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Howard’s Golden Years

Do you remember how good life was under the Howard Government? How we were all made to feel safe from terrorists and boat people? Remember too that we had a media – and Howard himself – incessantly tell us how lucky we were? Remember how good the economy was and remember having that message drilled into us? Ah, they were all part of the golden years.

Ministers could be sacked or toss in the towel without a media scandal ensuing. Any Government hiccups weren’t a national headline or publicised as glowing evidence that the Government was in turmoil. In the golden years, the Prime Minister could even wear glasses.

In those days the media let the Government do its job and told us what a good job they were doing.

Aren’t we lucky that Tony Abbott wants to lead us back to those days?

But before you start reminiscing for those days long past let’s recap on the finer points of Howard’s Golden Years before we decide if we really want to return to them.

Blogger Cuppa has compiled a list of the highlights, taken from a parliamentary speech by Senator John Faulkner, 22 March 2006 when Faulkner recounted a list of the scandals, lies and intrigue that were the real highlights of Howard’s Golden Years.

We remember:

  • Minister Jim Short was forced to resign for failing to divest himself of financial interests in his area of ministerial responsibility.

  • Industry minister John Moore was exposed for his shareholdings in technology investment and share-trading companies.

  • Parliamentary secretary Brian Gibson lost his job because of a conflict of interest.

  • Small business minister Geoff Prosser was running three shopping centres while he was a Minister and he was forced to resign. (Geoff Prosser resigned in July 1997 following the disclosure that he was a shopping centre landlord while he was responsible for commercial tenancy provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1975).

  • Resources minister Warwick Parer had massive share interests in a coalmine and in other resource companies; he stayed, in breach of the Ministerial Code.

  • Acting Minister for Communications Peter McGauran forgot that he owned 70 poker machines.

  • Employment Services Minister Mal Brough promoted training courses which were actually Liberal Party fundraisers.

  • Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was involved in a complex scam to rort GST rebates from Liberal Party fundraisers.

  • Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron kept up his practice as a surgeon, in breach of the code.

Mr Howard himself was found to be in breach of his own code when he failed to resign as a director of the Menzies Research Centre.

Mr Howard misled the Parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss – massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the Government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer.

And there’s more:

  • Parliamentary Secretary Warren Entsch’s concrete company won a massive Government contract in breach of the code.

  • Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as Defence Minister.

  • Health Minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as Health Minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

  • Senator Coonan, as Minister for Revenue, avoided paying a land tax. She was then exposed and forced to resign as a registered director of an insurance dispute resolution company operating from her own home.

  • Wilson Tuckey, then Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, heavied a state police minister on behalf of a family member.

  • Parliamentary secretary Bob Woods retired from politics when he was under police investigation for travel rorts.

  • Communication minister Richard Alston’s family trust held Telstra shares.

  • Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.

  • Three ministers – John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran – were forced to resign as a result of travel rorts involving false claims, mismanagement or cover-ups.

  • Parliamentary Secretary Bill Heffernan was forced to resign over fabricated claims against a High Court judge.

What else have we had over the past 10 years? Ten years of public policy failure. A partial – very partial – list would include:

  • The massive pork-barrelling of the $1 billion Federation Fund program.

  • The scandal over the budget leak about MRI machines.

  • The development of a culture of assumption and denial in DIMIA while Mr Ruddock was minister for immigration, which the Comrie report called failed, catastrophic and dehumanised; the wrongful and scandalous deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon.

  • The wrongful and scandalous detention of Cornelia Rau at Baxter detention centre.

  • The utter incompetence of Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dana Vale over roadworks at Anzac Cove.

  • The rorting of the $500 million Regional Partnerships program, with massively disproportionate grants being allocated to Coalition seats – not to mention the Tumbi Creek and Beaudesert Rail scandals under the same program.

  • Support for the training of scab labour in Dubai to work on the waterfront and the use of dogs and security guards in balaclavas during the waterfront dispute as waterside workers were sacked under the cover of darkness with the loss of all entitlements and, in some cases, personal possessions.

Of course, the Prime Minister introduced the GST after promising he never, ever would.

  • The Howard Government have sponsored many attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the courts, including repeated slurs by Senator Heffernan in this chamber and in Senate Estimates.

  • They scrapped the free Commonwealth dental health scheme for low-income people.

  • They put back the cause of reconciliation irrevocably by refusing to say sorry to the Stolen Generations.

  • They blurred the line between church and state by the disastrous appointment of Archbishop Hollingworth as Governor-General of Australia.

Within days of coming to office, the Howard government sacked six departmental secretaries and have since politicised the public service so that officials will never offer frank and fearless advice. In fact, the Government have encouraged a culture where advice of any kind from a public servant is not welcome.

  • They have increased Government staffing of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries from 293 when they came to office to 430 now, many paid above the salary range.

  • They cynically manipulated public sentiment about asylum seekers for political advantage.

  • They refused to sign the Kyoto protocol to deal with our greatest global environmental challenge – climate change.

  • They sponsored attacks from the former Communications Minister Richard Alston and from government backbenchers over alleged ABC bias while making partisan appointments to the ABC Board.

  • They introduced draconian industrial legislation to strip away the hard-won rights of Australian workers.

  • They introduced the flawed Pacific Solution, which has seen detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island remain open without any detainees.

  • They have allowed an Australian citizen, David Hicks, to be held overseas without charge or trial for more than four years and left him to face a highly flawed tribunal process without making any efforts to ensure he will have a fair trial.

Then there was the dithering over preferences to One Nation, giving succour, as a result, to Pauline Hanson and tacit approval of her racist views.

  • There was the billion dollar bungling of major defence upgrade and acquisition projects. There was the massive blow-out of $2 billion in the Commonwealth’s Consultancies Bill.

  • There was the complete fiasco of the family tax benefit debt trap, which has slugged millions of Australian families with over $1.5 billion in debts.

  • There is the fiasco of child-care shortages and the broken promise of the Government on the child-care rebate.

  • We have had the Minister for Health and Aging, Tony Abbott, presiding over private health insurance premium hikes, which have totally absorbed the government rebate.

  • We have had the plunge in bulk-billing rates and the breaking of the Health Minister’s promise not to increase the Medicare safety net threshold.

We really have seen 10 years of sleaze, deception and manipulation. We would be here all night if I had time to list every sorry exploit of the Howard Government, but I do not. A mere sample includes:

  • National Textiles, the company headed by the Prime Minister’s brother, Stan Howard, which was bailed out by the government to the tune of $4 million.

  • The infamous Peter Reith telecard affair.

  • The lies and deceit of ‘children overboard’.

Then this nation was committed to war in Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction while the Government claimed that they were not aiming for regime change in Iraq.

But when the government’s claims about weapons of mass destruction proved false, of course regime change became the justification for the war in Iraq. Never before has an Australian government sent our troops to war and lied to the Australian people about the reason for doing so.

We had Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty heavied for doing no more than stating the obvious about the increased terrorist threat in Australia after our involvement in Iraq.

  • We have had public servants and senior defence officers forced to take the blame over the Government’s denials about their knowledge of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

  • We have had an unprecedented amount of public money splurged in advertising campaigns – as the Auditor-General has reported – to promote Liberal Party policies in the lead-up to the last three federal elections when the Howard Government was in office.

  • We have even had the government write the name of the Federal Liberal Party into electoral legislation on 33 occasions to strip the Liberal state divisions of public funding. They even now use the Parliament for their own dirty factional work.

Despite the farcical denials that we have heard about Senator Hill’s appointment, he is about to become the 18th former Liberal Party politician to be appointed by the Howard government to a plum diplomatic post.

Mr Howard perverted the accepted definition of an election promise. He broke promises willy-nilly but just redefined those broken promises as ‘non-core’ promises.

What about the Nixonian leaking of a classified document to Andrew Bolt in order to politically assassinate its author, Andrew Wilkie, while not vetoing the leaker from contesting a Liberal Party preselection ballot?

We also had a situation where Mr Howard’s government engineered the sleaziest of deals with a former Labor senator, Mal Colston, to promote Colston to the Deputy Presidency of the Senate in return for Colston’s vote on crucial legislation. How low can you go? Just recently, we had the unprecedented gagging of public servants before estimates committees.

Kickbacks to Saddam.

Mr Howard himself, his senior minister, and his entire government have turned a blind eye to kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime to ensure wheat sales. At the same time, we had Mr Howard self-righteously proclaiming that Saddam Hussein is a ‘loathsome dictator’. They turned a blind eye to our single-desk wheat exporter, who practically became the banker of the Baath Party in Iraq. Who knows where that money ended up? Who knows what it paid for?

What we do know is that, under the Government’s own terrorist legislation, if someone acts recklessly and funds turn up in the hands of terrorists, the guilty party is subject to life imprisonment. You go to jail and they throw away the keys if you recklessly engage in an action under our terrorism laws where financial resources end up in the hands of a terrorist. Let us see what happens in relation to the Howard government, which has acted as Saddam Hussein’s banker.

Of course, all these sins mean nothing to the Howard government. After all, how can they repent what they cannot recall? This Government, and its hand-picked sycophants, suffers from the worst case of collective amnesia in medical and political history.

What are the bywords of the Howard government? ‘I cannot recall,’ ‘I don’t recollect,’ ‘I wasn’t informed,’ ‘I can’t remember,’ ‘I have no recollection of that.’

Best of all, we had Trevor Flugge of AWB fame claiming, as his defence, that he is hard of hearing. It seems to me the whole of this government is hard of hearing. They are certainly deaf to the cries of conscience.

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34 comments

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  1. Cuppa

    Feeling honoured by the recognition, Miglo. But the credit really should go to Senator John Faulkner who did the spade-work.

    Will just add, that not only did Howard lead the most scandal-prone government we’ve probably ever seen. His was also the most wasteful government in the last 200 years, as this report by the IMF shows:

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/hey-big-spender-howard-the-king-of-the-loose-purse-strings-20130110-2cj32.html

    What a shocker that bloke was! And Abbott wants to recreate that! Tell him he’s dreaming.

  2. Catching up

    Migs, if not hard of hearing, very selective in what they heard.

    What about Reith’s behavior in the wharf dispute. His advice on how to get around labour laws, advising them to set up shelf companies, moving employees to these companies that has no money.

    Helping to train a replacement workforce in the middle east. The list just goes on.

    Good but you only scratched the surface.

    Ms Roxon said they wasted much time in Health, cleaning up the errors of Abbott. I assume she includes among that, the hospital he bought in Tassie.

    The PM said this morniong, they have had to work hard to elieminate the structural problems in the budget, left by Costello,

    PS Pyne ask to recall his comments todays by our new AG. Dreyus sounds like he is serious. Pointed out that his comments are deeply offensive to the Jewish community.

  3. Catching up

    PS. I believe any advisor would have made sure that Howard and Co, were not told anything, they did not want to hear.

  4. tom tesoro

    we, the people, should be ashamed as human beings for electing such ‘people’ but not too much as the extent of assisted subterfuge and deceit would make the cia smile!

  5. Kevin

    And Chris Pyne and The Media well blame Labor, for Howard and his Minsters and others especially the current Abbott Opposition not being sneaky clean, as they think and claim.

  6. John Lord

    About sums it up I should think.

  7. Buff McMenis

    Either he’s dreaming or the rest of us are in for a nightmare a la the Newman Noxious Nutcase Queensland, Cuppa and Miglo!

  8. thisisseriouscom

    Looking forward to never hearing about any of this ever again. Thank You a compliant and lazy Australian press.

  9. Justine Clarke

    I also remember John Howard creating a huge divide between public and private education by stating that public school teachers don’t teach values; an insulting and completely false slur that we are still trying to recover from.

  10. reb

    I remember WMD and being “alert but not alarmed.”

    I remember Bronwyn Bishop as “Health Minister” wanting to re-introduce cigarrette advertising and presiding over nursing homes that gave the elderly kerosine baths.

    I remember Little Johnnie promising to keep us all safe from those nasty tewwowists..

    MInd you Julia’s starting to trot out the same old “we will keep this nation safe” rhetoric with the cyber-security hyperventilating nonsense.

    Someone should tell her that we don’t scare that easily anymore.

  11. Ricky (Tory Torcher)

    Yep that would just about cover it, glory days indeed.

  12. Min

    Also to be remembered is that Abbott was only ever a part of Howard’s B-Team..and that it’s Howard’s talentless B-Team who have a good chance of forming the next government.

    Justine..my less than favourite from Howard was installing the idea that greed was good, that user-pays equated with that those who were wealthy worthy were “deserving”..Howard’s (yetch, bletch!!!) A-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N-A-L-S.

  13. Tom of Melbourne

    Fine, there’s a dearth of talent on the Liberals. Nothing unusual there.

    So who are the rising stars in the ALP?

  14. lmrh5

    Reblogged this on lmrh5.

  15. Truth Seeker

    Migs, Fools gold is just another Abbott con, and thats the kind of gold that we really got from Howards golden era 😯 👿

    Sadly there are still those that look with longing at Howards fools gold 🙁

    Cheers 😀

  16. jayanar

    Bob Woods knocked off a capable, popular and honest Michael Maher in the seat of Lowe helped by a dirty tricks campaign where Catholic voters had flyers placed under the windscreen wipers of their cars while they attended Mass telling them that Maher supported abortions because he had supported an amendment to the Medicare schedule permitting the funding of a surgical procedure when a partial miscarriage occurred (from memory)

  17. james

    oh, and we’re just so much better of now aren’t we… no scandals or ministers behaving badly these past 2 parliamentary terms…

  18. Kevin

    And oh James, there is no scandals within The Opposition or Members behaving badly because you are a Abbott Supporter? Well let fresh your memory closed to reality? Opposition Members being taken to court for Fraud, Drink Driving, Slander, Shop Lifting and Members and their party wanting to shoot The PM, called her a bitch, witch, compared The PM to Hitler, wanting to bring a Government which is Treason etc etc etc

  19. Kevin

    wanting to bring DOWN a Government which is Treason

  20. reb

    How should we execute them?

  21. Miglo

    Bury them under a car park. 🙂

  22. dyoll09

    Reblogged this on AZIAZONE.

  23. Adam Ziemski

    Ok, so the Howard government wasn’t perfect, no doubt about that…. BUT some of the claims are clearly wrong and misleading!!! For example, the whole GST issue, well, he actually took it to the election, and WON!! Whereas Gillard (AFTER she knifed Rudd in the back) clearly stated “the will never be a carbon tax under a government I lead”… and what does she do, introduce the tax straight after the election (which btw she didn’t actually win, but managed to weasel her way into a minority government by introducing the tax and pleasing the greens). Now… did Howard or anyone in his government ever do that?? No!!! Did anyone knife Howard in the back and force him out? No!!!!

    Granted, there were scandals (eg, the war in Iraq, the telecard scandal, etc), I admit that… but at least they delivered a surplus, and at least Health was better back then (even though the free dental scheme was cut back), and Education, well, about the same as it is now overall… but under the Howard Government, life was much better overall, and the cost of living was actually cheaper than it is now!!!

    And to end, if you think there are no scandals or bad governing with the current Labor crop, you are wrong!!! The Pink Batts affair, the whole wasted education funds on school halls, but not where needed, and of course over the last couple of years (at least the last 12 months), all the infighting over leadership! And not one budget surplus in the last 5 years, despite promising it year after year!!! This Labor Government is a joke!!!

  24. Ex-Liberals Member

    I guess being a Liberal Supporter, Adam has memory lost when it comes to Liberals doing wrong? Like Howard went to The Election saying there well never ever be a GST, Howard Workchoices,Abbott accepted a form of Carbon Tax, Abbott knife Turnbull in the back to become Opposition Leader, Abbott who supposed to be a Liberal voted for Labor in the 1988 NSW Election, Australian Wheat Board, WMD’s, War on Iraq based on lies, Members of The Liberals unlike Craig actually being charged with crimes etc etc

    (But Adam is right for once, the cost of living is higher now, thanks to The never ever GST)

  25. Ex-Liberals Member

    Hey if Liberal Supporter like Adam don’t like The Carbon Tax, blame Abbott as his party help pass it and don’t hold out for things you don’t like.putting your hand out for money from economic stimulus package.

  26. kaz the cook

    The above is Howard’s biggest crime!.

  27. kaz the cook

    ENDURING COURAGE & THE BRUTAL TRUTH
    Schapelle Corby is innocent of any crime. This isn’t an opinion or a proposition. It is a fact. It is a proven fact.

    Since September 2011, The Expendable Project (www.expendable.tv) has been publishing cables and correspondence from within the Australian government itself. These are conclusive. They not only confirm her innocence, but they prove that government ministers and the AFP wilfully withheld life critical primary evidence from the human rights breaching court. They prove that ministers misled Parliament, and lied directly to the public. They prove that they guided the media to misrepresent and to smear her.

    Let’s be clear. There is no ambiguity. The items published are self-evident in nature. The culpable are exposed by their own hand, in writing. But none of this has been reported by the Australian media. None of it.

    Meanwhile, in Indonesia, a series of transparent and open abuses have been perpetrated.

    The harrowing nature of the trial itself was only the beginning. There followed a clearly racist sentence, with Supreme Court research demonstrating that this was a high multiple of that given to any Indonesian for a similar marijuana offence. Then there were the lost remissions, using artificial or wholly manufactured rationale. There were officially endorsed prison invasions by intrusive media, tormenting the now mentally ill victim even further. There were forced displays for public curiosity and prison PR. There was the refusal to allow hospital transfer as her condition deteriorated, even with her left lying semi-conscious on a squalid cell floor for days on end, after an overdose: a failed suicide bid.

    There have been too many other appalling incidents to list here, but most are documented on The Expendable Project’s website.

    THE DISCRIMINATORY PAROLE SCANDAL
    Then came the parole: as soon as she applied, the parole system itself was suspended for foreigners. Hardly coincidental… just another routine abuse for Schapelle Corby, endorsed by the shameful silence of her own government, and the appalling cover provided by the flagrant paper-thin smears produced by the Australian media.

    Schapelle Corby is, and always has been, on her own. She is threatened, persecuted, abused, discriminated against, and subjected to an unbearable mental torture, which is impossible to conceive.

    The Australian government, which has a duty to protect her, is instead wholly concerned with maintaining a policy of appeasement, and hiding a truth that penetrates to the very core of the establishment hierarchy: that truth being that Schapelle Corby is innocent, and that Australian politicians and agency appointees have always known it, but have buried the proof. They have buried it for the self-interest and investment reasons documented by The Expendable Project. They have buried it for commercial and political expediency, and to protect their own. Human empathy doesn’t extend to a working class girl, for the Australian ruling classes.

    Can this viper’s nest of cowardice and corruption get any worse? Yes, it can.

    THE FALSE CONFESSION
    We now learn that there is a brand-new condition to be applied to enable parole to proceed, freshly introduced in the wake of Schapelle Corby’s application.

    To be granted parole, it appears that Schapelle Corby must make a false confession.

    That’s correct. There is another spurious requirement in town. This courageous, broken, diagnosed mentally ill woman, must write a pack of lies, spoon fed to her, to get the human rights abusing Indonesian judiciary, and the corrupt and cowardly Australian establishment, off the hook.

    She has to sell her honesty, her decency, her integrity, her soul, and they might just let her live.

    That is the reality of what she is facing.

    She is facing the brutality of two complicit regimes, to whom words like justice and human rights have no meaning at all. She is facing a grotesque medieval demand, with no-one to turn to, as she lies sedated under psychotic medication in her filthy cell.

    But the truth is her last hold on reality. She has clung to it from the very first day her nightmare began, through every torment, through untold anguish. She has never loosened her grip.

    Even this very week, she was repeating a mantra to her own mother “I shouldn’t be here mum. I shouldn’t be here mum. I shouldn’t be here mum. I shouldn’t be here mum….”. She shouldn’t be there. Those responsible for this stain on humanity should be there instead.

    They want to destroy what is left of her. They want her silenced. They want her voice contaminated so that no-one will ever believe the truth she speaks. They want the material published by The Expendable Project to be damned and to be buried.

    All that stands in the way of them successfully perpetrating this crime against humanity is Schapelle Corby’s enduring courage, and you. Stand up and fight for her, as you would your own daughter, sister, or mother.

    She has no-one else.

  28. kaz the cook

    Google Expendable Project all the proof is there, hundreds of documents obtained via freedom of information.

  29. Suzanne Harman (@SuzanneHarman1)

    Howard was a coward, overseeing curroption and crime within his own cabinet. When the research of The Expendable Project finally breaks, he will be exposed for what he is.

    He and the collective scum which comprised his ministers sold an innocent life. One day they will face justice. They can count on it.

  30. Suzanne Harman (@SuzanneHarman1)

    Here is the evidence which will damn the coward: http://www.expendable.tv

  31. Ex-Liberal Supporter

    Sorry I thought this forum about Howard and his and his party wrong doing, not to bring up stuff up on Schapelle Corby claiming she innocent of any crime.

    And forget and don’t worry about fighting for the other Australians in overseas prison’s especially those in Indonesia like The Bali Nine where they are also threatened, persecuted, abused, discriminated against, and subjected to an unbearable mental torture.

    Now back to Howard and his wrong doing.

  32. Ex-Liberals Member

    Remember how prices was lower under Howard, before he raise them thanks to his never ever (G)et (S)tuff (T)ax.

  33. Suzanne Harman (@SuzanneHarman1)

    Just because you don’t want to face it “Ex-Liberals Member”, the crimes against Schapelle Corby are certainly “his party wrong doing”.

    “Don’t worry about fighting for the other Australians in overseas prison’s especially those in Indonesia like The Bali Nine “… and don’t YOU forget that they are guilty of the crime they are there for. Schapelle Corby is innocent, as Howard’s cronies knew. But of course, the attitude in your post shines through… an attitude that says you haven’t even read the Howard government cables on that website.

    The “stuff” “on Schapelle Corby claiming she innocent of any crime” is the entire point. It was “stuff” hidden by the Howard regime from the Bali court.

    That is “wrong doing”, it is serious and it is bang on topic for this article, whether your prejudice allows you to see it or not. She is being slowly killed through crimes which were committed in Australia by Howard’s regime.

    The facts are there for more open minded people to see. The ministerial correspondence is there to see. Black and white, but unreported by the closed dysfunctional Aussie media.

    For all those who DO wish to understand the magnitude of this scandal, which I see as possibly the most fundamental for the integrity and honour of the nation itself, go to the front page (www.expendable.tv) and having watched the film. read the reports on the right.

    Start with the Transit Report. Read in there the exchanges between Ellison and Keelty. See for yourself exactly what they did. See the life critical evidence withhed. See the misleading of Parliament and the public. See the political agenda and the self interest which drove this atrocity.

    This issue could not be more serious, for Australia as a nation, It is pity that some citizens prefer to throw stones at the tortured victim, rather than face it.

  34. Brent

    Didn’t Howard also give millions of taxpayers dollars to his brother to support his brother’s business, despite it not meeting the criteria to receive such funding?

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