Howard’s Legacy

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 maestrotax 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.

I dedicate this T-shirt design to you.

Howard’s Legacy T-shirt
© Ross Buncle 2007 All Rights Reserved
T-shirt available from Hot Bee Tees

2 thoughts on “Howard’s Legacy”

  1. “Honest John” indeed. I suspect, droog, that you,like me, have always used the soubriquet ironically. After all, the malenky veck with the eyebrows did invent the term “core promise”.

    Funnily enough, there is a certain honesty to the “core promise” idea. As the saying goes, “As empty as a politician’s promise”. At least the erstwhile member for Bennelong did not dissimulate. By using the oore promise idea, he admitted to what we have all known all along – Politicians tell us what we want to believe so that we will elect them.

    Democracy is essentially an auction in our society. The candidates bribe us to elect them and then go off and do what they intended to (or what Treasury tells them is necessary) anyway.

    I hope that the ALP under Kevin Rudd is different but I can’t help remembering the last bible basher from Queensland who ran for the Lodge. (and yes, I know he’s very different indeed.)

  2. Good to hear from you again, Bananaman.

    Yeah, I’m hoping that Garrett wasn’t joking when he indicated that the campaign rhetoric would be tossed for the real agenda once they got elected.

    Good flying start, with the signalled intention to ratify the Kyoto protocol ASAP and the front bench shakeup. Looking hopeful…

    Anyway, dunno about you, but I feel that a weight has been lifted from the national shoulders with the excision of Howard and his mob. Nice to be looking to the future with a sense of freshness and the hope that new ideas will address some of the crap that Howard has visited on us during his way-too-long reign.

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