Sunday, August 17, 2008

Howard no coward: the eyebrows have it

john howard Former prime minister John Howard believes he would have been seen as "a coward" if he had stepped down voluntarily for Peter Costello but would have quit had a delegation of senior ministers demanded him to. Mr Howard's views and those of other key figures are contained in a recent essay by Sydney Institute executive director Gerard Henderson.

John Howard has been described by some as “Australia’s greatest Prime Minister”. History might well see him in a different light. Despite almost equaling Sir Robert Menzies record as the longest serving Prime Minister, the Howard years have left a string of bad memories. Among them: the draconian 1998 waterfront dispute lead by then industrial relations minister Peter Reith, the infamous ‘children overboard’ Bob Hawkecontroversy (later found to be untrue) which secured Howard the 2001 election, mandatory detention of illegal immigrants and their children and the wrongful deportation of Australian citizens and of course the ‘Work Choices’ debacle which put the final nails in Howard’s coffin. Voters might have forgotten many of the previous sour memories but were not so easily fooled when their working conditions and pay came under attack. Perhaps Howard never really realised that a wholesale attack on unions was not just an attack on the Labor party but an attack on Australian workers themselves.

Staying on as leader might well have been described as “a courageous decision” by Sir Humphrey Appleby (of Yes Minister fame). In actual Edward Gough Witlamfact, it is unlikely that after Work Choices anyone in the Liberal party could have done any better than Howard. In fact, Peter Costello might well have incurred even more wrath from voters as the principle architect of the highly unpopular Work Choices policy. Current speculation about a Costello return from the backbench is unlikely to worry the Labor Party very much either. Memories of the Work Choices betrayal are much too fresh in our minds. Having lead his government to a landslide defeat and the ignominious loss of his own (formerly blue ribbon) seat does little for the Howard legacy.

Perhaps John Howard’s best claim to being a great Australian Prime Minister is his development of a fine set of owlish eyebrows in the Sir Robert Menziestradition of other notables like Menzies, Whitlam and Hawk. Such a fine set of eyebrows seems to imbue a Prime Minister with an air of knowing wisdom. Howard’s eyebrows may well go down in history as his greatest achievement.


Jenny said...

I agree: Howard's eyebrows are his only memorable features, but not because they are distinguished, rather because he was too lazy to clip them.

iWalk said...

It's so great to live in a country that can comment country leaders with your own view ,That's democracy,which we are still longing for.

Bikran said...

All we knew was Howard was one of the popular prime ministers of Australia .But we were oblivious about his drawbacks. Nice knowing more about him .

Liam said...

We are lucky to live in a country with freedom of speech. Countries that don't allow free speech should realise; a little dissent is a healthy thing. It's hardly going to bring a regime crashing down. If anything, freedom makes a society stronger.

iWalk said...

You are quite right liam, freedom makes a society stronger, I hope our country can make some progress on allowing internet-visiting freely first.