The Drunken Sailor and the Invisible Man?

JOHN Howard yesterday doubled his campaign spending promises in one unprecedented wallop, with a $6 billion package aimed primarily at young families and small business.

Both John Quiggin and The Australian editorial today describe it as profligate and spending money “like drunken sailors”, while Christopher Sheil has a more extensive analysis.

This surely spells the end of any credibility for Howard’s interest rate scare against Labor, because if anything is bound to put major upward pressure on interest rates and inflation it’s Howard’s new $6 billion package.

This naked (and seemingly desperate) bribe to the voters also poses an intriguing question. Can Australians be successfully conned by the same trick for a second time? In 1993 Australians accepted Paul Keating’s promise that it was possible to have big tax cuts without a GST, only to discover that it was a lie. In 2004 John Howard is telling them that they can have smaller tax cuts, low inflation and interest rates and a very large increase in government spending all at the same time. If the majority accept this, then they’ll get the government they deserve.

What will probably happen thereafter is that Howard will retire, Costello will become PM and disown Howard’s promises as corrupt and irresponsible (as they are), and hope that he escapes the blame and odium that were Keating’s fate at the election following his Great Lie. If I were Costello, I’d become the invisible man between now and the election, and continue to keep a low profile until Howard retired, so I could have some chance of credibly disassociating myself from his policies.

PS – That theory lasted all of 25 minutes. As this SMH story reports: “Treasurer Peter Costello today defended the government’s $6 billion spending promises, saying they would not push up interest rates.”

PPS – Howard’s splurge also gives Latham the chance to promise some really meaningful major reforms in tertiary education, health, industry policy or public infrastructure, and contrast that with Howard’s cynical, wasteful vote-buying exercise. Latham could substantially underbid Howard on spending the newly-discovered projected surplus, and thereby demonstrate Labor’s fiscal prudence, but still offer a major reform package. Three-four billion of the newly-discovered surplus, plus a similar amount from the uncommitted balance of the $8 billion in savings that Labor had apparently identified, adds up to an awful lot of money.

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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Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Or Howard will celebrate his re-election by one of those quick noncore speeches.

Alan Green
2022 years ago

This campaign is getting silly. If it went for another month I reckon we’d be seeing headlines like, “Janette Howard: My Rodent Is Not a Drunk, Nor Has He Ever Been To Sea. Here Have Some More Cheese”

Guido
2022 years ago

That’s been my hunch as well Ken. Howard will be re-elected (if we believe the press that elections are decided by swinging disinterested voters, they are likely to believe that they can have smaller tax cuts, low inflation and interest rates and a very large increase in government spending all at the same time).

Of course there is a strong possibility that it will all go will go pear shape but Howard may have jumped ship by then, hailed as the greatest Liberal leader since Menzies. And as Keating in 1996 there will be a big backlash against whoever is Prime Minister then. Even if Costello stayed quiet he cannot escape the fact that this spending spree was done under his watch.

cdd
cdd
2022 years ago

No doubt about it the rodent has spoiled the nest, left a poisoned challice!! The mug doesn’t give a shit about anyone except JWH. But they let him do it, all of them are complicit.

I’m still hoping enough of the electorate see sense and dump this complacent, self seeking, lying, lazy, manipulative, short-term, un-thinking and un-australian lot.

snuh
snuh
2022 years ago

john howard: tax-and-spend liberal.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

Fact- neither party can conclusively prevent interest rates going up. A soiree of (probably conservative voting) fund managers agreed with this on the weekend. And if they need to go up, they should go up. They are likely to go up.

Do people care? Apparently not one iota. So what will more complex financial analysis do?

This election will be won on cheap shots and sloganeering, and the dumbed down adverts show both parties agree.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I can’t see the ALP getting the RAN vote with all this denigration of sailors’ sobriety and spending habits.

I watched the “highlights” of the launch by mistake. I’d been led to believe that I was watching a wildlife doco on the ABC when up popped John Anderson at what appeared to be the closing plenary of the Actuaries Conference – or maybe a self-congratulatory bunch of AMWAY product sellers. Whatever, it was stultifyingly dull and what is with all that running onstage by handholding political couples to kiss and embrace in a rush of painfully feigned comradely enthusiasm?

Howard was mesmerising – but not in a good way.
I switched off and read a book.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

FWIW, the News Limited site is asking the question “Can John Howard be trusted to keep the budget in surplus?”, and 56% of people have said no.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s totally unscientific. But this is the Murdoch site, not the Sydney Morning Herald.

A straw in the wind?

PeterF
PeterF
2022 years ago

Peter Costello’s faces an exquisite dilemma. If the Coalition wins, he is still at the mercy of Howard’s self-interested ambition, and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s like Keating’s frustration with Hawke after 1989, except that Costello certainly doesn’t have Keating’s rash willingness to risk everything in a tilt at the top job. So he’ll just have to wait at Howard’s pleasure.
If the Liberals lose, it certainly gives Costello the inside running for Party leadership. However, in opposition, he will ccertainly suffer. Opposition leader is a tough job, and as well he will certainly cop some of the recrimination – even though this is probably quite unfair in the context of Howard’s dominance or policy and priorities. Given his patience over ten years, PC’ll be entitled to feel frustrated if they blow it. I suspect that it’s doubtful if he will have the stomach for even one term in Opposition. If it looks like being two terms, I wouldn’t be surprised if he bailed out. Howard’s has been characteristically unrelenting in his dealings with Costello, and the Treasurer has every right to feel aggrieved. The foregoing doesn’t depend on how low or high his profile is in the next two weeks, imho.
I’m reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s exploitation of Hubert Humphrey as his vice-President. Johnson locked Humphrey into the Vietnam misadventure, which almost certainly cost him the 1968 Presidential contest against Nixon.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Assuming the ALP gets up, I suppose this suggests the Liberal succession will go
– Costello as leader of the opposition
– Costello out through despair and ennui
– Abbott in.

Can the cycle go far enough to grind Abbott down as well?

PeterF
PeterF
2022 years ago

David,
I fear that Abbott has much more resilience at this stage – bearing in mind he hasn’t had to spend the last nine years biting his tongue.
I suspect that the only way to put Abbott out of the running for the succession is his (improbable) defeat in Warringah, or a real implosion of the Liberal Party, when everyone who has been perceived as particularly close to Howard is garrotted because of Howard’s damage to the Liberal Party long-term.
Bear in mind, since 1996, Labor has won in Victoria, Tasmmania and Queensland (all entrenched) has won in SA (on the rise) and has won WA and consolidated in NSW. While the latter two now look shaky, the Liberals are looking a spent force. My take on this is that Howard has made one wing of the Party unwelcome (to put it mildly) and has bought off a number of former wets. If he loses, then they’ve lost all their patronage mechanisms and much of their raison d’etre. Crikey pointed out to-day that the Brisbane Lord Mayor (who won the top job, but lacks a majority of councillors, iirc) would be the most senior Liberal politician in the whole country in the event of a Howard loss. With the continuing decline of the Nats, there is potential for a thorough re-jigging on the non-Labor side, in the manner of Menzies’ efforts in establishing the Liberal Party in the 1940s.
That’s all highly speculative of course, and the rest of the analysis depends on one critical factor, that Latham wins.