The Howard Years

01 Nov

The first person I ever heard call John Howard a fascist – in fact a f-cking fascist – was not some wild leftie but a fully paid-up member of the Liberal Party and one-time parliamentary candidate who had been close, at one time, to the Fraser government. That was in 1985, long before Howard became Prime Minister. I do tend to avoid the term, as no matter what I may have thought later about John Winston Howard, I do know, just as a matter of fact, that he probably had little in common with the beliefs of Benito Mussolini, though it now appears they had rather too much in common in style.

So it would appear from the coming ABC documentary series, which The Australian seems to endorse today — given that in the colour supplement John Lyons avers that under Howard Australia experienced the closest it has ever come to one man government.

The four-part series The Howard Years follows 20 hours of interviews with Howard and more than 180 hours of interviews with key players in Australia and overseas. Australians will get a sense of how deep the relationship was between Bush and Howard – in Bush’s words it was “forged in fire, the fire of war”. They will also see just how Peter Costello appeared to be stabbed by Howard on so many occasions. And they will get a sense of the excitement felt upon winning government…

The series reveals how three of the biggest decisions of the Howard years – the “Pacific Solution”, the GST and East Timor – were decided with virtually no consultation with Cabinet. The Pacific Solution caused controversy around the world: here was a government literally outsourcing illegal arrivals. At the time Australians may have assumed it was a carefully developed response to asylum seekers. But Alexander Downer says Howard told him: “Go and find someone who will take them.”…

SOME LEADERS FINE-TUNE; some aim just to survive. John Howard reshaped Australia. The Howard Years shows that Australia for 11 years was as close to being a one-person government as is possible in this country. He decided on a course, then brought along the one or two other people whose portfolio it was. Then, as if government were compartmentalised, he would move on to the next issue and the next key player he needed to enlist. Cabinet and the public service, the program reveals, were frequently cut out…

Whether Kevin Rudd has learned some bad lessons from his predecessor remains to be seen…

I always suspected that we were enduring the values, attitudes, fetishes and world-view of John Howard being imposed on us with at times a very heavy hand indeed during those years, and on my blog often railed to that effect. Some of that railing I have subsequently removed when I cut down the archives a while ago, but plenty remains, as a search via the John Howard tag here or on Floating Life Apr 06~Nov 07 will show, or a search of Ninglun’s Specials which takes you to some older entries included on the pages there. See also Ninglun’s Journalspace.

I was far from relaxed and comfortable about all this, far from it. I am glad he has gone.

On the documentary itself, this is interesting. It includes a video preview. The series begins on 17 November. It should be said that the series was made with the cooperation of John Howard so it may be possible for his supporters to read it differently from me; that this was indeed a radical government does come through, however, according to John Lyons.


One response to “The Howard Years

  1. James Russell

    November 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Personally I suspect that the mere fact it’s an ABC documentary (even if it did have John Boy’s co-operation) will be enough to send Howard’s fans into howls of derision without even watching the thing. After all, if it’s an ABC production, then by definition it has to be a left-wing beat-up and attack job.

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