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Howard haters

February 18th, 2008

Throughout the last few years of the Howard government, anyone who criticised the government, or suggested that Howard was not the best person to be Prime Minister of Australia, could be sure of being labelled a “Howard hater”. A quick Google finds this trope being used regularly by Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan and Gerard Henderson, and being taken up by their numerous blogospheric supporters.

This was always silly. Perhaps there were people motivated to oppose the government because of a personal animus against Howard rather than his actions and policies, but if so I never met any. Of course, people who disliked Howard’s policies tended to dislike Howard, and some people who hated Howard’s policies hated Howard as a result, but using a term like “Howard hater” to explain opposition to the government is like explaining the effects of opium by reference to its dormitive qualities.

The real motive underlying the use of “Howard hater” as a term of attack was the recognition that he and his government never commanded enthusiastic support from most Australians, merely a judgement that they were better than the alternatives on offer. Once this changed with Labor’s (long overdue) choice of Kevin Rudd as leader, the government was doomed.

Tonight’s Four Corners suggests that much the same was true of Howard’s colleagues. While only Costello and a couple of his closest supporters came across as Howard haters, most of the rest showed a notable lack of enthusiasm, and willingness in retrospect, to blame Howard for the government’s defeat. Tony Abbott’s undiminished loyalty just enhanced the contrast with the rest of the crew.

In terms of policy, the most startling revelation was Joe Hockey’s claim that members of the Cabinet voted for WorkChoices, including the abolition of the “no disadvantage” test, and were then shocked (or pretended to be) that people were disadvantaged. This news ought surely to sink resistance to Labor’s reforms, and may indeed have been intended to achieve this purpose.

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  1. Jill Rush
    February 21st, 2008 at 22:41 | #1

    The Howard legacy will no doubt be tarnished as time goes on. I have been reading Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) writing about the situation in Britain in the early forties.

    His observations include those about the general incompetence of the leadership of Britain and he comments on the way that the population supported Chamberlain although he failed to see the threat of fascism but whilst he suited the times he helped create the second world war. Blair also notes that the population dumped him once his incompetence became clear.

    The parallel was obvious. History does not judge kindly those who leave a poor legacy and Howard has left a ripped social fabric which Rudd is repairing – even if the far right wing is unable to join in.

    The problem for all of those who liked to give any opposition an unflattering label is that it is not helpful to good governance. To have Joe Hockey state that noone in cabinet knew that AWAs would make people worse off is incredible. If we take it as a true statement then what it meant was that the arguments against AWAs were just dismissed as the ravings of Howard Haters; or that the leaders of the country had no reason to think for themselves as Howard was dogmatic. Of course it is hard to accept it as a true statement because there were so many people pointing out the real state of affairs.

    In fact the name calling engaged in by the right wing (and some on the left in blogs etc) meant that Howard eventually alienated a majority consisting of minorities eg latte sipping elites, Howard Haters, lefties, socialists, feminists, black armbanders etc.

    He started the name calling and people reacted by rejecting him. His populist decision making like Chamberlain will mean that history will focus on the low points rather than his successes or his successes such as keeping a solid Party line will be seen as yet more evidence of character failures.

  2. mugwump
    February 22nd, 2008 at 01:32 | #2

    test

  3. mugwump
    February 22nd, 2008 at 01:35 | #3

    mugwump, so you’re saying that blacks are such a lost cause that there’s no point in the rest of the country even trying to help them out?

    Nope. I don’t know how you read that into what I said.

    While blacks commit somewhat more crimes

    “Somewhat more” is very charitable. They commit homic*de at seven times the rate of whites. (I have a link for this but it triggers the spam filter for some reason. Google “US black crime rates”)

  4. mugwump
    February 22nd, 2008 at 01:45 | #4

    mugwump and simmo, US Birth rates by race are here . The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) for non-Hispanic whites is 11.5.

    A minute’s googling, mugwump, will often save you from making statements that are clearly not true. Assuming, that is, that you care about truth.

    Derrida, how about this Jan 15 AP story, from a “minute’s googling”:

    Baby Boomlet Pushes U.S. Birth Rates to 45-Year High

    Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years.

    An examination of global data also shows that the United States has a higher fertility rate than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan. Fertility levels in those countries have been lower than the U.S. rate for several years, although some are on the rise, most notably in France.

    “Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, `Let’s have another kid,”‘ said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.

    ….

    Kohler and others say the difference has more to do with culture than race. For example, white American women have more children than white European — even though many nations in Europe have more family-friendly government policies on parental leave and child care.

    My main point was that breeding rate is my favourite litmus test of optimism, and that Americans seem to be “breeding like rabbits”. I guess what they’re talking about in this article is what I was picking up on.

  5. jquiggin
    February 22nd, 2008 at 06:12 | #5

    SATP, personal attacks on other posters are a clear violation of the rules. Please read them and refrain in future. I’m deleting the relevant comments.

  6. February 22nd, 2008 at 06:52 | #6

    Thanks, John.

  7. February 23rd, 2008 at 14:40 | #7

    Thank you John.

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