Relaxed and comfortable

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”.

36 thoughts on “Relaxed and comfortable

  1. Observa

    You’re not seriously trying to draw a comparison between bikie gangs and some refugees drowning in a sinking boat?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. ‘Relaxed and comfortable’ is also code for disinterested in politics, so the government can get on with what it sees fit.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.”

  9. Keating was trying to make us guilty about our past and so on.

    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…

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