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”.
39 thoughts on “Relaxed and comfortable”
Promoting the idea of being “relaxed and comfortable” also works against attempts to push people to engage with politics and process (though I’m not suggesting that Howard deliberately chose those exact words in particular for specifically that purpose).
I suspect that for many, being relaxed and comfortable is (or has become) a large-scale “no worries” attitude to political issues that don’t directly affect them. Problematic for truly democratic formulation of progressive and productive policies that are beneficial for all Australians.
Howard, as is now widely acknowledged, is a praeternaturally clever politician.
He is at his cleverest in his use of weasel words.
Overtly, “relaxed and comfortable” means what Mike says.
In dog-whistlese, it is a clarion-call to his ideological shock troops, as JQ notes.
Strangely enough, I am feeling extremely relaxed and comfortable about the latest polls.
And in this relaxed, comfortable state, I find it extremely difficult to share the PM’s angst-ridden horror at the looming prospect of a Labor victory. All the horrible dangers that Old Uncle Johnny warns about sound just fine to me…
Green balance of power? Cool. WorkChoices rolled back and never to return? Brilliant! Education reform? Tick. A fresh approach to failing drug policies? About time.
What’s going on? Obviously, I must myself be a part of the great evil which threatens to consume our nation.
Be afraid! BWAAAHAHAHAHA!!!
The history wars had blossomed beyond seedlings by the time Howard hit his straps. It was Quadrant in 2001 (and of course beyond) who shone a blowtorch on a lot of shoddy historiography by Communists struggling to re-tool in the patois of postmodernism.
While the Howard’s most definitely cheered from the rafters they were never the critical agents.
Pr Q says:
I interpreted Howard’s committment to a “relaxed and comfortable” Australia as meaning that we would not be subjected to the idiocies, inequities and iniquities of govt promoted radical social constructivism imposed on us since the mid-eighties. That includes both cultural liberationism and economic rationalism.
Howard’s core promise was a committment to social conservatism broadly understood as meaning “if it aint broke dont fix it” and “dont rock the boat, steady as she goes”.
He has delivered on the conservative promise on the Culture Wars front. Cultural constructivism threatens family values. You cant be “relaxed and comfortable” if it is not safe to walk down your street at night. That means carefully screening and surveiling unruly types.
I wholeheartedly agree with Howard’s History Wars, the black armbanders want to turn white into black and up into down. Utter madness, given AUS’s progressive history. ANd Howard’s determination to enforce AUS sovereignty and repel the people-smuggling (or people drowning, as it should be called) trade.
In any case, Howard has won the Culture Wars. Which has hurt his party as it has helped our country. (Just as pro-welfare and pro-workfare legislation hurts the ALP by “embourgeoising the working class” into LN/P voting aspirationals).
The decision of the ALP to support Howard’s conservative authoritarian paternalism in the Aboriginal intervention was the nail in the coffin to the Lefts immoral policies. Only loony leftists want to go back to the situation a generation ago when “anything goes” was the rule of thumb in cultural policy.
I believe Howard has failed conservatism in the Climate Wars. Ecological conservatism is on a par with sociological conservatism in keeping our natural heritage in tact.
I also think that Howards national security policy is also a bit unsettling at times. Pre-emptive strikes of unthreatening nations are a bit too constructivist for my taste. Best to rely on boring old multilateral legalism.
Howard’s radical constructivist in the Class Wars, promising to overthrow a hundred years of industrial relations law protecting working families standard of living.His IR laws will strip awards and encourage speed ups. That is not the kind of thing to make working families “relaxed and comfortable”.
John Greenfield Says: November 20th, 2007 at 10:08 am
THe History Wars have been brewing since Blaimey fired a shot accross the Lefts bows with his “blackarmbander” crack. How anyone could interpret AUS history in anything other than benign terms is beyond me.
It is the most progressive country in history. Outside the Nordic ones, which normally dont count for obvious reasons. (Geneologic and geographic outliers.)
Even Aboriginals have experienced significant progress (although not enough) since Federation. Despite being ham-strung by the Cultural Lefts anti-scientific cultural theories and counter-productive cultural policies over the past generation.
THe History Wars are hotting up in the US. Commies have largely got a free pass for their treachery during the Cold War. THe archives now reveal that a commie spy gave Stalin the A-Bomb.
Deathly silence as usual from the Left on this. Apparently its okay to give a totalitarian nuclear weapons provided one mouths politically correct platitudes.
It seems McCarthy’s national security concerns, at least regarding foreign spies, were somewhat legitimate.
“It seems McCarthyâ€™s national security concerns, at least regarding foreign spies, were somewhat legitimate.”
Apart from Communist party members themselves (and perhaps even including such members) I would have thought people would acknowledge that the USSR would most likely be engaging in espionage.
As I understood it, it was more that breadth and depth of the threat portrayed by McCarthy, rather than the claim of a threat itself, that were aspects people grew concerned about.
Everything was great for Aborigines before the nasty old multi-culties came along.
1. The disenfranchisement of Aborigines under the Australian constitution was a mere trifle.
2. The kidnapping of thousands of children by agencies of the state was seen by their grateful parents as a good thing.
3. The operation of many state laws restricting the movement, marriage and financial independence of Aborigines was viewed by Aborigines as appropriate, given how dirty, ignorant and superstitious they knew themselves to be.
And then along come the multi-culties to confuse them with a whole different story.
Boo hiss to the multi-culties.
Klaus Fuchs’ espionage feats have been known for more than half a century. He was British. Who speaks for TEH LEFT in this case? So far as I know no sensible leftie denies these facts.
However, many on the right deny that someone in the Bush administration deliberately falsified intelligence on Saddam’s WMDs. This is a much more current case of denialism, and much more potent.
Why isn’t the Right talking about this?
Call it ‘social constructivism’, ‘social engineering’, ‘political correctness’ or whatever. The main point of it was, I believe, to make public displays of racism and sexism socially unacceptable. This was (and is) a worthy and necessary goal for a civilized society, and comparing Australia today with Australia back in the halcyon “family values” days, I think it has, by and large, been successful (in spite of the efforts of Howard’s fellow travelers to reverse the process).
“Blaimey fired a shot accross the Lefts bows with his â€œblackarmbanderâ€? crack”
Blaimey presumably is the mongrel cross between Thomas Blamey and Geoffrey Blainey.
You can dress up “relaxed and comfortable” with as much high-minded historical and linguistic analysis as you like. But at base, Howard was merely telling his own “forgotten people” that it was now open season on Aborigines, welfare recipients, refugees, ethnics and the underprivileged.
It was a brilliant strategy because it allowed the cultural conservatives to flaunt their bigotry while at the same time sticking the knife into the cosmopolitan “elites” for daring to express a vision of Australia beyond a white Anglo-Saxon, monarchist, materialist and militaristic vision of Australia long gone.
John Howardâ€™s carefully planted â€˜relaxed and comfortableâ€™ remarks were meant to be soporific. We could all â€˜disengageâ€™, go to sleep, while he and his team could get on with their extremist agenda. This absence of oversight has led to excesses like the waterfront conspiracy, the baseball bat-wielding thugs with balaclavas, the rottweilers and the Dubai training courses, the Tampa, the SievX, the â€˜children overboardâ€™ and all the rest of their fear-generating stunts.
I would rather examine the outcomes of â€˜relaxed and comfortableâ€™ than argue about the philosophy. These outcomes include the disgracefully low standards of Ministerial Responsibility of the Howard government over the past twelve dreadful years.
I want to see the new government of Kevin Rudd, if elected on 24 November 2007, rigorously implement the Westminster system of Ministerial Responsibility for all Ministers and at all times. Furthermore, their consciences must take priority over the needs of the party that is in power.
We saw that after Phillip Ruddock intentionally harmed the psychiatric health of detained asylum seekers, kept people indefinitely in detention in appalling conditions, including children, he was rewarded with the job of Attorney General. Even George Orwell would admire that grotesque piece of theatre. I thought I was back in Uganda.
Phillip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and Kevin Andrews all bear a share of the responsibility for the continued stress, suffering and lack of compensation for aggrieved victims of DIMIA’s ‘toxic culture’, including Cornelia Rau, Vivian Alvarez Solon and several hundred others. These victims are still fighting in the courts for compensation.
As Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock has been instrumental in extending the illegal detention of Australian citizens Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks in the notorious torture experimentation centre at Guantanamo Bay, tacitly approving of their suffering.
Phillip Ruddock tried very hard to introduce archaic Sedition legislation, which threatened to shutdown satire, stand-up comedy and all critical writing in Australia.
Furthermore, Phillip Ruddock recklessly and maliciously detained and deported the American nonviolent peace activist, Scott Parkin, destroyed his reputation and travel rights for zero gain in security for Australia. Scott Parkin is a free man in the USA – so why not here?
We saw how Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile recklessly funded the regime of Saddam Hussein to the tune of A$300 million, they kept their jobs as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Trade.
We saw Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews, abuse the power of his office to deny a visa to Dr Mohammed Haneef and use the media to drip-feed ‘evidence’ against the doctor, who had been cleared of wrongdoing. We also witnessed the Minister mount a totally bogus campaign of vilification against the Sudanese and African community. Police Commissioners countered his allegations in several states.
We saw that after his tricky concealment of the ‘children overboard’ media stunt John Howard kept his job as Prime Minister.
We saw that John Howard persistently lied to the Parliament and the Australian people about the WMDâ€™s and the real reasons for Australian troops being sent to participate in the illegal aggressive invasion of Iraq.
We will run out of space, but you could go on forever. They have been the worst government that Australia has ever had. We are deeply shamed by their conduct. They are unfit to ever hold any position public life. Our watchword for the new government ought to be 1 â€˜Never againâ€™ and 2 â€˜Vigilance is the price of democracyâ€™.
Greens candidate for Griffith
Howard was merely telling his own â€œforgotten peopleâ€? that it was now open season on Aborigines, welfare recipients, refugees, ethnics and the underprivileged.
This is part of the reason for the now comical dire straits of the Luvvie Left. You simply cannot stand that capitalism did not fall apart, and that most people are actually quite proud of Australia’s cultural and economic achievements, and the brilliance of Anglosphere and Greco-Roman civilisation whence it sprung.
You would do well to know that Howard did not tell his “forgotten people.” You see, it was the PEOPLE who did the telling. It is called “democracy.”
I wonder if you have some permits from the declaration of “open season?” Perhaps some notices near reserves where “Aborigines, welfare recipients, refugees, ethnics and the underprivileged” roamed in fear of this open season?
Are these reserves in the electorate of Lindsay? Wentworth? Bennelong?
It was a brilliant strategy because it allowed the cultural conservatives to flaunt their bigotry while at the same time sticking the knife into the cosmopolitan â€œelitesâ€? for daring to express a vision of Australia beyond a white Anglo-Saxon, monarchist, materialist and militaristic vision of Australia long gone.
Oh lord give me strength. Is this for real? It is so frustrating that these excuses are still being trotted out by a narrow group of Leftists, who still to this day cannot understand why Labor was on the nose until Rudd. This ongoing obsession that Howard only won due to â€œTampaâ€? seriously excluded the left from public discourse for the past 6 years.
Dude, it was never the “cultural elites” who rejected your Imagined Community (oh, and by the way, Australia’s cultural foundation is Anglo-IRISH); it was the Australian people again and again.
The Luvvies have NEVER expressed a “vision” apart from acute anxiety symptomatic of a dangerous cocktail of relativism, nihilism, projected self-loathing and bad reading lists. This has produced nothing but a never ending shower of sneering contempt for working class people.
Who are these ‘cultural conservatives?’ I recall the days when they were less grandly known as “working class.” Were they too timid to ‘flaunt their bigotry’ before JH snubbed The Lodge for Kirribilli House? Are you suggesting that before 1996, dissent from the Luvvies and Keating was suppressed? If so, you might have a point. But first, we’d need to see some examples of this ‘culturally conservative bigotry’ unleashed. Perhaps you mean the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics? The Chaser? The largest collection of aid on the planet following the tsunami?
It is only now that Labor has let go of this ideological blinker – Culture War (in)security blanket – that it is back in the game. Ruddâ€™s very canny tactic to sign on fully to the â€˜neoconâ€™ strike back in the Culture Wars was a masterstroke that will see him changing the wallpaper in The Lodge next weekend.
He will not be asking Stuart MacIntyre, Guy Rundle, David Williamson, Margo Kingston, Robert Manne, Phillip Adams and the gang for design advice. 😉
It would be a pity if Kevin Rudd turned his back on the likes of Stuart MacIntyre, Guy Rundle, David Williamson, Margo Kingston, Robert Manne, Phillip Adams. What exactly are their sins? What is so terrible in their advocacy that would make them persona non-grata to the elites in power?
For example, Margo Kingston has always struck me a genuine small-l liberal, passionate in her convictions and concerned about accountability, fairness, propriety, decency, and despite its sneeringly dismissive connotations these says, compassion.
Kevin Rudd could do a lot, lot worse than heeding the counsel of Margo Kingston, et al, thereby ensuring that he will never do to a war widow, what John “Anzac” Howard did to Kylie Russell, the wife of Australia’s first casualty in Afghanistan.
Didn’t Malcolm Fraser say that people would be turning to the sports pages first when they picked up the paper after he got elected. I assumed that Howard’s statement reflected that view.
As an aside, it has been great, thanks to this election, to hear all about the communists again after so many years, many thanks to John Howard and all the Hiroo Onoda’s http://www.2spare.com/item_91025.aspx left over from Quadrants brownshirt brigade.
And this Anglo-Irish cultural triumphalism thing – does this mean I have to give eating sushi?
Good luck in Griffith Willy. Your comment here today very thoughtful. While personally I am not much of a kropotkinite, I have been impressed with the campaign run by the Greens, and the quality of the candidates, at this election. Though the Nats have a big margin in your seat it will be interesting to see how the issue of climate change will play out – given the centrality of climate to livelihoods in the Riverina.
Who are these â€˜cultural conservatives?â€™ I recall the days when they were less grandly known as â€œworking class.â€?
I think it is pretty elitist to assume that only rich people have progressive attitudes.
Ironically, it is the people who make this very elitist assumption that like to go around calling anybody who disagrees with the government an “elitist”.
I can see how owning a few million worth of shares might make me “elite”, but I don’t see how the fact that I expect better from the government than race-baiting, war-mongering, class-warfare and pathological dishonesty makes me an “elite”. Most of the Australians I know who share my opinions are hardly wealthy. And if most wealthy people shared my opinions, then I don’t think that Howard would have been around as long as he has been.
JG is full of methane gassing on about Rudd being popular because he turned his back on the ‘Luvvie left”. You think the Right-faction hacks Beazley, Crean and Latham were big Luvvie-lefties? What a joke!! Labor has never been dominated by “Luvvie lefties”, at least outside uni campuses. And their revival of fortune has nothing to do with “letting go of any ideological blinker”, which never happened. Look at Workchoices if you want an explanation, or even better, simply the fact that Beazley was such a pathetic, stand-for-nothing waste of space.
Kev’07 looks relaxed and comfortable and the revocation of WC should make the unions heave a collective sigh of relief.
It seems McCarthyâ€™s national security concerns, at least regarding foreign spies, were somewhat legitimate.
wow. who cares about the lives ruined in mccarthy’s witch-hunt, now that we learn his “concerns…were somewhat legitimate.” i mean if that isn’t a ringing endorsement i don’t know what is.
what is meant to be acheived by today denouncing the behaviour of a communist spy in the second world war? fwiw, i’ve not seen any right-winger denounce dr koval either, possibly because that would be really, really pointless. it is not clear to me why we should assume the “deathly silence” from “the left” is more sinister.
…shoddy historiography by Communists struggling to re-tool in the patois of postmodernism.
yeah, i didn’t care much for keith windschuttle’s book either.
And Rann will decide who’s relaxed and comfortable over here and under what circumstances http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22791115-29277,00.html
Haven’t heard a peep out of the usual human rights suspects. I can only suggest the bikies change their names to Allahs Axers or Mohammeds Maulers or some such. That should bring out the usual sundry human shields to throw themselves between the Harleys and Rann’s Gestapo eh?
â€œdont rock the boat, steady as she goesâ€?
Unless the boat is full of refugees.
Uh Observa, are you trying to make a conexioon between the excesses of the Howard govt that have dragged our countrys name throught the mud and Rann’s going after a bunch of thugs who are generally proud of the “outlaw” bit of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as they are gennerally known. one of the Hells Angels fav insults during the 70’s was ‘citizen’.
Apparently some conspicuous indignaters are more equal than others Dylwah. It’s all a matter of deeply held principles I guess. Perhaps Howard should call his bunch of thugs ‘Outlaw Muslim Gangs’ to appeal more to the principled.
Yeah, LOL. I love the old “social engineering” charge that comes from the neo-conservatives and gets thrown at anyone who wants to implement a program different from a neo-con one. Apparently, the neo-con program is part of the normative and natural world order but anything else is “social engineering”. In other words their program is normal and all else is abnormal.
In point of fact, everything we do in generating, maintaining and moving our social model around the historically unfolding “possibility landscape” is social engineering. It’s ALL social enegineering.
You’re not seriously trying to draw a comparison between bikie gangs and some refugees drowning in a sinking boat?
Err no, I was thinking more along the line of that ghastly chap Howard’s oppressive, metoo, anti-terrorism laws, lumping all decent Muslim folk together. How did Rann, our quintessential champion of the little bloke’s rights so proudly and succinctly put it- “We cannot find anywhere in the world where this level of response to bikie gangs has been taken,” Pioneering stuff to be sure, compared to that old copycat Howard and his anti-terror laws. No doubt some silly doctor’s wives will be waiting anxiously with hot lattes for the long columns of refugees on motorcycles, pouring across your borders.
Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up if your surname was Brooks.
Here’s a pretty good summary of the particular issues we’re touching on here http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22785001-7583,00.html
I seem to be the only person who can remember actually watching that Four Corners show.
And my memory is clear: it was about all “white armband” stuff, the main point being “relaxed/comfy about the past”. Keating was trying to make us guilty about our past and so on.
He threw in the present and future as a bit of camouflage. It was a clumsy expression that has been overblown to buggery.
Observa, there were enough straw men and women in that link to drought proof NSW. Re the Bikie gangs; there are over 100 such gangs in Australia, Rann has named 8, a far cry from lumping all decent bikie folk together. i suspect all that Rann has done is lose his invite to Broadford.
I dont see how anyone can not be alert to such euphemistic phrasing:
‘An Australian nation that feels comfortable and relaxed about three things: about their history, about their present and the future.’
History is full of uncomfortable things for all peoples. Should germany feel comfortable about its hiostory? or Israel about its history? Both involve genocide, as does australias.
Lets hope people are more alert to this sort of conscience massaging by sociopathic candidates for high office.
‘Relaxed and comfortable’ is also code for disinterested in politics, so the government can get on with what it sees fit.
John Greenfield (or should I call you “dude”?),
You are an angry fellow aren’t you?
Where did you get the idea I was opposed to capitalism? I said nothing of the sort. Economics has nothing to do with it. Straw man.
What I did say is that Howard tapped into the xenophobia that Hanson represented and gave it more legitimacy that it ever deserved.
The irony is that your ilk accuses the “luvvies” of arrogantly making assumptions about the political leanings of the ‘working class’, while doing just that yourselves.
The notion of “Howard’s battlers” was a myth made up by cultural warriors like yourself to provide some legitimacy to your extremist ideological leanings.
You have played up this myth (of Howard tapping into the true nationalist desires of the ‘volk’) because that suits your ugly politics.
And in the ultimate hypocrisy, you now read Rudd’s ascendacy as some further vindication of your off-the-wall views.
Rudd simply has chosen not to be wedged on issues that Howard likes to play upon and which so delight his squealing conga line of media sycophants (Bolt, Akerman, Blair etc;)
Personally, I am looking forward to having a beer with my determinedly non-luvvie, decent ‘working class’ mates and seeing Howard defeated and the smirks wiped off the faces of your lot.
And don’t forget that other Howard Howler;
“We will not let them blackmail us with our decency!”
When I heard that one, I thought, “Don’t worry Johnny. No chance of anyone blackmailing you with your decency.”
You mean, like that whole Aboriginal thing? I thought we (ie Teh Borg) had decided that we are sorry about that. Well, not really sorry, but you know…
‘Relaxed and Comfortable’ was primarily directed at the Keating History Cringe but also contains Howard’s belief that Australia should become a ‘nation of shareholders’ thinking only thoughts of economic prosperity under the banner of business.
[…] former Prime Minister John Howard (1996–2007), in his 1996 election campaign, when asked about his vision for Australia going […]
So this is an oldie but a goldie?
Gives the reader the blueprint for what has happened since. So therefore, this person is too sad to add further, except to mention how people in the media have also been- inexplicably- complicit and yes, zombies like that poor, pathetic specimen of a of a simulacra human, Alan Tudge.
I’m into my late sixties now and am sad, as I said above, for a mind and crit thinking represent breathtaking gifts to be robbed from the young and I don’t want to see much more of these sorts of intrusions of cretinism into the brains of human beings from people whose sanity must be doubted.
At least 14th century peasants had the reason of illiteracy to explain their condition, but what excuse people like Morrison and his cabinet and Murdoch friends.
[…] former Prime Minister John Howard (1996–2007), in his 1996 election campaign, when asked about his vision for Australia going […]