Quiggin’s oxymoron

John Quiggin hypothesises that John Howard’s new-found enthusiasm for tax-and-spend policies may be based on “a fundamental change of view about what the Australian public wants from governments, one in which more and better services rank ahead of tax cuts“, rather than just on electoral pragmatism born of desperation. JQ goes on to speculate that this might in time lead to a coherent, broad-based, principled Coalition policy position that might be summarised as “Universalism + Choice”.

But Howard and principles is just about as oxymoronic a juxtaposition as anyone could imagine. Clearly Howard is going to retire some time during the next term if he wins. His sole focus is on securing a fourth term for the Coalition by hook or by crook, and therefore his own place in history. Any broader principle underpinning tax-and-spend that might have crossed Howard’s mind even momentarily will be of little or no interest to a Costello-led government. In fact just about the only interest once Costello takes over will be how long it takes him to jettison Howard’s more expensive 2004 election commitments.

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.
This entry was posted in Politics - national. Bookmark the permalink.
14 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

Ken, I’m interested in the persistent assumption that Costello will succeed Howard, assuming a Liberal win. With four wins in a row, Howard would be in a strong position to nominate his own preferred candidate, who would certainly not be Costello. And even in a ‘free and fair’ vote, is it clear that Costello has the numbers to beat Abbott and Nelson?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

John

I’d be very surprised if Brendan Nelson could get within cooee of mustering the numbers in his own right. Even Abbott would struggle, I think, in the asbence of an explcit endorsement from Howard and strong lobbying to get the conservative wing to transfer its allegiance en bloc. Even then I’m not at all convinced he’d succeed given Costello’s amazing restraint and (occasionally strained but nevertheless impressive) loyalty. In addition, Howard has probably spent a lot of his long-term credits even with his own supporters by embracing anathema tax-and-spend policies. James Morrow’s article (on which you comment at your own blog) provides a gauge of just how disillusioned many conservatives are, not to mention the reactions of conservative bloggers like Al Bundy. I’d be very surprised if Costello doesn’t succeed to the leadership fairly smoothly if Howard wins and leaves with 18 months or so.

Tex
Tex
2022 years ago

In fact just about the only interest once Costello takes over will be how long it takes him to jettison Howard’s more expensive 2004 election commitments.

Very, very quickly one hopes.

Philip Gomes
2022 years ago

I’m with John on the succession question. Of course many are assuming that Howard will go. I’ve never though so, his beef with his political detractors lie not only externally but also internally, there are a lot of noses he’d like to rub into the dirt.

His internal lack of support was painfully evident at the Liberal launch. Many of his party’s past was not there to haunt him.

The Costello faction represents some/many of those, and I for one have never felt that he’ll leave, and in doing so he will probably take the whole party down with him into political oblivion.

It’s boots first with him. The Liberals (Costello) will realise this too late.

Remember, Howard is a serial debaser of our venerable institutions, why would he stop at the Liberals?

The legacy he wishes to leave is his alone, not as some sort of Liberal continium.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

I’d be very surprised if Brendan Nelson could get within cooee of mustering the numbers in his own right. Even Abbott would struggle,..

Ken – not many had any good money on Latham at long odds a while back either.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’m also unconvinced, Ken. There’s been some talk that Howard has taken a leaf out of Bush’s book and developed a coherent philosophy of big-government conservatism. There’s no question that the neo-cons and some others see a much bigger role for the state than neo-liberals – and that this has been influential in the Bush administration. Jason Soon had something on this a while back at Catallaxy, if I remember correctly. But I think that it’s wrong to see any coherent ideological or philosophical thread in Howard’s current policy position. I think John Q is forcing the analysis a bit to see anything unifying all the unconnected bribes and policy screw-ups that represent the current electoral agenda of the Liberal Party.

On Abbott – the influence of Santamaria is interesting. I haven’t read the book on him & Latham – has anyone done so, and if so, has any idea as to whether Abbott has a more coherent political philosophy than Howard?

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Howard’s belief that the quantity of his election wins is more important to his place in history than the quality of his administration says it all.

Alex White
2022 years ago

The Howard/Costello leadership handover was stitched up and signed in blood before the Prince of Darkness in their first term when no one expected them to last more than one term. Of course, that deal most likely did not include protection from a challenge to Costello, and Howard has spent the last five years purging Costello’s support base in the party and the parliamentary party.

PB
PB
2022 years ago

Costello is a wet anyway- I doubt he’d wind back too many spending programs. Unfortunately I don’t see anyone in the coalition ranks who qualifies as a conservative, let alone an economic rationalist. Maybe it’s time to go back to the idea of a Queensland succession (once we’ve driven the current residents of George St out with flaming torches or have a good few of their empty heads decorating pikestaffs).

PeterF
PeterF
2022 years ago

I question Costello’s dampness, although I acknowledge that it’s become increasingly difficult to read him between his occasional veiled hints, and his obligation to bite his tongue.
Howard’s purging of the real wets (McPhee, Chaney etc.), the buying off of others (Alston, Vanstone, Ruddock) and the barriers to the emergence through pre-selection of a new generation, means that Howard clones are dominant. It could be a re-run of the post-Menzies, Liberal succession problem, until their 2010-era Fraser emerges.
If Howard loses on Saturday, I would think there is a likelihood of a real upheaval on the right. The Nats are in trouble – maybe terminal – and the Libs will have to sort out where they think they’re headed.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

You are assuming that howard can retire. If the election is close as the bookies are saying then he won’t retire as any by-election would go to the ALP.

howard will go out in a pinebox before he retires however!

mark2
mark2
2022 years ago

Centreget has now blown out an ALP win to $3.50 the longest odds since Latham became opposition leader.

thersites
thersites
2022 years ago

Psssst …… shhhhhhh

Is it possible that comment volumes on Troppo correlate almost perfectly with polls & bookies odds? If so are Troppo comment rates now swinging with the odds?

Sandy
Sandy
2022 years ago

>howard will go out in a pinebox before he >retires however!

I agree with Homer’s comment above – and the fact that Howard has just now come out and announced that he *will* stay for the 3 years puts that issue to bed.

SO all those people that were saying “A vote for Howard is a vote for Costello” – sorry guys, you’re going to have to think up another catchy slogan.