"Australia is working again – moving ahead after decades of falling behind," says John Howard in his speech to the Millennium Forum. At the Sydney Morning Herald, Phillip Coorey thinks he hears echoes of Ronald Reagan’s "It’s morning again in America" campaign theme. And he’s right — when Reagan sought re-election in 1984 he said that "America is working again" and warned that "the job is not yet done." But, Reagan’s 1984 campaign isn’t the only hommage in Howard’s speech. It’s an intertextual treasure trove.
In 2005, Labor MP Alan Milburn told the Fabian Society:
Today Britain is moving ahead after decades of falling behind. The British economy is strong and stable, not least thanks to Gordon Brown’s stewardship as Chancellor. Indeed our economy has grown for the longest period since records began. Unemployment – the scourge of the 1980s and the 1990s – is now at a thirty year low.
No one champions aspiration like John Howard, but Reagan’s victory in 1984 is too much to hope for. A more realistic role model is Ireland’s Bertie Ahern. Earlier this year Ahern confounded “the pollsters, the pundits and the bookies” by winning a third term after 10 years in office. Ireland’s economy has performed well over the past decade and Ahern warned voters against complacency:
But our prosperity can never be taken for granted. It is not invincible – and it is not indestructible. Unfortunately, our opponents do not share our belief that prosperity must be protected through measured actions and practical policies.
Howard mines the same theme, "economic management can never be put on auto-pilot", he says "There is no room for complacency. And prosperity can never be taken for granted."
The word ‘prosperity’ appears 13 times in Howard’s speech. "Australia remains an anchor of peace, stability and prosperity in a turbulent world", he reminds us. And, of course, in the speech’s nod to JFK, he pledges to "ensure a rising tide of prosperity lifts all boats". So remember, "It’s no accident that today our economy is experiencing the longest economic expansion in our history."