no cynic.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Ken, you forgot Billy McMahon’s government [sic].

mark
2022 years ago

I’m not sure Howard’s been worse than Whitlam’s first. I mean, don’t get me wrong, being a lefty I agreed with Whitlam a lot of them time: but the sheer, breathtaking incompetence displayed time and time again was shocking.

Howard, by contrast, is just a vindictive little arsehole with an efficient competence that’s frankly a little scary.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Ken

I see that Ron has no comment on the charge that Howard has debased all standards of honesty and probity. And how could he? There is no defence of Howard on this.

Once upon a time, Ministers took full responsibility for the actions for which they were responsible, hence the term minetrial responsibility. They didn’t hide behind, or blame, the public servants in their departments, or their personal advisers. When something went wrong, they did the honourable thing and resigned. This was a cornerstone of the Westminster system of government.

The appalling debasement of Ministerial (and Prime Ministerial) behaviour by Howard and his cronies was of course on greatest show during the children overboard affair. Once upon a time, having a Minister, much less Prime Minister, offering up the excuse, “I didn’t know, because I wasn’t told”, would have been greeted with contempt. It would have ended the career of anyone who tried to use it.

But not now, and the precedent has been set. Having seen the master set the example, Brendan Nelson is now acting in the same way.

You might think that a conservative government would seek to protect the substantial basis of our most important institution, our parliamentary system of government. After all, they sure have gone out of their way to protect its symbolic basis – the monarchy.

But apparently not. The Howard way of doing things is all care and no responsiblity, and if you can lie and deflect blame, so much the better. His modus operandi is based on the Richo principle – “whatever it takes”.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Chris, it’s common knowledge that S-11, Bali and Jakarta happened. We don’t need intelligence information to tell us that. Terrorism is very real and it is very likely to be repeated in places and by methods unpredictable. Ken was referring to what he perceives as Howard beating up the threat. Well the general public doesn’t think so and are making their own personal safety decisions, inadequate as they will no doubt be in some future events.

Ken and I start from opposite ends of scepticism. He is starting from the presumption that Howard is always lying and is unwilling to be convinced even when explanations are reasonable; I start from the view that the media (SMH and ABC in particular), have a visceral hatred of Howard and everything he stands for and is likely to beat up anything they can to “prove” his dishonesty.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

‘minetrial’ responsibility … don’t know how that one slipped through … ministerial, of course.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Manildra is a beat up, is it Ron?

That the ALP took money from them means that they can’t take the high ground.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that Howard tols outrageous porkies about his meeting with Dick Honan, and subsequent actions.

I see that coalition backbenchers are now demanding that ethanol be mandated as a petrol mandate. When it happens and your car’s carburrettor gets trashed as a result, you can blame your mate Johnny.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Yeah Ron, I think I know where you’re coming from, and sometimes think I even know where Ken is coming from, but that doesn’t resolve the issue. Of course most people accept the security alerts, but how can we tell if they are being abused for political purposes. The only answer is that we don’t know and can’t tell (unless something we all hope doesn’t happens after the event), and therefore this is precisely the area where major demonstrable shortcomings in the PM’s afection for the truth kick in, and ultimately in a potentially very dangerous way. All I can see going for your argument is your own faith. That might prove sound enough in the end, but it’s not enough for this little bear.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

petrol additive, not mandate.

I really should hit Preview before Post.

Bye for now.

Thomas
Thomas
2022 years ago

Ken; I hope you have not gone troppo.
I am some colour of conservative, born in 1950 of a father who had a strong contempt for all politicians, but opined that the Liberals were less dishonest than Labor.
Your premise is that the Libs are unethical in government, but by and large the predecessors were not. Plain wrong. In this State it was Labor that ‘nationalised’ petroleum rights, and mineral rights without compensation, and formulated the bill that did the same to sub artesian water. It was a Labor M.L.C. who proclaimed that “we will push all the capitalists into the sea”. It is Labor that refuses to do anything for regional areas ( which seldom return an ALP candidate). It was Labor that first ‘got into bed’ with the media, and thereby debased honest and unbiased reporting of matters political. It was Labor that introduced the art of spin.

There is a difference in attitude between right and left, which I see as this – the rightists get on with life as best they can when Labor is in govt.; perhaps too busy working to make much noise. They know most pollies are crooks, so the antics of cabinet come as no surprise. Off top of head I cannot cite examples of labor ministers abusing the convention of ministerial responsibility, but I know that recent history is full of them.
But the leftists never shut up; even when in opposition they bleat berate and complain; they store up examples of calumny to regurgitate.
Remember Ian McLaughlin? Resigned because a staffer had read a letter about secret women’s business. Unfortunately for your argument, he was a minister in the Howard government. I just know that no-one in the ALP would ‘fess up, let alone resign, in similar circumstances.
Parliamentary standards seem to be slipping, incrementally, as time proceeds. But if you tell us that it is all John Howards fault, you will suffer a quick and hefty credibilty gap. Please get back on track
Thomas

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I guess my fundamental point of difference with Ken’s view is that it doesn’t seem to incorporate the whole political culture dimension within which Howard conducts his politics. The ethanol furore is a classic. The aim here is not to get to “the truth” – it’s purely and simply, to “get the PM.” In order to do so, the opposition spins, implies, suggests, exaggerates, distorts and misrepresents like Ken’s worst Howard nightmare. Not one shred of evidence has emerged to substantiate a case of corrupt or illegal conduct against Howard. On the other hand, even Janette would have to concede that the PM was being precious – at best – in responding to the original Parliamentary Question and his partial climbdown yesterday was pretty clear evidence of it. But it’s not about truth, integrity etc, etc it’s about shovelling enough shit such that some might stick to one’s electoral advantage – whatever it takes, indeed. Were Howard to have ‘fessed up to a porky, our political culture would have claimed a scalp, scored a notch, racked one up. Anyone who imagines that the House of Representatives would have been bathed in a great golden wave of selfless morality celebration is on something interesting.

As far as the electorate at large is concerned, it’s politics as usual. Ethanolgate? Please…

The kids overboard thing has also been grossly misrepresented. The whole case rests on the premise that the government deliberately lied about “refugees” chucking their kids into the sea in order that voters would be shocked into voting for the Coalition. Ergo; the subsequent Coalition victory was illegitimate and an unconscionable abuse of parliamentary democracy. In the millions of words produced since the event, not one has ever persuaded me of the veracity of the base case.

Kids overboard was centrally about our political culture: a face-off between opposing cadres of apparatchiks determined to score points off each other with the ADF and the public service blundering about in the middle. Conspiracy? Dark Victory? Try, business as usual.

To suggest that Howard operates in some moral blackhole of his own devise, divorced from some lofty concept of the ongoing political continuum, is to risk been seen as selectively judgmental – in the extreme.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Here’s Latham this morning claiming that the ALP has returned a 50K donation from Manildra because it’s “dirty money.” Honan only donated it, says Latham, “because he wanted to buy access to the Shadow front bench.” Honan says that’s total bullshit and that he’s way too smart to believe that you can buy influence this way in our political culture. He also mentions that he donated 50K in 2001 as well. Latham isn’t returning that. I guess we have to assume it was clean….

Question: Is it appropriate for the ALP to attempt to smear Honan personally and professionally – not because of him necessarily, but because it suits their attack on Howard? If so, where is the line drawn and how would I tell the ethical difference between Latham’s approach and that of the PM?

Tim
Tim
2022 years ago

Geez, Ken. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were anti-Australian.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff,

You make some good points, and I wouldn’t really want to argue with most of them. However, I DO think the “children overboard” story was worse than you try to paint it, more for what it says about the politicisation of the public service than anything else. And I DO think Howard has set markedly lower moral and ethical standards than previous governments (although, as always, it’s not black and white).

Thomas,

I was talking about federal governments, not state. There are plenty of state governmments as bad or worse than Howard’s mob. The Burke Labor government in WA and the Bjelke-Petersen National government in Queensland are probably the most obvious examples. From memory, the Cain/Kirner government in Victoria was mostly just incompetent rather than shonky.

At federal level I certainly don’t think there’s a federal government that has come anywhere near Howard for either low personal ethical behaviour standards or divisive strategies. Howard certainly presented a pretext of wanting to pursue higher ethical standards when he first came into government in 1996. He even campaigned on a policy of “restoring” ethical standards and announced a code of ministerial conduct. He made a pretence of introducing it, and I think McLaughlin was forced to resign during that short period (as did a Prime Ministerial Chief of Staff whose name now slips my memory). However, the standards were jettisoned as soon as they became inconvenient, along with other “non-core” promises.

I suppose the bottom line is that people who want to believe that it’s all just the ordinary cut and thrust of politics and that Howard’s mob are no worse (or better) than any other government will continue to do so, and will keep trotting out that excuse as the sleaze piles up around all of us. No doubt apologists for Richard Nixon used to say similar things. These judgments are inevitably subjective and incapable of precise measurement. For me, the Burke and Bjelke-Petersen governments were rotten regimes who richly deserved to be kicked out in disgrace, and the Howard government deserves no less.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Tim,

I did actually apologise for that remark if you recall. However, if it makes you feel better to get in a cheap shot, go right ahead.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“I suppose the bottom line is that people who want to believe that it’s all just the ordinary cut and thrust of politics and that Howard’s mob are no worse (or better) than any other government will continue to do so, and will keep trotting out that excuse as the sleaze piles up around all of us.”

The obvious response to which is that as long as we keep pretending that our parlous political culture is centrally about Howard’s machinations, the less likely we are to do anything about addressing it at source.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Thomas,

Let’s look at a couple of the scalps that were claimed by the conservatives during the years of the Hawke/Keating government:

Mick Young: forced to resign from cabinet over an attempt to smuggle a teddy bear through customs;

Ros Kelly: forced to resign from cabinet over allegations of pork-barrelling sports funds with the aid of a white board.

And in this government’s term? We have had an industrial relations minister whose own office devised the strategy that was used by a union-busting corporation to sack it’s entire workforce: this nearly came before the High Court, and the government could have been found to have broken its own laws; the same minister, as minister of defence went on to originate the whole children overboard furphy and now we’re seeing just how rotten a Prime Minister can behave.

I was checking the Potemkin archives yesterday for a post titled “All of Our Markets Are Free (But Some are More Free Than Others)”: it was written some time last October, or November when this (possibly premature) Rum Corps Bicentennial Pageant had only just kicked off. Personally, as a fully paid up member of the Howard-hating left (I prefer to think of myself as Howard despising), I’m looking forward to seeing the Stainless Steel Weasel take an acid bath on this issue: it’s long overdue.

Geoff,

Re politics as usual: in the light of the Young and Kelly precedents, I’d say that current events show that a return to politics as it used to be usual is long overdue. Granted, it’s not a pretty sight, but I’m preferred to be pragmatic; it’s preferable to allowing barratry to flourish.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Ken,

I’m not sure I agree entirely with your assessment of the Cain/Kirner government (although it’s plausible enough). Let’s not forget that a number of events outside their control contributed to their demise: the collapse of the SBV’s merchant banking ventures, the Pyramid Building Society collapse etc.

A lot of Labor people have an especially hard place in their hearts for Lou Di Gregorio, then Secretary of the Tramways Union, and his miltant industrial campaigns against various proposals to rationalise public transport during the Labor Government’s term of office – then promptly rolled over when Jeff Kennett became Premier.

Os
Os
2022 years ago

Howard forced Geoff Prosser to resign as Minister for Small Business over conflict of interest claims (Prosser owned/owns considerable shopping centre interests in Bunbury WA). The level of proof seemed to be no more than “where there’s smoke there’s fire” … he owns shops, he has an interest, he has a conflict of interest.

Metternich said that making good government is like making sausages … in order to retain your respect and affection for it, it’s best not to know too much about what goes into it.

Howard’s government may disappoint the idealistic, but it’s a pragmatist’s delight – he makes a damn good sausage and I like sausages. I like his government for not only for itself, but also in light of its alternatives – Crean (gawdelpus), Blair, Bush, Chretien, etc etc. On balance, the Howard government is better than all of those.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

Worst Opposition…..ever.

If you can’t take down the worst government ever you have to be pretty crap.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

James,

The competition for worst federal opposition ever would be pretty fierce, I think. The Coalition under both Downer and Hewson were pretty appalling, for example, and the Labor opposition to Menzies throughout his “reign” was mostly pathetic (Evatt, Caldwell). I reckon Labor under Beazley in Howard’s first term did a reasonable job of clawing back from the Keating disaster, but since then they’ve lost the plot, both under Beazley and now Crean. However, I draw a distinction between incompetence and sleaze. The result might be just as bad, but I get angrier about grossly dishonest government. That isn’t to deny that politics by its very nature involves significant elements of dissembling and outright lying, but Howard has descended to new and totally unnecessary depths.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

One thing that needs to be borne in mind when discussing Honest Johnny is that he is the greatest micro-manager that has occupied the PM’s office. He is much more like a State Premier in this regard.
Now think of Kiddies overboard, WMDs or even ethanol.
What comes round goes round.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I want to support Gummo on Cain/Kirner. I think John Cain in particular an exemplary chap. Remember, Cain was running an historically slightly more conservative fiscal policy than usual in Victoria, but was hit by a dramatic change in Commonwealth direction, being sandwhich between the effects of the 1988 tariff cuts (Victoria being the manufacturing state), rising interest rates due to the need to clamp down on the unsustainable credit expansion that followed from the earlier financial deregulation (and Victoria was awash with ill-based speculation), and reductions in Commonwealth-State grants (remember the ‘twin deficits’ thesis).

As interest rates climbed (too far, too fast, to lower the boom), as manufacturing workers were displaced and unemployment climbed, as these developments put more pressure on spending, enter the credit rating agencies to assess the states for the first time in history … promptly awarding Victoria its first rating as a downgrade and compounding an atmosphere of crisis that was entirely unjustified (there was a real budget problem, but not in any sense one that was within the remotest bulls roar of the possibility of default).

I doubt that any Victorian government would have survived these conditions, although I like to imagine that I would have been a tough enough bastard to have just whacked up taxes and charges rather than go for the asset sales (oh, my Commonwealth Bank, alas) and dodgy book keeping that crept in at the death.

And Geoff … I think you’re dreaming mate.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Gee….about what, specifically?

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Geoff,

How about

“Kids overboard was centrally about our political culture: a face-off between opposing cadres of apparatchiks …”

If you keep attempting to straddle the fence like this, you’ll get piles.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

“(and Victoria was awash with ill-based speculation)”

Particularly by the Cain government.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

“but Howard has descended to new and totally unnecessary depths.”

Ken is using the technique of endlessly repeating a stock phrase so that it becomes “so” purely on account of its endless repetition – a favourite tactic of the left. Not that I’m saying you’re a lefty, of course Ken, just imitating their behaviour.

wen
wen
2022 years ago

I’m still wondering about the increased hatefulness & intolerance & division … (plenty of division right here – would be very dull otherwise)

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Ron,

I don’t think frequent Labor-loathing sniping really trumps Howard-harting ranting.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Harting? Oh deer!

Gummo Trosky
2022 years ago

D’oe!

James Russell
2022 years ago

As for the ramping up of fear bullshit, terrorism is fearsome, we do need to be alert to it and John Howard and Alexander Downer’s responses have been restrained and measured. The majority of the public certainly appreciate it and retain a massive confidence in Howard.

Well Ron, if you’re content to live in the atmosphere of paranoia about people from other countries and other religions the government likes to stir up (following the lead of their masters in Washington, naturally), you go right ahead and do so. Please excuse me if I don’t join you.

By the way, Ken, “I’m mad as hell etc” comes from Network, not Broadcast News.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Oh well, I was close!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

For some reason, I dont feel at all Athenian after that civilised exchange of views, Ken. Was it Nurse Ricardo’s amateur proctology intervention? Or maybe Chris looking fruitlessly for the upside of the Cain/Kirner government – “fabulous people, it was just that the times didn’t suit them.” Indeed. And what times might have?

But I think I’ll opt for the Metternichian sausage as my learning point. When the Prince de Talleyrand was asked for his opinion about the progress of the Congress of Vienna, he’s reported as having said:

“The Congress? The Congress dances.”

And Metternich was busily making sausages all the while. There’s a moral in there somewhere :-)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff,

They made Socrates drink hemlock if I remember rightly. So maybe we don’t compare all that unfavourably with Athendian democracy in the cvilised behaviour stakes after all.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Oops – I meant “Athenian”.

mark
2022 years ago

With the qualification that Ken’s after “worst” in terms of sheer dodgyness, then I think I agree with him (what a shock!). Core promises, children overboard, Iraq, ethanol… it doesn’t matter whether you agree with the King John’s political beliefs, he’s a proven liar. And I’m not talking the “little white lies” that infect politics: I mean, massive, electorate-shaking lies, over and over again. And every time he’s caught out? Oh, it was my Minister! It was my Department Head! It was the Public Service! I wonder how many times he’s lied and nobody’s noticed.

It doesn’t matter how many anti-Labor rants, attempts to play down the significance of children overboard, or nuclear-grade insults you lob Ken’s way, it’s the truth. A rare commodity, but a valuable and (hopefully) indestructible one.

But that’s just Cth. We’ve had State govts that are worse: Joh Bjelke-Peterson is pretty famous in this regard, and the ACT’s very own Teflon Katie, while not holding a candle to Honest Joh, would also give Howard a run for his money.

Remember, regardless of how sleazy, dodgy and “win at all costs” this government becomes, Howard is not a crook. Wait for gerrymandering or favouritsm before you start comparing Howard to Joh.

Yobbo
Yobbo
2022 years ago

James: Just like bullies, I’m sure the terrorists will go away if you ignore them long enough.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I am most happy to stand by John Cain as a man of integrity Geoff … and imagine this a far more comfortable position than that occupied by someone who contorts himself into endless ‘seen it all’ ‘so what’ apologias for someone such as John Howard, but no doubt you’re hopelessly if stylistically incorrigible in that :-)

Joe
Joe
2022 years ago

You might like to consider that there is some method in Howard’s actions. “all government is evil and the parent of evil… the best government is that which governs least” (O’Sullivan). By reducing trust in government, Howard hopes to reduce government to 18th century proportions, but with 21st C means of control. Then the upper classes won’t have to worry about any threats to their power

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

“Well Ron, if you’re content to live in the atmosphere of paranoia about people from other countries and other religions the government likes to stir up (following the lead of their masters in Washington, naturally), you go right ahead and do so. Please excuse me if I don’t join you.”

Well, James, let’s just pretend S-11, Bali and Jakarta didn’t happen, or if they did happen they weren’t perpetrated by the islamo-fascists, or even if both are true, it doesn’t affect me, because after all, I wasn’t blown up was I, so why should I be concerned. I won’t start worrying until it happens, and even then I won’t worry because it’ll be a quick end which is much better than dying in hot butter, whatever that means!

James Russell
2022 years ago

Don’t come it with me, Ron. Do you honestly think I have any intention of denying that September 11, Bali and Jakarta happened? Because I do not. Do you honestly think I have any intention of denying that such things will happen again, and will probably happen here? Because I do not. Do you think I don’t care about these things? Because I do. I can be appalled by events like these without having to demonstrate my feelings in public every day.

What I do not have any intention of doing is living in fear of these maggots. Should I stop living my life on account of them? Should I no longer go into the city, go for a walk around the park, go shopping at my local mall, go to college, go to the radio station and do my show, go to clubs and pubs, should I stop doing any of these things on the grounds that someone from JI or Al Qaeda might leave a bomb at one of these locations one day and I might get killed as a result? Maybe I could be just be so afraid to go out in case I get killed that I’d never leave my house again. And maybe JI could leave a bomb on my doorstep and kill me there just as easily as they could kill me anywhere else. Or maybe I could get run down by a car while I’m crossing the road (as nearly happened to me once). I could get killed by a non-terrorist as easily as by a terrorist.

About a couple of months after the September 11 attacks, I was on a bus coming over the Harbour Bridge from Willoughby back into the city. I looked out at the Harbour. The first thing I thought was what a beautiful sight the city presented from that perspective (I don’t go over to the north shore much so don’t usually see the city coming in from the north). The second thing I thought was what an excellent target it would make for anyone who wanted to try a repeat of what happened in New York. I’ve stopped thinking in those terms because it’s USELESS. The paranoia is completely POINTLESS. It changes nothing. Could shit like that happen here? Very likely it will, and probably sooner rather than later. In the meantime, though, I’ve got studies to be getting on with so I can get a job and start earning money and stop surviving on money from the government. The existence of terrorism does not change that fact.

It’s an obscene world at the moment (more so than usual) with obscene people in it ready and willing to commit obscene acts. Fuck those people. Fuck them to hell with ten flaming torches in every orifice of their bodies. I don’t have to give in to their obscenity.

What you do, Ron, is your business. I don’t care what you do and I don’t care if you don’t like me or what I do. But give me the common courtesy of NOT ascribing to me thoughts and feelings and opinions that I do not hold when you don’t know a goddamned thing about who I am or what I think.

Jack Strocchi
2022 years ago

My Ld. Ken,

Your points made against the Howard government’s slack attitude towards civic and political morality are well made. I understand that some refined souls have reservations about Lib methods and find them difficult to stomach. I share these reservations, and it breaks my heart to have to defend the regretable and unpalatable policies and person of the present minister for immigration.
And there are many areas of Libs policy deficiency in privatisation, community services and income distribution.
But aren’t we missing the Big Picture here? Sure the Libs are corrupt, vengeful and illiberal
– perhaps more so than any other Australian federal government.
But those criticisms refer to Lib methods. In key areas, the Libs have delivered good outcomes:
ecomomics: prosperity of the private sector has massively increased with the housing boom
politics: security of the public sector has increased with the renewal of the ANZUS alliance
culture: identity of the community sector has been restored after the Balkanising effects of New Class Identity Politics
Australian’s are philistine pragmatists and, by those standards, the Howard government is no way “possibly the worst Australia has ever seen”.
And on the “good deeds” question, doesn’t Howard’s key participation in the liberation of three states (Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq) from fundamentalist/fascist dictatorship count as morally worthy?
Prosperity, security and identity are, roughly speaking, what the Howard government will run on in the next election. These are good things, Howard has achieved them. He will deserve to win.

Jack Strocchi
2022 years ago

The last link was broken, but this one says it better Why I vote for Howard

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

“Howard pursues an unremitting continuous campaigning strategy of creating social division for political advantage, and it’s made Australia a much more hateful, intolerant and divided society than we previously were”

Paul Keating tried to do this far more then Howard. I hate to nit pick but where exactly are the divisions in Australia that Howard has created?

“The standards of probity, honesty and personal integrity demanded (and practised) by Howard are almost non-existent. Conflicts of interest, lying and deceit at all levels are now the norm. ”

As opposed to the previous government which had such luminaries as Senator Richardson and Carmen Lawrence?

I agree standards are almost non-existant, but they’ve been that way for a generation.