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The pains in Howard's End

Many a mighty eagle has been run over while swooping on road-kill. The former government ministers appearing on Four Corners tonight will be painting themselves as observers of a Shakespearian tragedy.  As Howard's hubris takes him from his political zenith to an election-night nadir, it's not the protagonist who achieves redemption by recognising his folly.  His henchmen, though, appear to be happy to make as much political mileage out of the situation as they can.   As Howard fell on his sword, the monogrammed daggers sticking in his back were obvious.  I doubt that, for John, the blows felt like the friendly pats on the back that they are now portrayed as being.

Actually, from  the advertising for the show, it looks like more of a Pontius Pilate routine.   Do any of them look like they feel guilty about their involvement?  Have a look at the hand-washing tonight, and tell us what you reckon.

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Labor resurrects Howard's uranium plan

Martin Ferguson has reconvened the Uranium Industry Framework, a hand-picked advisory group appointed by the previous government.

"Some countries see nuclear as part of their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Ferguson said.

"Uranium mining has got a bright future and it's going to lead to increased export earnings for Australia and jobs."

Probably not what you were led to believe at the time.

Rudd trying to get Australia a seat at the table.

This may not be easy, particularly in the light of the Howard government's engagement with the UN, which was uneven, to say the least.

Three incidents illustrate the problem. In March 2002 the government sent a parliamentary secretary to head its delegation to the International Conference on Finance for Development in Mexico. Australia was the only developed country other than Portugal not represented by a minister, and deceitfully described its representative as the Minister for Development Co-operation.

In contrast, the meeting was attended by more than 50 presidents and prime ministers and well over 100 other ministers. Indeed, the US delegation included President Bush, secretary of state Colin Powell, and secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill. Later, a meeting on "Action against Hunger and Poverty", called by Brazil's President Lula and President Chirac of France at the UN on September 29, 2004, was also attended by more than 50 heads of state or government and by cabinet ministers from many other countries including the US. But there was no name plate for Australia.

When a delegate at a conference on human rights was urged to speak to the Australian delegation about a particular issue he said: "There's no need. I've already talked to the Americans." That has become our reputation. It is not surprising, then, that when foreign minister Alexander Downer raised the possibility of election to the Security Council early in this decade he quickly learnt that there was little support. But Australia has been a member of the Security Council four times — in 1946-47, 1956-57, 1973-74 and 1985-86 — so arguably it is our turn again.

Howard left with Australia's international reputation shattered. It will take years for Kevin from Heaven to rebuild. Trying to get a seat at the Security Council is a step in the right direction.

Why bother with cars?

For a decade or so, the strategy of specialising in big cars was working fine. The Howard government rolled out support to develop new models, and petrol prices and the dollar stayed low. Industry exports soared from $463 million in 1986 to almost $5 billion in 2001. By 2003 Australia was producing more cars than it had in the '80s, a third of them for export.

It was in that climate that the Government, car makers, the component industry and the Productivity Commission negotiated in 2002 a long-term industry plan that promised substantial but diminishing support for the industry until 2015 — when support would end entirely. In effect, the industry bought a decade's survival by agreeing that it would then be left to sink or swim. Its tariff protection would shrink to 10% in 2005 and 5% in 2010. Most important, the subsidy for developing new models would shrink from $560 million a year to $280 million in 2010, then end in 2015. It was, as I wrote at the time, "a leap in the dark … Almost certainly, some of (the industry) will sink. Some will swim, but whether enough of a critical mass will survive for it to keep swimming remains to be seen".

Right now it is sinking. Petrol prices and the dollar have moved massively in the wrong directions. Export sales remain about $5 billion a year, but much of that is unprofitable. Mitsubishi has folded, more than 20,000 jobs have gone in two years — and with tariffs and subsidies about to be halved, no one is making money.

This extract is from an opinion piece by Tim Colebatch, economics editor for The Age.

By ignoring climate change and peak oil the Australian car manufacturing industry has been going downhill for a long time. It is time the government faced the two most important factors that will determine the purchase of a car in the future. That is the cost of fuel and the emissions produced. By ignoring the shift from big cars to small cars the Howard government in denial of climate change and unaware of peak oil has almost destroyed the car manufacturing industry. We must now invest in new technologies and build hybrid or electric cars in Australia the $500 million "Green Car Innovation" promised by the Rudd government is a step in right direction but more needs to be done.

Federal Labor today announced a $500 million “Green Car Innovation Fund” designed to generate $2 billion in investment to secure jobs in the automotive industry and tackle climate change by manufacturing low emission vehicles in Australia.

Australia needs to keep its manufacturing industry for both defence and economic reasons. We cannot rely on mining for ever. 

Even liberals thought Howard's foreign policy a shambles.

A LIBERAL senator has criticised the former Howard Government's record on foreign policy in an academic paper.

Senator Russell Trood criticised the Iraq war and other policies in a paper on Australian foreign affairs written for the Lowy Institute.

The 200-page paper was launched by Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson at Parliament House in Canberra last night.

"In response to climate change, for example, our response to this issue was, to say the least, uneven," Senator Trood said at a press conference reported by ABC radio.

"The Pacific Solution overshadowed the considerable strengths of a well conceived and responsible immigration policy.

"Iraq was an ill conceived enterprise from the very beginning.

"We were also unwise not to fund the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) adequately."

Senator Trood, who holds a PhD in international relations, has long been a critic of the war in Iraq.

Funny how liberals are now speaking out about the terrible foreign policy of the Howard government. We didn't hear too much from them when Howard and Downer were trashing our reputation abroad.

Brendan 07

Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson's approval rating has sunk to a new low of just 7 per cent in the latest poll out today.

I will have to go out and get my Brendan 07 T shirt.

Where Can They Go ?

The experiment of Howard's hard right (with Hanson's covert aid) is at an end, never to raise its ugly head again. The bunch that are left who are back-pedalling like crazy and making a dog's breakfast of it are looking more foolish by the minute. Rudd has claimed the middle ground and will really dish out "compassionate conservatism" in its truest sense.

If the right in the federal Libs take over they will make all the same mistakes the NSW Coalition has made which has left them out of power for years. If the left in the federal Libs rule then all they can do is match Rudd – game over. And with none of the personality. The very best they could hope for is to come up with a young charismatic new leader – and it won't be the mincing Christopher Pine or the pontificating Turnbull.

And it's time to investigate the outrageous power the Nats have wielded for years – over-represented with a vote matched by the Greens yet pork barrelled way beyond what they deserve.

The Liberal Party has only been around for 60 years or so – perhaps it's time is up – just as the Democrats had their run but the Greens stole their territory – the Labor Party has absorbed all that was good about the Liberal Party and abandoned the worst aspects.

My Wife Who Is Never Wrong

She predicted it a few years ago: Howard would ensure no-one from the Liberal Party would follow him into power and that is is his legacy. Now it seems he has decimated his own party either knowingly or subconsciously.

Judging from their performance in the chamber over the last week and on Friday with the Kevin Rudd cardboard cut-out ( now we have Rudd on both sides of the chamber) I have never witnesses such a display of childish petulance. Talk about denial. Being in Opposition has hit the Liberals like a tsunami: they simply can't handle it. Interjecting and nit-picking over every single reply from a government minister was as annoying as it gets and made them look utterly foolish - for whatever small audience actually watches.

But it's a good indication of the state of the party. It's disintegrating. Heavies like Costello and Downer are marking time, Turnbull isn't connecting with the general public (I thought he would), Nelson is doomed. The end of this party can't come soon enough.  Perhaps something good will rise from its ashes.

An end to the Libs?

I doubt it.  Pauline showed there is a hard right/agrarian socialist constituency.  I could see them reduced to this (about the stature of the Nats at the moment).  But I think they'll still be around worse luck.

Labor will increasingly be Menzies Libs with the Greens as Labor.

That's my guess.  What do others think?

Bye and large

You might be right but there might be a couple of other wrinkles to take into consideration.

Firstly, the Libs after 13 years in opposition and no real stand out leader to get behind were left with Howard and Costello. We all know now how Costello was outmanoeuvred by Howard and I think more by happenstance than anything else; because of the latter’s electoral success, (due to nothing but Keating's well deserved unpopularity,) became the Liberal party. Factionalism was gone; it was Howard's way or nothing. With the demise of Howard, factionalism will (or has) returned which is to be expected. Now there has to be a sorting out period which will take some time. Johnny Liar for all his intellectual limitations has left a bloody big hole behind which will take some time to fill in but filled in it will be. Factions will coalesce, deals will be struck and life will go on as normal.

Secondly, to put this in a historical context it must be remembered that the Labour party was formed to be the political arm of the union movement. We all know that the tail has been wagging the dog for decades now but I doubt that the true left will ever go away and could well find a resurgence should things go belly up, (which there is every indication that they will). Maybe the unions will, if they think they're being short changed, (which they certainly were with Hawke and Keating,) have second thoughts about where to invest their members funds come election time.

At the time of the dismissal of the Whitlam government and the subsequent elevation of the coalition I went to a theatre restaurant in Canberra with colleagues of mine in the real estate business. They were cock-a-hoop, I got horribly, despairingly drunk. In the words of a 19th century American Indian chief, commenting in his old age about the massacre at 'Wounded Knee",

"Looking down now from the high hill of my old age I can see all that was lost there. The hoop of the nation was broken and it's pieces scattered."

Only I didn't need that perspective, trust me, I could see then that those events would set back the socialist cause for decades.

Now I don't think that anything matters; I merely write to satisfy a creative urge and communicate.


Roger old son, long time no talk. Have you forgotten my dictum on dealing with trolls? Come on it's only three years ago, you know about whom I'm talking. Ignore them and they go away.


John Pratt, wouldn't it be delicious if in the final wash-up the demise of the Liberal Party, that Howard 'gave his life to', was a direct result of the Howard 'stewardship'?

What a legacy! What a fitting reward that would be!

Liberal Party a bus to oblivion..

Member for Leschenault Dan Sullivan has quit, saying the party has moved away from its traditional values and will need nothing short of a miracle to win the next state election.

Mr Sullivan's seat was abolished in an electoral redistribution, but he told ABC TV's Stateline program that is not why he is resigning.

"I joined the Liberal Party because of what it stood for, I joined because of the principles that Robert Menzies enunciated all those years ago," he said.

"Now the Liberal Party is diverting away from those principles and I don't see that changing in the short term and there's no option.

"I hate to say it, but the Liberal Party is in dire straits and nothing short of a dramatic change will alter that."

Mr Sullivan, also a one-time deputy leader, says he is unhappy with leader Troy Buswell.

"He's taking the Liberal Party bus in a direction that I don't want to go in and quite frankly I'm getting off at this stop," he said.

Mr Sullivan says he will stand as an independent, most likely in the Upper House.

As the Liberal support base continues to fade away, some of the hard liners need to rethink where they are going. The next stop for the Liberal bus may be oblivion.

Clarke & Dawe version

For those who didn't see it, the spot-on Clarke and Dawe version is here. You need to watch the video, because the transcript doesn't cue you for the fact that John Clarke's monologues aren't, they're crosscut to be clear that he's being several different people.

I hadn't gone there to tell him to resign, I'd gone to sound him out on the prospect of resigning if at any stage he were asked to, which he hadn't been and which he subsequently wasn't.  

I still believe the Titanic was the safest form of transport at that time that was available to us. No question. 

Rubbish Alan Curran

What you are hearing about concerns the NSW Labor Party and the sooner they get the boot the better, although the alternative looks pretty woeful.

Gillard will be PM long before Turnbull could ever hope to be - the rest of the Coalition frontbench may as will resign and go into private practice now if their clumsy actions are anything to go by. Eleven years in power have just produced a bunch of whinging sissies in question time. Unless they have a Kevin Rudd up their sleeves I don't know why they bother turning up.

Non-existent figures released

From an Australian Government press release:

The Workplace Authority has provided the Government with data compiled and analysed from a sample of over 1700 Australian Workplace Agreements lodged between April and October 2006, data the previous Liberal government claimed didn’t exist.

The analysis of the 1748 AWAs shows that 89 per cent removed at least one so-called protected award condition:

  • 89 per cent excluded one or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 83 per cent excluded two or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 78 per cent excluded three or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 71 per cent excluded four or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 61 per cent excluded five or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 52 per cent excluded six or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 40 per cent excluded seven or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 30 per cent excluded eight or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 16 per cent excluded nine or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 8 per cent excluded ten or more so-called protected award conditions
  • 2 per cent excluded all eleven so-called protected award conditions

The analysis also revealed the so-called protected award conditions that were most frequently removed:

  • 70 per cent removed shift work loadings
  • 68 per cent removed annual leave loadings
  • 65 per cent removed penalty rates
  • 63 per cent removed incentive based payments and bonuses
  • 61 per cent removed days to be substituted for public holidays
  • 56 per cent removed monetary allowances
  • 50 per cent removed public holidays payment
  • 49 per cent removed overtime loadings
  • 31 per cent removed rest breaks
  • 25 per cent removed declared public holidays

The limited data revealed that 75 per cent of the 1487 AWAs sampled did not provide for a guaranteed wage increase.

These are the statistics the former Liberal government didn’t want to tell the Australian people about. These are the individual statutory agreements that the Liberal Party brought to Australian working families.

Just One Little Benefit

It's finally a joy to watch question time again. Just love Julia Gillard - Australia's next Prime Minister.

ALP scandals

Michael de Angelos, before you go jumping up and down with joy, I suggest you read the front page of today's SMH. On December 22 2006 I alluded to these Labor scandals and the implication of Federal Labor members. From what I have heard about the scandals that are coming to light, I doubt whether Gillard will ever be Prime Minister.


Akka [playing Blind Pew and administering the Black Spot in training for International Talk Like a Pirate Day] I doubt whether Gillard will ever be Prime Minister [Arrrrrgggh! etc]..

And don't take any wagers on that, old son. She already has turned that trick, and the punters loved it!

Captain Dr Black and Greybeard Woodforde, OAM, of Hispaniola, and his parrot, Akka, a rare Norwegian Blue


AkkaFrom what I have heard about the scandals that are coming to light, I doubt whether Gillard will ever be Prime Minister.

You mean Costello, don't you Howard Ender? Or the muscular and powerful Breandan Nelson? How about the comical Barbie Bishop? Or is that still Klaus Barbie? One never can be too sure with some of those Western Australians.

Now, as I've suggested so often, stop it or you'll go blind, Akka. Do some interesting scribble with your nice new yellow WorkChumps biros. Remember, we DO adore you, Akka, in a very deep and meaningful way. One might even try to score you a lovely and useful WorkChumps plastic folder, as love token, from the higgledy-piggledy palletloads secreted in Andrews The Axolotl's former department. Or from Joe Hockey's unknowing hordes.

Dr Woodforde, OAM

Put in the effort: Hope it pays off!

Justin, I understand the feeling, however I have had the pleasure of crunching the ‘untouchables’ in past battles.  Not this big, but never the less, ‘untouchables’.

It takes patient, painstaking effort. You never expect dramatic results. Perhaps long term chess describes the process best.

It may well be that we will never get any of them. But we must never let them forget that they are being hunted.

I’d in some ways much rather be an Iraqi. Then instead of playing by intrusive and often unfairly applied rules it would be a matter of drawing up a list and getting about having them eliminated.

Dylan, this issue has been visited on WD previously.   A detailed report was given. As I do not keep records of meetings and events generally, I do not have this information at my fingertips.

It was, however, an American professor sponsored by a US government funded ‘be friends with  the US’ organisation here in Sydney.

Life Sucks

Sorry for the cynicism Peter; it's not that I'm against international justice and stuff like that, it's just that I cannot see how the world's most powerful country along with its allies are going to stick it up themselves; that's all.

Some of us may dearly love to see the likes of Bush and Co. end up like Saddam and yes it would be hard to argue that they don't deserve it.

But the reality is that sometimes life sucks, and even if they were brought to trial I would not be surprised if they all got off. The law can work like that for some but there I go getting all cynical again.


Dawning Of Uncomfortable Facts

PF Journey

The Howard regime took its eyes off inflation, climate change and fiscal responsibility. Instead, it indulged in its own palace intrigues, navel gazing and committing hara-kiri with WorkChoices.

Unfortunately the new government is making exactly the same mistakes (which multiply with time). To address a problem one must firstly know what that problem is. The present government (if their statements are to be believed) has absolutely no idea.

All equal under the law

Justin: If you believe that, then you don’t believe in International justice. If  there is none, then it is reasonable to expect Iranians to seek their own justice. That means that all Australians, Brits and Americans are fair game, anywhere, anytime.

However although the US would never, in the current circumstances hand anybody over, time and political reality can, and does change the realities.

Already it is accepted that Bush and his cronies will never be able to leave the US within ten years.

The other point to consider is that it is only a matter of months ago that the final Nazi hunt took place.

Prosecute just one, and the rest never again sleep easily. That in itself is a plus.

The idea is they are never ever allowed to forget that the threat of prosecution hangs over them.

Everybody is free to choose: uphold international law, or settle for anarchy.


Peter: "Already it is accepted that Bush and his cronies will never be able to leave the US within ten years."

A source on this would be nice, Peter.


A populist with a centrist agenda.  More than willing to compromise principle in pursuit of being elected.

Young enough to be there for a very long time.

I refer of course to K Rudd.  Do I think him less ambitious than Howard?  Not on your life. 

If he wins the next election comfortably I bet he starts harbouring ambitions of beating Menzies' record incumbency.

A bit off topic perhaps, then again, perhaps not.

If only ...

If only Costello and co had said John Howard should go because ...

_______________ (fill in the blank with your reason, for example: ... he ripped off the tax payer).

Howard's Hara-Kiri

Put aside the fascinating politics of Howard's End. More importantly, which has been missed, it shows how badly the Howard regime had governed Australia during 2006 and 2007. They were the lost years. The Howard regime took its eyes off inflation, climate change and fiscal responsibility. Instead, it indulged in its own palace intrigues, navel gazing and committing hara-kiri with WorkChoices.

I hope Rudd will not repeat Howard's End. Rudd should serve two terms and a bit, and hand over the PM to Gillard in 2014 or early 2015.

the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

Peter, hate to spoil the party mate but it ain't gunna happen, never will.

That's why they had the COW. The Yanks didn't need military support, they just needed "moral" support. They got that moral support from a whole batch of countries and leaders. In short, the guys who would try Bush and his supporters are the same guys and countries who gave him moral and in some cases military support.

There is no way the COW are going to admit to being obliging poodles in the brutal execution of American foreign policy.

Best get over it Pete, dream of better things and write off the hundreds and thousands of innocent deaths as just another unfortunate consequence of the stupidity of mankind.

Welcome to planet Earth where the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

Where justice lies

Richard Tonkin, I don’t know. Just a news item saying that Rudd had suggested a double dissolution was possible it the Libs kept obstructing work choices.

Okay Dylan, in polite language: That Howard, Bush and Blair face a war crimes tribunal and are punished according to the same law as was applied when they hanged the various Nazi war criminals and Saddam.

Feel better?

It was the political support that was a crucial factor in the US in the attack upon Iraq. Howard, and Australia have much to answer for.

If there is any  justification for the death penalty, then war crimes must be right in the forefront.

I support with cash and research groups working for the arraignment  of Bush, Blair and Howard. I hope that the effort and the intent will last just so long as any of them live, and I hope that it will be in my lifetime.

 In my view it is 'sick' to want any of them to go unpunished.

The Party That Ate Itself

It wasn't Howard who led the Coalition to defeat, it was the Libs and Nats themselves with Howard at the helm.

Margaret Thatcher was a far cleverer cookie than Howard could ever have hoped to be - far more popular. The Conservatives seemed to be in awe of her, as were many of the working class in the UK when she took on the Argentinians and seemed to bring back the spirit of the London blitz during the WW2 (which just led to many hideous deaths including the 1000 or so young Argentinian sailors who died on the Belgrano which may have been sunk in international waters). But she declared that war, unlike Howard who was just a war supporter with Iraq or - as in Timor - had to brought kicking and screaming to send in Aussie troops after much slaughter there.

But in the end - even after amazing electoral successes - unlike Howard who was just a lucky recipient of circumstances which swung his way - like tragedies elsewhere (9/11) or particular swings in seats that should have seen Kim Beazley as Prime Minister in 2000 - the UK Conservatives banished their heroine with a knife in the back, frogmarched to a taxi in tears and sent home to Croydon and Denis and a cup of tea.

There was no sentimentality and still the possibility she may have won the next election but therein lies the difference and the extraordinary circumstances and complete denial that has engulfed the Coalition over the past five years - that John Howard was somehow invincible, aided somewhat by those at News Ltd.

A party that can be so self delusional, that can only offer up Brendan Nelson even as a temporary leader, is going nowhere fast.

Get over it

Enough of the time and energy wasted on confected rage! Look, I do understand that some people have been monstered by the storm troopers, but since the talisman of umbrage, John Howard, is now a private citizen, glaring at Howard and his baleful mob of losers does little to bring about personal healing. There'd be more satisfaction derived from trailing behind the Opposition senators who are concerned that the Rudd-Rein pooch craps on the grass at The Lodge. 

Not without a sound basis.

Only the past couple of years, Richard? Perhaps in Dolly's case before that the focus was on his incompetence. Back when I was researching I spent a long weekend downloading every Downer utterance I could find. Downer by name ... it was a very long weekend.

As to Joe - he comes across as good natured but having been part of the Howard regime he's bound to have picked up some bad habits. If he didn't already have them.

What, tell him to his face?

Richard, there has been an answer to your question. Also, there was the approach around the time of the 10th anniversary:

LIZ JACKSON: Both Downer and Arthur Sinodinos had been approached to tell the Prime Minister it was time for him to go. The approach came from Senator Nick Minchin.

NICK MINCHIN: If you study the history of politics it is unfortunately the fact that most leaders don’t get the timing right and I really was anxious as a Howard loyalist to see John Howard go out at the top of his game and I thought, you know, the 10th anniversary, then which was at that point three or four months away, was the ideal time. And I thought if I could persuade Arthur and Alexander to that view, then that there might be some prospect that that could occur and I thought that would be healthy both for John Howard and probably for the Government, given that the greatest obstacle we would face at the 2007 election was obviously longevity.

LIZ JACKSON (To Alexander Downer): He did approach you to approach the Prime Minister?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, he talked to me on more than one occasion about that issue of the leadership. He didn’t ask me to approach the Prime Minister, he talked to me I suppose in the full knowledge that there was every chance I might speak to the Prime Minister.

LIZ JACKSON (To Alexander Downer): And convey his views?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well I guess he made that assumption, yeah.

LIZ JACKSON (To Alexander Downer): And did you?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I talked to the Prime Minister about any manner of things.

NICK MINCHIN: The Prime Minister confirmed to me that Arthur did convey his view and I know that Alexander told me that he told the Prime Minister.

Now, it was then for the Prime Minister, if he wanted to do so, to invite me in to ask me why I had that view, not for me to barge in and just tell him, and he did not seek to have that conversation with me so that that’s fine.

So Minchin had the idea and managed to not approach Howard himself. Was it ever likely that at a time of celebration Howard would seek out opinions as to whether he should quit?

A change then would have been more likely of being beneficial than a last minute change which would give the impression of panic. I am not saying it would have been , but just more likely.

David posted  a key piece - Howard was going to stay ... and stay ... and stay. At least Costello worked that one out. "As long as it is in the interests of the party."  A party of one - John Winston Howard.


Double dissolution

Did anybody else hear on the evening news that Rudd is muttering about a double dissolution????


"If you want me to reduce your numbers further, carry on!"

Is Rudd saying something like that, Peter?  The polls are on his side.

Bob, I've cultivated an intense distrust, over the last couple of years, of everything Downer says, and I'm becoming far from a fan of Hockey. These people have learned to become deceptive in their truthfulness.

Candour as a means, not an end in itself.

Richard: "...I've cultivated an intense distrust, over the last couple of years, of everything Downer says, and I'm becoming far from a fan of Hockey. These people have learned to become deceptive in their truthfulness."

I've never been a fan of Downer's and for a while I thought that the Hockey-Rudd act on the 7 Network's Morning Show  was an interesting if apparently good-natured duel. Then the Liberal operators pulled Hockey out of it because, in their view, Rudd was getting the better of him. Or so the story goes. But my regard for Hockey these days diminishes the more I see of him. The man is two-faced.

The most interesting thing about the Four Corners report was the candour of the politicians involved: quite out of character really, and a surprise. Why can't they be like this all the time?

Well, answers to that question are not hard to find. Candour at the moment, appearing frank and honest, is their only conceivable way back to office. Once they are back in, they will be as evasive (and as verbosely evasive) as ever.

Imagine the effect if the show about Costello's duel with Howard began with a statement: "Peter Costello, Nick Minchin, Alexander Downer and other Liberal Party members were invited to participate, but all declined."

Would not look good; and keeping up appearances is what parliamentary politics is all about.


Richard, I think you meant to say:

"These people have learned to become adept in their truthiness."

Like morning mist, almost gone.

Hi Margo: You are right. I live in Bondi Junction and on the Sunday after the election EVERYBODY was smiling!

Work Choices will take a little time, and the Iraq war will hang like a pall, but beyond that Howard and his 'legacy' are all but gone -- or will be by year's end. It may not happen, to me it seems to be in the balance, but Howard may just have presided over the demise of the Liberal party.

I do have one quibble with the title of this evening's show --- I don't believe that this is 'Howard's end'. I think/believe/hope that that is yet to come, and that it will be at the end of a rope.


Peter Hindrup: "I do have one quibble with the title of this evening's show --- I don't believe that this is 'Howard's end'. I think/believe/hope that that is yet to come, and that it will be at the end of a rope."

Hoping for Howard's execution? That's just sick, Peter.

The Hangman's Jig?

While not feeling that way myself, Dylan, I can understand those that do.  A lot of people died through Howard's decisions, and the consideration of him as a War Criminal  might not be without merit.  If you were to say someone was "sick" for thinking such things then you could be countered with the sentiment that perhaps those that can sleep well at night with so much blood on their hands could be the sickest of them all. 

I'll say this much.. I do not wish John any "pleasant dreams."


Nightmares and the Noose

Richard, I'm not at all against the death penalty. Indeed, in certain circumstances and for certain crimes, I think the death penalty - fairly and legally imposed - is a just punishment. I do find something sick, however, about hoping for the hanging of John Howard.

With regards to your own thoughts, to me, at least, there is a rather large difference between someone who wishes another something other than a pleasant night in bed and someone who hopes for a hanging.

No Hope With Costello Either

I agree with Margo: a change to Costello would have made no difference and to put forward the idea is really a cop-out and an effort at saving face, certainly on Costello's part. The truth is - the time had come for a change.

The most remarkable thing about the last election is the emergence of Kevin Rudd as a surprise choice and of how yet again - when the ALP finally gets its act together it is virtually unbeatable. 

I'll repeat yet again that the great myth repeated time and time again and apparently believed by the Coalition and the media who perpetuated it - was the one that Howard was somehow the great political master.

It ignores the massive vote he got in '96 which was a clearly an anti-Keating landslide, corrected in the following election in an amazing swing-around that brought the parties back to within distance of each other. Followed by Kim Beazley winning the popular majority vote easily and Howard only gaining a majority of seats because of the distribution in certain seats. Tampa and 9/11 were a disgrace  the way they were used politically. The Aboriginal intervention and Dr Haneef were being lined up for a final wedge that was just finally one wedge too far.

Howard was no political master - just an opportunist, the likes that have been seen throughout the history of politics - they come and go and only rate a page or two in history books. His chances of  emulating the likes of Menzies in the memory of Australia are highly unlikely.

The most salient point for me is the reported question of a Coalition member in the party room following the defeat-"why were we so beholden to one man?" This is not the stuff written of legends.

Look forward to about 7/8/9 years when Kevin Rudd retires and hands over to Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Anything new?

Margo, I was more impressed with the first item on Media Watch. Jonathan Holmes got stuck into ABC broadcasters who had been sucked in by an obvious plug from a pharmaceutical company using an 'advocacy' group. This is a very good omen for the ABC. Too many experts have been allowed to air their views without a hint of query about financial links to sponsors. I suspect the ABC had been reconfigured into a more corporate-friendly format. Since I have slipped off onto the ABC, I'd better mention Jon Faine (Melbourne 774) needs to sharpen his game. This morning he entertained Mary Wooldridge, State Liberal MLA, who was on the barricades against the sale of BONGS! Faine should have known that as soon as a respected authority wants the safe limits for alcohol consumption lowered from 6 drinks a day to 2 for males, and to zero for pregnant women, then the hugely influential alcohol industry and all its hangers-on would be lobbying the recipients of their electoral support funds. BONGS! for crying out loud when kids are encouraged to drink to excess and everyone thinks its all a jolly jape and oodles of innocent fun, but forget about the deaths on the roads and don't dare mention cutting off supply of grog to desperately rooted indigenous communities. Will the ABC change course to confront blatant commercial forces?

We visited an elderly friend the other day, on her 90+ birthday anniversary. She had a copy of the 2007 'Who's Who of Australian Women' on a shelf. I won't identify her here, but she is on page 1081 as the recipient of an OAM. What surprised me was her own entry in answer to the questions asked by the publisher. "What did she want to see happen in the next 10 years?" (or something like that). Her answer - that all new medical advances, and especially drugs for cancer, be provided without cost to patients, and the costs could be easily recovered from expenditure on parliamentarians' perks.

My favourite bits ...

A transcript to mine for some time, I think. What a great job Liz Jackson did.

LIZ JACKSON (To Peter Costello): Was there ever a real possibility that he would have stood down in the middle of the McLachlan affair?

PETER COSTELLO: I don’t think he was ever going to stand down.

LIZ JACKSON (To Peter Costello): What 2006, 2007, ever?

PETER COSTELLO: I don’t think he was ever going to stand down. I think from time to time he would consider his position. You recall he said he would consider it when he was 64. I think he decided he’d consider it in the next term and I think every time he considered it he decided he was going to stay.

and the killer ... 

 JOE HOCKEY: That was his decision. I suppose I was disappointed, very disappointed that the Prime Minister had always said that he would only stay so long as it was in the best interest of the Liberal Party and whilst his colleagues wanted him. And the formula changed, and he changed the formula.

Ignorance is bliss.

And there were some extremely happy ministers. The revelation that some weren't aware of there being losers under Work Choices says much. Such a contention issue and they remained blissfully ignorant.

From the transcript

LIZ JACKSON: A new Minister for Workplace Relations was appointed to repair some of the damage done. Joe Hockey’s problem was that under the new laws, some people would be losers.

JOE HOCKEY: Quite frankly when I took over the job I don’t think many ministers in Cabinet were aware that you could be worse off under WorkChoices and that you could actually have certain conditions taken away without compensation. And once I started to raise those issues with colleagues and they became more informed of the impact of WorkChoices we introduced the fairness test.

LIZ JACKSON (To Joe Hockey): You’re saying to me that Cabinet colleagues were unaware that you could be worse off?

JOE HOCKEY: Some were, yeah, yep.

LIZ JACKSON (To Joe Hockey): Care to name them?

JOE HOCKEY: No, not really! (Laughs) Not really!

Aw, go on Joe, name and shame them.

"I, I, I, look it wasn’t a matter for me."

That line of Costello's, when asked if he okayed MacFarlane's "leak" said it all.  Thanks for that so-quick transcript, Bob- have you, so far, found anybody in it actually admitting or claiming to have actually told Howard to go?  Hockey's dancing, in spite of his trademark "sincere" look (I wonder how many years of mirror-practice that one took?).

The 4Corns (and yes it's a seminal piece) should have been called "Howard's Cowards".

Margo!! Good to see you!

Post shock, ergo hock the lot, and plot the next knock

Machiavelli might have said:

"Before an election, you have to be forthright in speech; never evasive; always substantial. Attack, attack.

"During an election, pile fact upon fact upon fact; bombard them and all who listen with facts, because nobody gives a damn for your opinions.

"After an election, say as much as possible without saying anything at all. That is, if you have won. If you have lost, say what you like. It will be interesting, but hardly important.

"Then, before the next election, be forthright in speech...."

It's time ...

LIZ JACKSON: Alexander Downer gave a different message to his colleagues, a message from John Howard.

JOE HOCKEY: That anyone who thought he should go should also ring the Prime Minister and say it to him directly or go and see him.

LIZ JACKSON (To Joe Hockey): And so?

JOE HOCKEY: Well I did, I thought I wasn’t going to have an intermediary give my views to the Prime Minister and I rang him up and gave him my view.

LIZ JACKSON (To Joe Hockey): How did you put it?

JOE HOCKEY: Ah, well! (Laughs) How do you put it to a Prime Minister? You’re honest, like you are with the Australian people, and, you know, I said, ‘John, this is a very difficult conversation for me to have with you. I think you’ve been a great Prime Minister but I think the Australian people have stopped listening because they don’t think you’re going to be around in the future and therefore when you talk about the future they stop listening.’

LIZ JACKSON (To Joe Hockey): And what did he say?

JOE HOCKEY: He appreciated the honesty, he appreciated the fact that I rang him and was prepared to be fair dinkum with him, and he heard what I said.

Hockey the Hero?

If those were the specific words Hockey said to Howard (as opposed to paraphrasing, they can translate to "John, everyone thinks you're going to retire."  If it was a tap on the shoulder, it was a bloody weaselly (?) one.

They all looked gutless, and they knew it

Hi Richard. The emperor had no clothes on for a long time. Then more and more people knew, including Howard's battlers. He wasn't on their side - he just pretended to be, when it suited, on certain issues. Robb's summary was spot on: "We'd been there so long that we were no longer alert to the views of Howard battlers - who'd put us there in the first place." Changing leadership to Costello wouldn't have changed that, in my opinion. In any event, no-one in Cabinet COULD take a stand, because the party WAS him, as Costello noted when asked why he could never get the numbers. Most Liberal MPs had only known a Howard leadership, he said, and "they thought the Liberal Party WAS John Howard". Indeed it was. Costello and Abbott say that 'with hindsight' Kyoto should have been ratified. Back in the 1990 election campaign, leader Andrew Peacock promised serious policy to bring emissions down to 1990 levels by 2001. Then something changed. What he wanted he got. For Australia's sake, Howard did the right thing. Australians ensured he was beaten beaten badly, and lost his seat, to the ABC no less, thus instantly ending that culture war. Now the stolen kids - ending that one too. Howard's refusal to say sorry in the end brought Australians to a broad consensus on the need for one. and signs of a welcome return to constructive debate on on Aboriginal policy in a spirit of bipartisanship. It's all happening in the blink of an eye, almost, isn't it!

Rudd is definitely a leader for our time, I think. Howard's loss not only lifted a burden from our nation, but gave her a new lease of life. We rejected him and what he stood for. And now, who knows! Exciting times... Weird thing, politics.

I've been on an extended road trip - will check in again soon.


Love, Margo

The most gutless

Notice the line-up of those invited into the conspiracy in Downer's hotel room during APEC?

We've heard very little about the roles some of them played.

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