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Ode to a Rodent

John Howard – how this clusterfuck started

God save the queen

And bless all her palaces

Johnny was stuck in a time-warped paralysis

Back to the future is where we should be

Chaplains in schools and WorkChoices macht frei


Summers of cricket

And white picket fences

Bugging East Timor with no consequences

Men at the coal face and women in kitchens

God’s in his heaven; to hell with Chris Hitchens


The blacks should be grateful

There’ll be no notion of ‘sorry’

There’s just bin nights and bingo in his grand oratory

Mabo got land back but not on his watch

He’d rather die in a ditch, take a kick to the crotch


Then came the Tampa

Laden with distraught refugees

Said Little Johnny “they’re all killers and thieves”

FUD and dogwhistling and throw in a wedge

For the coming election brown folks were his best hedge


Planes into buildings

He couldn’t believe his good luck

At the bombing of children he would give not one fuck

He got out the atlas to locate Iraq

This was the keys to The Lodge to be handed him back


But the electorate awoke

And kicked his arse to the kerb

It was our national conscience he’d no longer perturb

Now his future’s uncertain, a little bit vague

But if karma’s a bitch he’s got a date at The Hague

* * * * *

Every election, without fail, the Tories turn on the heating in John Winston Howard’s crypt and trolly his defrosted, cadaverous presence around to jape and jolly for the cameras with their candidate du jour. To many this is not unlike exhuming a long-forgotten egg sandwich at the bottom of a pre-teen’s schoolbag. Or finding your weirdo old neighbour indulging in hand-to-gland combat on your nature strip. But for the posh north shore ladies and the Mercedied Toorak bankers and the Kings School born-to-rule old boys he’s Tory royalty.

John Winston’s a shrivelled little man with a petty little mind. In Paul Keating’s assessment he was “a shiver looking for a spine to run up” and he’s still Mungo MacCallum’s more earthy but equally on point “unflushable turd“. Or in the words of the Tories’ own – a “lying rodent” who’s “mean and tricky“. These apparently are the characteristics of Liberal Party iconography.

Our own diminutive Maggie Thatcher in drag Little Johnny didn’t want to keep things as they were. He wanted to send us back to the ’50s and beyond – a land of curtain twitchers and the cultural cringe, of portraits of Betty Battenberg hung in every classroom, church on Sundays (preferably Anglican), the missionary position, doffing of caps to our betters, busted unions, closeted gays and doclie, out-of-sight indigenous folks. It’s to the country’s credit that he failed at each.

Howard, like any die-hard conservative, sees the world through his own cozy lived experience and lacks the intellect to imagine anything outside of it. ‘Relaxed and comfortable’ was his grand ambition for the country; bland and beige as in his oxymoronic manifesto of 1950’s nostalgia – Future Directions.

“I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about their history; I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the present and I’d also like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the future.”

This explains his appeal to the fogies, young and old, in the leafy surrounds of the Tory heartlands. When your biggest problem is your over-chlorinated pool then a new cabana boy is all the change you want. Howard’s achievement was to convince tradies and suburban travel agents and Jim’s Mowing franchisees that with him in office then they too could one day employ their own pool guy.

Howard’s legacy is two-fold.

Australia’s Big Lie. The highest taxing, highest spending government in our history was carried along by the Hawke/Keating reforms to spawn the enduring myth of the Tories as better economic managers. They dine out on it to this day.

And his awfulness laid the groundwork for two horrendous successors – a badly shaved yowie in red sluggos and a failed marketing spiv who gets career advice from an eagle painting. Abbott’s style was to burn everything down, Morrison’s is to watch it burn.

To be fair to Little Johnny there were other accomplishments:

  • The lie-detecor destruction test of core and non-core promises
  • Entrenched middle class welfare
  • Punitive industrial relations
  • The move further right – flushing any talent down the drain should they give any hint of less than enthusiastic endorsement of RWFWittery
  • His AWB wheat for oil crimes
  • His East Timor bugging crimes
  • He killed the republic referendum
  • He finessed dog whistle politics
  • He’s was a dedicated practitioner of propaganda not persuasion – “stir emotion, scapegoat the innocent, enforce group identity and arouse suspicion without evidence*”
  • He provided a character reference for George Pell.

When you see him wheeled out round the Tory fundraisers and media it will confirm an election date is imminent.

*How Trump, Elon Musk and Gwyneth Paltrow short circuit your ability to think rationally. Business Week.


Image from (Photo via Twitter: David Marler / ‏@Qldaah)

Related readings wherein he hasn’t been called a c***:

if we judge Howard by his own standards as a reformer, there isn’t a great deal to show for his lengthy period in office“. John Winston Howard: The Biography. Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen

John Howard. A study in policy consistency. M.L.Murry. A long read of 355 pages. But interesting.

Where ‘mutual obligation’ began: John Howard’s paradigm shift on welfare. The Guardian

In truth, Labor is the superior economic manager. Craig Emerson Economics

John Howard. A study in policy consistency. M.L.Murry. A long read of 355 pages. But interesting.

Where ‘mutual obligation’ began: John Howard’s paradigm shift on welfare. The Guardian


This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    All true and barely enough. Howard was always a self-centred, desperate, fixated, repressed, mediocre deviation from any healthy normality. He had to be noticed, accepted at length, never having friends and not wanting them. Loud-mouthed outbursts of absurd ambition drove him, and, he made much of it happen, by endless scheming, nagging, recruiting, stealing credit, plotting. Saved and blessed by debating, he discovered that one could “win”, even though ridiculous, irrational, underwhelming. A debate could be furious fantasy, and fun, with truth or logic unimportant; Howard learned that truckloads of bullshit and criminal plotting were ways, among many, to “win.” Useless at most things, a sporting sicko dud, a non-intellectual rote learner to “get on,” a nobody suburban lawyer, probably unable to read a contract, draft a bill, understand logic or reasoning, he exploited general stupidity levels be appearing to know something, He has always stolen ideas and work, to appear “someone.” A huge blot on Australia’s political reputation, he is only saved a little by the vomitous vole Abbott, the Great Manly Masturbator, and by Morrison, the lazy liar from pooshire. Howard apparently controlled a Canterbury B H S reunion in 2006, to exclude the unwanteds, me among them, having gotten a shitload at the 1996 one. If Jack Howard had a shield or crest, it should be a huge malodorous stain on a ragged nappy, a symbol of childishness and putridity in actual performance. (I knew him from age 15. He got worse…)

  2. Terence Mills

    John Howard says Kevin Rudd’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations was an ‘an empty gesture’. He says he didn’t support a formal apology to the Stolen Generations, which Kevin Rudd delivered in 2008, as it was an “empty gesture” and “meaningless”.

    Sums up the man !

  3. corvusboreus

    I seem to recall that, when Howard was PM, his main stated reasons for opposing any official reconciliatory statement of apology were legal trepidations.

    Apology admitting guilt proving liability, or something similar
    (with a dose of fear of squatocratic disinheritance chucked in).

    Nice to know that such ‘concerns’ were either non-core confection or misguided notion, and that mainly Howard felt that the gesture of saying words so many people craved to hear would be essentially empty and meaningless coming from him.

    I guess he’s kinda right on that.

  4. Ross

    You have a way to describe the indescribable GG.
    That poisonous little cane toad John Winston Howard.
    The lying rodent to his friends.
    The unflushable turd on a porcelain monument to the rest.
    Most of us thought nobody could be as bad as little Johnny, how wrong we were.
    Abbott followed by Malcolm followed by Morrison.
    Jesus wept, more of the same and worse after Morrison gets knifed.
    Where does the Liberal Party find these specimens?

  5. Eve

    Wasn’t it his government that introduced negative gearing, so turning homes into investments and increasingly pricing the less wealthy out of the housing market?
    In turn, there is less security for those who cannot afford a house. Younger people are more reluctant to embark on having children, which changes future demographics. Peter Costello urges larger families, ignoring his government’s part in making famllies less affordable.

  6. Colin Ford

    A political and moral pygmy.

  7. Ray

    Thanks to JWH and his “workchoices”, half the workforce is now employed on a casual basis. No holiday pay, no sick leave, no public holidays.

  8. totaram

    Eve: Costello’s part in making housing less affordable was a little more complicated, so people don’t quite understand it. Under Costello, the household debt of Australians rocketed from around 50% of GDP to around 150% of GDP. Naturally this was for housing, whether owner occupiers or “investors”. Basic accounting tells you that a huge increase in private sector debt makes it easy for the government to “deliver surplus budgets”, when trade surpluses don’t do the trick. I know this is very hard for most people to understand, although it is just arithmetic. Why should I rewrite things when Wikipedia has already done it?
    I know most people can’t be bothered to read and understand the link, but that’s life.


    There’ll be a queue kilometres long of Howard’s ‘admirers’, waiting patiently, to piss on his grave, when he finally gets to where he belongs.

  10. Gus

    Grumpy offers political cartoons in text.

  11. Eve

    Thanks Totaram

    Lacking any background in economics, I found this enlightening

  12. Canguro

    This ‘comfortable and relaxed’ wish of the Rodent is troubling, per its contextual relationship to this country’s history vis-a-vis post-colonisation, present circumstances and the future.

    The thrice-uttered mini-mantra defies reality at every step of the temporal way. Post-colonial behaviour of the usurpers in regard to their relationship with the indigenous inhabitants has left a legacy as every bit as awful as any other example of dispossession to be found on the planet; North America, and its southern neighbour, Africa, Asia, Oceania… the list is long and damning, and spans centuries of iterative cruelty and domination and subordination by force, humiliation, murder, genocide, indifference to suffering.

    It’s shameful, and I’m ashamed; my genetics firmly Anglo-Saxon, and, potentially, my forbears if not actively involved may well have cheered on the process of subjugation. (On a side-note, a photo exists of my paternal grandfather, who was somewhat of a silver-spooner, being born into a privileged & influential family of Adelaide architects, showing him seated in a rickshaw being pulled by a half-naked Zulu in Durban around the turn of the 19th C).

    Howard would have been aware of Australia’s troubled past, but he chose to deny that and preference his nostalgia for the picket-fence and an FJ parked in every driveway, and bugger the Aborigines – better to not think about them at all – not white like us, heathens to be frank, and lazy, useless. What an awful creature he is, along with his brow-beating harridan of a spouse.

    As for the present, 1996 – 2007 per his tenure, as the Geezer has noted, the extent of his impact upon the nation scarred the national psyche; demonising refugees successfully (Hitler & Goebells would be proud of his aping), fearmongering, lying, destabiling, social thuggery and on & on. An utter bastard, unfit for public office… what the hell was the matter with us that he got to rule for 11 years, that we were gulled into his delusional vision?

    And the future? As per the past, he would have been briefed, extensively, about future projections; economic, climatic & ecological, demographic, social… what substantive measures were put in place to safeguard and ensure appropriate responses to future demands. What happened to the ‘future fund’ – that massive war-chest of revenue accrued per mineral royalties? Pissed up against the wall? Lavishly splashed in selected electorates to retain seats? Off-shored into tax havens and accessible only to retired LNP apparatchiks?

    To be frank, I hate the bastard, knowing that he lied & lied & lied; that quavering little voice of his expressing the venality of his outlook and his poorly-concealed contempt for the ‘battlers’ he professed to bat for.

  13. GL

    Whenever I hear his name or see his horrible little goblin face all I can think of is Little Johhny from How Green was my Cactus and the episode (way, way back in time) where he kept falling through his pool floatie and had to be rescued several times.

  14. Kathy

    I was wondering why they had this prehistoric dinosaur on the tv the other day.

  15. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, that post of yours about Howard and aged care is still getting heaps of traction on Twitter. Hardly a day goes by without someone tweeting it.

    Kathy, after Howard lost the election and his seat in 2007 he promised to stay out of politics, not even to comment on it. Another broken promise. He hasn’t kept his mouth shut for more than 15 seconds since.

  16. Andrew J. Smith

    Howard has managed to escape any proper form of public scrutiny no doubt thanks to our media oligopoly running protection for his ‘legacy’, whatever that was?

    Opening the door for Kochian radical right libertarian ideology with ‘weaponisation’ of the IPA, loosening of media constraints supporting Murdoch and importing of Tanton (Bannon’s muse) Network dog whistling and denigration of all things non Anglo-Irish, ‘post 1970s immigrants’ and using (inflated) population/’immigration’ as a supposed ‘environmental’ feint as a diversion from global warming, fossil fuels and related constraints.

    Worst of all, the Liberal Party lost its Victorian ‘jewel in the crown’ by Howard taking the LNP further to the right and what appears to be his strong antipathy towards the ‘Massachusetts’ of Australia for being ‘liberal’, backgrounded by his cosying up to the US and the UK i.e. his constant remarks leading up to the Republic Referendum when he promised not to.

    Quid pro quo, who can forget that wonderful hacked car phone conversation of Peacock and Kennett in Melbourne 1987 where they described Howard? His legacy?

    The LNP are now ‘owned’ and reliant upon media oligopoly running protection, while remaining (sensible) policy free….. except for ring fencing above median age vote for easily managed gerontocracy.

  17. Glenn K

    Howard did one good thing and only one good thing. He changed the laws on gun ownership after the Port Arthur massacre. That’s it. Rest of it was a selfish shit-show. His biggest contribution to the decline of the Aussie spirit was his “dob in a neighbor” advertising blitz post- 9/11 terror propaganda war.

  18. Bert

    When/if we get a federal ICAC (or whatever you want to call it) with teeth and powers to investigate retrospectively the unflushable turd might actually be flushed.

  19. Consume Less

    ‘ Be alert not alarmed ‘ was another one of those slogans reeled out post 9/11. Fear mongering Howard style.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Oh yes….February 2003

    Over the next fortnight every Australian household will receive a letter from the Prime Minister, a booklet and a fridge magnet on how to help the Government combat terrorism.

    But they can’t send us RA tests.

  21. corvusboreus

    Strong on terror, 20 years on.

    Greens senator Lydia Thorpe recently responded to fire damage to the doors of old parliament by describing such as ‘colonial structures burning down’.

    She was firmly rebuked by Senator Brigette McKenzie, and justifiably so.

    However, the hoplophilic 2IC of the NATS seems blissfully ignorant of far worse rhetoric coming from within her own ranks.

    George Christensen, NATs member for Mackay, has repeatedly broadcast violently threatening images and themes (eg George pointing a pistol and inviting hippies to make his day).

    Recently George took a flight to the US to appear on ‘Infowars’ (which is banned from most media platforms due to host Alex Jones calling for the murder of the deputy director of the FBI) and called for America’s extremist underbelly to gather in rage outside Australia’s embassies.

    Brigette has remained very coy concerning the consistently incendiary rhetorical agitations by the member for Manila.

  22. wam

    The lying rodent stint in treasury left a huge debt for labor. In 96 keating copped the blame for a debt 50% of which was Howard’s. The rodent then sold gold, airports and Telstra to clear the debt.
    He wasted a boom time that could have obviated his ‘selling’ spree and set up an economy that would have justified the praise he so undeservedly gets from the clp stalwarts.
    He is a bastard in the nastiest sense of of the word and the worst man to sully our parliament.

  23. Kaye Lee

    The lying rodent’s history on superannuation should be remembered too

    In 1985, he described the deal between the government and the ACTU which saw the trade union movement forfeit a claim to 3% productivity improvement as wages to instead be paid in compulsory superannuation as “a deal, which represents all that is rotten with industrial relations in Australia, shows the government and the trade union movement in Australia not only playing the employers of Australia for mugs but it is also playing the Arbitration Commission for mugs”

    In 1996, he promised to match Labor’s scheduled increase in compulsory super from 9% to 12% and eventually to 15% – a promise he nixed barely six months after winning the election saying it was too expensive.

    But the real kicker came in the election bribes of 2007…..

    The majority of workers could now withdraw their superannuation tax-free upon reaching the age of 60. Most self-employed can claim their superannuation contributions as a tax deduction. In addition, semi-retired people can continue to work part-time, and use part of their tax-free superannuation to top up their pay.

    Despite the relatively generous tax treatment of capital gains, the new superannuation tax treatment led to the selling off of some assets, particularly rental housing, as people sought to take advantage of the opportunity to add funds to their superannuation accounts and claim them back later tax-free.

    People were allowed to transfer up to A$1 million into their superannuation accounts before June 30, 2007, after which an annual maximum of A$150,000 of after-tax contributions could be made. The effect of this change in the rules was enormous. In the June quarter of 2007, A$22.4 billion was transferred to superannuation accounts by individuals. This compares with A$7.4 billion in the June quarter of 2006. June 2007 was the first time in Australia that member contributions exceeded employer contributions.

    Howard hated workers getting paid super but he loved using it as a tax avoidance and wealth enhancement scheme for rich people. Just like negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts.

  24. Roswell

    This is the gist of it.

    Insanely true.

  25. Mark Shields

    It was John Howard who taught us how to hate! And thanks to him we’ve been hating ever since! We now know that we all (must) hate Muslims, Environmentalists, Leftists, LG…’s, anti-coal F-Tards and anyone who supports looking after our environment! If I lived in another (anti-corpoorate age), I might think this was all just Bally-Hoo or propaganda… But I realise now, there is no satire/humour able to overpower this disgusting bunch of international autocrats! We mere citizens have utterly lost any right of protest and due to our apathy will never hold any democratic voice in the future!

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