Howard’s end

Richard Flanagan, writing in The Guardian, comprehensively puts the lie to the idea of Howard as one of this country’s greatest (or even great) prime ministers.

[For me, the angriest moment on election night was when Howard spoke about “bequeathing” this nation to the new government. He never did own us – we were not his to give.]

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Posted in federal election '07, Howardia
31 comments on “Howard’s end
  1. Good for fish & chip wrapper, and not much else. As an analysis of the Howard Government it fails badly. Nothing more than a puff piece, revolving around the pet peeves of Richard Flanagan, fiction novelist.

  2. Enemy Combatant says:

    “He never did own us – we were not his to give.”

    Abso-bloody-lutely suzeoz!

    “I bequeath to him a nation that is stronger, prouder and more prosperous than it was 11 1/2 years ago,” Howard, the second-longest-serving prime minister, told Liberal Party supporters in Sydney.” (and televised live to the nation)

    Verb 1. bequeath – leave or give by will after one’s death; “My aunt bequeathed me all her jewelry”; “My grandfather left me his entire estate”

    As usual, its was non-core promise. Much of it is has yet to be specifically performed.

    Here’s a nifty para from Richard Flanagan:

    “In the wake of his defeat the attacks on Howard’s legacy will turn ferocious, but at their heart will be an unease, a ritual exorcism of something deeper that Australians would perhaps rather not admit. For a decade Howard’s power had resided in his ability to speak directly and powerfully to the great negativity at the core of the Australian soul – its timidity, its conformity, its fear of other people and new ideas, its colonial desire to ape rather than lead, its shame that sometimes seems close to a terror of the uniqueness of its land and people.”

    Happy to take a punt on RF’s “The Unknown Terrorist” on the strength of that effort.

  3. jinmaro says:

    “the great negativity at the core of the Australian soul – its timidity, its conformity, its fear of other people and new ideas…”

    The crème de la crème of Australian writers, poets, artists, radicals, activists, philosophers, and visionaries keep saying this over and over, don’t they. And we keep seeing, without let up, this wearying, debilitating, anti-intellectual timidity, conformity, and fear. And in the darndest of places. Don’t we.

  4. Paul Burns says:

    It really struck me tonight that Howard has truly gone. His demonic visage did not appear on the titles for the 7.30 Report.Its these little pleasures we’ll get used to over the next few weeks and months.

  5. David Rubie says:

    Won’t he become the right’s Gough Whitlam? Judging by the drunks at his concession speech declaring their undying love, I thought he’d be a shoo-in. It’s not like he’s going get wet in his old age like Fraser did, he’d be a sure bet to have a tin halo affixed to. Or do the right wait until these guys are dead? Thatcher didn’t have to.

  6. Paul Burns says:

    David,
    I don’t know that Howard will become the right’s Gough. Gough was kicked out of office amid much hysteria, which counts for much more than Howard’s electoral defeat (though the Dismissal was confirmed by an election result.)
    His loss at the polls did not destroy the ALP though it definitely made it a bit less unadventurous.
    The Howard situation is different, more like the UAP when Curtin came to power in 1941, a captive of business and the mad Right. Because that situation hads so little appeal to the electorate, Menzies was able to create the Liberal Party, where liberal meanmt liberal. Despite his frequent egotistical comparisons of himself to Menzies, Howard has totally failed to grasp that Menzies’ successful Liberal Party was a party of the centre-right socially, if not economically.Menzies, I think, accepted the necessity of a semi-planned economy in a country the size of Australia, with our vast distances.Because he and his cronies lost sight of that Howard has put the Coalition in a very bad place politically. It may, or may not require the formation of a more liberal centre right party under Turnbull, Georgiou et al.I don’t know Prediction is not really my bag.

  7. David Rubie says:

    Paul,
    I’m thinking here not so much of the Liberal party, but conservatives. They love Reagan despite the fact that he was a dolt (a useful idiot – who knows what his addled brain was really thinking the whole time he was President: I’ll bet they told him it was the longest movie ever). They love Thatcher in equal measure to the amount that pommies hate her. Howard will be beaten into that mold (or mould, not sure which): Socially “steadfast”, just racist enough to get away with it, incredibly obstinate and uncompromising. Patrician. They love that stuff.

  8. Paul Burns says:

    The thought of Howard becoming one of our political elders like Gough, Fraser, Hawke, Keating or Hewson fills me with loathing. He’s not decent enough.None of those scum of the Howard Era are.

  9. David Rubie says:

    Paul Burns wrote:

    The thought of Howard becoming one of our political elders … fills me with loathing.

    I reckon that’s why they’ll lionise him: it’s divisive and plays well into their “with-us-or-against-us” attitude. It’d be funny if Rudd gave him an honour, but a half-arsed one (although perhaps Rudd is too respectful for that). It would be too hard to turn down until the knighthood arrives. Come to think of it, the race is now on: can we become a republic before the Rodent is knighted? Referendum now!

  10. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    Well, they already jettisoning the ballast, I can tell you. Helen Coonan and Pyney were fairly explicit on L-line tonite. The only lionising we can expect will be from Minchin, Hendo, Akers and Miranda. They are like the crew that didn’t do the rat run across the Weidendammer Bridge.

  11. Piers says:

    Hand me the panzerfaust! To the Alpenfestung!

    Oh, is that a pie?

  12. CK says:

    Frabjulous piece by Flanagan.

    And although I think Adams is a crap print polemicist (but thoroughly enjoy his radio), he drives a somewhat fragile splinter into Howferatu’s chest:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22822665-7583,00.html

  13. CK says:

    Sorry, I was just mucking around with previous posts. But apparently the Alpenfestung is a serious proposition according to Malcolm Clueless in the GG-elect:

    I give you, ahem, the headline de camaign, even as the burning papers are being flung from the Reichstag in the face of hordes of marauding Kevins on their way to church:

    Howard could still be Liberal saviour

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22822671-7583,00.html

    They print this rubbish why, exactly?

  14. CK says:

    Oh, and:

    “Maybe now is the time and the opportunity, as the Liberals languish in their darkest hour, for the party to turn to Howard to help create the structural reform it needs to come back to the land of the politically living.”

    They’re on drugs. This is hilarious!!!!

  15. Guy says:

    Hmm, I thought Flanagan’s piece was a little overstated. The sentiment was right of course.

  16. David Rubie says:

    Not sure about the closing statement in the Flanagan piece. We’ve been hearing for years (mostly from the left) that people were sleepwalking, or disengaged from the political process. It’s a huge excuse we on the left have used for Howards’s support, but I still reckon it isn’t the case. Apparently, when Australians get disengaged we drape ourselves with flags and go wog bashing, vote One Nation in huge numbers. The people who voted for the rodent are still here, and have probably switched to voting for Rudd. I can’t imagine they’ve suddenly all given up knee-jerk racism just because Kevin07 has a nice smile. Look at Philip Adams list from the article CK has a link to. F*ck what a horrible decade.

  17. Gary Lord says:

    Of course Howard will be eternally lionised by the right, just like Reagan and Thatcher. But not until the last remnants of the Conga Line have given his corpse a good kicking. And of course, they will all be off stage before you know it. And it will be there, in the deep morrass of rightwing despair, that the enduring myth of John Howard, Teh Best PM Evuh, is truly born.

    For now, all the miserably inconvenient facts are a little too fresh in the memory. Give it a few years…

  18. David Rubie says:

    Piers wrote:

    Oh, is that a pie?

    I think they’ll have to distract Piers with a lot more pies before the year is out. It’s such a delicious mental picture, Piers wobbling on his chair, grumpy, half way through some fractured missive about the Heiner affair and why Rudd…Oooh, a pie! Hang on, here are more reasons why Howard…Oooh, another pie!

    I might buy a Four’n’Twenty franchise somewhere near his office.

  19. Peter Kemp says:

    As for honours, the Order of the Dead Parrot is appropriate:

    The Oz electorate took the liberty of examining that “Polly” and discovered that the only reason he was still on his perch was because he’d been araldited there.

    As for the “bequeathing” notice how John Howard never acknowledged (and never will) the reforms of the Hawke/PJK governments which was and still is the foundation base for current prosperity.

    The bequeathing I do admire however is the so called Liberal Party being in the wilderness for the next umpteen years and the destruction of his neo-con/radical policies.

    Howard’s Way will be re-written, the past narrative will be corrected as the wasted years, the malevolent years of a malevolent runt. His ways will become more odiferous in the future telling thereof, and rightly so.

  20. Enemy Combatant says:

    SHC: “The only lionising we can expect will be from Minchin, Hendo, Akers and Miranda.”

    But Sir Henry, Pal Gerry is for turning.

    “The fact is that Howard, supported by his wife, Janette, and their adult children, never accepted it was time for a leadership change. This was a monumental miscalculation, which will tarnish his political legacy and has unintentionally harmed the Liberal Party.”

    “unintentionally” sure kyboshes the vision thing.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/if-only-hed-retired-gracefully/2007/11/26/1196036809908.html

    Guess Hyacinth and Rodente Minor won’t be exchanging cards with Gerry and Anne this yuletide.

  21. David Rubie says:

    From EC’s link:

    It’s not quite like 1929, when the conservative prime minister Stanley Bruce was defeated in his seat of Flinders, then on the outskirts of Melbourne, since it was a safe seat. Howard has lost what was a marginal seat to Labor’s celebrity candidate Maxine McKew, with a swing against him that reflected the national average.

    I think they’re still having trouble comprehending what happened on Saturday. When the trivia questions are being put under beer bottle tops, they won’t have room for the “marginal” gumpf 🙂

  22. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    It’s not quite like 1929, when the conservative prime minister Stanley Bruce was defeated in his seat of Flinders, then on the outskirts of Melbourne, since it was a safe seat. Howard has lost what was a marginal seat to Labor’s celebrity candidate Maxine McKew, with a swing against him that reflected the national average.”</

    Well, that’s all right scholar Gerry, it’s understandable.

    It now appears that Howard never formed a firm intention to retire, despite some indications to the contrary. As Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen document in their biography John Winston Howard, Howard’s hint, delivered in mid-2000, that he might step down by his 64th birthday in July 2003 was a ruse. Apparently, this line was suggested to him by his confidant Grahame Morris as a means of diminishing leadership. speculation.

    Aye, here’s the rub. There’s nothing quite like a spin-quack scorned.

    (I have noticed the Poison Dwarf and others saying it too. So it’s official – it was all Grahame Morris’s fault.)

  23. Matt says:

    Won’t be long and they’ll be saying “We only said he was our greatest Prime Minister according to the intelligence/advice we had at the time.”

    Says it all really.

  24. Katz says:

    It’s not quite like 1929, when the conservative prime minister Stanley Bruce was defeated in his seat of Flinders, then on the outskirts of Melbourne, since it was a safe seat. Howard has lost what was a marginal seat to Labor’s celebrity candidate Maxine McKew, with a swing against him that reflected the national average.

    That’s simply not true.

    Flinders was in 1921 a semi-rural seat that extended all the way from Portsea in the South (where Flinders is still located today, a mere stump of its former geographic extent) to beyond Ivanhoe in the North. In the course of the decade of the 1920s Flinders was the prime location of the great suburbanisation of the then Eastern fringes of Melbourne.

    The demographic changes experienced by the Flinders electorate in the 1920s were as dramatic in their own way as the demographic changes experienced by the Bennelong electorate since 1996.

  25. Jenny says:

    Ever since 1996 I have been a little depressed about the level of racism in the electorate. When Howard said that he wanted us to feel relaxed and comfortable with ourselves I suspected then that he was appealling to that unrelaxed uncomfortable racist component or the electorate. And the electorate responded.

    When he pulled the Tampa stunt, refused to say sorry to the Aborigines, treated Muslim ‘sympathisers’ like Hicks, Haneef and Habib so monstrously, and demonised the Sudanese I also knew whose vote he was after.

    But maybe something has changed. The public showed outrage about Hicks, Haneef and the Sudanese. And the voters of Lindsay showed last Saturday how they felt about the cynical assumption that they would respond well to an attempt to tarnish Labor by linking it to Muslims.

    So, maybe my feeling that Howard had successfully nurtured racism in Australia was wrong. Maybe he failed. Maybe the Cronulla riots brought us to our senses. Maybe the Andrews assault on the Sudanese offended us. Or the Lindsay capers. Who knows? But suddenly I don’t feel angry about Howard any more. Just a sad little man who found out on election night that the electorate had moved on and he hadn’t.

    Anyway, I’ll enjoy thinking that way, at least until the euphoria of Saturday night starts to fade.

  26. FDB says:

    Jenny – definitely he failed, because he was right about one thing – Australians are basically good people for the most part. The illusion that there are enough racists out there to decide elections is just that. Shedloads of Howard voters had to (more or less knowingly) swallow their sense of common decency to support who they saw as a safe pair of economic hands. The taste hasn’t gone away, and they just couldn’t stomach it any more.

    Wash it away with nice, bland soothing can of Ruddade and dream of tomorrow – a new dawn full of the promise of tastier, fizzier, racier beverages to come.

    Over to you, Devil Drink.

  27. Pollytickedofff says:

    “The federal Liberal Party really lost touch with the electorate only some time last year, probably brought on by a mixture of internal leadership squabbling and fatigue. Before that, Howard had shown a shrewdness in knowing how to win and retain the trust and confidence of the broad community.”

    Well, to me it seemed like Howard’s losing touch coincided with the departure of Arthur Sinodinos. Makes me doubt whether Howard deserves the credit being given for this ‘shrewdness’ (how many times did he ignore the advice to GO).

  28. David Rubie says:

    Jenny wrote:

    So, maybe my feeling that Howard had successfully nurtured racism in Australia was wrong. Maybe he failed. Maybe the Cronulla riots brought us to our senses. Maybe the Andrews assault on the Sudanese offended us.

    I’m troubled by this too Jenny. Has the dog whistle finally been broken? Maybe there are only so many times you can go to the well before it’s dry. Lets hope so. Unfortunately, I don’t think so. My guess is that the electorate has judged those issues to be less relatively important than more pressing economic or labour issues. Those parochial sentiments may still be bubbling away in our darkest corners. The best defense, of course, is to ameliorate fears rather than pander to them.

  29. Darryl Mason says:

    Flanagan’s ‘The Unknown Terrorist’ is worth reading simply because Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt despise it (and its success) so very, very much.

    Finished it on the weekend. It’s fast and interesting, and a good capsule of the Howard induced climate of fear and paranoia that settled over Sydney for a while.

    ——

    Gerard Henderson’s performance on Lateline was remarkable. Now he reveals that Howard was “stubborn”, “stubborn” and “stubborn” when it came to quitting, that Howard ignored people who didn’t not court him privately (in effect saying Howard ignored all those who weren’t allowed to pass into his inner sanctum), that Howard was emotionally exhausted and losing by October and that Howard had doomed the Liberal Party for at least a year by not going.

    How Henderson can call himself an independent commentator when he revealed not one of these details in any of his radio, TV or newspaper appearances is beyond comprehension.

    He was a Howard apologist and full-time spruiker for the Liberal government. Not that that will come as a surprise to anyone. Still, it’s nice to hear him admit it himself, through finally revealing what he claims he has long known about the hopelessness of Howard’s final stand.

  30. Dan says:

    I wonder whether history will name Howard as the second-longest serving PM or the second PM to lose his own seat?
    Dan

  31. John Greenfield says:

    Howard is not “the Right’s Gough.” Kevin Rudd is. 😉

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