The fact that the Liberal Party consider John Howard some sort of elder statesman with great knowledge to impart, the fact that they wheel him out every election like he has some relevance to the contemporary electorate, shows just how bereft of ideas they are.
The blame for pretty much every problem we have can be sheeted squarely at the feet of the Howard era, exacerbated by his disciple, Tony Abbott.
They squandered a once in a lifetime windfall. They sold off our assets. They privatised essential services and utilities. They introduced unsustainable tax concessions that skewed investment away from productive enterprises. They gave huge tax cuts to corporations and high-income earners.
They used refugees as political pawns. They changed the marriage act. They insisted on religious chaplains in state schools. They instigated the Northern Territory Intervention and refused to apologise for the Stolen Generation. They sent us to war in Iraq based on a lie.
Despite a pre-election promise to match Keating’s increases to the Superannuation Guarantee, Howard immediately reneged.
They introduced Workchoices which undermined job security, workplace entitlements and wages growth.
Between 1999 and 2005, federal funding for public schools increased by $261 per student compared to an increase of $1584 for each private school student.
Howard’s government corroded Medicare by misdirecting money into tax deductions for inefficient private health insurance.
Infrastructure spending was arbitrary, reduced to porkbarrelling in Coalition and marginal seats.
The public service was politicised and the independence of the ABC attacked.
They torpedoed the referendum on finally getting an Australian head of state.
After negotiating to be one of only three countries permitted to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, they refused to ratify it. Ever since his defeat in 2007, Howard has spent his time pouring scorn on the “alarmist” scientific consensus on global warming, comparing those calling for action on climate change to religious zealots – a line often repeated by Abbott and Pell.
The Howard legacy was to suck the country into a vortex of power, privilege and greed where ambition, self-aggrandisement and the pursuit of wealth have replaced integrity, public service and acting in the best interests of the nation.
In 1996, Keating said “When you change the government, you change the country.”
How right he was. But undoing the Howard legacy will be a huge mountain to climb for any government.