Like most commentators, I’ve always taken Howard’s famous catchphrase “relaxed and comfortable” to have meant his government would avoid pursuing a radical ideological agenda, with the associated conflict and strife. I’m pretty sure this was how it was taken at the time, but of course that was before we learned the skills of parsing ambiguous sentences, and attuning our ears to high-frequency signals that have become so important under this government. It turns out that Howard meant pretty much the opposite of the interpretation that has become standard
This piece by Miranda Devine quotes Janette Howard as saying that:
her husband’s pledge in the 1996 campaign to make Australians “relaxed and comfortable” was meant to counter Keating’s history cringe, but the quote had been misinterpreted.
and indeed, the full quote, cited here by Carmen Lawrence reads
An Australian nation that feels comfortable and relaxed about three things: about their history, about their present and the future.
It sounded innocuous at the time but, in retrospect, it’s easy enough to see in this statement the seeds of both the History Wars, as noted by Janette Howard, and such later catchphrases as “We will decide who comes here and under what circumstances”.