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Keating haters

April 24th, 2008

Throughout the days of the previous government, its media cheer squad denounced anyone who dared to criticise the government as a “Howard-hater”. This seemed to me to be either a silly piece of rhetoric or just plain wrong. To the extent that it was simply a label for anyone who disliked the government’s policies and therefore disliked the government and its leader, it was just a silly piece of hyperbole. A more natural reading is the claim that people who had no particular quarrel with the government’s policies opposed it because of a personal hatred of Howard. This seems to me to be just plain wrong. I don’t think I ever met anyone who liked the government’s policies but strongly disliked Howard himself (by contrast, other government ministers like Abbott and Costello were widely disliked on a personal basis). It’s notable that the only hostile nickname for him that ever really stuck (the Rodent) was due to one of his own backbenchers and didn’t emerge until 2004. The flipside was that very few people loved Howard in the way that many other political leaders have been loved. Liberal supporters stuck to him as long as he won elections, and forgot about him as soon as he lost one.

The only personal hatred that has any real force in Australian politics is hatred of Paul Keating. This emerged very clearly in relation to the 2020 summit but it’s true more generally that Keating has remained an energising figure for right wing culture warriors more than a decade after his departure. Whenever they go on about the chardonnay-sipping or latte-drinking elites it’s patently obvious that this stuff bears no relation to the current generation of Labor leaders. I have no idea what kind of drinks Kevin Rudd or Anna Bligh or any of the others favor, and Rudd is certainly more intellectually cultivated than Keating ever was, but the idea that they are members of some cultural class distinct from the ordinary Australians is patently silly.

Update: I posted this partly completed, there’s more over the fold now

When he was actually in power, hatred of Keating wasn’t by any means confined to the political right, and for that matter love of Keating came largely from groups other than the Left, who were, after all, his tribal opponents within the Labor party and the earliest targets of his powerful talent for invective.

For the general public, Keating’s fate was sealed when he referred to “the recession we had to have”. He and his economic advisors expected a brief downturn that would puncture inflationary pressures, but he took responsible for the longest and most brutal downturn since the Great Depression.

Amazingly, and reflecting his great talents, Keating came back from that disaster to take the Prime Ministership from Bob Hawke, to drive John Hewson to defeat in the apparently unlosable 1993 election, and to sweep aside the ‘dream team’ of Alexander Downer and Peter Costello. If his talents had included humility (or even the capacity to fake it convincingly) he might well have gone on to beat John Howard.

Instead, he convinced himself that the victory was a tribute to his Leadership. (don’t ask me about the full stop) and proceeded to demonstrate this by embracing a set of causes to which he had previously exhibited either apathy or active hostility – the Republic, Reconciliation, multiculturalism, the arts and so on.

For the majority of Australians, this made little or no difference. Keating was tied to the recession and that was that. The causes he espoused suffered a temporary loss of support by virtue of his association with them (the phrase Keatin’s Republic, deployed to some effect in the 1999 referendum, is illustrative), but the effect faded within a few years of his removal from the political scene.

Among those who took Keating’s sudden change of focus seriously, a somewhat ingenuous minority took him at face value and approved (I remember a doco in which some members of this group were incautious enough to be filmed drinking the white wine that must not be named). A larger group, the culture warriors of the right, convinced themselves that Keating’s unpopularity derived from his cultural agenda, and not the other way around. They’ve been fighting Keating’s ghost ever since, and still can’t bring themselves to abandon this struggle.

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  1. Lloyd
    April 24th, 2008 at 18:01 | #1

    Clearly you haven’t been reading Piers….but then again why would you?

    He’s doing his best to keep the spirit alive only this time it’s an obseesive hatred of our shiny Kev.

    Read his blog topics and you’ll get the picture….

    http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/piersakerman/

  2. April 24th, 2008 at 18:11 | #2

    Currency Lad apparently has a life-size portrait of a raunchy John Howard pinned to his bedroom ceiling. I’m not sure many other conservatives feel the same way about “the rodent” though …

  3. Spiros
    April 24th, 2008 at 18:51 | #3

    The peculiar thing abut the Right hating Keating for being the emblematic latte sipper is that Keating made his name by hating the very same latte sippers. Or as they were known then, and it was Keating who coined the name, the basket weavers from Balmain.

    Keating began to be intensely disliked by the Right when he was Treasurer, not because of his policies, which they approved of, but because of the successful attacks he mounted on the Liberals in Parliament. They really didn’t appreciate the fact that he attacked them and boosted his own party while implementing their policies.

    The Right really started to hate Keating when he became PM. He defeated their champion John Hewson against all odds; he legislated for Native Title; he made the famous speech at Redfern Park; he employed Anne Summers – the very embodiment of 70s feminism (read: dismemberment of the Traditional Family) – on his staff; and he courted the arts crowd. These were the acts that stoked the hatred that still burns today.

    But all these acts were symbolic. The things that Keating did of real substance when he was PM was introduce national competition policy, a kind of economic rationalist’s wet dream; introduce enterprise bargaining, which ended 90 years of centralised wage setting and from which Howard’s WorkChoices was merely the logical end; and suck up to Suharto, including the infamous security pact.

    These were acts that should have won Keating life membership of the Piers Ackerman Society, but all the Right cared about was the symbolism.

  4. TerjeP
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:19 | #4

    My major resentment against Keating (and perhaps my only real resentment) is that he beat John Hewson. That was one election that the Liberals really should have won. And in fact I think this view was widely enough held to explain in part the subsequent win by Howard. Keatings excess love of the arts crowd (ie the drama queens with soft heads) was merely kooky and annoying. Something that Rudd seems keen to replicate probably just to annoy people like me. However I have never hated Keating or Howard. They each represent rather mainstream worldviews of some friend or neighbour or family member and life is way too short to expend energy on hating such people. In any case the positive reforms that Keating was associated with means that he deserves a reasonably positive right up in the history books. We need more time and distance to properly judge Howard.

  5. TerjeP
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:20 | #5

    p.s. Keating is more right wing than the ALP.

  6. MH
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:23 | #6

    Well I quite liked Paul Keating, I enjoyed his larrikin style of colloquial invective. Even today I am amused by his ability to describe the almost indescribable, ala his ‘dessicated coconut’ description of Howard. He always reminded me of Fred Daly another great Labour larrikin but whereas Fred manifested a genuinely good natured humor and could spin a good yarn, Keating was the master of a form of political black satire and it was always personal, either you or cultural group he excoriated. I guess that is why so many of his opponents hated him so, he hated them equally. Paul learned his trade well from Jack Lang who also never forgot and never forgave and whereas Rudd and others may tacitly appear not to disturb the status quo, Keating was actually a true reformer. As he said after seeing off Hewson, “This is one for the true believers’. I would not agree he was unsophisticated because he is erudite, well read and has good taste in classics and the arts, trouble is he does it without genuflecting to the denizens of the cultural squatocracy of Australia.

  7. TerjeP
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:25 | #7

    p.p.s. Howards major failing is that during his watch real inflation adjusted per capita revenue (excluding GST) increased by 34%. An outrageous price hike for a bundle of services that are not even optional.

  8. Pedro S
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:46 | #8

    Ah you serious about no Howard hatred? It propelled a good section of the left for years. They even happily admit it. Here’s an article from yesterday’s Age: http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/lefties-miss-howard/2008/04/22/1208742940794.html

    Ultimately, in a place like Australia where the political parties are pretty centralist and the government is generally good people wind up
    hating personalities instead of really hating policy.

    As Paul Kelly wrote wisely in a piece in The Australian, Australian intellectuals have always thought of the place as having great intellectuals but mediocre politicians but they have really got this backward. If you can’t see the personal enmity people have toward both Howard and Keating rather than just one of the two, you are really
    proving his point.
    The article is at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22459335-25132,00.html

  9. SJ
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:48 | #9

    In the past, Keating hatred wasn’t confined to the right. I voted against Keating in 96. Big mistake, as it turned out, but I had had enough of the guy. Couldn’t stand the sight of him or the mere sound of his voice. Amongst Howard’s lot, only Dolly aroused the same kind of revulsion. My stance against Keating has eased now, 12 years later, but only because for most of that time he’s been in virtual exile. My position with Dolly may change, too, after he’s spent, say, 20 years in prison.

  10. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    April 24th, 2008 at 20:10 | #10

    I think the reason cultural warriors reaaaaaaaaaaallly hate Keating is the same reason they reaaaaaaaaallly hate Philip Adams. Because he’s both a bit left wing and without a university degree. Didn’t finish school, in fact.

    Off with their heads!

  11. Francis
    April 24th, 2008 at 20:29 | #11

    I think the reason that they hate Keating is not just his symbolism, but also because they never had the wit to match his invective toe-to-toe.

  12. GJ
    April 24th, 2008 at 20:36 | #12

    I do feel concerned about Lord.?.. incapacity to sensibly contribute to a discussion. Why the ‘reaaaa etc’? Is it lack of self esteem? Self ego? Whatever! The point re Keating and academic credentials is a legitimate view if not necessarily correct but why the asinine wail ?

  13. Steve Hamilton
    April 24th, 2008 at 21:13 | #13

    I really admire Keating for the fact (and this may simply be perception) that he actually cared about and believed in something. He seemed to genuinely stand for something. But I think over time, it’s become clear that the Australian people don’t value this feature in a political leader; this is one of the (many) things that finished off Latham. It seems that the people really just want a benign administrator; someone to empty the in-tray and fill up the out-tray. I mean have you ever met someone quite as Vanilla as our current Prime Minister?

    In addition to this, there’s really nothing that compares to Keating’s acerbic wit; seeing him demolish those on the opposite bench is a thing of beauty. And this is to say nothing of his oratory brilliance (there has to be a compilation of his greatest quotes around somewhere).

    But the guy is clearly bitter and twisted; he still can’t cope with the fact that he lost the ’96 election. He seems to be filled with an awful lot of hatred and contempt for so many people.

    As for Howard, I think it’s truly absurd to suggest that there aren’t genuine “Howard-haters” out there. “Little Johnny” is one nickname I can think of off the top of my head; regardless of his policies [which initially really weren't much more (economically) right-leaning than Keating's] there was a lot of hatred for the guy. I don’t believe the resentment ever reached Keating-level proportions, but it was still there nonetheless.

    Cheers

  14. rog
    April 24th, 2008 at 21:53 | #14

    Keating has been unfairly criticised; he and only he could unite Australia against a common foe – himself.

  15. sleet
    April 24th, 2008 at 23:22 | #15

    @SteveHamilton
    I completely agree: Keating did seem to come across as a hell of a lot more passionate than either Howard or Rudd. Though, you can’t deny Howard’s passion for IR reform, which he supposedly held close to heart for years.

    Also, I think you should give the new Mr. PM a chance to settle in and show us what he’s made of.
    Sure, ‘vanilla’ fits well at the moment, but I believe the me-too’ism that was pursued may have contributed to that image. Since taking government, there are clear differences in direction and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of image he will develop.

    Though…it’s hard to see Rudd having the same ‘Keating-effect’. Rudd’s election victory speech almost put me to sleep. Compare that with: “Well, this is the sweetest victory of all. This is a victory for the true believers, the people who, in difficult times, have kept the faith.”
    http://soapbox.unimelb.edu.au/media/Transcripts/Speech_Victory/1993_VictorySpeech_ALP_T.pdf

    Oh, and by the way, you can actually find a number of video clips of Keating on YouTube. They showcase some witty comments from parliament time; a fairly long ABC interview; and a small documentary about the Keating years. They started popping up and gaining popularity around election time last year.
    Here’s one:

    Just follow the sidelinks for more.

  16. April 24th, 2008 at 23:36 | #16

    I mean have you ever met someone quite as Vanilla as our current Prime Minister?

    I agree whole heartedly with that statement, and your insight that the Australian populace merely wants an administrator. I would also agree that Keating’s ‘acerbic wit’ was the best Parliamentary entertainment this country has seen for some time.

    But would you, or anybody else, seriously disagree with the notion that the term ‘Howard hater’ was widely misused, and instrumentalised to brand political dissenters (often of a very mild sort) as pathological cases? ‘Hating’ itself became pathology – as if hating is not an essential part of the human condition, let alone the political condition.

  17. April 24th, 2008 at 23:38 | #17

    Holy F!

    I forgot what an entertaining bollocking Keating could dish out.

    I didn’t like him at all when he was PM, but seen through the mist of 10 years of Howard, Keating looks damn fine.

  18. Steve Hamilton
    April 25th, 2008 at 00:06 | #18

    It’s worth checking out “Labor in Power”, which is a milestone documentary produced after the ousting of Bob Hawke, but before the ’96 election, and includes interviews of all the major players, including Bob Hawke and Paul Keating (interviewed at Kiribilli if I remember correctly). You’ll be able to pick up a copy from most uni libraries etc.

    Word is it there’s a “Liberals in Power” documentary on the cards, which is sure to be interesting.

    Cheers

  19. wbb
    April 25th, 2008 at 00:55 | #19

    While I’ve always loved Keating – and his grandiloquence – it’s becoming more and more a secret guilty pleasure.

    JQ’s excellent post here kicks my rehabilitation a bit further along the track.

    By the way, anybody who doesn’t think Rudd is passionate is misled by the lazy media line that he’s all process – no outcome. Or alternatively, when that doesn’t wash, all dry outcomes and no big vision.

    Rudd will do more to change this county than Hawke, Howard or Keating. (Having the sense to resist grandiloquence is just one of his superior attributes.)

  20. April 25th, 2008 at 01:06 | #20

    I’m not certain how one gauges a level of “intellectual cultivation”, and I have no idea how Rudd could be streets ahead of Keating in that regard – some examples might help. I do remember how violently what we used to call “the elites” resented an oik like Keating daring to be interested in antiques and Mahler.

  21. April 25th, 2008 at 01:25 | #21

    Rudd will do more to change this county than Hawke, Howard or Keating.

    Surely the county has been changed enough. When will we change the country?

  22. tomd
    April 25th, 2008 at 03:40 | #22

    John, my memory of Don Watson’s book Recollections of a Bleeding Heart describing his time as a speech writer for Keating differs from your take here on Keating’s nation-building exercises. Before Keating took over the prime ministership, he was widely regarded (with some justification) as an uncaring economic rationalist. It was only when he started talking about the republic etc that people started listening and giving positive reactions.

    I also don’t buy the idea that “Keating’s Republic” hurt the republican cause in any serious way – the republic failed because those in favour couldn’t persuade enough people who wanted a direct election model to vote yes. Howard’s convention did a very good job of giving publicity to alternative models and enhancing the differences between different republican positions.

  23. tomd
    April 25th, 2008 at 03:47 | #23

    Oh, and there were plenty on the left who hated Howard – but for a large variety of policies. The term Howard Hater was simply a way to label critics of the government as irrational.

  24. April 25th, 2008 at 06:01 | #24

    No problems here with the phrase “Howard Hater”. There were/are plenty who hate(d) him. Likewise Keating, equally legitimately hated (or loathed, reviled, whatever).

    I would take quite a bit of convincing that Howard was hated (or loathed or whatever negative emotive verb you choose) with anything like the passion or on the scale which Keating was.

    Keating knew it, hence during several years of 50th anniversary of everything WW2 he made sure he didn’t appear at the same battlefields or other remote sites at which ex-servicemen were attending (a front page photo of an ex-digger putting a toe up the arse of a besuited PM would have been a MOST humiliating event for the PM)

    Hatred of Howard will be longer lasting, as it is based upon his implementation of policies.

    Hatred of Keating is more based on his acid personality & king sized ego, and is mitigated by his being a failure in life.

    Howard being the most successful Prime Minister of modern times means there is no sympathy to mitigate the hatred of him.

    The arsehole made us all rich & comfortable, everything he did actually worked.

  25. Hal9000
    April 25th, 2008 at 08:34 | #25

    “Hatred of Howard will be longer lasting, as it is based upon his implementation of policies.”

    Every government accumulates a reserve army of people offended by one or another of its policies. However, Howard’s bottomless mendacity and cynicism were responsible for a lot of personal animosity towards him. Prof Q claims that ‘the Rodent’ was the first nickname to stick, but I recall him being widely known by the ironic sobriquet ‘Honest John’ in the 1980s. Ask any Howard-loathing leftie what in particular they disliked about Howard and you won’t hear about the private health insurance rebate or the GST. Much more likely will be examples of scheming lying to the public: kids overboard, WMDs, balaclava-clad goons and attack dogs on the waterfront, having to parse every statement to detect hidden meanings, constant resort to the dog whistle to foment division. That, and his passionate vindictiveness against individuals who either got in his way or could be demonised for political gain: Haneef, Wilkie, Hicks etc. Yes, lying and vindictive – those are the Howard traits most loathed. I don’t know about you, SATP, but I reckon those are personal traits it’s not irrational to dislike.

    “Hatred of Keating is more based on his acid personality & king sized ego, and is mitigated by his being a failure in life.”

    Yes, I suppose being Treasurer for nine years and Prime Minister for four is failure of truly monumental proportions. Homeless people must feel sorry for him.

    Or perhaps you’re referring to his being divorced? It must be a high and lonely place you’re at if you can thus look down on the majority of your fellow Australians whose marriages fail.

    On the ego front, Keating ain’t Robinson Crusoe in the federal parliament. There will be ego aplenty in Costello’s forthcoming tome I confidently predict. My own taste is for an open egomaniac like Keating rather than the creepy Uriah Heep style of Howard, but I admit that’s a personal preference and not defensible on rational grounds.

  26. April 25th, 2008 at 09:42 | #26

    Some random thoughts:

    Keating’s comments on Costello during the 2007 election were vintage: asleep in the hammock. Still is it seems.

    Since joining the blog world I have been staggered by the emotive invective of some bloggers and many commenters. Hate is alive and well. Personal abuse and denigration are too common. Makes you want to swear off sarcasm and even satire sometimes (not many times).

    I cannot believe some of the sick stuff written on sites like Western Heart. Literacy and ignorance are certainly not incompatible.

    Having said all that, the enduring metaphor of the last 2 elections came from Mungo MacCallum: John wHoward as the unsinkable turd who finally disappeared around the u-bend.

  27. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2008 at 09:45 | #27

    Much of the hatred of Keating is simply from farmers and businessmen whose enterprises failed or were badly damaged by high interest rates and tariff reductions perceived to be his fault.

    I never hated Keating but voted for Howard in the belief that my business would get some relief from tariff reductions. Not only did this not occur, but the Howard Government added a few more imposts to running an orchard supplying the home market. I feel that Howard turned on us like a yellow dog.

    For that and many other reasons you could call me a Howard Hater, but the last 20 years of politics (and associated economics) has pushed me to the Green left. I think Keating genuinely tried to make Australia a better place for all whereas Howard pandered to big business and liberal market economists and thought that everything below would take care of itself. As long as it all shone a light on him.

  28. April 25th, 2008 at 09:52 | #28

    SATP – “Keating knew it, hence during several years of 50th anniversary of everything WW2 he made sure he didn’t appear at the same battlefields or other remote sites at which ex-servicemen were attending (a front page photo of an ex-digger putting a toe up the arse of a besuited PM would have been a MOST humiliating event for the PM)”

    I think it’s more that Keating didn’t have the same obsession with wrapping himself in khaki like Howard. Also could be that Keating didn’t believe that he was the centre of the universe on such occassions.

  29. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    April 25th, 2008 at 09:58 | #29

    From 1983 until 1991, Keating was absolutely detested by ALP branch members. He was right-wing, economically rational, a sell-out. I recall a Labor party pissup after the 1990 election and he was unanimously booed when claiming victory in Blaxland on the tv.

    Upon becoming PM, he changed and the true believers decided he was the ants pants instead.

  30. Peter Wood
    April 25th, 2008 at 10:14 | #30

    I suspect that Howard was more hated than Keating was. It is not a particularly ‘well ordered’ thing though most people who dislike Howard are on the left, while most who dislike Keating are on the right, although Keating did not make himself popular on the left with policies like his seemingly unconditional support for Suharto.

    But amongst people I know (a totally unrepresentative sample), Howard is hated far more than anyone else in Australian politics. Partially for his policies, but perhaps also more on a personal level because of the constant lying and constant vilification of people more disadvantaged than the majority, such as the unemployed, Aboriginals, refugees and so on. Howard lowered the integrity of Australian politics to a lower level than it has been for a long time and history will judge him for that.

  31. Bilko
    April 25th, 2008 at 12:12 | #31

    Whilst being a laborite all my life, I was not a Keating lover but he at least had a vision for the future whereas the rodent had a vision of and for the past and after 24/11/07 I felt a dark cloud lifting. I am waiting for Kev’s vision

  32. Alphonse
    April 25th, 2008 at 13:47 | #32

    I hate John Howard because Pauline is just a dumber and less polite version of him. I particularly hated the hurt look he got when anyone verged on observing similarly, however less colourfully. His appeal for more more politeness in political discourse could not have come from anyone more in need of it. He viscerally and calculatedly appealed to the worst in us and Australia is the worse for it.

    Give me a Keating spray over a Howard dog whistle any day.

  33. April 25th, 2008 at 13:47 | #33

    @ Michael #28.

    You are funny! The Placido Domingo of Australian Politics, the World’s Greatest Treasurer, suddenly turning humble & suddenly developing a humble side? Ha ha ha hahaha..

  34. Joseph Clark
    April 25th, 2008 at 15:51 | #34

    Nonsense, John. I’ve met heaps of Howard haters who have absolutely no stance on policy and many more who have no coherent stance. I’ve also met more Keating haters from the left than the right. I’m on the libertarian right and in general agreement with most people you call “cultural warriors” yet I never liked Howard and absolutely love Keating. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

  35. via collins
    April 25th, 2008 at 23:10 | #35

    “The arsehole made us all rich & comfortable, everything he did actually worked.”

    I’m often confused as to whether you are making parody or not SATP. Assuming the arsehole to which you refer here is Howard, he did not make us rich & comfortable, people do that themselves. And as for the Howard legacy, I’m happy to await Costello’s memoir prior to judging Howard further.

    Everything he did worked? Even he wouldn’t agree with that. Though Howard dressing up in track-suits and leaping up in the air for photo-shoots surrounded by security guards while watching sporting events always worked for me. Gag reflex.

  36. Father Mercy
    April 25th, 2008 at 23:39 | #36

    Keating’s great hamartia was to think of himself as anything other than a bovver boy from Bankstown. His acerbic tongue was used to disguise the fact that he lacked culture. His odd behaviour made him a lightning rod for criticism by the great unwashed, members of his own party and a few brave journos.

    Keating’s desk was covered in travel allowance claim forms and it seems the poor fellow was unable to move from A to B without claiming some type of allowance. He even got his family in on the act by moving them to Canberra while at the same time claiming he lived at Bankstown. The AFP investigated that situation but any zealousness on the part of an AFP officer was sure to be rewarded by a posting to the blowfly early warning post at Camooweal. As Prime Minister, he defended Ros Kelly when she rejected normal office procedure and instead used a whiteboard to account for AUD$30 million. I wonder how many taxpayers are allowed to do their tax return on a whiteboard.

    Keating was no financial savant. Four economists, Dr L Csapo, Mr G Raby, Dr WR Steel and Mr KD Thomas, of La Trobe University, sounded a tocsin in August of 1983 when they accused “…the Hawke Government of slavishly following conservative, monetarist policies of the Fraser era…� and that “…the Government has given up almost all the ALP’s principles and aims and has transformed itself into one of pragmatic wheeling and dealing to satisfy the wishes of the corporate sector and of powerful segments of the Public Service�. They called on a Caucus inquiry into the ministry’s economic policies “before it is too late and the opportunity for reform is lost for a decade or more�. A check of the Hawke/Keating locust years that followed bear that out.

    David Eastman (economic consultant and former Treasury officer) painted a less than flattering picture of Keating in an article in The Eye of 88/89. The article was free of the usual ALP mythology. He pointed out that Keating had talked up the large investment in domestic restructuring while at the same time telling us that since he removed exchange controls in 1983 a lazy AUD$28 billion was being invested overseas. Impossible to comprehend but according to Keating it was true.

    Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald in February 1995, Alan Ramsey said: “Another tender spot for Keating followed his attack on John Howard after Howard had been elected to Leader of the Opposition. Keating claimed that ‘the Australian economy today is 40 per cent more competitive than when he [John Howard] was in office’. Although the question of how we maintain our competitiveness surely goes to the heart of the competency of economic management, there has been no attempt in the media to analyse this important claim. In fact, of the 37 per cent improvement in competitiveness under the Hawke-Keating Labor Governments, more than the whole (45 per cent) is accounted for by the depreciation of the A$. Such an exchange rate induced change in competitiveness is, of course, really an indication that Australians have had to accept a relative decline in living standards: our underlying competitiveness, as reflected in relative productivity growth, had deteriorated under Labor�.

    It was Keating to the rescue when one of his mates was charged with possession of a loaded illegal firearm when a private flight from PNG landed at Townsville. It was claimed by the owner that he feared the PNG highlanders and carried the gun for protection. Not too many highlanders have taken up residence in Townsville nor were there any reports of Townsville residents storming the local airport and attacking planes and passengers. Keating wrote a glowing reference for his mate. We all thought that pollies wanted to get illegal firearms off the street.

    The aura surrounding Keating needs to be demythologised. Perhaps that can be achieved by noting that Keating spent in excess of 4000 days as part of the government yet at no time did he issue an apology nor urge that an apology be offered to aborigines. From 1996 to about 2007 he called on Howard to apologise to aborigines. I think Keating has earned the title ‘whited sepulcher’.

  37. Joseph Clark
    April 26th, 2008 at 03:23 | #37

    And there’s another left wing Keating hater. There goes the theory.

  38. jquiggin
    April 26th, 2008 at 13:52 | #38

    Joseph, you might want to reread the post, particularly the observation that “hatred of Keating wasn’t by any means confined to the political right”.

  39. Stephen L
    April 26th, 2008 at 14:45 | #39

    The central point (as I see it) of the post is that those hostile to Howard hated his policies, while those against Keating hated him personally. I think this is true, but its a little hard to prove as the two things tend to spill into each other.

    One way to tell the difference is to see whether people can pay credit when they do agree with the politician in question’s actions. At the time most leftwingers managed to say positive things about Howard’s actions post Port Arthur. They tend to get forgotten in all that came afterwards, but if they’re mentioned almost everyone I know will say something along the lines of “good point, he got that right”. (Greens, particularly from Tasmania may also take the opportunity to point out the largely ignored role of the Tassie Greens in getting the laws up, but they’ll still acknowledge that Howard’s participation was crucial).

    The anti-Keating forces on the left can also acknowledge plenty of good, at least these days. I’m not sure how easily the Quadrant crew can admit how many things he did that they would have loved from anyone else.

  40. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    April 26th, 2008 at 15:01 | #40

    I’ve deleted this comment, as a personal attack on another commenter, based on speculation

  41. Spiros
    April 26th, 2008 at 16:07 | #41

    I’ve deleted this comment, as a personal attack on another commenter, based on speculation

  42. April 29th, 2008 at 16:39 | #42

    From the start Keating saw himself as implementing Labor’s traditional economic goals but through different means (see his 1987 address to the Whitlam conference), the social liberalism from the early 1990s was a new element but I see no reason to doubt its sincerity. The anti-Keating campaign was/is bizarre rather like the Clinton wars (which the right has now put on hold).

  43. Half Educated
    May 1st, 2008 at 14:57 | #43

    At the time, I loved Keating’s colloquial quips. His Redfern address inspired. Lately I’ve heard him and thought that while he’s entitled to have a say, he should limit it in these new times(I am going to see K the musical soon incidentally). Howard, I came close to hating (try not to actually hate any human being), and I find it hard to separate the man from the deeds as he came to embody so much that I found abhorrent – dancing with Hansonism, Iraq, the treatment of refugees & the disparaging of people who cared about refugees. The refusal to name the ugliness at Cronulla. No need to go on. Only his gun laws redeemed him from complete disapproval. Kevin Rudd? A kinder leader. Hoping he will live up to his great potential. Ok, I confess. I’m a Rudd Hugger.

  44. Youie
    May 1st, 2008 at 15:44 | #44

    JQ, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that Crikey’s Christian Kerr (aka Hillary Bray) brought the “Rodent/Ratty” reference to Howard into popular use very early after Crikey’s inception in 2000. It might, therefore, be that the term had been in use within the Liberal Party for some time, given Christian’s Liberal links, before Brandis inadvertently brought it to public attention.

  45. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    May 1st, 2008 at 20:17 | #45

    “Rodent” was apparently a Liberal Party term from the 1980s, when he was gnawing at Andrew Peacock’s leadership. So it was used in “liberal” quarters.

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