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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

John Howard reminds us why he was such a disaster

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He’s not dead yet! Image Cloudcatcher Media.

It was former Prime Minister John Winston Howard’s 84th birthday last week, for which he was exhumed by News Corp to remind us all what damage he did to Australia, and will continue to do, given half a chance.

Mr Howard was ‘interviewed’ on this occasion by Janet Albrechtsen, a woman who has been variously described in the past as this country’s answer to Ayn Rand, a ‘right-wing rage machine’ and someone ‘who would die in a ditch to defend the Liberal Party’.

Like her idol John Howard, Janet Albrechtsen is a former lawyer who found it much more profitable to don the armour of the culture warrior. In 2005, Mr Howard appointed Ms Albrechtsen to the board of the ABC, an organisation she derided as a ‘Soviet-style workers collective’. In 2018 she became chair of the Murdoch-Rinehart funded think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

In their latest public conversation in The Australian, Howard and Albrechtsen focus on the forthcoming Voice referendum, with Mr Howard declaring that ‘it will go down significantly’, before getting back to what he always did best, instilling fear in Australians in order to bring out the worst in them, and drive them back into the arms of the Liberal Party.

Spreading the ‘Yes’ word, Mandy Nolan, NSW co-ordinator for the ‘Yes’ campaign, Charline Emzin-Boyd, and Catherine Cusack. Photo Tree Faerie.

Trick or treaty?

Howard suggests that PM Albanese’s ‘clumsy’ secret agenda is for the Voice to be followed by treaty and reparations. ‘The idea that a sovereign country makes a treaty with part of itself is just preposterous,’ he says. ‘It is constitutionally repugnant.’

Well, not to the Canadians or New Zealanders, but John Howard knows better, apparently.

He followed this pearler by declaring that ‘the luckiest thing that happened to this country was being colonised by the British.’ Why aren’t the survivors of smallpox, massacres, and stolen generations more grateful? It’s impossible to fathom, for Mr Howard. But the proposal for a new constitutional body adding to the national conversation is ‘not fair’ according to the former PM.

The fact is that John Howard doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to Indigenous affairs, or anything else for that matter.

This is the man who as prime minister couldn’t bring himself to apologise for the treatment of First Australians during his own lifetime, attempted to interfere with the National Museum’s presentation of historical truths, voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, abolished ATSIC (replacing it with nothing), and ignored the recommendations of the ‘Little Children Are Sacred’ report, while using that document as the pretext for the Northern Territory Intervention.

The prime minister we had to have? Helene Stikkel, Wikipedia.

His government amended the 1993 Native Title Act to give Indigenous people less right to negotiate, particularly on mining and pastoral leases, and refused to admit that genocide had taken place in this country, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Toxic legacy

While claiming to be on a mission to make Australia more relaxed and comfortable, in reality John Howard did the exact opposite.

He ruthlessly exploited the asylum-seekers on the Tampa for his own political advantage, brought religion into politics, did nothing about the emerging climate crisis, increased funding for private schools at the expense of public schools (likewise private health insurance), made it more acceptable to be publicly racist, and took Australia to an illegal and unjustified war in Iraq, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and making him a war criminal in the eyes of many, along with his mates George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

Eventually, he sent peacekeepers into East Timor, although it later transpired, via brave whistleblowers, that Australia was more interested in ripping off the region’s natural resources than helping the East Timorese.

On the positive side, Mr Howard brought in better gun controls after the Port Arthur massacre, and some would argue that the GST was also a necessary reform, even if the accompanying ad campaign made it impossible for many people to ever listen to Joe Cocker again.

While Paul Keating’s failings can be blamed in part for the resurrection from political death of John Howard, Howard can be blamed for Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, three acolytes who developed his negative, fear-driven approach to politics, even as they ditched the remaining skerricks of conviction that had humanised the cricket-loving prime minister.

John Howard benefited from being the incumbent at a time when the world economy was in a much better position than today, but the idea that his prime ministership is something Australians should feel nostalgic about is ridiculous, as is the notion that he has anything positive to contribute now.

Mr Howard abandoned his ‘economic rationalism’ by splashing cash in an attempt to save himself when the fear lever stopped working, then lost both his government and his own seat when the electorate woke up to him.

David Lowe
David Lowe. Photo Tree Faerie.

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.

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  1. I don’t disagree with anything here David and I could add a few of my own suggestions as to how the Howard era marked a downward trajectory in both Australian politics in general and the Liberal party in particular. Not least of which was the gradual easing out of any moderates which reached its apex at the last election.

    But Echo, did you have to use the reference to The Voice as a pretext for the inset of the photo of Mandy “leading the charge”? I’m familiar with the Graeme Richardson “Whatever it Takes” philosophy, but isn’t The Voice a sufficiently important issue not to be jeopardised?

    Btw, I believe Justine Elliot is also involved in the yes campaign but is appropriately vacating centre stage.

  2. David Lowe, spot on!

    ‘Honest John’, who gave us ‘Children Overboard’ – it was a lie; who gave us the Iraq War – it was illegal; who gave us the AWB ‘Weapons for Wheat’ Scandal; who gave us the Timor Leste / Greater Sunrise Oilfield spying scandal.
    ‘Honest John’, we don’t ever need to be taking lectures from him.

    • Joachim need for the reminder..with respect !
      Could you please remind us all and David ? who was in
      Government and presided over 1200 men women
      and children who sadly passed due to
      We are open for business on the high seas ..
      Short selective memories…!!

  3. The best thing that happened to Howard this year was to be present at Lords, in the Members ,when the men of the MCC showed the true spirit of Cricket.
    He fitted right in.

  4. Well said, as always, David.
    There’s more: John H. and Peter C. also squandered away billions of windfall dollars on middle class welfare including tax cuts for those that don’t need them – the legacy is still haunting us – think of stage 3 in 2024!! There was virtually no holy cow that was not slaughtered just to stay in power. The ‘greatest treasurer of all times’ was just a conjurer of waste for evil egos.

  5. Irrelevant who you have voted for
    Howard has been one of the most successful
    and world leader respected as Prime Minister
    in this nation’s history..along woith Bob Hawke
    Instead of bashing only Conservative governments
    Have a long hard look at the Dan Andrews in
    Victoria..seriously your impartiality is so
    Obvious..go work for the ABC ..

    • I contend Barton was our greatest PM, and his party did more for Australia than Libs and Labs ever have. But we don’t need to agree on everything.

  6. Dear Echo, I can understand if you are too ashamed to publish my comment – you should be. Bringing the Voice in on your efforts – as you have already done in a previous article where this photo was front and centre – marks a new low. Deplorable!

  7. Ok Moderator…..In my opinion…..Howard was a disaster. He should have sunk the boats, and legalised open carry. He is the reason I will never vote Liberal.

  8. Thank you David. There an interesting document to be found on the Australian Parliament website: “Truth overboard: 27 lies told by John Howard and counting”. ……….and he’s still doing it.

  9. “De mortuis nil nisi bonum”, “About the dead say nothing but good”. John Howard? Er, umm, let me think a minute… Oh, I suppose he did do the gun thing after Port Arthur.

  10. He is fundamentally a liar. Remember “No GST, ever. It’s dead.” ? Australian politics has become more and more deceitful and toxic…openly deceitful (an oxymoron for the moronic practitioners)…since Howard. And he was there at Morrison’s elbow whispering like Lucifer into his ear. Robodebt, has his fingerprints all over it : his hatred of the unemployed. The Liberals think he is a “statesman”. Perhaps the state of ego intoxication.

      • Barrow, yes, we didn’t have a “Carbon Tax”.
        We did have an Emissions Trading Scheme ( ETS ) which worked exactly as intended in reducing emissions – for the first time in our history.
        And part of the ETS package was the $’scompensation measures which covered the price increase impact of the ETS being implemented.

        So, Barrow, the point of your exclamations is what ?

        • No revenue from Resources industries
          Joachim..no funding universities
          Hospitals..roads ..welfare..this is real
          Joachim..not just some activists
          Talking the talk ..you will have to walk the walk …protesting Against your own Prosperity has consequences..
          With respect Joachim..

        • Now Barrow, I’ve explained this one to you before. This is not a new tax but the way alcohol has been taxed in this country for decades. I gave you all the references at the time.

          • That’s all good and well Lizardbreath
            This maybe the case ..however the
            Punters and iam one of them ..have had enough of these greedy governments
            Tax after tax after levies .. incidentally
            Way back when the Alcopop tax
            Was introduced for around 12 months
            To pay for what ..once that time frame
            Had lapsed..you think the companies
            Were in any hurry to ajust the pricing ?
            no they did not..infact they have reduced
            The Alcohol content..and still are charging
            More.. have ask many establishments
            Regarding this ..could not care less ..
            Don’t buy them was the answer..
            And i don’t…we are smashed in this
            Country for Alcohol taxes…!!

          • Barrow, alcohol is health killing drug, albeit a legal drug. So then, alcohol taxes perfectly reasonable to help cover the $’s costs of society’s alcohol use and abuse.

          • Thus, the tragedy of socialised medical etc, that spreads the consequences of individual choices to everyone, thus empowering little dictators pushing arbitrary regulation and taxation on the responsible majority.

          • I dunno Barrow it depends somewhat. I’m not into expensive imported spirits and certainly not alcopops.

            There is so much excellent Australian wine available at ridiculously low prices that I don’t begrudge paying a bit of tax on them. First world problem really!

  11. Good article David. Yes indeed!
    I remember his appointment of Albrechtsen to the ABC but in my opinion it is now in worse hands. Buttrose , Speers , Jennet. It’s a mini Murdoch publication now. Anyone who watched Insiders yesterday should be appalled that Sheridan gets a guernsey.

    • That’s right, the only opinions that should be heard on the ABC are those from the loony bin Left. “How dare” the ABC flick the switch to diversity and include a differing political point of view.

    • Hey Ken ..have another wine mate !!
      I pay for the ABC and as a shareholder
      I expect fair play for all political parties.
      not ONE conservative is employed by the
      ABC .. impartiality ken ? Bull !! insiders
      Has been run previously by far left labor
      Loving elites who spewed venom upon
      anyone remotely Conservative..get a
      Gripe on reality mate …

    • Greg sheridan ..is probably the most impartial
      Foreign political expert this country has seen !!
      Ken book in the to next instalment of Q&A
      You would fit right in with the selective
      Audience… impartial ? Of course they are ..

      • Funny how the ABC’s critics don’t mention the annoying ads & promos on radio & tv. pity the poor viewers/listeners. Only saving grace is that SBS is worse.

  12. A wonderfully encaptulated precis of an era that has affected us all and will require further voter diligence for some time to come.

      • He worked the best hip pocket nerve politics by mainly the over 50s. He certainly helped their super with big amounts to salary sacrifice and the best Self Managed Super! I have to admit that its fantastic to pay 15% tax on six figure income and hold the funds in a private company. Helped residential property owners and investors. . . Only need 500k to start one.

  13. John Howard is a total disgrace, a war criminal and a sleazy excuse for a man.
    However, the idea of having a ‘treaty’ with the acknowledged most criminally disposed group of violent child abusers and domestic violence perpetrators is ludicrous.
    In spite of enormous resources being allocated to the diversion of these criminals from proper judicial penalties and a separate ‘court’ system where they are tried by their relatives, they still occupy the position of, by far, the majority of offenders in our criminal justice system.
    These people hunt protected Green Turtles, Dugong and Plains Turkey on an industrial scale and inflict tremendous damage on the environment
    These people refuse to take responsibility for their actions and demand to have equal, or indeed greater political control of this nation, although their numbers only amount to 1-2 % of the population.
    In order to deserve a ‘treaty’ the first condition is that Australia must declare all-out war on them, and then IF they manage to fight to a stalemate then we might consider a treaty, as was the case with the Maoris and the Canadians.
    The fact is though this country was taken by uncontested and undeniable conquest over two hundred and fifty years ago. This outcome has been the greatest advancement in their living conditions in 50,000 years and conservatively speaking, at least doubled their life expectancy, introduced medicine, science and civilisation.
    Mostly this goes unacknowledged and not even understood.
    Cheers, G”)

  14. Howard without question is the most humiliated politician in Australian history. His litany of lies and policy failures, resulting in him losing the 2007 election and his own seat of Bennelong.
    “Australian history fact”, Australia has won 167 Olympic gold medals, the same amount of tonnes of gold, Howard sold at rock bottom price to balance the books. Costello later stated that he had to try and hide money or Howard would waste it. The IMF found the Howard Govt twice was the most wasteful Govt since federation! The Howard record! People often debate whom was the worst PM, Howard, Abbott or Morrison. Many say we would never of had the last two, if it had not been for Howard? Just remember we would never have had any of them if it wasn’t for the misinformation of the corrupted Murdoch media LNP protection racket!

    • Just another Delusional rant … how many
      Terms did the punters return howard for ?
      as voted by the punters ..kevin 07 by the length
      Of the Flemington straight was the worst
      Prime Minister this country had voted in
      Unfortunately..my opinion !!
      Protection Racket ? For the Labor Party Tweed ?
      The No 1 seed ..the ABC odds on !!

      • In 1996 Howard won by not being Paul Keating, despite pretty much agreeing with everything Keating said – the never ever GST!

        In 1998 Howard again won narrowly despite Labor outpolling them in the two-party preferred vote. It was about where the cookies crumbled.

        Anyone wondering about the 2001 election should absolutely read David Marr’s book “Dark Victory”. Yes he’s a lefty but this book should be compulsory reading for all Australians.

        In 2004 Howard again won when the country was in the middle of a mining boom. The proceeds of this should have been enough to finance the Future Fund without having to sell the rest of Telstra. The windfall gave ample opportunities for middle class sweeteners.

        In 2007 we saw an end to Howard as, fortuitously “Kevin” rhymes with “07” and made great slogans and T shirts.

  15. I feel “very relaxed, and comfortable”. Thank you John Howard. I’ll also be voting No, and encourage everyone else to do so.
    Thanks in advance:)

  16. Howard worked for the wealthy the top 5% or so but he did share with the over 50s in particularly with generous tax concessions. SMSF was one great deal for a lot of well off! But one great example of his style was with East Timor and the gas royalty and the spying episode. The issue was about increasing Timor’s 10% royalities from the Greater Sunrise gas field in Timor waters. (most likely the reason Aus backed independence). The Timorese wanted a better cut but Howard was not going for it. He was working virtually for the giant oil companies. When the negotiations dragged on, Howard suggested the Aus taxpayer could make up the difference and let the oil cos keep their 90%. How generous with public money! The Timorese gov didn’t go for it knowing it would be reduced in future and stuck to their position and got a better deal. Too bad its a greenhouse gas but i would trust Timor to be more responsible over CO2 than Aus and the oil cos.

  17. I’m absolutely no Howard fan but I find the accompanying photograph very juvenile and distasteful. Truly, massive disrespect when everyone deserves some level of respect. What does it add to the discourse?

  18. How disgusting you all are. A publication that depicts a former great prime minister as they have is nothing short of treason. I would not expect any better from a small time lefty publication. Editor, it is not a good look. An apology to all of your readers should be given, no one especially John Howard deserves such denigrating treatment. You should be ashamed, it is not clever. It is so foolish.

    • Greg, you 100% right, ‘Honest John’ should be ashamed and apology indeed needed to the nation from our War Criminal / ‘Honest John’.
      The voters of electorate Bennelong and of Australia woke up, but years too late.

      A Royal Commission is needed into ‘Honest John’ and his illegal Iraq War, his AWB Scandal, his Children Overboard Scandal, his Timor Leste Spy Scandal.

  19. Difficult call, but I agree Howard was the worst. He is directly responsible for changing the Libs culture and enabling the idiotic ex-PMs Morrison and Abbott. Aided and abetted by the Murdoch media he took the Libs and Australia to the dark side. Began the mainstreaming of racist culture, began the culture whereby later federal & state Coalition governments swiped billions of dollars of taxpayers money for their personal re-election fund. He encouraged the takeover of the Coalition by misogynists and extremists, religious & otherwise. The Nats are now so crazy they didn’t even notice when they were infiltrated by neo-Nazi’s, I guess a closer look at some Libs might reveal similar proclivities. The Coalition doesn’t even pretend not to be racist-promoting the ridiculous No vote.

    The Coalition are truly unrepresentative swill. The best leader the Libs can conjure now is a dodgy ex-QLD cop channeling Voldemort.

  20. Lefty Editor. You reject any dissent towards the green radical leftards. Censorship happens in China mate, not here. You really should grow up and accept the contrary view, everyone sees through you.


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