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Day to Day Politics: John Howard’s a bloody old Luddite

Wednesday 8 March 2017

1 I think John Howard and I are almost the same age. We are both residents of the same country. It’s there that the similarities end. He is a Nationalist, I am an Internationalist.

“I was delighted with the result of the Brexit referendum,” he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum in Sydney on Friday last. “The British people made the right decision. I saw that decision as being very much a cry for national sovereignty and control of their own affairs.”

He tried to deny that immigration was at the voter’s centre of attention.

“That wasn’t in my view a fundamental reason.”

He was no stranger to stoking the fires of nationalist hatred. His speech told us that he still has interest in the cultural wars being waged by his remaining acolytes.

“I think political correctness has become a problem in Western societies, we’ve become far too apologetic about our Western identity and anything that’s a sense of some kind of defence of cultural traditionalism or national identity is in many ways frowned upon.”

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. Taking the fight up to the social progressives. Rallying the troops for another assault on marriage equality, climate change and a host of other things.

At a time when the world is screaming out for leaders like Angela Merkel or the suave modernity of Canada’s Justin Trudeau, we are instead having nationalists like Trump thrust upon us. In Australia it’s the likes of Pauline Hansen who trumpet the simplistic but popular nationalist theme, or the unadulterated hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull.

If John Howard had taken an in-depth look at the Brexit polling results he would have found that overwhelmingly the young voted to stay. The young look forward into a time that the leaders of today will never occupy and see things that our ageing leaders don’t.

They see a time when Climate Change will change the way society functions. They concern themselves with how jobs will be found for everyone. How water will be distributed and who will grow the food for an ever-increasing world population. They are more empathetic toward others and see a global world. They don’t see the answers in a closed shop mentality of Trumpish nationalism. They see solutions to complex problems coming from cooperative internationalism.

The profile of Pauline Hansen supporters in Australia isn’t in the under 40s. It’s the elderly longing for an Australia that has passed them by. Protesting the changes that oddly have made our nation the success it is.

Allow me to digress. Last year I visited Melbourne to have lunch with a friend. When it became time to depart I had some time to spare so I purchased a bag of chips and a cup of coffee from a fast food outlet on Flinders Street station.

”Do you mind if I sit here I said to a young man with deep black purplish skin.”

I initiated conversation. He was a little reluctant at first but conversation soon flowed. He was from Somalia, learnt English here and had a familiar Aussie Accent. He was doing an Arts degree at Melbourne University. When he left to catch his train I sat and pondered the flowing mass of humanity that occupied the collective stations of Flinders street. Observation tells us much.

Sitting in my seat on the train the station gradually disappeared and I contemplated the Flinders Street Station I remembered as a young boy working in Central Melbourne. You never saw a black face then. In fact it was a bland community compared to today’s diversity. My country has changed in many ways and I have been a recipient of all that so my cultures have deposited in our country.

When I think about Australian culture or values I am at a loss to explain. In what decade I think to myself. I would say that Australian culture cannot be described without using the word diversity. As to our values, well I guess they are the same as many other countries, freedom security and peace are universal. I am yet to hear the likes of Hansen adequately explain just what Australian culture is.

Our Culture has changed progressively since I was a lad. Some of my vintage have adapted and appreciated why change is necessary and we are still true blue Aussies in every sense of the word.

With so many cultures we will increasingly become a melting pot of vast ethnic diversity. It will and is constantly changing. My belief is that new migrants can only be expected to meet the same standards that apply to the rest of us, obey the laws of the land and try to be good citizens. To be expected to replace one’s ethnicity with another overnight is simply unreasonable.

Young people know the issues, if not the politics, and the way forward is not by closing our doors with Nationalistic fever, but by being more open to the problems of the future, by being an open society.

Unlike me John Howard never learnt how to use a computer or the value of the internet. Still a Luddite.

”John Howard said Donald Trump’s election and Britain’s decision to quit the European Union demonstrated a global push for greater ”national sovereignty” that’s also affecting Australian politics.”

Two observations.

In terms of social activism. The word wait should never mean never.”

“A commitment to love and social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds'”

The push for “National Sovereignty” as Howard puts it, in large part, can be put down to the inequality he and other conservatives saw fit to impose on us.

2 Essential Media this week still has Labor 6 Points clear of the Coalition.

They have some interesting observations in the weekly surveys.

A Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to reduce current Sunday penalty rates paid in retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries?

32% approve of the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to reduce current Sunday penalty rates and 56% disapprove.

Those most likely to approve were Liberal National voters (55%), men (40%) and aged 65+ (49%).

Those most likely to disapprove were Labor voters (74%), Greens voters (73%), women (63%) and aged 18-24 (64%).

B Q. What do you think will be the more likely result of cutting penalty rates for hospitality and retail workers?

57% think that the most likely result of cutting penalty rates will be that businesses will make bigger profits. 24% think businesses will employ more workers.

Those most likely to think businesses will make more profits were Labor voters (73%) and Greens voters (66%).

Those most likely to think businesses will employ more workers were Liberal National voters (42%) and aged 65+ (41%).

More interesting questions here.

3 I had an email from a friend

”I’ve a neighbour who supports Hansen. He’s not a fool. He knows he’s being fu%ked by the system and he’s angry. His anger distorts his common sense.’’

On this day in 2016 I wrote the following (I was tempted to post the whole article):

Traditionally two-thirds of the American economy has relied on consumerism. Wages are still at levels they were 30 years ago. Even people on average wages require food stamps to survive. People no longer have disposable income to feed the hungry giant of consumerism.

In Australia a similar situation is developing. Wages growth is at an all-time low and the government seems intent on keeping them so. The problem though is that without wages growth consumers don’t have expendable income sufficient to meet consumer demand for goods and services. America has found that out. Conservatives don’t seem to comprehend that you may be able to obtain growth on the back of low wages but if the low wages prevent people from buying what you produce. You have defeated your purpose.

Revolutionised morally regulated capitalism could, if legislated and controlled enable everyone an equitable opportunity for economic success. With equality of opportunity being the benchmark of all economic aspiration and legislation. In America 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined?

None Union wages are also affected by the decline of unions. Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs.

The incomes of the top 1% have increased exponentially since the GFC.

Conservative Republicans couldn’t care less.

The problem is the politics.

In Australia, although not yet at the same level as the US, inequality is manifesting itself in a similar fashion. At the end of Peter Costello’s tenure as treasurer he was asked why the rich had become 7% richer. His answer was to say that at least the poor had not become poorer. Joe Hockey said that:

“The bottom line is we have to lift the tide so that all boats rise.”

This is akin to Thatcher’s:

“The poor will be looked after by the drip down effect from the rich’. “Time has proven this a nonsense. So will Hockey’s.

The government’s actions since the 2013 election have been anything but an attempt to bridge the gap. To the contrary there has been an unashamedly concerted effort to take from those less well of (there is no need for me to list them) and give to the rich. And all indications suggest that this will continue with unabated irrationally.

My thought for the day:

”The ideas of today need to be honed with critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of enquiry so that they clearly articulate the currency of tomorrow.”


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  1. Barry

    I’m not sure if this is on topic but what I have witnessed is the disintegration of what I truly believe is what used to set Australians apart…..mateship…. and please don’t ask me to try and explain what it is because I can’t.

  2. Möbius Ecko

    Howard has an awful lot to answer for, too much to table in a blog response. Much if not all of the social and economic issues now in place can be directly traced to Howard’s time in power.

    Whilst we rightly go on about the contemporary failures of Abbott and Turnbull, the source of their rot and that of the L-NP can be found from 1996 to 2007.

  3. Egalitarian

    Barry it’s called taking an interest and caring of others not just yourself as this gives you a good feeling.

  4. billshaw2013

    It is time to move on and the Hansonites need to consider this. As a late age father of three mixed race kids I see that they reflect the diverse racial mix of our current school attendees. Racism appears to be at a lower level in the generations following and it itself is becoming more isolated. Times are changing and with it the Pauline Hanson’s of this world will become more bitter and virulent. We have their presence for a while only.

  5. Patrick Deegan

    I still recall the cutbacks at TAFE. The apprenticeship system was damaged by this man.

  6. Terry2

    As Trade Minister Steve Ciobo conceded this week when talking about trade with the European Community and the opportunity for a better trading relationship with the UK now that the shackles of EU restrictions are relieved with Brexit.

    He said :

    “It is a ridiculous situation that Australia imports more from the European Union than we actually export to the European Union with their population of some 400-plus million people.”

    In this he is spot on, the EU have manipulated markets to suit themselves and are in no sense a trading bloc committed to free trade. Ultimately Britain will find that their independence from the strictures imposed by Brussels will lead to a new and prosperous future as they open up to the world and Australia will benefit as we rebuild our trading relationship with the UK.

  7. Jack Straw

    Patrick It’s blind ideology for it’s own sake.It didn’t matter to them if they wrecked something that worked perfectly. Howard was the destroyer.

  8. OldWomBat

    If howard really wanted Australian sovereignty he would support becoming a republic and ditch the queen

  9. michael lacey

    Austerity is the problem for Britain not Brexit! Britain will suffer if the fiscal austerity mindset continues (with or without Brexit) and the disruptions that will, in the short-run, accompany Brexit will be made worse by on-going austerity.
    Why would we be bothered listening to a war monger who should be brought to justice for the act of supporting an illegal war which killed more than 1 million Iraqis; then to find out later his real reason was to gain closer ties to the US!

  10. helvityni

    On another blog one true-blue Aussie poster told me to take my plea for civility where the sun does not shine.

    Well, if Hanson and Howard are the hallmarks of Oz culture they can take it to the same place for what I care… 🙂

  11. wam

    I took a group of Aboriginal students to victoria, in 1980, and I can understand why “You never saw a black face then” but there always were lots of black faces in victoria.(first tour of england were all victorian Aboriginal cricketers)

    Professor Ian Anderson, Tasmanian Aboriginal director of Murrup Barak, Melbourne University’s Institute for Indigenous Development, says for many decades, mixed-blood Aboriginal people were declared “not black enough to receive Aboriginal welfare support and not white enough for mainstream welfare or support”.

    Little johnny was a product of a family backround that was powerful and anti-unions. His background makes interesting reading and shows his exceptional strength of character. It gives an insight into why his party need the gap, cannot accept unionism and accept corruption as normal until exposed.

    Great insight terry2 the poms are about 10% of europe, they cunningly kept the pound and will be ahead in brexit. Will the common market last if le pen wins????

  12. Matters Not

    Read about Howard’s ‘family background’

    But Howard’s father had another life. While this old soldier worked his humble Sydney service station, he was also – on paper – a New Guinea planter with a string of estates where 200 native labourers grew copra in his name. Lyall Howard had cashed in his status as a returned digger to “dummy” for the trading house W. R. Carpenter and Company Ltd. His own father, Walter, was doing it, too. The Howard case provoked secret, official investigations at the highest levels in Canberra, but they and their powerful backer got away with the scam.

    It’s well worth a read.


  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear michael lacey!

    If people are outraged about Howard and that the fact that he has never faced rightful punishment for his pandering to Bush over the Iraq War, they should instigate their actions now while he is still alive and can face the consequences of his narrow, imperialist attitude to the world and our Australian values.

  14. helvityni

    An uneducated, racist fish and chips owner and a stuffy unworldly suburban solicitor are hardly my heroes, they are afraid of anything different…and because people are different, they are deemed bad ; they are dole-bludges at the same time as they take our jobs, they wear funny clothes, they take our houses, they work too hard, they don’t even drink alcohol…what’s wrong with them… 🙂

    I’m afraid when people like that are elevated in any position of power….

  15. Leep

    Your article is so depressing and infuriatingly so true john, but worst of all I feel so helpless in doing something about it, labor must win the next election I feel my way of life depends on it.

  16. Zathras

    Howard was a man stuck in what he thought was an idealised past – a simpler time of white picket fences, Bob Menzies and when men were men.

    It was also a time when women, blacks and gays knew their place and his failure to acknowledge “the black armband view” of history underscored his blinkered Nationalist view.

    His era was also one of squandered opportunities where he used a financial windfall to buy votes instead of Nation Building and transformed public debt into massive private debt.
    The so-called final surplus he announced in his last budget was all but gone by the time of the election months later in his pre-election panic.

    Rather than curb rising Hansonite racism, he won back her supporters by further demonising refugees and left us with a divided nation and in order to ingratiate himself with the USA he led us into two perpetual and unwinnable wars.

    That’s his real legacy.

  17. Gangey1959

    ”I saw that decision as being very much a cry for national sovereignty and control of their own affairs.”
    And this is from the effing prick who rigged the referendum in Australia so that we WERE NOT ABLE to make the same decision, even though the numbers said otherwise.
    He needs to be hung from Sydney bridge by the scrotum as a warning to others of a similar mindset. They all live there.

  18. Alan Baird

    The laws of physics have caught up with trickle-down!
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the trickle down effect. Most politicians haven’t abandoned it, and quite a few on the Labor side sometimes give the impression they’re closet “trickle- downers”* (*the feeling of depression that afflicts people who’ve missed out on an effective pay rise for a few decades*). (*Politicians have luckily been given fiscal antidepressants to counter this pernicious ailment)
    Despite the conservative side of politics having a variable view on climate change, we now have proof of its effect. They can’t have it BOTH ways. If the trickle-down effect is taken to be totally ridgy-didge, then climate change MUST be true too! I’d just like SOMEONE on the conservative side to explain away the TOTALLY heat-induced evaporation nowadays of everything that trickles down AND to also explain why the evaporated monies that are “trickling-down” ALWAYS evaporate, and FURTHERMORE that they evaporate UPWARDS. Just like steam.

  19. crypt0

    Today is International Women’s Day.
    Let’s hear it for Maxine McHugh, who saw that little arse howard out of his seat, and on his way to irrelevance.
    Of course, Maxine couldn’t undo all the damage the little bastard did, but I too look forward to seeing him hung from Sydney bridge by the scrotchum.

  20. Ronald

    Jennifer, it’s seems like a good idea – apportion blame for the war to one person, Howard in this case, and declare that he should shoulder the responsibility for it and then say ‘problem fixed’.

    But what about the context of the day? How many people were for the Iraq war and how many against? What was the role of the mainstream media at the time? Have you forgotten?

    In Australia about 1,000,000 people marched. Within days the MSM was back to its default mode –tacit support for the war on behalf of the ruling elite/government.

    This paper is as good as any I’ve read on the topic –
    ‘2008 Media, government and manipulation: the cases of the two Gulf Wars’ –
    “.. the behaviour of the media during the two Iraq Wars did not display balanced, dispassionate, or objective coverage of the violence taking place but one that supported a specific perspective of the ruling elite.
    . . the control function of the Fourth Estate seems to have been subverted to the detriment of public understanding. It had ceased to stimulate debate and had become a watchdog without a bark.”

    If responsibility for the Iraq war is to be apportioned, then include MSM and their handlers.

  21. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Did Wilkie raise the possibility of having Howard investigated by the Hague?

  22. Keitha Granville

    Itis perfectly simple to accept the new society – you just treat others as you like to be treated. I cannot understand how all of the politicians preach Christianity and yet do not practise it. It screams hypocrisy every time they denigrate anyone different.
    I love to see the different cultures now sharing our country. They didn’t come here to continue the wars and struggles they have left, they came to enjoy a peaceful life in a place that cares.

    When I was at school (a church school in the 60s) there was a new song included in our daily assemblies.
    Melting Pot – not sure of the group so kudos to whoever they are

    What we need is a great big melting pot
    Big enough to take the world and all it’s got
    Keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
    Turn out coffee coloured people bythe score

    Those days were a time of acceptance as far as I coud see through my child eyes. Many nationalities had come to call our place home. Where would be without the Greek migrants opening corner stores ? And the Polish men building our Hydro scheme ? The Chinese and their takeaway restaurants ? These might seem simple, but it never occurred to me that they were different – they had very interesting stories to tell. I am sure there were the Howard types who complained about them and treated them as Wogs and Dagos, but they are Australians and they have helpd shape our country.

    Who cares what colour or religion anyone is – or whether they worship any god at all ?

    I think I was lucky in my late teens to be part of the hippy revolution, albeit quite small in my home state. Make love not war.

    We need a revolution again – one of inclusion and love, one that rejects apartheid values, one that embraces basic christian values supposedly espoused by our politicians.

    On International Women’s Day I call on the women of Australia to reject PHON and her attitude.

  23. Freethinker

    Why people only put the blame in Howard?
    John Howard was there because he was elected in 1974 and hold his position until 2007 because people in his electorate preferred him to other candidates.
    John Howard was selected as a treasurer by his party and later the leader because his party, including colleges and members like him and shared his views and ideology. The same applies to the electorate that voted him as a leader of the nation and reelected several times.
    What I am trying to say is that people have to accept that the blame cannot be put on him and accept that this kind of politicians are what the majority of Australian like. (including Abbott and the present mob)
    IMHO until we do not accept this and try to do something about the “source of the problem” which it is educate the electorate we will not have a hope for a change.

  24. kerri

    Keitha Granville it was Blue Mink! https://youtu.be/zAWn4FO1MOw
    Why is it these right wing racists cannot comprehend just how much of their lives any immigrant or refugee has already given up? Is it not enough that they have had to escape to a country which bears no common language, food, customs, religion, plants, animals and even clothing?? Why should they have to give up everything else and become little Johnny Wayward clones?? And this on top of the right’s continual bleating about going back to the good old days. We can retain all our old fashioned archaic Luddite practices but if you are new to our country you must bend to our ways. So out of touch was Howard! His insistence on the Citizenship test that people should know the batting average of Donald Bradman? My god I couldn’t give a tinkers cuss for old cricketers! Can Howard name the black ski runs at Mt Buller or Hotham?? Or can he name the preferred stitch for edging baby blankets??. Equally pointless knowledge for an immigrant. That man makes my blood boil!

  25. Freethinker

    kerri, the issue of immigration in Australia it is confuse to me.
    When I come to Australia (48 year ago) people for South America will need to have a trade or profession, if was a family, one of them need to have some English knowledge and also need to have some savings.
    I stopped 2 night in a hostel provided by the immigration department and in the same hostel there were people that do not have any kind of education, basic knowledge of English and need to paid only $20 to come to Australia. many of those people ( we saw it) were bathing their kids in the toilette bowl because they did not have any idea what was the use of that device. That people were not refugees like the South Americans that were victims of dictators and have to escape from their country.
    Some time I just wonder if the Latinos were not encouraged to come here because the risk of that they can have left political ideology…….
    When the ALP come to power things changed.

  26. Jack Straw

    Howard was bad but why did people ever vote for Tony Abbott as Prime Minister is beyond me?He’s a bad dream.

  27. Jaquix

    John Howard also mucked up superannuation as it was intended. He opened the floodgates that made it another tax haven for the rich. They also started the Futures Fund which ensures their parliamentary pensions are very, very safe. What else its for Im not sure, but I remember having the impression it was for the future of Australia. Perhaps they meant mostly themsrlves?

  28. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Keitha @ 11.32am

  29. margcal

    I haven’t even read this yet but I’m immediately struck by the headline being far, far, far too kind to that amoral bastard, Howard.

  30. TREVOR

    Howard the WAR CRIMINAL

  31. ace Jones

    Howard was asked years ago at the signing of the biggest Gas contract Australia ever sold , ‘Would it not be wise to put some Gas Supply aside from the world market , just for Australia’s use’ . ” No, No” , came the reply ” That would stifle further exploration, besides this age of globalization ” (paraphrased quotes)

  32. Maeve Carney

    Oddly, a great many of the British people who voted to leave also did not claim that immigration was the deciding factor. Seems to be only the people who didn’t want to leave are tarring them with the racist brush. That label will only get you so far and it won’t help to understand the real reasons behind the vote to leave.

  33. Mark Needham

    “Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to reduce current”
    Wonder how this would have turned out if a different person had been presiding., someone, like, say, well someone other than a “Worker” orientated person?

    Also, to do/lose, $6000.00 per year is a bit of a stretch.
    There is a ‘calculator’ which indicates that, the retail sector, permanent and part time, is the worst hit.
    To be $6000.00 worse off, over a year, on a rough calculation, I would be working say 8 hours OT, being paid $31.00 per hour. On a 40 hour week, @ $31.00/hr, say $1300.00, per week

    Now my figures are not stretched as much as Ms Kearney’s.
    “How realistic is it to ask a worker to cut their pay by $6,000 a year?” Ms Kearney said.

    By adding it all up, a full time worker, working 40 hours per week, will go from $73,000.00 to $67,000.00

    Look, it all doesn’t add up, is what I am saying., but lets not some truth get in the way….

    Agree, that it is all buggered up. Maybe a FWC, enquiry into politicians pay etc, would also derive a meaningfull loss in benefits.

    Pigs Arse, it would.

    Head shaking,
    Mark Needham

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