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Monthly Archives: November 2008

I wrote an email to Gerard Henderson in response to his review of the first two episodes of ‘The Howard Years’, ABC, Broadcast November 17 – Dec. 8, 2008. I was surprised that Henderson felt that the ABC simply did not possess the professionalism or objectivity to do a documentary about Howard.

Is antipathy and suspicion of the ABC really so deep amongst Howard’s apparatchiks ? Henderson, like Howard, appears appalled that anyone should even critique Howard. Is this attitude the ingrained arrogance of born-to-rule plutocrats, the echo of the ‘Big Bang’ of Howard’s paranoia still resonating through the Universe of Australian Liberals or just the instinctive desperation of political operatives like Henderson to spin any comment about their boss, the womb-like source of power and prestige?

And the funniest thing is that ‘The Howard Years’ is about as rough on Howard as the 1950 Grange Hermitage supped by the inner sanctum at the 2004 Election Victory Party.

Dear Mr. Henderson,

I watched the first two episodes of ‘The Howard Years’ then saw your article about them on the web,

I was curious about your attitude that the Liberal Party should not provide access to the ABC for the purpose of researching documentaries about the Liberal Party, and that the ABC is the ‘opponent’ of the Liberal Party.

“the Liberals make it possible for their political opponents to frame their history. It all seems pretty stupid to me.”

I really think you are too worried about not much.

Should only Channels 7,9 and 10 be permitted to tell us the Howard story? Is documentary by the cheer squad the only valid form of documentary ? In a liberal society shouldn’t we welcome critique by those who hold different viewpoints ? Isn’t this actually the best way to demonstrate the validity or superiority of one’s position? Is the ABC really so biased to actually be the Liberals opponent ? Are Channels 7, 9 and 10 any less free of bias ?

I also find your view of the ABC and Fran Kelly really too jaundiced.

“This despite Kelly, as presenter of the Radio National program Breakfast since 2005, being unable to disguise her opposition to the Howard government on a series of issues – most notably foreign policy, national security and aspects of social policy.

In a recent interview with the News Limited journalist Erin McWhirter Kelly acknowledged that “lots of” her past interviews with Howard had been “confrontational and tense”. It’s hard to remember Kelly being consistently confrontational and tense with leading Labor politicians, including Kevin Rudd. Enough said.”

What does it matter if Kelly is in general disagreement with Howard. All things being equal that will make her questions tougher and therefore better. Can’t we have any confidence in her professionalism as a journalist? Is Ray Martin really the only one we can trust to treat Howard fairly ?

Having viewed the first two episodes, Howard comes out very well. His most embarrassing moments (Children Overboard, The Anti-Hanson Trust Fund) are not included. The Shane Stone Memo issue was barely pursued. Very little is made of his merely tactical approach to One Nation and nothing of his demonisation of the Iraq/Afghani Boat People. Nothing was said about Senator Robert Hill’s attempts on Howard orders to derail Kyoto.

Howard comes out looking great on Gun Control and East Timor and is portrayed as a conviction politician on the GST and Tampa. None of Howard’s Labor or Green opponents have even spoken yet. Meg Lees was complimentary to him and only mildly critical of Costello.

Gerard this whole thing is a breeze for Howard!! Quite frankly it could well have been made by Ray Martin. If this is the worst of the evil ABC at work you have very mild ‘opponents’ indeed. The Howard Years, as you say, is a ‘harmless product’.

Best Regards,


There’s a fun comments thread on the Howard Years at Lavartus Prodeo. And another (much weaker) one at Blogocrats. New Matilda has an article and comments. Watch the wild femo-nazis slug it out with the neo-con Daleks of the Sydney Institute as they battle for the true meaning of THE HOWARD YEARS! Roll up! Roll Up!

I wrote to Dr. James Arvanitakis, whose essay formed the impetus for my ‘UnAustralian’ Post of last week, telling him I had used his stuff. He was kind enough to reply:

Hey Barra,

Thanks for the note… I appreciate the feedback…

I am waiting to see the next use of UnAustralian… could be around the corner. but who knows?

I am planning an essay called

Post-UnAustralian: feeling lost in a post-Howard world

I will let you know how I go

Great site by the way

Cheers, james

James Arvanitakis, PhD
Honours Coordinator
Member of the Ally Program
Humanities and Languages
University of Western Sydney

Ahhhh. I’m a sucker for praise.

Former Prime Minister John Howard spent a good part of his time from 1996-2007 magisterially decreeing this or that idea or group or attitude or (frequently) the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be UnAustralian.

Are You UnAustralian ?

An immensely grateful legion of underemployed Australian Humanities professors were thus able to justify their sickly, parasitical existence by producing screeds of books and articles examining just what Mr. Howard actually meant by UnAustralia(ns), what it could mean for decent Australian society to cohabitate the wide brown land with the filthy-ne’er-do-wells of UnAustralia and how to prevent more boatloads of UnAustralians from blackmailing us into accepting their cancerous and arrogant presence into our peaceloving, tolerant and uniquely egalitarian gulags midst.

Where Is UnAustralia ?

I recently found this corker of a website devoted to the whole subject of UnAustralia. Its a funny and serious examination of John Howard’s UnAustralia and its political/cultural implications. Many thanks to the pinkos and bludgers at The Cultural Sudies Association of Australasia who devoted their 2006 Annual Conference to this subject while woofing back hogsheads of taxpayer-funded Chardonnay.

Since I too am a pinko taxpayer funded bludger I’m gunna blog their entire flamin’ conference here. It’s too funny and good not to.

UnAustralian History

Someone with the obviously made-up name of Dr James Arvanitakis provides some education about the history of the term “UnAustralian”. In his(?) crackingly good essay “…why I am an internally displaced person” he informs us that the first recorded use of the term “UnAustralian” was in 1855 and was then used as a compliment to mean “British”, popped up again in 1925 as a perjorative to describe militant labour, in the 1930’s to tar and dehumanize wogs and communists and latterly under John Howard to demonize (and here I am being quite serious) anyone who wasn’t John Howard.

Meet The Proprietor Of UnAustralia
UnAustralian is really John Howard’s word. Prior to 1995, Media Monitors recorded only 86 usages of UnAustralian ever, soaring to 406 usages in 2000 and 571 usages in 2004, John Howard being personally responsible for fully one-third of the 2004 output. I think it is fair to speculate that most of the remaining usages were discussions of what Mr Howard meant by UnAustralian, rather than new Market entrants attempting to snare a piece of the UnAction.

Thus entering 2005 with total domination of the UnAustralian discourse, Mr. Howard then delivered his most screamingly funny utterance ever. The then Prime Minister told the UnABC:

“I think the word un-Australian is used too indiscriminately by people who disagree with what somebody else is saying or doing.”

Yes, Virginia, he really said that.

Continuing, oblivious to the gut-busting insane laughter of journalists chewing their own legs off in hysteria he THEN said

I think we should treat the description of our country and our national identity with a bit more common sense…

AAARGH STOP IT STOP IT (pounds own head with concrete block)

It’s not an expression I would use carelessly

MERCY! MERCY!! I’M BEGGG BWAHA-HA-HA AAAARRR (the revolver quick hand me the revolver)

and I think people who want to criticise the government should find a rather more appropriate, a rather more genuine expression that that

HE’S STOPPED Ah He’s Stopped. ah ah ah … (the heaving silence of exhausted hysteria fills the night)

I Am You Are..No Scratch That… I AM, I AM I AM Oztrayliun (and you’re not).

At this juncture let us remember how Mr. Howard thinks of himself:

Q. How would you describe yourself?

A. As a person somebody very much with quintessential Australian values.

John Howard, interviewed on ‘Four Corners’, “An Average Australian Bloke”, broadcast 19 February 1996

John Howard thinks HE is quintessentially Australian. This is why HE can correctly determine who is UnAustralian and others can not. John Howard, according to John Howard, is the embodiment of Australian-ness. Those who disagree with him are thus, by definition, UnAustralian.

Chill Winds

It is amazing to think that anybody could be so arrogant and misguided to believe that they can infallibly define what is and isn’t Australian. To have such a person as the Prime Minister is a social and cultural disaster waiting to happen. A Prime Minister who is prepared to identify, as Howard did, various groups and ideas as hostile to Australian runs the risk of inflaming mob sentiment against those groups and those who express ‘UnAustralian’ ideas.

As Robert Manne puts it, Howard was comfortable with allowing a hostile populist wind’ of bigotry and chauvinism to blow up through the gullies and suburbs of Australia. I once lived near a Brewery. When the wind blew across the fermentation tubs, a very sour odour filled the district. By giving Pauline Hanson Prime Ministerial protection for the ignorant and bigoted comments she espoused, Howard allowed sour air to fll the lungs of the Australian people, much to the pleasure of many. Yet Australia did not descend into a maelstrom of race hatred. How did we avoid it ?

(see Robert Manne, “John Howard” in ‘Left Right Left: Political Essays 1977-2005’. Original in Age/SMH March 2002)

Avoiding Sour Fruit

Carol Johnson argues that Howard de-emphasised race, particularly Aboriginality, in the 1998 elelction campaign as he had already secured his anti-Aboriginal-Industry bona fides by the passage of the Wik legislation. This legislation, which drastically curtailed or extinguished Native Title claims in favour of Pastoral and Mining interests, along with Howard’s public comments on Wik and Native Title, provided ‘[reassurance] to potential Hanson supporters of the government’s credentials on Aboriginal isues’ and allowed Howard to move on to campaign on economic issues, specifically the GST and its associated tax reforms.

Howard, in his masterful cunning, claimed he was not interested in arguing with One Nation about race (why would he ?- he agreed with them on these issues). In this way, he could allow One Nation to run his racial agenda for him while pretending to be morally above it, or more specifically, engaged in addressing deeper issues that would dissolve racial distrust.

Howard knew that the underlying reason for Hanson’s support was the general feeling of economic insecurity felt by her support base. (The Weekend Australian 13-14 June 1998, cited in Johnson) . So he ran the GST as the central plank of his economic management electoral pitch, confident the Hansonites would recognise his racial credentials and hopeful they would support him on economic management. Howard claimed his strategy to defeat One Nation was ‘to offer the Australian people something better (i.e. in providing economic prosperity and protecting jobs)’ (Howard, Transcript of Press Conference, Parliament House, 30 August 1988) . Kim Beazley and the ALP had decided on a ‘small-target startegy’ for the 1998 election and thus conceeded the agenda-setting role to Howard. In this way, the 1998 election became an election about GST and the economy rather than race.

see Carol Johnson, “John Howard and the Mainstream”, in “Howard’s Agenda: The 1998 Australian Election”, Simms M. and Warhurst J., (eds), UQP, St. Lucia, 2000

Beyond Here There Be Dragons

It is interesting to speculate how far Howard would have allowed race to develop as an issue in the absence of Pauline Hanson whom Howard used to do his dirty work for him.

Howard would not have allowed racial invective to become the overt message of his campaign. Had he done so the electorate would have deserted him in droves except perhaps for 23% or thereabouts of the voters in Queensland and somewhat less in the other states.

But Howard is not about race hatred, just 50’s Anglo bigotry. His denigration and defunding of multiculturalism, his head-in-the-sand approach to the Stolen Generations issue, his opposition to the ‘Aboriginal Industry’ and Native Title and his denial of any moral element to the question of Aboriginal Reconciliation mark the limits, I believe, of his racial thermometer.

Furthermore these beliefs of Howard’s are driven by identity issues, not race per se, along with hip-pocket considerations (feared compensation payouts), economics (future of the Pastoral and Mining Industries) as well as a genuine philosophical commitment to an overarching Australian Nationhood as opposed to a Federated nationhood. Howard thinks that even the Australian States are irrelevant and that they both obscure and dilute the effectiveness of our national effort; so for him the concept of Aboriginal self-determination and Land Rights is a travesty, hindrance and offence against Australian national action, identity and interest.

As Judith Brett has demonstrated, Howard is a genuine member of the Australian mainstream and he does possess its virtues as well as its vices. Beating up Asians with four-be-two may have been part of the Eureka Goldfields, but it no longer has any place in the Bell Curve of the Australian Psyche within two (non-)standard deviations of the Manuka cafe district. Howard has done many morally retarded things as Prime Minister but I can’t imagine him inciting race war…except for that matter of the Cronulla riots.

The use-by date of the Chicken Tonight Mango Ripple cook-in sauce I bought today is June 2010. Strewth, that’s a whole new DECADE. The kind of preservative they put in that stuff is more effective than cryogenic suspension.

Which got me thinking.

What say I bought up big on Chicken Tonight Mango Ripple, stashed it in the cellar along with the victims of my serial murder rampage until say 2025.
It’d still be …err… fresh as a ..daisy …kind of, well let’s say unchanged, anyway; then I could advertise it on E-Bay as like “Classic Retro Chicken Tonight original Mango Ripple flavour for TEN TIMES what I paid ($3.99 per jar)!!!


In your face, Global Economic Downturn.

Since the Republican Party believes that Obama is a Muslim Terrorist (or at least both a Muslim and a Terrorist) I assume 46% of Americans now live in icy fear as they await the firestorm of bombings that will surely engulf the continental United States now that Obama is safely elected.

Unless that was all just a loathsome smear campaign.