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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!


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  1. […] Gerard Henderson is known for romanticising the Howard era in Australian politics, to the extent of quite a trite hissy fit about The Howard Years. I hope he remembers that Howard’s historical significance is still an ongoing […]

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