Howard’s Hommage

"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.

Tony Blair went on to win the 2005 election decisively but with a reduced majority while Reagan’s 1984 campaign was a landslide. Both leaders benefited from strong national economies.

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."

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6 Responses to Howard’s Hommage

  1. Jc says:

    Do you think he is basically wrong to suggest all that, Don?

  2. Don Arthur says:

    JC – Before you change the subject, try typing the phrase "moving ahead after decades of falling behind" into Google. You’ll find links to Alan Milburn’s speech, links to John Howard’s speech and a few pages that reference them. Or try this one "peace, stability and prosperity in a turbulent world". What are the odds this happened by chance?
    When I first read the speech there were parts of it that sounded oddly familiar. "Australia is working again" reminded me of Reagan’s ’84 speeches and I noticed that Phillip Coorey made the same connection. I thought it was interesting.

  3. Bring Back CL's blog says:

    the only problem is that They were working again after a severe recession whereas there hasn’t been a recession in Australia sine the early nineties that everyone has either forgotten or didn’t experience.

  4. Enemy Combatant says:

    “The word prosperity appears 13 times in Howards speech.”

    True, Don, but the marginal seat ecomomic scabblers have switched off to all things Johnny. These folk will decide the next election, as will the punters dudded by workchoices. Top end “Prosperity” counts for little when Howard’s putative “Nationalist ASPiRatiOnalS “, (NASPROS), are buzzing about like blue-arsed flies trying to meet the monthlies.

    These people don’t do hommage, but geez they love their homes, mate.

  5. Jc says:


    I would bet Howard hires speech writers in his office who i am sure have combed everything there is about past speeches. It wouldn’t be a surprise that they would try to copybook a Reagan speech say without Howard even knowing where it came from.

    Don’t you think?

    Peggy Noonan says she spent most of her time reading speeches by past leaders and lifing things here and there to arrive at a good speech.

  6. Don Arthur says:

    JC – My favourite example is Reagan’s address on the Challenger disaster. At the end Noonan slipped in a couple of phrases from a poem by John Gillespie Magee:

    The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

    It’s a wonderful choice for the speech. Magee was a pilot during WWII and died in a mid-air collision. The more you know about the poem and the poet the more touching it is.
    The sources Howard uses are interesting in themselves. It’s not a straight diet of conservative politicians. There’s New Labour and American Democrats mixed in with the Reagan.
    I remember Tony Abbott once described Work for the Dole "as another example – from the Howard Government no less – of the third way in action." Perhaps he was baiting Mark Latham.

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