The Hyde Park Hotel – known locally as “The Hydey” – is one of the last character pubs left in Perth catering for original rock bands that haven’t broken through to widespread commercial success.
There was once a thriving Perth indie circuit, with roots going back to the 70s. The Vic Hotel, Steve’s, the Shents, the Fitzgerald, the legendary Hernando’s Hideaway (Perth’s own short-lived CBGB’s, home to The Victims and other first-wave Perth punk bands) – all once great alternative band haunts – have been turned into samey faggoty glass-and-chrome hotel-cum-eatery-cum-café yuppie joints, or have been demolished in the advance of ‘progress’. Perth’s good at that. Anything with character is targeted and eradicated. What a shiny little city we have here. Perpetually just-unwrapped.
How will John Howard be remembered? Like his leadership, probably divisively.
Blue ribbon Libs will look on him fondly as the longest-serving and most successful PM after their (and Howard’s) pinup boy, PigIron Bob “I-did-but-see-her-passing-by-and-I-will-love-her-til-I-die” Menzies.
Others, like me, will perceive him as the most unimaginative PM in living memory and a master of sleight-of-hand singularly responsible for plumbing new depths of cynicism in Australian politics. So don’t expect any warm and fuzzies from me in this post.
Few would argue that Howard was the consummate political strategist. He knew how to play upon the fears of the electorate, how to tap into base mob instincts – and never let facts stand in the way of public tide-turning spin.
The Tampa incident that exploited our enduring invasion-from-the-North phobia, and the despicable illegal-alien-demonising Children Overboard ruse that assisted the Libs to win the 2001 election with an increased majority are two monuments to Howard’s towering stature as a political strategist. And to his scant regard for inconvenient fact.
How did the nickname “Honest John” ever attach itself to this bloke in his earlier days? It sure as hell detached itself as the true nature of the little prick was revealed during his unfortunately lengthy period in office.
Howard seems to identify the introduction of a GST as his finest achievement. That in itself is a sad indictment of his poverty of vision as a national leader. Issues like social reform, education, health, housing affordability and the yartz were mere blips on the Howard radar screen next to…fanfare maestro…tax reform.
And how successful is the GST, anyway?
It was supposed to cut out the black market, yet tradies raking in moolah from “cashies” are forced into taking bi-annual hols in places like Phuket to spend their tax-free spoils – there’s a limit, after all, to how much you can let build up under the bed. I’d go so far as to claim that “cashies” are at an all-time high thanks to the GST.
As for the tax reform that was supposed to accompany it – ask small business owners what they think about that. Filling out your tax return has never been so fucking complicated!
What else marks the Howard years? Off the top of my head:
• An Australia that is further removed than ever before from the egalitarian ideal we so cherish and like to think is a defining quality of our society. The divide between haves and have-nots is now a widening chasm. Thanks, John. • A country that has turned away from our Asian neighbours and is resentfully perceived by many in our region as upstart pretenders to the role of “Deputy Sheriff to Washington” – a title coined by Howard himself. So, we now have an image problem with our neighbours that is a national embarrassment and will take some living down. Thanks, John. • An education system in which private schools are funded magnanimously by the Federal Government, while Government schools are now generally viewed as rough and under-resourced, the lot of the children of the poor. Thanks, John. • Universities that are struggling to maintain standards and rely increasingly on fees from overseas students to finance their courses, which are already beyond the means of many Aussie kids who do not come from privileged backgrounds. Very forward-thinking. Thanks, John.
Begs the question, what the hell did you spend the booty from the GST on?
But there is one legacy Howard has left that stands out above the rest as an unmitigated disaster, the full cost of which is yet to be determined. I refer to his involvement of Australia in Iraq.
This IS another Vietnam. Just like Harold Holt in the 60s, with his “All the way with LBJ”, Howard’s tubing up to Bush has landed us in another unwinnable military mess in a distant country – this time with potentially far more damaging repercussions in our own region. And he did it on another ruse: the WMD lie. Thanks a shitload, John.