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Sins of John Howard

The Sunday Age points out in an article and in an accompanying editorial just what is wrong with John Howard.

Well, Howard never personalizes things and never insults people and this has had a devastating effect on ‘public debate, once so volatile and imbued with invective and now so seemingly narrow’. In fact Howard uses ‘the national interest’ as a foil rather than ‘his personality or aura’. It is disgraceful.

The editorial points approvingly at how Paul Keating drove the national debate into unpopular areas such as cultural policy and the (rejected) republic. He also did a fair bit for inflation, public debt and unemployment. I was always grateful to Paul for helping me to understand my cultural identity. But for all their faults I am confident the Australia Labor Party can provide lots more vision and it has capabilities in personalizing debate and insulting people. A veritable conga line of invectiveness?

My question though. Where does one buy a decent Sunday newspaper in Melbourne? I haven’t seen one for years.

Update: I was tacked in the comments section below over my claim that giving the RBA monetary independence had been a major achievement of the Howard Government. Alan Wood in ‘The Goldern Years’ (in N Cater (ed) , The Howard Factor) supports my contention and sees the change as significant. At a press conference in 1995 Peter Costello said:

‘…that monetary policy would be the responsibility of the RTeserve Bank and there won’t be any sort of midnight calls or pressure or boasting, as you’ve got from Mr Keating on how he pulls the levers’….

Alan Wood goes on to remark:

‘This was a watershed in the conduct of monetary policy bin Australia. It formally gave the RBA policy independence and ended the practise of consulting the government of the day before making interest rate changes…’

‘This independence has been particularly important…For the politician (low) interest rates are the target, which is precisely why central banks need independence’. (page 74)

11 comments to Sins of John Howard

  • Robert Merkel

    That’s a pretty shallow reading, Harry.

    Keating was famous (or infamous) for his partisan invective, but he also pushed big ideas on to the national stage in a way that JWH doesn’t. Those two properties of Keating’s leadership were not the same thing.

  • hc

    Robert, Paul Keating made some important microeconomic reforms that helped the Liberal Party achieve good economic outcomes. Nobody denies that.

    But my guess is that he would have slammed the interest rates on in relation to the housing boom and the current account crisis. He would have given us another ‘recession we had to have’.

    I also believe Keating had an overly high regard for his own worth. Pushing big ideas is not enough – you have to be right most of the time when in public office. I prefer Howard’s cautiousness and am totally uninterested in any politician telling me what my personal values should be. The Australian electorate have emphatically endorsed these sentiments over 3 Federal elections.

    JWH has given the RBA independence and we have much better outcomes. And that’s a big idea that also paid off.

    The Age article I discussed identified use of invective with broad-mindedness and of relying on depersonalising arguments and not insulting people with being narrow.

    This is just foolishness. The difficulty wasw that the csilly views expressed by a journo who wrote a poor article were endorsed by the editorialist.

  • Robert Merkel

    OK, I’ll grant you that RBA independence has turned out to be probably a good idea, though do wonder about your sanguine view of the current account. I also suspect that Keating would probably have done it in fairly short order had he retained office; independent central banks are pretty much the norm round the Western world now.

    As to value-pushing, I think we’ve had plenty of value-pushing from the Liberals over the past few years. Witness the history wars, the constant redirection of funds to Howard’s favoured family form – marrieds with stay-at-home wives,JH’s views on appropriate literature texts, Nelson’s ARC razor gang, the overriding of the states on gay marriage, the constant association of himself with our military traditions…and it goes on. Howard has helped make “elite”-bashing a national sport and as a card-carrying member of that supposed “elite” I think the implication that it’s depersonalized is erroneous (though lieutenants have carried out most of the dirty work of attacking specific people rather than Keating’s frontal approach).

    With respect, I’d suggest that you might not be noticing the value-pushing because you’re not the group whose values are being attacked.

  • Bring Back EP at LP

    Harry The RBA was already independent in everything but law when Bernie Fraser was governor.
    So in essence Harry you don’t know what you are talking about!

  • hc

    Good morning Homer, Nice talking to you. So the law was changed but no difference. I wonder? It was only an example but I think an important issue. The recently-released Howard Factor compendium’s economics contributors do not agree with you.

  • Anonymous

    Harry,
    Ian McFarlane seemed to think the high interest rates of the late 80’s was the RBA’s policy not Keatings.

    Bernie Fraser made his decisions independant of Keating just look at the rate rises of 95.

    to think the RBA would have acted differently under Keating is silly.

    Mind you that is different to thinking a recession is what Australia needed then!

  • hc

    Robert, I think one point to my comments is that I am tired of the personal attacks on JWH. The Age article suggests he is a febble-minded twit and, by implication, anyone who supports him is the same. If you think about it this is really an elitist slur on the successive majorities of Australians who voted for him.

    I disagree with many things JWN has done – e.g. his university policies and slowdown in aspects of the economic reform process – but the attacks on him have become unbalanced.

  • Bring Back EP at LP

    I agree the attacks on howard are tiresome but I am always amused by most of the people who say this ( not you Harry) as they were how can we say it caustic critics of Keating

  • civitas

    Is this evidence of HDS (Howard Derangement Syndrome)? Perhaps an unwelcome import from the US?

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