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John Howard and the English language

Chris Saliba is a regular Webdiary columnist. His last piece was the book review, Frank Hardy: Politics, Literature, Life, by Jenny Hocking. Chris's archive is here.

by Chris Saliba

Who are you, John Howard? It’s been close to ten years that you have been Prime Minister of Australia, ten years of listening to you talk, debate, argue, disagree, spar with enemies, deny, explain, console, assure, and yet, after all those words, I’m still at a loss as to who you really are.

Howard’s language is tough, wiry and impenetrable; his moments of candour rare. When he has let slip, it’s caused a media feeding frenzy. (Think of his retirement ruminations.) Perhaps because unguarded moments have become so rare in politics, they are greeted as some kind of bizarre phenomena, like the passing of comets or an eclipse of the moon.

Howard weighs each word meticulously before speaking. He uses words defensively or offensively, as in battle, either as a shield to see off critics, or a sword to make mince meat of enemies. One of the main reasons for his long, ongoing political success, I would argue, is his command and masterful employment of language. He can skilfully dance through the most fraught press conference, and still come out looking refreshed.

When asked about the recent riots in Cronulla, the Prime Minister seemed intent on trying to erase the word racism from Australia altogether. ‘I do not accept there is underlying racism in this country,’ he maintained.

The reason for this was due to Howard’s concern that Australians not be made to feel ashamed of their country, that we be ‘relaxed and comfortable’. Funny as it sounds, the PM was playing national self –esteem counselor.

On Channel Nine’s Today Show, in an interview with Tracy Grimshaw, the Prime Minister lamented the riots being given a ‘tag line of racially motivated’, as if this were an inappropriate or mischievous description. In fact, it was the protestors who had tagged themselves with such lines as Ethnic Cleansing Unit, Wog Free Zone, and other even more offensive expressions.

Howard saw his most pressing job as countering the notion that there was any kind of dormant racism lurking in Australia. ‘These things come and go and it’s important that we don’t lapse into too much self-criticism and self-flagellation,’ he told Tracy Grimshaw. Meaning, it was better we feel good about ourselves rather than face reality.

The day after boxing day I turned on the telly and was shocked to see that Kerry Packer had died. Here we go, I thought, every big wig in town will soon be telling us how much they loved Kerry Packer.

Seconds later Howard turns up on the telly. What would he say, I wondered? He started off with what seemed like a criticism of the media. Addressing journalists at a press conference, he said ‘Many things will be said about Kerry Packer and at a time like this there is a tendency sometimes to throw clichés around. Remarks such as ‘great Australian’, ‘larger than life’ are sometimes used where they are not appropriate.’

What on earth was he up to, talking about inappropriate words? It seemed very odd behaviour. I thought he might be trying to warn people off making cynical remarks about Packer, with regards to his tax avoidance and bullying character. Surprise, surprise, Howard’s next sentence informed the assembled journalists that such ‘clichés’ fitted Packer perfectly and were ‘appropriate’, therefore giving his personal endorsement to use banal language.

If much of Howard’s success lays in his words, then much may be revealed by Howard’s favourite reading. Samuel Johnson said that in order to write a book, you had to turn over a library first. What library has Howard turned over, enabling him to speak the way he does? What are his favourite books? A good squiz at his most well thumbed books would, I’m sure, give a good glimpse into what really makes him tick. Does he have a favourite all time novel that he re-reads every year or so, that he believes sums up life’s triumphs and tragedies?

Has he read Tolstoy’s War and Peace? What about the political novels of Anthony Trollope? As an anglophile, does he love the novels of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen? George Eliot perhaps? Does he revere great American writers like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe?

Howard has told us that he is an admirer of Islam, it is a ‘great religion’. When he has made these pronouncements, have any journalists asked him if he has read the Koran? If so, does he have a favourite teaching from the Koran?

We know that Robert Menzies was a student of Shakespeare. It no doubt influenced his language, giving us speeches like The Forgotten people, in which he described the work of writers and artists as ‘that heaven which is just beyond our grasp.’

Menzies could quote Shakespeare from memory. When discussing the Communist Party’s constitution, he quoted from MacBeth that it, ‘look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it’.  Has Howard ever quoted a favourite writer to highlight a point or bolster an argument?

In search of Howard’s favourite reading, all I could find was his response to the ABC’s My Favourite Book show. ‘Those questions are always impossible to answer,’ he said. ‘I read a lot, including histories and biographies.’

He was the only listed celebrity whocould not give a title to a favourite book. Instead he opted to disclose two favourite genres: history and biography.

Interestingly, then opposition leader Mark Latham gave as his favourite book Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, surely a dark portent. (One of the lines out of the book is, ‘Death to all moderators’.)

Latham not only had a favourite book, he even wrote them. His published works such as Civilising Global Capital and From The Suburbs were the little yellow bricks he laid on the road to his social capital utopia, which he would blow to pieces with The Latham Diaries.

Maybe Howard sees it as too dangerous to give too much away, to let people know too much of his thinking.

In an ABC Lateline interview in February of 2003, just before the Iraq war, former advisor and close friend, Grahame Morris, gave us a glimpse into the Prime Minister’s reading habits. Whilst discussing Howard’s reasons for wanting to take us into a war against Iraq, he said ‘The PM is a student of history.’ Mysteriously, he added, ‘He reads things you and I never read.’

Tony Jones remained sceptical: ‘I wouldn’t be so sure about that’.

‘You betcha’,’ Morris replied chirpily.

What mysterious books, what rare tomes, I wonder, are in the PM’s library, that the rest of Australia does not have access to?

Can anyone help me to compile a list of Howard’s favourite books? Is there anyone out there, any Liberal insiders maybe, who has had a good look into Howard’s bookshelves? What was in there? Has he ever recommended a book to anyone as being his favourite?

Let me kick things off by making these three guesses. I bet he has the complete works of Friedrich August Hayek (free market economist) sitting on his shelves, two well thumbed volumes of Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs, and the novels of Ayn Rand.

If we can re-construct the PM’s library, I’m sure we can get a clearer picture of who John Howard really is.

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AWA's for fun or profit

'Well, I was there. They wasn't no agitators. What they call reds. What the hell is these reds anyways?'

Timothy scraped a little hill level in the bottom of the ditch. The sun made his white bristle beard shine. 'They's a lot of fellas wanta know what reds is.' He laughed. 'One of our boys foun' out.' He patted the piled earth gently with his shovel. 'Fella named Hines-got 'bout thirty thousan' acres, peaches and grapes - got a cannery an' a winery. Well, he's all a time talkin' about "them goddamn reds." "Goddamn reds is drivin' the country to ruin," he says, an' "We got to drive these here red bastards out." Well, they were a young fella jus' come out west here, an' he's listenin' one day. He kinda scratched his head an' he says: "Mr Hines, I ain't been here long. What is these goddamn reds?" Well, sir, Hines says: "A red is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we're payin' twenty-five!" Well, this young fella he thinks about her, an' he scratches his head, an' he says: "Well, Jesus, Mr Hines. I ain't a son-of-a-bich, but if that's what a red is - why, I want thirty cents an hour. Ever'body does. Hell, Mr Hines, we're all reds."' Timothy drove his shovel along the ditch bottom, and the solid earth shone where the shovel cut it.

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. Chapter 21

 "So 51 per cent say that a collective agreement should cover the whole workplace? No, I don't agree with that. I think that's a suppression of minority rights."

John Howard

Fiction off PM's summer book list

Fiction off PM's summer book list
By Misha Schubert, Canberra
January 16, 2006
Top of the Prime Minister's holiday reading list is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Protector Of The People

There is one author who JWH (and Hyacinth) probably consider compulsory reading for all those who want to explore and exploit the weaknesses of democracy:

“But even democracy ruins itself by excess… Its basic principle is the equal right for all to hold office…it becomes disastrous because the people are not properly equipped by education to select the best rulers and the wisest courses. As to the people they have no understanding and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them. To get a doctrine accepted or rejected it is only necessary to have it praised or ridiculed in a popular play.

 The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery, it is so hungry for honey that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer calling himself  the protector of the people rises to supreme power.”

The above quote sounds so pertinent for contempory times yet Plato (The Rebublic) wrote this over two thousand years ago. The students of  Leo Strauss would agree.


Ed. Fiona: Phil, it is genuinely eerie to contemplate either as philosopher/ess king/queen. But, yes: if we are serious about understanding what's going on, we need to revisit the ancients - and remember what disasters their dystopias might have (and in actuality have) visited upon us...

The PM's bedime reading

I'll nominate something by Carlos Fuentes for the PM's bedside table. I can't say what, because I haven't read any of his work myself.

I did hear him interviewed on ABC Radio today (transcript), and it sounds like he has wisdom to impart.

Ramona Koval: Although, you know, many leaders have been lovers of literature but somehow it hasn’t changed the way they behave in the world.

Carlos Fuentes: No, no... or maybe it did and we don’t know. But I don’t think men and women of politics are particularly guided by literary values. On the contrary, they think they are in possession of reality, and that their acts have to do with reality. Usually that is the real realm of fantasy. People who think they’re well settled into reality and that there is no other dimension than that on which their reality rests, are the greatest fantasists in the world, and the wave of the empires and the governments and the great powers that be in the world... crumble... show it. The great lesson of Kafka, who I think is the greatest writer of the 20th century in the sense that he told everything that there was to know, is to tell us that the emperor is naked but he doesn’t know it, of course.

It might not get through, though.

Authors Howard has read

Leo Strauss?

Craig R. Ed.: Persecution and the Art of Writing?

Is Magistrate Falzon A Racist?

Craig asks: “…is it fair to call Magistrate Paul Falzon racist without first checking his sentencing record to see if there is a consistent bias?”

Does one need to have a record of consistent bias before one actually becomes or exposes oneself as a racist? For all I know Falzon may well have never shown any sign of racism in his dealings inside or outside of his court prior to this.

Falzon gives himself away at least as a nationalist by stating that the flag was ‘of great significance’. Is that a legal pronouncement by which a sentence should be determined? I would have said that it was simply the magistrate’s opinion.

I called Falzon a ‘racist’ based solely on circumstances of and the way he has handled this case. Checking out his sentencing record may or may not confirm my opinion. At this stage, however, it is merely my opinion – just as his claim that the flag is ‘of great significance’ is merely his opinion.

Another Step Down The Road To Howard's Fascist Australia

It seems a racist magistrate, one Paul Falzon, has sent a flag burner to jail for three months despite the fact that the jailed man has a wife and child about to be evicted from their home because they are no longer able to pay their rent (due no doubt to the fact that he had already been sitting in jail for a month, presumably on remand.)

The Sutherland Local Court magistrate told the defendant, Hadi Khawaja, that the burning of an Australian flag was “of great significance” and ‘warranted a harsher penalty than the usual fine’. One should ask, because the SMH article doesn’t make it clear, what the ‘usual fine’ is and exactly what the fine is for. 

One also wonders what the penalty would have been say for a white Australian burning a Lebanese flag, a flag that would be ‘of great significance’ to the Lebanese community.

I do not condone any flag burning or destruction of property but I condemn heartily the clearly racist intent of a magistrate who, despite the mitigating circumstances and the circumstances of the defendant’s family, would still send a man to jail for such a lengthy period where a fine and/or an order to complete community service would have been far more appropriate.

Yet another step down the road to Howard’s racist New Fascist Australia.   

Craig R.: Damian is it fair to call Magistrate Paul Falzon racist without first checking his sentencing record to see if there is a consistent bias?

Clever by half

Alan Curran, having read quite a number of Marilyn’s posts over the years it would appear in relation to the immigration thing she had been correct all along.  Of course Marilyn spent quite a bit of time researching her topic, did her homework and at the end of the day played a role in exposing DIMIA for what it was.  As such things have changed and so they should have.

 It would appear it is very easy to be clever by half and your most recent posts indicate to me they have been written by somebody who is somewhat lazy, spiteful, immature and ignorant although I am sure you are none of those things.

Maybe you could take a leaf out of the book of C Parsons. Although I do not necessarily agree  with everything he says he at least makes an effort to back up his arguments with research. He is not lazy and to be honest when C Parsons seriously has something to say quite often it is worth consideration and many of his contributions do actually contribute.

Maybe Alan you simply don’t have the time to do your homework, research or whatever but it is rather sad you degrade yourself in such a manner.  I’m sure you will contribute in a more mature manner in future, won’t you.

They Lied For War, Now They Lie For Peace...

A few months ago right-wingers here at Webdiary scoffed at my suggestion that sooner or later the West is going to have to negotiate with ‘terrorists’. It seems the US is now doing just that if this report from NYT and AFP via SMH is anything to go by.

The talks between insurgent leaders and US diplomatic officials are, of course, America’s only let-out from the quagmire of Iraq but in order not to lose too much face the US have had to come up with some cock-and-bull propaganda story about taking advantage of “a rift that has opened between home-grown insurgents and radical groups such as al-Qaeda...”

Enter the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Middle East, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, (leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq). Apparently “Osama bin Laden named Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq after he pledged allegiance to the overall al Qaeda leader in October 2004.” What I wonder is how anyone is able to pledge allegiance to a man that in all likelihood died in December 2001.

Still, the Lying Tyrants Bush, Blair and Howard aren’t called the Lying Tyrants for nothing and any step in the direction of peace, even if it is supported by more lies, has to at least be a step in the right direction.

The Invasion And Plundering Of Iraq By Howard...

Alan Curran, you think, then, that Australia didn’t have a hand in invading Iraq? You think that no Australian company or Australian subsidiary of any US multinational companies have profited from the invasion either directly or indirectly?

I appreciate that some extreme right-wing supporters of the fascist war-criminal and Lying Tyrant Howard may get frustrated when phrases like ‘invading and plundering Iraq are used to describe the actions of your hero but, really, how on earth can you deny that Iraq was not invaded and plundered?

I assume you are denying it – or are you just having a bit of a rant to let off some steam on account of it being too close to the truth for your comfort?

pity about the lack of information

I say again there is no information on this topic here - just self indulgent sneering.

Don Clark, I don't get your reply to me. It does not relate to anything I said.



Inside The Heart of Darkness-or ,what's on the bedside table

I think John Henry Calvinist was pretty spot on when he said on Dec 16 in 'Legalism For Beginners' : 'No...for the real logic of power-and [by implication] the potentially psychotic consequences...we need to turn back to the ancient Chinese Legalists...Because...any ideology or preference apart from realpolitic can be exploited to turn the system back upon the ruler. He needs therefore to remain totally isolate and unpredictable as to methods-ends are purely power and nothing else...Rather than Swift and his Yahoos [which Howard has probably read as well], therefore, I'd see Orwell as the Westerner closest to understanding this model." So, he would have read Han Fe, Lord Shang and any other obscurum per obscurius. Sun Tsu is just too obvious and so 2005.

I'd assume also that Howard has read Orwell, Huxley, the Existentialists, the Obscurantists, that other famous biography from his era Mein Kampf, some Aleister Crowley, definately the French economist Emile Dupuit [but not around Dubya who is a little limited in his appreciation of classical European texts] and he would have, by now, have laid his hands on one or other of the Ronald Reagan biographies brought out after he karked it.

Of course, first cab off the rank would have been 'The Latham Diaries' purely for grist for his dark satanic political mill for this year.

Howard And The Dreaded 'Hydrogen Filled Balloons' Factory

Ron Collins reckons: “OK you don't like John Howard, but this kind of stuff is about as weighty as a hydrogen filled balloon.”

They wouldn’t be the same hydrogen balloons that the Iraqis didn’t inflate with their mobile hydrogen generators on account of Howard and Downer insisting that they were really mobile biological weapons factories would they, Ron?

Maybe that’s all Howard reads; orders and memos from Washington, DC.

'Terrorists' Or Iraqi Patriots?

It seems the holidays are over and it’s time for the Howard fascist government and their agencies to get on with the business it knows best – scaremongering. According to this report in the SMH ‘terrorists’ are being recruited right here in Australia.

Of course, anyone who raises their arms to fight the US invaders and plunderers and their allies in Iraq are labelled ‘terrorists’. This all-encompassing hate label serves Howard and his band of Bush lackeys well especially when the rhetoric includes mention of the wooden legged Scarlet Pimpernel of the Middle East, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself (Cripes! I nearly forgot to mention that he is al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq!)

According to Ghanim Taha al-Shibli, the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia, “It looks like there is [a] group in Australia who are supportive, at least vocally, of the Zarqawi people. You can see them in different places expressing themselves very clearly about what they think.” How dare they ‘express themselves very clearly’. Next thing you know Iraqi expats will be wanting to return to Iraq to help liberate their homeland.

I wonder how many expat Australians would be rushing back to Australia if the situation were reversed and Iraq had invaded, occupied and plundered Australia.

Damian Lataan it seems as

Damian Lataan it seems as though you have taken over where Marilyn left off, more crap about Australia invading and plundering Iraq.

The reason we do not hear from Marilyn is that she got some new glasses, and suddenly she was able to see the rubbish she was writing so she stopped.

I suggest you see your optician first thing in the morning.

Craig Rowley, Ed.: Alan, will you please lift the standard above mere (and rather boring) abuse and comment in future in line with Webdiary Ethics

John Howard and the English language

What does he read? Who cares. Its what he does that makes a difference. The only stuff he has access to that the common man does not is secret government documents that discuss his real policy objectives. These will be declassified in 40 years or so when he's dead. Then we will see what a fascist the guy really was.

The Iraq Mess Grows Thanks To Bush, Blair and Howard

As predicted the situation in Iraq has deteriorated rapidly after the elections of 15 December 2005. According to this report in the NYT the situation has become so bad it has prompted the US commander in Iraq to warn “…that sectarian rivalries and incompetence could cripple major ministries and turn newly American-trained Iraqi security forces into militias for hire.”

According to this report, also in the NYT, there seems to be an escalation of the civil war in Iraq which contradicts Bush and Howard’s assertion that ‘democracy’ is a success in Iraq.

What a complete mess. Howard and his warmongering cronies have a lot to answer for. We can only hope that Howard hasn’t got us involved in Bush’s next planned disaster; the imminent attack on Iran and its so-called nuclear facilities, though with more of Australia’s SAS preparing for another incursion into Afghanistan one shouldn’t be surprised.

Do these fascist lunatics never learn?

John Howard's reading

What we have here is a lot of ideologically based speculation about John Howard's reading habits, with only fragmentary information to back it up. But despite the absence of information the purported commentary consists of little more than mockery and sneering. OK you don't like John Howard, but this kind of stuff is about as weighty as a hydrogen filled balloon.

Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Perhaps Ron Collins might like to read "Tressell" for himself, and see what he gets out of it.

Robert Noonan, the author, knew what he was talking about, as a housepainter himself. The conditions he describes for the casual labourers and tradesmen in Edwardian England are true enough, and bear striking parallels with conditions today, or for the next economic downturn.

Thanks for the reading list...

Thanks Craig Rowley for finding that interview. I vaguely remember the details about his holiday reading from that interview being reported by other commentators.

How curious that he calls Henry Kissinger's book on world diplomacy a 'sort of' tour de force. Does this mean he found it boring? Probably. I can't imagine Howard reading David Marr's biography of Patrick White.

I agree with the other posters that it would be good to give Howard a list of suggested reading, but he's so ideologically rusted on that it would just bounce off him.

And with regards to David Eastwood's post about Howard's contribution to the ABC programme, What Our Leaders Believe, and how little he said, it seems pretty obvious that Howard self-censors a hell of a lot. The reason must be his 1988 comments about Asian immigration and being labelled racist. Despite being a champion of free speech, he is exceedingly careful about what he says. He'd not done with that episode in his life, not by a long shot. It's a chip on his shoulder that he continues to polish. No wonder he refused to admit that there was any type of latent racism in Australia.

One thing I forgot to mention in my article: Howard's wish to include the word 'mateship' in his preamble to the constitution, which was knocked down by the Democrats. A lot of people baulked that it was too blokey. Even the RSL thought it was appalling.

He used the same word, 'mate', to warn Arab states in the lead up to the Iraq war - 'Mate, the game's up.' This was at a press conference with Donald Rumsfeld. What great communication skills! I don't think Kissinger's book on diplomacy helped the PM that much.

Thanks for the reading suggestions from other Webdiarists - I'm going to look for some of those titles. If I could just make my own suggestion here: Christopher Lasch's, Revolt of the Elites. Good reading for both sides of politics.


Howard's sort of philosophy

One book I reckon would be in Howard’s stash is, Anarchy, State and Utopia, 1974, by Robert Nozick.

Nozick (1938-2002) was  a Libertarian not an Anarchist and believed in private property right and free market forces. He objected to universal education and healthcare and even thought that public housing should only be partly funded by the state. He felt that the police should be privatised in his minimalist government utopia. He ideas on the poor are about as warm as a grave stone, any funds from the state should be extremely hard to get even if people are starving. I can see Howard getting his jollies off on the book.

Damian Lataan...

Damian Lataan  "If you add to your list his lies, warmongering, racism, corporate cronyism, militarisation and the use of fear as a political weapon, you get to see exactly what he is – a fascist. You also get to see where he and his right-wing supporters are slowly but surely trying to take this country."

I can't believe you are still on about fascism, geez that is just soooooo 2005. Get with the program will you. Although I guess if you hold on long enough just like flared trousers it could come back around again.

Now if you will excuse me I'am off to put on my safari suit.

On reading matter

Hmm. Reading matter, eh.

I suggest The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists ("Robert Tressell"). Should be required reading for every frontbencher of whatever flavour. Very cheap in 2nd hand paperback, too. Everything you ever wanted to know about casual labour directly bargaining with their employer. Just right for the modern IR era. Sent one to The Right Honourable the Treasurer once, but it seems he's a rather slow reader.

Or a collection of Stanley Baldwin's speeches, perhaps?

"Had the employers of past generations all of them dealt fairly with their men there would have been no unions."

"Once I leave, I leave. I am not going to speak to the man on the bridge, and I am not going to spit on the deck."

an interesting story, a faithful picture

Great reading suggestion Don.

I visited London last year and was given a copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (link to Gutenberg Project Online Download). It is an interesting story, a faithful picture.

I didn't get down to Hastings (Mugsborough) on that trip, but I was staying on a barge on the Thames moored near the Kew Bridge which helped in feeling immersed in the historical period whilst I read the book.  As I progressed through the chapters I would find myself alternately thinking how far we have come on the one hand, and how little things have really changed on the other.

I reckon some conservatives have read this book, mostly for tips on how to exploit others. They sell it at Conservative.com would you believe!  I'd say a few of the political architects of the Regional Partnerships Program would benefit from a closer reading of Chapter 30.

Jay White might benefit from a reading too, as he may see something of the character Mr Crass in himself - a wannabe Hunter!  Have a look Jay and tell us what you think.

Reading List

Yes, Craig, I've always enjoyed the gamut of puns in RTP. Mugsborough, Tressel, Crass, "Orion" and so on.

The irony of conservative interest is all too real. Think of the running down and sale of public assets, etc!

No to mention, re Baldwin, the irony of his making a fundamental point about unionism, as British PM of the 1927 Great Strike anti-union laws.

A Little Lite Howard Reading

Ian Bren, may I suggest the following, all of which have been listed elsewhere on Webdiary in the past.

Alison Broinowski, Howard’s War (Carlton North, VIC: Scribe Publications, 2003.)

Robert Garran, True Believer: John Howard, George Bush and the American Alliance (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2004.)

Fred Argy, Where To From Here: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2003.)

Andrew Wilkie, Axis of Deceit: The Story of the Intelligence Officer Who Risked All To Tell the Truth About WMD and Iraq (Melbourne, VIC: Black Inc., 2004.)

Marion Maddox, God Under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2005.)

David Marr and Marian Wilkinson, Dark Victory (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2003.)

A few that he might like to get on with.

Why not work the other way round...

Maybe we could build a list of books he should read, based on his track record of wars, lies, misinformation and toadying to the US.

ed Hamish: any suggestions Ian?

Books JWH should read

Just following up Ian Bren's remarks, I think it would be good if JWH read, for example, Children of the Lucky Country? (Fiona Stanley, Sue Richardson and Margot Prior) and Dirt Cheap - Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market (Elisabeth Wynhausen). Might inject a good dose of realism.

Howard? Not So Hard To See Who He Is

Chris Saliba asks: “Who are you, John Howard?” then adds, “It’s been close to ten years that you have been Prime Minister of Australia, ten years of listening to you talk, debate, argue, disagree, spar with enemies, deny, explain, console, assure, and yet, after all those words, I’m still at a loss as to who you really are.”

If you add to your list his lies, warmongering, racism, corporate cronyism, militarisation and the use of fear as a political weapon, you get to see exactly what he is – a fascist. You also get to see where he and his right-wing supporters are slowly but surely trying to take this country.

For a long while I have

For a long while I have considered JWH a student of the classics. In particular I think he has read Plato's "The Republic" and decided to conduct his government in every way that democracy should fail to support a successful republic. The public masses can be ignored unless they support the demogogue. Horward as the philosopher leader that Plato championed? I think not. 

Yep War History is his thing

Chris I've found this question about Howard's reading list  intriguing, so I've done a little digging.

Back in his first interview in 2001, John Howard told Kerri-Anne Kennerley on Radio 2GB about his holiday reading matter.  

KENNERLEY: ... You’re just back from holiday, how were the holidays?

PRIME MINISTER: Very good, I stayed in Sydney and I read a lot of books, I played a lot of golf, I watched a lot of cricket and it was a great holiday. I just stayed at home. I’d been travelling around over the last few or so months that the thought of spending three weeks or more at home and doing all of those things and particularly trying to improve my golf swing and reading a whole variety of books and of course going to every day of the Sydney Test against the West Indies, it was a great holiday and I’m glad I had it and I feel energetic and refreshed and enthusiastic and ready for a very active and I hope pretty productive year for the county.

KENNERLEY: Well about those books you mentioned, I heard you with Piers Ackermann before you went away and I tell you the list of books in your holiday reading was heavy duty. Did you really, come on, maybe, this close to reading a trashy novel?

PRIME MINISTER: No no, I do try during my holiday period to read a lot of heavy books and they were pretty heavy. I’ve just about finished Henry Kissenger’s sort of tour de force on world diplomacy over the last 300 or 400 years and I read a couple of books on federation, one on Edmund Barton, the biography of the first Prime Minister of Australia, a book on the great battles between Halifax and Churchill in the British War Cabinet in May of 1940 – terrific read, quite gripping - and really although it’s on a serious subject, it’s not a big book and it’s written in a very gripping style and it’s based on some new material that’s only just come out. Anyway it was a heavy diet but then I suppose they’re the sort of books leaders settle down with. But I do read fiction from time to time but I tend to be somebody who likes reading biographies and history. I find biographies of people endlessly fascinating….

KENNERLEY: I’m a huge fan of your own….

PRIME MINISTER: They are so good and I’ve read some fabulous biographies in my time. Biographies of people like Weary Dunlop and Patrick White, just very very well written.

 I do wonder if it was David Marr's  Patrick White, A Life (1992) or James Bulman-May's  Patrick White and Alchemy (2001) or indeed, some other text I'm not familiar with that Mr Howard refers to. 

History, Biography, Smith and Hume

This site indicates John  Howard enjoys  "Histories & Biographies". 


I imagine, given his great interest (and apparent knowledge of) the battles his father and his father's father both fought in during the first world war, that we should take "Histories" to mean War History and given his professed love of cricket that we should take "Biographies" to mean Sports Biographies.

I also imagine that, like most ideologues of the right, The Boss would have thumbed the texts of Adam Smith and his friend David Hume, and like most ideologues of the right he would have misread their works.

and on religion...

Look at Howard's responses in the ABC Compass special on "What Our Leaders believe" before the last election - said not a word, but took a good ten minutes of airtime doing it.


Perhaps you'd find a copy of The Prince, by Niccolo Macchiavelli? Stability through tyranny?

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