Paul Kelly nails it

This article by Paul Kelly in today’s Oz provides the best short summary I’ve seen so far of the whole “children overboard” saga and the dilemma Howard faced on election eve:

Howard is right to argue that the “children overboard” story did not win him the election. It was a sub-plot of the larger border protection issue. If there had been no such story, Howard would still have won.

But there can be no denying that the events of November 7 created a potential crisis for Howard on election eve. If Scrafton’s version is accurate then what were Howard’s options? He could admit the entire story was wrong and risk his re-election. He could make a qualification that would still throw the story into doubt. Or he could stick by his original position and tough it out.

In other words, he could lie. Kelly suggests that Howard needs to produce some evidence that his version of the Scrafton conversations is to be believed. In other words, in the current state of play Kelly (hardly a communard) thinks people would be justified in concluding that Howard lied. So do I.

Contrary to the story RWDBs like Professor Bunyip are trying to spin (when not trying desperately to smear Scrafton), this wasn’t a case of one adviser telling Howard (and Reith) one thing and others contradicting it. The entire substratum of support for “children overboard” had evaporated by November 7 2001 and Howard knew it. The only shred of support remaining for it was the ONA report, and Scrafton told him it was probably just echoing back false Ministerial statements and he should check that before standing by his story. He didn’t. Res ipsa loquitur.

As I observed in the comment box to my previous post on this topic (while discussing my daughter’s attitude towards it): But I didn’t try to disabuse [Rebecca] of the notion that Howard was lying through his teeth to win an election, because that’s what the evidence irresistably shows, however much RWDBs might twist and turn or hope that it’s already yesterday’s news and that no-one’s really interested except the luvvies/communards/similar term of abuse. It remains to be seen whether the latter (rather desperate) hopes will prove to be the case; the next Newspoll will tell us. But one thing’s for certain: Howard lied blatantly to win an election, just like Keating did in 1996, and democratic hygeine requires his removal.

It’s quite true that all politicians lie, but some lies are more corrosive to the democratic process than others. Ones that politicians make central to their re-election (by calculatedly repeating them to avoid risking defeat when specifically challenged about the story’s truth on election eve) are in a far different category to everyday political lies. It actually is critically important that politicians are held accountable in that situation, especially when that lie was later repeated and compounded in Parliament, and public servants and staffers blocked from testifying before a Senate committee to prevent its exposure. If ministerial responsibility (the linchpin of Australia’s constitutional system, something you’d expect RWDBs to respect) is to have any meaning whatsoever, this lying turd has to go. And I’m no more a “communard” than Paul Kelly.

PS – And, as the embittered but still occasionally coherent Alan Ramsey points out in today’s SMH, Howard has a prior conviction for effectively identical conduct: calculated lying about an important election issue to save an impending but suddenly imperilled victory at the polls. His “never ever” lie about the GST in 1996 was just as blatant. He got away with that one, because most people (including me) felt it just redressed the balance for Keating’s “L-A-W law” tax cuts lie at the previous election. But Howard has played his “get out of gaol” card.

Update – This SMH article about a Neilsen poll on people’s attitudes towards whether Howard misled them about Iraq also comes into play given the Scrafton revelations:

The Herald Poll, conducted by ACNielsen at the weekend, reveals that 74 per cent say they were misled by the Prime Minister over the reasons for going to war, an increase of 6 percentage points since last September.

However, 47 per cent of those polled believe he did not intentionally mislead. They say he was misled on the issue by others.

Will this remarkable public generosity, in giving Howard the benefit of the doubt on Iraq, survive Scrafton’s revelations? Although Howard’s habit of insulating himself behind a wall of plausible deniability, and then blaming public servants when the shit hits the fan, was equally present in the Iraq saga, you have to examine the story quite closely to see the pattern (as I did in this post). With Scrafton and “children overboard”, by contrast, Howard’s conduct is now nakedly obvious to everyone (except those determined not to see). How many disengaged voters will now join the dots and re-evaluate their assumption of honest misleading by Howard over Iraq? That will play a large part in determining how big an impact this story has electorally. Iraq and its aftermath remains very much a live popular concern, whereas “children overboard” per se may well be a dead issue for disengaged voters (or so RWDBs are fondly hoping).

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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mark
2022 years ago

And then, in the months after the election, he blames the public service for giving him the wrong advice! Y’know, I’ve recently been reflecting on just how moderate Howard looks compared to Bush…

(Oh, and go to bed, Ken, it’s nearly sunrise.)

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Yes, Ken, when exactly do you sleep?

Richard O
Richard O
2022 years ago

Ken,

OK it didn’t happen on SIEV 4 but it did happen on SIEV 7, so in the broader context, what is the difference? In addition the SIEV 4 people scuttled their own boat the next day so that the navy would have to take them on board, rather than being towed back into international waters.

However I do agree that Howard should have clarified his position as early as possible so as to avoid this issue being reheated

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Richard

It’s not a matter of “clarification”. Howard lied. And the issue is not the conduct of boat people, but the conduct of the Prime Minister in lying to win an election. Nevertheless, since you’ve raised the conduct of the SIEV 4 people, I set out my position here

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

I don’t know whether Scrafton’s entirely plausible mortgage-related reasons for not spilling the beans earlier has filtered out to punter land, but if it has, I think the punters will readily identify with it. A lot of people want, or have at some stage wanted, to speak out at work, but haven’t because they couldn’t take the risk of getting fired. The RWDBs in the media will sneer at Scrafton’s motives, but he is recognisably an ordinary bloke with a family to house and feed.

The increasingly shrill nature of the RWDBs attack signals to me that they are getting worried. Their boy is getting pounded day in, day out, as fundamentally dishonest, not just over kiddies overboard, but over everything. The message is clear, you can’t trust Howard over why we went to war; you can’t trust him not to sell the PBS down the river to the Americans; Howard lied over children overboard; no matter what the issue, he’s aways looking to shift the blame; you can’t believe a word the man says.

The message is getting through. It hasn’t taken root yet, but if does, Howard is finished.

It is exactly like the fabulously successful campain the UK Labour Party ran against the sleaziness of John Major’s government. No single act of sleaze stood out, but it all added up, and it was fatal for Major.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Dave

Precisely. In fact I just added an update to this post making exactly that point, although not as powerfully as you’ve just expressed it.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

Michelle Grafton puts it pretty clearly as usual.

She also scrutinises the PM’s position. If what he says is right, then he was duped and he should by rights be really angry about it. But he’s not. He’s “not blaming anyone”.

Let’s look at this issue another way. Assume Howard’s account is ridgy-didge, and put yourself in his shoes.

Wouldn’t you be in an absolute rage that you’d not been told, when it counted, that your story was wrong? Wouldn’t you be asking: why, when so many people knew I was misleading the public, did no one set me straight?

“I’m not blaming anybody,” Howard said yesterday, when asked whether anyone should face consequences for giving him bad advice.

This must be causing seismic eruptions in the Liberal party room. Costello must be furious, it’s his future that being derailed by all this.

I just can’t beleive that party room solidarity will be able to stand up to this.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

And adding to the weight of evidence as Dave points out is this latest peice of information about Howard’s Iraq decision.

Blix summed up his meeting with Howard with these words: “Even without any written notes from the conversation with PM Howard I am confident that far from saying to Mr Howard that there were WMDs in Iraq I conveyed to him that we were not impressed by the ‘evidence’ presented to this effect. Regrettably, there were few at that time who cared to examine evidence about Iraq with a critical mind.”

The Prime Minister emerged from his meeting with Blix to address a group of Australian journalists. Somewhat disingenuously, he wouldn’t talk about what the chief weapons inspector had said: “I don’t think it’s helpful at this stage for me to be trying to put some particular interpretation on the discussion I had.” The obvious question is: not helpful to whom? Certainly not helpful to Howard, whose case for war was in no way supported by Blix’s briefing.

Demonstrably Howard chooses to ignore information that does not suit his position. He then lies and dissembles to the public, so that they only have his interpretaion to go by.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Rex

I’d be astounded if the Libs don’t maintain outward solidarity, albeit with a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. There’s nothing else they can do. It’s too late to switch horses. And disunity is still death. And Costello might well have mixed feelings. As someone else observed yesterday, he would become leader immediately after a Coaition loss, because Howard would instantly retire. However, in a victory situation Howard might well stay on long enough to give Tony Abbott a mid-term shot at getting numbers to beat Costello for the top job. On the other hand, he might well feel that being a favourite under challenge for the PM’s job is better than being a certainty for Opposition Leader.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

Granted Ken, but given the recent comments by John Valder, there must be at least some MPs who are suffering a severe moral crisis.

It only takes one backbencher, who’s getting pressure from their electorate to break ranks and the whole pedestal supporting Howard crumbles.

To such a person, a few terms in opposition might provide the opportunities that won’t be available otherwise.

c8to
2022 years ago

i wonder what effect this will have on the election.

the people (howard lying turd voters) who are upset about being lied to/misled/whatever were never going to vote for howard anyway…

the people who support howard because of his policies probably dont care about being lied to.

(not just disinteretsed voters, but intelligent commentators lke andrew norton: “(frankly, I’d rather be lied to than pay for all the ridiculous promises likely to be made between now and election day).” from http://www.badanalysis.com/catallaxy/archives/000303.html

(i certainly dont care that much if its obviously a lie, or there is no substantial difference – wmd in iraq or children overboard versus “we sank the boat”)

the question then is, how many kens are out there? (people who may have supported howard, but now don’t because of a perceived erosion of democratic ideals)

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

This saga reminds me of the Hindmarsh Bridge affair that just ran and ran and ran during the fag end of the Keating government.

As I recall, a lot of lefties at the time said that it was all a storm in a tea cup, the punters weren’t paying attention, that no one could really know the truth about whether this women’s business was true or not, but it didn’t matter anyway, because enough people sincerely believed it was true, whereas the RWDBs at the time said it was all obviously a complete crock.

Sound familiar?

The Hindmarsh Island saga was not big in itself, but it did immense damage to the credibility of Keating’s government.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

C8to

I agree I’m not a typical example of a swinging voter, but nor is Andrew Norton. In fact he’s not a swinging voter at all (unlike me – although I’ve made up my mind for the moment). He was a ministerial staffer for David Kemp, for God’s sake, and a welded-on Liberal voter if ever there was one (although I certainly wouldn’t deny his intelligence or willingness to criticise the Libs for perceived policy shortcomings – but not to an extent where’ he’d ever consider voting Labor even for a moment).

Most “swinging” voters are fairly disengaged from the political process, I think (Mumble or someone else out there might be able to flesh out that intuitive perception), and mostly don’t observe the process like bloggers (or commenters). Their perceptions and conclusions are impressionistic and often formed quite late in a campaign. But, as Dave Ricardo suggested above, there may conceivably be a cumulative effect happening here, a “tipping point” where the public perception that Howard is unacceptably dodgy and fundamentally dishonest becomes a part of the public psyche, even for disengaged swingers. That was certainly the case prior to the 1996 election; just about everyone (except the rusted-on) had decided Keating was a shyster who had to be kicked out. The figures in the latest Newspoll and ACNeilsen polls are suggestive of some such effect happening now, and the next lot in another fortnight should tell us clearly one way or the other.

c8to
2022 years ago

ken,

i agree with you that norton is not a swinger…hes in the b category.

a) howard lying turders (normally called the left)
b) right of centre (right wingers, liberals, border protectionists, maybe some libertarians that have no other choice etcetera etcetera)
c)swingers

you may be right that the swingers are (fairly) disinterested and make their mind up right at the end, and i agree with you that this could be a big issue for them…since they probably dont have any strong feelings, but probably dont like being lied to and might give latham a go…(and then get rid of him in a few years if they think he didnt do that good)

so thus group c is probably broken into:

1) ken parish (swinger who follows the events)
2) everyone else (perhaps fairly impressionistic)

(it would be nice if i could go and look at some statistics on how big the swing vote in australia is…but normal work calls…)

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

Scrafton/n. (of a prime minister). To have one’s scrotum in the grip of a raft [on the issue of credibility] of attacks.

Ron
Ron
2022 years ago

From today’s Crikey newsletter:

“The Liberal Party dirt unit is back in action – currently circulating copies of a Herald Sun article from May 17 2002, in which Ian McPhedran names “children overboard” whistleblower Mike Scrafton as the Government official who was “fined and reprimanded for using secure defence computers to view pornography,” as a “talking point”.”

http://www.crikey.com.au/images/2004/08/18-YSQT51B800.pdf

True RWDB
True RWDB
2022 years ago

“Thus, Howard’s original point, that these were people who were prepared to put their children at risk to get to Australia, was partly true.” [Ken P. August 17]

Partly????? Like Professor Bunyip, I can’t see any difference between scuttling your boat so that children end up in the water, and throwing them in. The effect is exactly the same.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

TRWDB

Read the rest of my comment. There’s no point in repeating it. The boat people’s character and conduct aren’t in play here (except as a desperate red herring by RWDBs). They aren’t standing for election to govern Australia. Howard is.

Link
2022 years ago

Alan Ramsay drove in another nail too with details of the “never ever GST”, Michelle Gratton is right, if he hadn’t ‘fibbed’ (I’m getting sick of writing the word, . . lie, lies, lying, bastards etc) he’d be irate,hopping mad. Howard’s argument is that ‘this is nothing new’. What does that mean?

BTW I looked up what Louise Hay had to say on Pancreatitis –
“Rejection. Anger and frustration because life seems to have lost its sweetness”. Geez who’d be a pollie?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Link

Who’s Louise Hay? With the opinion polls looking the way they are and Howard up to his neck in his own excreta, you’d reckon life would generally be pretty sweet for “Iron Mark” right now. Anyway, I reckon it’s more likely to be the chip buttees and layers of flab.

Link
2022 years ago

Ken,

Click on ‘Link’ – she’s quite famous. Doesn’t always work for me, but any information on the vagueries of life or how I might heal myself is taken on board.

Link
2022 years ago

You could be right about the chip butties, but really it must be very, very stressful and incredibly frustrating.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

Why don’t they all have Pancreatitis then?

chico o'farrill
chico o'farrill
2022 years ago

Sailors now coming out blowing away assertions that RWDB campaigners might have about asylum seekers intentions.

TRWDB, all news wires carrying now.

It’s getting lonelier by the hour at Kirribilli.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Pancreatitis is often associated with alcohol abuse. Stand by RWDB rumours that Latham is a piss pot

peggy sue
peggy sue
2022 years ago

Iron Mark has been hitting the sauce, or he has gallstones.

Acute pancreatitis is usually caused by drinking too much alcohol or by gallstones. A gallstone can block the pancreatic duct, trapping digestive enzymes in the pancreas and causing pancreatitis.

Chronic pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes attack and destroy the pancreas and nearby tissues. Chronic pancratitis is usually caused by many years of alcohol abuse, excess iron in the blood, and other unknown factors. However, it may also be triggered by only one acute attack, especially if the pancreatic ducts are damaged.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Pancreatitis is potentially a very dangerous illness. I had gallstones earlier this year, and the surgeon who removed my gall bladder had me thoroughly scared about this possibility.

True RWDB
True RWDB
2022 years ago

I did read the rest of your linked comment, Ken, and the Professor’s still right. The whole issue of the children overboard thing rested on the character of the refugees. They deliberately put their children into the sea, whether you like to admit it or not. OK, you feel this is excusable but there are still plenty of people who don’t regardless of how often Latham dredges up a public servant now in the employ of a Labor government and desperate for his five minutes of fame.

Darp Hau
2022 years ago

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a gratuitous “five minutes of fame” is all these people are after.

The Orwellian atmosphere currently gripping the public service has reached boiling point. People are sick to death of working with a Sword of Damocles over their head.

They’re sick of having their roles politicised and sick of copping the blame for “faulty” information. Information which the government demanded of them in the first place.

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

excess iron in the blood …

That’d be it!

observa
observa
2022 years ago

‘His “never ever” lie about the GST in 1996 was just as blatant.’

Let’s dispense with that drivel here and now. Howard was placed in an impossible position here by a juvenile attack dog media. After the demise of Hewson, Howard probably meant ‘never ever’, but no media has the right to demand such statements from our politicians, to prove their worthiness to govern. The same would apply to the media asking Latham to swear he would ‘never ever’ raise taxes. Times and circumstances change for policymakers and the media should grow up and behave responsibly in these matters. Howard subsequently introduced the GST via the people at an election. He also negotiated it through the antipathy of the Democrats, with the help of a far sighted Meg Lees. If he had said never and subsequently rammed it through a compliant parliament mid-term, then and only then would the charge of liar stand. As it has transpired the reform of the ubiquitous WST by the GST, was the greatest economic reform since the floating of the dollar by Labor. This took immense political courage by Howard after the shellacking Hewson took over it, by gutless opponents who should have had the courage of their previous convictions and behaved as responsibly as Lees.

By all means crucify Howard over children overboard statements/lies, but you need to balance that with the vitriolic lies and misrepresentations of his opponents. The one thing the fascist dictator did after hearing Scrafton’s views was release the video in question the next day during the campaign. This, despite what Howard would have known it would mean for his previous stance. Still, the critics blame the navy and Howard for drownings of boat people, that he had the guts to put a stop to. Now that the hard and odious task of stopping such journeys in leaky boats has been completed, they hide behind the coat-tails of a Labor for Refugees lettered leader and cry liar liar Howard with all the moral purity of their previous hypocritical impotence. Not a skerrick of compassion for the trade-offs or dirtying of hands involved in real sleeves up policy-making, although they’ll happily run with their new antiseptic bipartisan policy, now that the unpleasantries have been dispensed by the liars.

As far as the war in Iraq goes, Howard like Bush and Blair will have to wear the liar tag of overemphasis on WMD reasoning for war. Some of us believe in their larger beacon of light reasoning for intervention in the ME. How dare we doubt the superior wisdom of the UN and its superior ability to swing into humanitarian action in crises like Darfur? The UN, that unrepresentative swill and fount of all international democratic wisdom. That is the superior wisdom Latham will use for pulling out our troops before democratic elections in Iraq, while in the same breath asking for our democratic imprimatur. Ah, but at least he’s no liar.

Some of us can spot a carpetbagger a mile away, even if he pretends to teach kids to read. Already he is captive of a caravan of people like the silly Mem Foxes of this world who fawn at the feet of their new saviour. Some are skeptical and have very good reasons to be. All this before we go back to the future with Third Way Latham on industrial relations and banning internet porn. Please sir, are there any seconds?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

observa

That’s a great passionate piece of political writing. Thanks for posting it. I disagree strongly with quite a few of your points, but I think I’ll leave it to others to engage them (for the moment at least). On “never ever”, I suggest you read Ramsey’s article for the sequence of events. I think you’ll find the facts don’t support the spin you try to put on them (evil attack dog media forcing poor Johnnie to lie).

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

“-but no media has the right to demand such statements from our politicians”

Therein the falsity.

This is a good example of an intelligent person in the grip of a thinking process that would have support for an original position (or person) manifest, rather than clarity.

Of course the media has the right to ask these questions. We’d be totally buggered if it didn’t.

The essence regarding the media asking such questions is to determine where a politician stands. In knowing where a politician stands, the public can then know what they are dealing with. It’s a pre-requisite to successful representational life.

“Howard was placed in an impossible position”

To say that, declares immediately that the writer wishes for a certain outcome. Therein is more falsity.

Howard was placed in a position. That’s the fact. How he dealt with it stated his position to those he was supposed to serve. And, as it played out, he did. He lied. We now know what he represents, and where Howard stands. The system does work, it just takes more time with some.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Peter, to people like me, your dogmatic adherence to ‘never-ever’ as a ‘lie’ marks your position as hopelessly slanted. You could have called the PM ‘prevaricating’, ‘inconsistent’, or, to cite the jargon of the moment, ‘flip-flopping’ and I could shrug my shoulders.

But when, as we all know and Observa succintly explained, he publicly changed his mind and honorably took the issue to the polls, the case for ‘lied’ looks ragged to the point of self-parody.

Thus we come to the latest instalment of ‘children overboard’. Many of the people who are playing ‘gotcha’ with the PM over this issue also tout the ‘never-ever-liar’ line with gay abandon. It does nothing for the credibility of their position.

Having said that, I note with each new election-timed instalment of the Scrafton/McKenry/Blix/Bartos/43 Beans ‘Howard lied’ saga I see the minds of my co-workers and friends hardening against the PM. I must extend my congratulations – it’s dirty politics, but I suppose I would do exactly the same thing in Latham’s position.

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

I kind of agree with Al’s first point here – there’s a difference between a politician making a commitment that he or she honestly intends to keep and later breaking that commitment (if that’s actually what happened there), and telling an outright falsehood about facts that are within his or her knowledge.

The moral quality of the first can vary considerably, depending on the circumstances. For example, abandoning a commitment when subsequent events demonstrate that another policy would be wiser is probably the right thing to do (although it does reflect on the wisdom of making the commitment in the first place).

I would point out, though, that Howard’s GST comments and Keating’s L-A-W tax cuts seem pretty indistinguishable to me on that score.

But as for what’s happening to Howard now being “dirty politics”, that’s just laughable.

There’s nothing underhand, dishonest or disproportionate about this reaction. Howard’s deceit has caught up with him: pure and simple.

He is damned by the truth of his own conduct – nothing more.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Mork, do you honestly see nothing just the teensiest, eensiest little bit coincidental about the timing of all these people suddenly emerging to condemn the PM?

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Al, are you seriously suggesting that this is all a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, orchestrated perhaps by Mark Latham’s office, or ALP headquarters?

By the way, I posted yesterday on this thread that the RWDBs would be spreading rumours that Latham’s pancreatitis was due to excessive drinking. Sure enough, Howard’s office yesterday was helpfully telling the press gallery journalists that one of the causes of pancreatitis is excessive drinking.

John Howard, of course, never ever has knowledge of, and bears responsibility for, the actions of his staff.

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

Mork, do you honestly see nothing just the teensiest, eensiest little bit coincidental about the timing of all these people suddenly emerging to condemn the PM?

Of course they’re not coincidental – the 43 beans letter was clearly intended to influence the upcoming election, while Scrafton says that he, in turn, was influenced by the treatment of the 43 beans. McKenry emerged because Scrafton’s story became public and she was asked to corroborate it.

(I’ll leave Bartos to one side, because it is coincidental that he was called before a Senate inquiry at the same time as the other events were unfolding).

But that’s just the way these things go. There’s no evidence of any orchestration, if that’s what you’re getting at. In fact, the timing of this is a strong contrary indicator of ALP orchestration, because the impact is being muted by the olympics (Network 7, for example, has barely reported it at all … they obviously are trying to minimise any distraction from their coverage).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Al

I don’t think anyone but the terminally naive would suggest the timing is “coincidental”. The 43 worthies were co-ordinated by Menadue and Broinowski, both of whom have clear ALP connections. They may well have been given a nudge in that direction by ALP campaign planners. But so what? It’s election time, when the government’s record and policies are up for discussion and decision. What better time to raise concerns about Howard’s past record and honesty? There’s nothing sinister about it unless you’re a partisan supporter who doesn’t want those things discussed.

I’m not as sure that Scrafton’s revelations were orchestrated in any event (unlike the 43 worthies). Certainly no-one has yet suggested that he is an ALP fellow traveller. His current employment by the Victorian government doesn’t make him suspect per se, much as Professor Bunyip tries to slyly suggest otherwise.

But there’s no doubt that these are all senior people of integrity whose views are honestly and deeply held. And you can see why they feel that way. I feel exactly the same, and I’m not a partisan supporter of either party. Why do you feel the need to impugn their motives and integrity?

And as for Howard’s “never ever” lie, you can’t seriously suggest after reading the Ramsey article that Howard honestly meant that when he said it, and just “changed his mind” later??!! He always intended to implement a GST further down the track.

Nevertheless, I don’t regard that as nearly as democratically objectionable as the “children overboard” lie. The “never ever” lie was partly excused by Keating’s earlier “L-A-W law” lie, and legitimised democratically in any event by the GST later being put to the people at the next election. The “children overboard” lie isn’t excused by any such factors, and is compounded by the facts that:

(a) it was inherently and deliberately socially divisive;
(b) it was later repeated in Parliament;
(c) wriggling out from responsiility for it involved blaming public servants and defence personnel for supposedly giving the politicians wrong information (when the reality was that an initial confused report was corrected within a day or two, but it didn’t suit Howard and Reith to admit that the initial report was wrong); and
(d) it was covered up by blocking public servants and staffers from giving evidence to the Senate.

The critical thing here is to stop the rot of eroding standards, both of politicians’ direct honesty and accountability, and more indirectly the sleazy Howard practice of hiding behind public servants and blaming them when the shit hits the fan. I’m pleased to hear your fellow Canberra public servants are finally realising fully how drastically Howard has misused them. Of course, John Stone stressed in an opinion piece this morning a point I’ve made repeatedly, namely that the politicisation/corruption of the public service started under the Hawke Labor government. But Howard has brough that process down to a new and unsustainably low standard, and the rot’s got to be stopped now. It’s like sending off a rugby player for repeated professional fouls. Both sides might have been doing it all day, but eventually it gets so extreme that the ref has to send someone off or the game gets out of hand.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

Absolutely the key thing is to stop the rot.

The sheer fact of these types of discussions, right throughout the country in various public media, is enough to tell us all that something has gone wrong. These are protracted discussions debating issues of lies, deception, subterfuge and various other sleazy human doings. All our good minds are stuck in this national rut. It’s clear how we got here.

Where such clarity doesn’t exist, I’m reminded of the story of little Johnny’s mother, who comes home to find little Johnny looking decidedly guilty. “Did you take any of the biscuits?” asks his mother.

“I didn’t touch one” replies Johnny.

“But there’s only one left” exclaims mother.

“That’s the one I didn’t touch” says Johnny.

Was Johnny lying? The defenders of Howard have an argument, but it’s akin to sticking your head up your backside and declaring clear sight and good sense.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Ken, it seems to me there’s a real double standard going on here. Let me pose a hypothetical…

Howard says, I chose to ignore Scrafton’s assessment (one of a number of sources I was consulting at the time) when forming the position I was going to present to the people. But, c’mon, I was up for re-election at the time, and, you know, I didn’t want to lose my job. I’ve got a mortgage see.

Compare this to Mr ‘Weekend Research’, and his explanation of why he omitted some rather key details from his report to the Bryant investigation.

My point is that Mork, Peter and yourself would probably label the PM a liar, but Scrafton’s actions are supposedly those of an honorable man?

And we should ignore his cosy little sinecure in the Vic PS? I guess we can ignore Reith, Alston, Wooldridge etc in their private sector jobs as well? Not according to many of the same people who are dismissing the Bunyip’s cynical observation, hey?

Peter, let me turn around your little joke this way.

Little Johnny’s mother comes home to find little Johnny under fire from the left wing commentariat. “Did your advisers tell you that those children didn’t get thrown overboard?” asks his mother.

“I ignored one of them” replies Johnny.

“But there’s one that says he told you that he thought the evidence was inconclusive” exclaims mother.

“That’s the one I decided to ignore” says Johnny.

Was Johnny lying? Apparently so, according to the commentariat.

No it’s not funny or clever, but I hope it makes my point. Scrafton was but one small bulb in the lighting shop of advice the PM was getting. Remember, Mr ‘Solemn Probity’ was Reith’s adviser, the ONA is the PM’s principle source of intel.

Oh, and beware of getting to wrapped up in semantics:

The statement in the line below is false.
The statement in the line above is true.

You can get yourself in trouble.

observa
observa
2022 years ago

OK, let’s assume in his 8 years in office Howard lied on the 3 occasions he is accused of.

1. The GST ‘never ever’ lie which I say has some extremely good mitigating circumstances, because it was clearly put before the electorate. However, remember how the opponents said it would make inflation soar(7-10%), business wouldn’t cope and it was bad for the economy? Well that GST, coupled with the prior floating of the dollar, steered our economic ship, straight and true through the storms of Asian meltdown, SARS and Sept11, without all the doomsayers lies coming true and giving the Labor states lots of lovely moolah to solve all their pressing social needs. Our exporters also won with the ability to net out previous WST input costs. Whatever happened to the absolute 100% commitment to ‘rollback’ I hear some of you ask? That wasn’t a lie was it?

2. The children overboard lie. Well you did all get to see the controversial video before you voted. What about the lies of the opponents of boat arrival deterrence? Howard won the last election because of his children overboard lie. Howard and our navy deliberately let a certain boatload of asylum seekers drown. Our treatment of boat people will make us pariahs around the world, despite an Asia Times article wondering what all the fuss was about, Europe following our lead and keep your eye on Italy in the near future. Howard, Ruddock and Vanstone are racists, despite the fact that when their deterrence policies worked they upped our orderly UN humanitarian refugee intake along with our general immigration intake. Excision and detention won’t work, but talking it over with the Indonesians will. Wouldn’t she talk to you Simon eh? All the boat arrivals are genuine refugees. Just like the only boatload of 14 kebab shop proprietors from Turkey to try it on in the last couple of years.

3. The big Iraq lie. Well personally I think Howard, along with Bush and Blair were guilty of overemphasising the WMD rationale, when they were probably more committed to the beacon of light rationale. Perhaps some blogger with the time would care to research some of Blair’s pre-war utterings on the ME to elucidate this. Now given the reluctance of even august bodies like the UN to get off their backsides with humanitarian intervention in Rwanda and now Darfur, I could understand the emphasis placed on WMD. Peculiarly enough, not one dissenting report among 3 Anglo enquiries, could prove the lie that these leaders sauced up intelligence on WMD, although as I feel they erred in placing too much emphasis on this rationale.
What about the opponents lies? Continuation of UN sanctions and weapons inspections would make Saddam mend his ways. Bush, Rumsfeld and Co didn’t know what they’re doing in Iraq, were under-resourced and outrunning their supply lines in the push to Baghdad. Tell that to Comical Ali. What about Stalingrad in Baghdad? Well it did take some time to pick up all the abandoned boots and equipment. What about the hundreds of thousands of casualties and the millions of refugees? Recall all the spin about: The Iraqis are not greeting their liberators today. They COW is responsible for the looting of the museum and its antiquities. They should have known about the rundown infrastructure(like we knew about the WMD). Americans are just like Saddam because of some miscreants in Abu Ghraib. They will install their puppet Chalabi. They won’t hand over power to an Iraqi authority, etc, etc. Through all of this of course lies the plain simple truth for these people that if it weren’t for Iraq, we Anglos would be more advanced in the war on terror and not suffering all the terrorist attacks at home that we currently are. Yes, the world would be a better safer place if Saddam and co were still in power and chaps like Ghaddaffi would have mended their ways anyhow. As well we would all be popular with those that matter.

What we all have to recognise, is that after 8 years of Howard govt rule, if he hadn’t told 3 big whoppers, or at the very least, was prepared to remedy any variance with the truth, the moment he realised the error then:

1.You would have a WST instead of a GST
2.Boat arrivals which were tracking roughly 250pa, 1500pa, 4200pa in successive years(and then about 420 on the Tampa alone) would be at current zero levels after amicable discussions with the Indonesians.
3.Saddam would still be in power because either the WMD reason for invasion might have been seen through OR more probably when it was realised there weren’t any there, Saddam would have been enthroned again, troops withdrawn and fair reparations paid for unjustly invading his sovereignty.

I’m afraid I am not quite so convinced as Ken to join the new moral majority of ex public servants and straight shooters, with the smell of Nielson and Morgan polls in their nostrils. Perhaps like the Bunyip, the car repayments are not a problem and there’s not a nice sinecure awaiting a true without fear or favour man. Me, I’ll keep a sharp eye out for all the liars, damned liars and statisticians.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Al, I suggest to you that Scrafton had to compete for his job in the Vic public service in the normal way. And if you’re about to say politics came into the decision to hire him, I don’t see how having been an adviser to Peter Reith at the top of his CV would have helped him in Steve Bracks’ public service. Remember, this was before he wrote his letter to the Australian.

On Howard, you can’t be serious. If Howard was honest, he would have said that the evidence wasn’t clear. Instead he unconditionally said that the kiddies had been thrown overboard, and we didn’t want people in this country who did that kind of thing, etc, etc, etc.

observa
observa
2022 years ago

I didn’t read Ken’s bit about stopping the rot, while commenting last, but I’d accept his general proposition that if the PS in general are jack of Howard, then by all means give them their new darling in Latham. Personally, I think he’ll have just as hard a time as Howard in a new world of attack dog media and the parsing and analysis to the nth degree of every phrase he utters. I wish him well with that, given his lack of leadership experience and some health problems already.

As far as picking up the reins of the Howard govt’s achievements, I assume rollback is rightly dead and buried once and for all. As for deterrence of boat arrivals I assume he will honour the extremely hard yards that have been travelled by his predecessors and be true to his Labor for Refugees letter convictions. The people smugglers will no doubt put this new govt to the test. On Iraq, I can only hope he will take the position of his counterpart Kerry and support Iraqis at least until fair elections in Jan. Not to make every effort now to try and ensure at least 1 decent civil society in the ME, would have serious long term ramifications for world order. We should all fear any lack of resolve, which allows the wreckers to gain the ascendency. Ultimate failure in Iraq and a retreat to isolationism by the US will not suit our long term security interests.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Actually Observa it was the government who rolled back a lot of the GST!

trackback
2022 years ago

Howard has cashed his last cheque

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trackback
2022 years ago

Has anyone asked Costello ?

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