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Tag Archives: John Howard

Maximum Nasty

Here’s an incident from the 2001 Federal Election that shows John Howard’s nastiness to maximum effect. Specifically, it shows how Howard incited racially-linked fear and prejudice in the electorate for political advantage.

I record it here as a way of giving more publicity to the insidious poison that Howard leached into the mainstream during his tenure as Prime Minister. Truly a nasty little era.

The incident is related in Mungo MacCallum, ‘Political Anecdotes’, 2003, p. 274, the original source being Peter Charlton in Solomon (ed.) Howard’s Race (2002) pp. 127-128.

The Terror Of The Boat People

“As Tom Allard of the SMH reported after the election, ‘It was past deadline for most papers so The Courier-Mail’s political editor Dennis Atkins had his laptop computer open and was showing his fellow reporters the front page splash the Brisbane newspaper was running the next morning. The article…began: “Australia had no way to be certain terrorists, or people with terrorist links, were not among the asylum seekers trying to enter the country by boat from Indonesia, Prime Minister John Howard said

The article went on to say that Howard had linked terrorism and Australia’s border protection stance for the first time. It paraphrased Howard comparing the current situation with the end of World War II, when Nazi war criminals had slipped into Australia.

As Howard passed by, Atkins showed the story to him. ‘Good’ Howard said, ‘Excellent’

‘Excellent’. Yes in a hateful kind of fear-mongering way. Howard’s definition of excellent.

David Marr also records the Howard-Atkins incident described above in his book on Howard’s 2001 election campaign, Dark Victory

Let’s Give That Another Run

Samantha Maiden of The Australian recalled the Atkins article in her piece ‘Terrorists On Boats Claim Date Back To Howard” in Oct. 2009 as she reports on the shameless Wilson Tuckey rehashing the old bile in relation to contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

Record Muslim Immigration Under Howard

It is sometimes claimed that Howard cannot be racist and does not hate Muslims because a record number of Muslims entered Australia under conventional immigration programs during his tenure and Howard did not ban or compromise Federal Funding of Islamic schools (e.g Paul Sheehan Still a Land Of Fair Go Despite Fabrications) To my mind the facts referred to by Howard’s defenders only succeed in making Howard’s culpability worse.

Howard does not specifically detest Muslims more than he does against any other non-Anglo (apart from his general mistrust of any non-Anglo or less than fully assimilated aussified immigrant), except that Muslims are associated with 9/11. But Howard actually knows that the vast majority of Muslims are as sensible, peaceful and law-abiding as anybody else.

So Howard is 95% as content to allow Muslims to immigrate to Australia as any other low wages immigrant. After all Immigrants are a necessary part of Australia’s low wages unskilled and semi-skilled economy. Anglos on the whole are too proud to clean toilets or take comparable low wage, low status jobs. Business needs these people and Howard is a servant of the Business class.

But when convenient Howard uses Muslims as community scapegoats for political purposes. In other words Howard uses people as objects of his ambition. People are instrumental vehicles to him, means to ends. He doesn’t hate Muslims or Chinese particularly. He’ll just use abuse, discard, embrace, scapegoat, or exalt them in whatever form serves the interests of J. Howard Esq.

And that’s an offence against basic decency.

Why Australia Is Obliged To Accept Refugees

Boat people, however, are not conventional immigrants. They are refugees. Refugees have internationally-recognised legal status under The United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 to which Australia is a signatory. Because we signed the convention, we are obliged to accept refugees.

[T]he term ‘refugee’ shall apply to any person who…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his [sic.] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.
– Refugee Convention, Article 1(A)(2)

As Robert Manne explained in his excellent essay from 2004“Sending Them Home” The United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 was created as a consequence of the fate of Jews before World War 2 and displaced persons immediately following World War 2. Jews unable to flee, or returned to, Nazi Germany were of course liquidated. As Stalinism spread across Eastern Europe similar tragedies occurred with many innocent persons seeking to escape totalitarian rule.

Thus the convention was created as an act of good conscience by nations supporting liberal democratic principles and basic justice and humanity.

Thus recognized, Howard’s de-facto rejection of the 1951 Refugee Convention is an act of a deeply mean spirit. And Howard’s specific comments above, where those fleeing totalitarianism are themselves described as the totalitarians, represent an inversion of the humanitarian spirit of the treaty. This is disgusting enough; but when we remember that Howard does this purely for political expediency we have come face-to-face with a souless man.

Howard’s Bare Point

Howard is a sneaky and deceitful person. And like all sneaks he uses even the truth where expedient to try to deceive. Yes, some Nazi’s did conceal themselves amongst the tide of legitimate refugees in order to escape justice, but to use this bare point as a justification for towing all refugess boats into the open sea is to focus on the gnat in the herd of camels. In usual form Howard is using fear to manipulate the electorate. That use of xenophobix fear for political purposes, so typical of Howard, is contemptible.

Watching the Liberal Party rend themselves to pieces over Climate Change this week I perchanced to pick up a paper I had printed out from the John Howard Decade Conference held at the Australian National University, Canberra, 2-3 March 2006.

This particular paper is entitled “‘You lucky, lucky bastard!’. The Extent Of John Howard’s Political Genius.’ by noted chardonnay swillers Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen. An extract appears on-line here under the far less spicy title of ‘Howard The Ideologue’

Errington and van Onselen note that Howard extinguished true liberals from the Liberal Party and sound a warning from the dark ages past of early 2006 that Howard’s suppression of moderates and championing of the ideological right within his party sharpened factional lines within the Liberals while concealing this division behind the whitewash of electoral success. They state that:

While this doesn’t seem to have done much harm in terms of the harmony and discipline of the party in government, a less successful federal Liberal Party may reap the whirlwind of the divisive practices of the Howard years.

And further:

The extent of damage caused by Howard’s factional warfare will only be known well after he has retired, and will likely cause some reassessment of his political skills

Got That Right

Well many congrats to Errington and van Onselen. The John Howard Decade Conference at elite feminist pinko bludger central ANU no doubt set international records for the consumption of taxpayer-funded Chardonnay, but also produced an Oracle for the future. Surveying the Liberal Party in advanced factional rabble mode must be causing Errington and van Onselen to emit quite a glow of professional satisfaction as their predictions settle nicely into history.

As the Lavartus Prodeo commenter, Katz, succintly put it “This is the end of the party that Ratty made.”

Nick Minchin is the perpetuator of the Howard example of ideological refusenik. Nyet! No stolen generations; Nyet! No multiculturalism; Nyet! No acknowledgement of any latent Australian racism; and now Michin’s contrribution Nyet! No climate change.

Minchin, like Howard, is chained to the past but Howard’s chains were cultural, not political. Howard at least gave lip-service to Climate Change, but Minchin is dying in a ditch on this and could take the entire party with him. Psephological analysis of the electoral devestation to be wrought on a Climate Change Denialist Liberal Party shows that the only electoral survivors will be those on the ideological right – leaving essentially a rump of old men sailing surely into an ideologically blinkered, though iceberg-less, oblivion.

The Taste Of Stale Rump

My contention that the Liberals will be left as a ‘rump of old men’ is based on polling that shows it is men and non-capital city dwellers that are Australia’s AGW Denialists according to this poll and analysis by Possum with the 55 yrs plus demographic easily the Coalition’s best demographic at 47.5% voter share vs. 38% across all voters as of 1st December 2009.

Surveying the electoral prospects of an AGW denialist Liberal Party, The Australian poll and article of Nov. 28 bluntly forecast “Liberals Facing Election Rout” due to metropolitan Libs deserting a Climate Change Denialist Lib/Nat coalition.

Part of Howard’s legacy then, his championing of the ideological right, may end up contributing to the consignment of the Liberal Party to complete irrelevance – a DLP that will slowly peter out of existence. To be fair to Howard, he was smart enough to know that Climate Change was a vote-winner and he wouldn’t have nailed his party’s colours to such an unsteady mast as Climate Change Denialism as Minchin has so foolishly done.

So while Howard elevated the right to dominance, it is Senator Nick Minchin, who, unlike Howard, has never faced the electoral pressure of a MHR will bear the ultimate credit or blame for the fate of the Liberals over the next election and beyond. I hope he enjoys the view from the ivory tower of his unloseable no.1 Senate ticket position.

The Minister For Sucking Up To Big Business

While Mr. Minchin inhabits an ivory tower of electoral invulnerabilty, that ivory tower remains within instantaneous contact of any Multinational willing to donate a few (million) quid to the Liberal Party. The Australian today reported that Mr. Minchin is not only a Climate Change Denier but also a Tobacco/Passive Smoking Denialist.

In the mid-1990’s Senatorpor Minchin dissented from a Senate Committee opinion that Passive Smoking could cause Cancer, his ‘scientific’ basis being a report sourced from the Tobacco Institute Of Australia.

The Senate Committe report said:

“Senator Minchin believes these claims (the harmful effects of passive smoking) are not yet conclusively proved. . . there is insufficient evidence to link passive smoking with a range of adverse health effects.”

But, reports The Australian:

Senator Minchin’s stance flew in the face of voluminous reports by the US Surgeon-General, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, documenting nicotine’s addictive hook and the serious health risks for people exposed to secondary cigarette smoke. Even the US and British tobacco companies acknowledged the health hazards from passive smoking in internal corporate research documents from the 1970s, obtained by the US congress and placed on the public record in 1995.

So Minchin is exposed as a patsy for fraudulent ‘science’ produced by International Corporations with massive financial interest in the continuation of sociopathic consumption of poisons. The man is seriously deluded or simply not interested in truth.

Just finished watching Episode 2 of the SBS series “Liberal Rule” entitled “Hearts And Minds”.

The story of this episode was how Howard tried to remake Australia into both an expression of the mythic Australia living in Howard’s own consciousness and to implement cherished Industrial and Economic reforms dear to Howard’s philosophical heart. In sum the episode was about how Howard attempted to make Australia into his personal paradise; where Australians would believe the things about Australia that Howard personally believed and work in the economic framework Howard personally believed was best.

It was a story about how one man attempted to implement a personal vision for a nation.

‘Hearts And Minds’ was very effective in showing how the Liberal Party became a vehicle for Howard’s personal beliefs and philosophies. As disturbing as it is that Australian politics could be so totally dominated by a single person, that every proposal of government for a decade in a supposed democracy emerged from a single mind, there are simple reasons to explain how this came to be.

Howard The Messiah

The first is the credibility and power of success. The Liberal Party in particular is a ‘messianic’ party, to use George Megalogenis’s characterisation. It believes its only business is to rule, it does not function well in opposition and while in opposition casts about for the messiah to bring them back to the promised land of power.

When Howard won the 1996 election, he gave the Liberal Party power after 13 years of Labor government. Those 13 years were like eons for the Liberals. Marooned like Marvin The Paranoid Android at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe for 20 billiion years, it was the first 10 billion years that were the worst with the second ten billion years also being the worst.

When Howard delivered power, his was the leadership for ‘as long as he wanted it’ as Nick Minchin said on the night. Delivering victory and power after such an elongated time in opposition, Howard also won the right to set the agenda for the Liberal Party.

Building on this, Howard’s personal machiavellian streak led him to progressively purge the Liberal Party and public service of dissenting opinion. One of Howard’s first acts was to sack any Departmental Heads he felt did not think like him, establish his alter ego Max Moore-Wilton as head of Department Of Prime Minister and Cabinet and direct all of the public service through his Maxness. ‘Tempered’ as Howard said, by his long and personal rejection by his own party for more than a decade, Howard bought a disposition 50% cold poison and 50% colder poison to the leadership. The only way to survive in Howard’s government was to toe the line. Thus the Liberal Party under Howard almost exclusively contained yes-men, toadies and like minds to Howard. Nothing else (Peter Georgiou a significant principled exception).

As Don Watson noted of the Keating-era view of Howard in opposition, ‘Howard was shrewder than his colleagues’ but the depth and brilliance of Howard’s finely tooled strategic mind to the end of securing personal power became a thing of marvel. Australia had no idea how superbly Howard would and could manipulate and wield power until we had seen ten years of his government.

Mungo MacCallum calls Howard ‘The Stonefish’: nothing to look at, unassuming, easy to underestimate, but absolutely deadly, vicious in the strike and a superb hunter of incredible rapidity when it counts.

Howard’s prestige and power was magnified by bringing home the 1998 GST election, which he bought home assisted by Beazley’s failed ‘small target’ startegy. Winning that election, on a new tax of all things showed again Howard’s strategic brilliance. He became not just party leader but Liberal Emporer. Two more election wins against crippled and untalented Labor opposition made him a demi-god. His word was law.

‘Hearts and Minds’ effectively illustrated how the Liberal Party was Howard’s personal vehicle in the conclusion of the episode by playing numerous excerpts of Howard speeches where he said “I have always believed…’ followed by a policy pronouncement. The government belonged to Howard and he intended to reinvent or – I think Howard would say ‘return’ – Australia into a John Howard utopia after 13 years of leftist Labor vandalism.

Correcting The Record

One of the most interesting parts of the doco. for me was Howard’s view of the ‘Culture Wars’ which he described as ‘correcting the record’. The record that Howard wished to correct was what he viewed as a treacherous, unfair, immature, damaging view of Australian history promulgated by Keating’s coterie of leftist elites, the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history, that Australians had something to be ashamed of in our past.

In particular, Howard nominated Keating’s 1992 Redfern Speech (here on video) given for the Australian Launch of the International Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Here is the content that Howard found objectionable:

it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.

It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?

As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.

Now, Howard says that he agrees and recognises that Australia’s Black History is a ‘blemish’ on an otherwise great history, but he also said during the doco that Keating’s remarks ‘did great damage’ and that one of his great goals as Prime Minister was to ‘correct the record’.

In my view this shows that Howard cannot reconcile what he intellectually recognises to be the truth about Australia’s race history with hi semotional need to believe in a heroic settler myth. In truth he prefers the truth about Australis race relations history to remain untold, hushed, swept over. Just speaking the truth makes Howard’s imagined record incorrect. And speaking the truth needs correction, namely Howard’s chocolate-box version of Australian History.

Howard cannot face the truth on this issue. It is too personally confronting for him, because he personally identifies with the supposed nobility of the British settlers and pre-war Australians who were happy to hunt and kill Aboriginals, to steal their children, and made plans for the Aboriginal race to die or be bred out.

The Coalition just can’t help itself, and why should it ? A good dogwhistle to the heaving sea of xenophobic paranoia lodged in this nation’s 45-75 yrs demographic and mostly glued to Sydney talkback radio throughout electorally crucial slabs of Sydney’s metropolitan area is still worth a seat or five.

That’s why Joe Hockey and Sharman Stone (Shadow minister for Immigration and Citizenship) have both nonchalantly dropped the aside in recent times that yellow scum China will end up holding a fair share of Australia’s debt over the next decade.

First was Ms. Stone, staining an otherwise classy performance on ABC’s Q&A of May 7th ‘Taxes, Torture and The Taliban’ by observing that we’re accumulating debt at a rate of a couple of billion dollars a week, all borrowed mostly from China. From the transcript:

SHARMAN STONE: … we’ve got a long way to go and we’re accumulating debt at a rate of a couple of billion dollars a week, all borrowed mostly from China; borrowed for the future generation to have to pay back. Now, you can’t generate jobs…

TONY JONES: Is it bad to borrow from China, by the way, the way you said that – I’m just wondering?

SHARMAN STONE: I beg your pardon?

TONY JONES: Is it particularly bad to borrow from China?


GREG SHERIDAN: It’s bad for China.

SHARMAN STONE: It’s bad for a government to borrow money to throw into individual’s pockets at $900 [rabbits on dodging Jones’ question.]

This was followed up by Joe Hockey on the following week’s Q&A, ‘Budget Special From Canberra’, in which Hockey foreshadowed Coaltion plans for a publicly-accessible register of government borrowings.

JOE HOCKEY: …we’re going to move an amendment in the senate at the first available opportunity, to make sure there is a proper disclosure about who we are borrowing from because we’re borrowing on a scale that we’ve never done before…

Jones immediately identified the Dog Whistle…

TONY JONES: What is it you’re worried about, though? Are you worried that we’re borrowing from China? Are you worried we’re borrowing from the Middle East?

Hockey confirmed he’s up for a bit of Yellow Peril scaremongering:

JOE HOCKEY: Well, China…

TONY JONES: Which countries are you actually worried about?

JOE HOCKEY: I think it’s important to know where we are borrowing from because ultimately you take the government of China. If the government of China is now the biggest single lender to the Australian government, the Australian people should know it.

The Return Of FrankenHoward

I find it disturbing that the Coaliton is still willing to fan the flames of Xenophobia in this country.

Having been though the extremely distasteful Howard years in which Hanson’s xenphobia was not criticised until her votes returned to the Coalition, One Nation supporters were mollycoddled and wooed, in which the existence and experiences of the Stolen Generation was denied and Aboriginal entitlements portrayed as a fraudulent and bogus ‘industry’, in which the provocations to racially-motivated thuggery of Alan Jones were defended and the thugs themselves sympathized with and in which refugees fleeing war and persecution were portayed as villanous, deceitful dole-bludgers, it is incredible that the Coalition still wishes to plumb these skanky depths.

It is as if the undead Howard-Coalition cadaver of 2007 has risen again, unable to lie still through the sheer intensity of xenophobic poison Howard injected into it over the period of his leadership.

I suspect this is one of the reasons that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch says that Howard has destroyed the Liberal Party. Here’s what she told The Age

I’m very critical of John Howard. He wrecked the party and himself. He just couldn’t let go and I think he believed he could win, but he was completely out of touch. I blame Janette. I think she’s very ambitious.”

I agree with Dame Murdoch. Observing Howard’s Prime Ministership was like watching a man lose his soul in public while enjoying the experience.

Other Legacies Of Howard

Howard purged his party of actual liberals and even conservatives insisting instead on turning the Liberal Party into the political arm of Business-Corporate interests typified by the forces that created the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and attempting to de-legitimize any other viewpoint from the Australian polity.

Electoral support for this horrible vision was gained by pork-barelling the Middle Class and inflaming xenophobic paranoia in the blue-collars and pensioners. Along the way he vandalised the economy by introducing a severe structural deficit into the budget by the aforementioned middle-class welfare and tax cuts. Howard’s budgets and welfare could only be sustained by a permanent commodities boom. Now the hard times are here, the Labor party will once again have to do the work of economic (this time fiscal) reform that Howard could not stomach for the simple interests of getting and maintaining power.

Stumbling Onto A Strategy

The Coalition’s current Yellow Peril dogwhistle appears to have come about from justified concerns about Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Helen Liu who is a roving functionary for the Chinese government.

This thread, More On The Yellow Peril, at Lavartus Prodeo contains that story and the comments make for useful supplementary reading including a suggestion that the Australian right are merely following the American right in smearing China since it constitutes a rival to US Economic/Military hegemony.

Breathing Foul Air

It is disturbing and offensive that the Liberals cannot discipline themselves to refrain from feeding at the trough of xenophobia. It only poisons them and us.

Tom Switzer was kind enough to reply to a personal email about his article No Need For The Libs To Move Left which appeared in the SMH last week.

In his article Tom gave an opinion, with which I agree, that despite Kevin Rudd’s election victory last year, the ‘centre of political gravity in Australia remains conservative’ and in fact has moved further to the right. I asked Tom if he agreed with John Howard’s asessement that the media and Universities were “dominated by the soft left” and if so how does he (Tom Switzer) account for the rightward movement of the Australian polity.

In reply, Tom referred to an article of his “Conservatives Are No Longer Losing The Culture Wars,” Quadrant (CIA Love-Child), 2007, which was reprinted in Tony Jones’ ed. The Best Australian Political Writing 2008 (Melbourne University Press), as well a feature article for the London Spectator last October.

Man Of Steel, Brains To Match

Tom extracted the core of his argument from this piece which was that John Howard has PERSONALLY both arrested and reversed the leftward avalanche, the combined weight of all media and Universities, by the sheer force of his intellect and example.

In this piece, I deal with your specific question which to whch you could easily refer:
“Many conservative thinkers, such as the columnist Gerard Henderson, lament that Howard failed to win the culture wars.

Then again, he was by no means alone in failing to transform the nation’s culture entirely. Recall that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan themselves were unable to change substantially the entrenched attitudes of the Guardian, Oxford and the BBC in one case, or the New York Times, Harvard and Hollywood in the other.

Nonetheless, a strong case could be made that just as the Gipper helped set the scene for Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and the Iron Lady paved the way for Tony Blair’s New Labour, John Howard has pushed the ALP in a more conservative — and politically appealing — direction.

After all, during his nearly 12 years in power he was never afraid to challenge the old assumptions and provoke people into thinking and then arguing about the new attitudes on so many cultural and public policy issues. And although Rudd expresses himself in different ways, his government’s record thus far confirms this conservative trend.

Hero Worship

Many thanks to Tom Switzer for taking the time to reply, and permission to use his references but respectfully, I find it hard to believe that even the great John Howard could overcome all the massed (albeit sickly-minded and morally deficient) battalions of TEH LEFT on his own; though Howard did attempt to the limit of his influence by stacking the ABC Board with conservative ideologues and personal friends and by destroying Student Unions, considered by him to be dangerous purveyors of radical politics and thus inappropriate to be associated with education.

Try It From This Angle

In my opinon the right controls the most influential media and the most influential University faculties. Simply, this is why the polity is conservative – the most important opinion-forming institutions in Australian society behind the family (ok AND J.W. Howard, Order Of The Stealth Bomber, AEI Centrefold for December and Special Consultant to the Australian Wheat Board) are conservative.

The ABC, the Humanities/Arts and the opinion pages of The Age are mere niche markets. Real power is wielded by Alan Jones, the Daily Telegraph, the owners of commercial TV and the Economics and Commerce faculties. Nary a lefty among THEM.

Mr. Howard (and Mr. Rudd) treat Alan Jones et. al. like royalty because he’s speaking to the ‘Howard Battlers’ who, as Tom Switzer said in his SMH article, currently decide Australian elections. And they read The Telegraph.

Most of them, plus most of the rest of us are concerned about their Super and/or paying off Mortgages. These are long-term projects and provide a conservative inertia to economic thinking amongst the mass of voters. My apple-cart takes 40 years to pay off in Apples. I don’t want no flamin’ Marxist redistributing any before they are ripe.

In addition the collapse of the Soviet Union means the major alternative has been discredited while we all looked on.

Why Humanities Professors Do Not Appear On ‘Sunrise’

Business has got money. Humanities professors do not. Hence Business can buy media time whereas Humanities professors can not. Thus commercial media supports the interests of Business, not Humanities professors. Business lives on consumption. Hence the dominant message on commercial media is ‘consume’ not ‘share’.

Leftist Freak Show

I recall an appearance by the Middle East academic Dr. Robert Springborg on commercial breakfast TV at the time of the First Gulf War. Springborg gave an opinion that the USA has done morally repugnant things in the Middle East at which point the disgusted presenters treated him like human vomit.

Non-conservative politics are simply obscene to the breakfast TV crowd. The media is dominated by the right, not by leftists. When a leftist appears in Prime Time it’s for the purposes of a freak show, intentionally or not.

Where The Left Wins

Where the left HAS gained ground is where their agenda intersects with the basic self-interest of the masses e.g sexual permissiveness, killing unwanted babies; or where this is in not in conflict with the right e.g. Women in Work equals increased labour force, should equal cheaper wages; or sometimes where the left cause strikes popular appeal e.g Climate (crucially supported by scientific consensus).

But the fundamental gravitational pull toward the hip-pocket nerve is always salient. This is why the right attacks Climate on the basis of ‘it’ll cost yer’ and its also why disapproval on the Iraq War did not shift votes in 2004. Australians were much more concerned that Latham would cost us money on the Mortgage than we were about half a million dead Iraqis.

Once again, Tom, thanks for taking the time to reply. Any further correspondence welcomed.

Tom Switzer, former senior Liberal Policy advisor to Brendan Nelson, former Op-Ed Editor at the Australian and Research Fellow for the Institute of Public Affairs, is confident that the right is in control of the political agenda in Australia.

Writing in the SMH this week he said:

notwithstanding the loss of conservative government, the centre of political gravity in Australia remains conservative. No longer, for instance, is welfare seen as an unconditional right. No longer are activist judges rewriting our constitution. No longer are Australians ashamed of our past, pessimistic about our future and unsure about our place in the world. In this environment, why should Liberals lurch left when Labor could only win power by moving right?

Switzer’s fundamental political and cultural (as in Culture Wars) orientation is exactly that of John Howard’s. Just read that second last sentence again. Its almost verbatim what John Howard said was the greatest achievement of his regency.

Given that, I wonder if Tom Switzer shares Howard’s views that the media and Universities are dominated by an adversarial soft-left. And if so, how does Switzer account for his assertion, with which I agree, that the political centre of gravity in Australia is firmly controlled by the right.

Are the soft left so ineffective that even with control of both the media and Universities, the two most powerful opinion-shaping institutions in the world (behind the family) that they cannot change anyone’s mind ?

I wrote the following email to Tom Switzer. If he gives permission to quote from his reply you’ll be the first to know.

Dear Mr. Switzer,

I read your article No need for the Libs to move left in the SMH and found myself largely in agreement with it, particularly these thoughts of yours:

“notwithstanding the loss of conservative government, the centre of political gravity in Australia remains conservative. No longer, for instance, is welfare seen as an unconditional right. [snip] In this environment, why should Liberals lurch left when Labor could only win power by moving right?

I was wondering if you share John Howard’s beliefs that the media and Universities are dominated by the soft left (presumably since at least the Keating era) and if so, how is it that the centre of political gravity in Australia is conservative ? What conservative forces are countervailing the media and Universities to produce this rightward shift in our polity ?

Here are John Howard’s comments:

To the American Enterprise Institute inter alia Iraq:

“But perhaps the most convincing sign of all that some progress has been made is the significant decline in media coverage of Iraq – noticeable both in the United States and Australia. The dominant left-liberal elements in the media in both our countries apparently cannot bring themselves to acknowledge good news stories coming out of Baghdad.

To Quadrant Magazine 2006:

“Despite a more diverse and lively intellectual environment in Australia compared with past decades, we should not underestimate the degree to which the soft left still holds sway, even dominance, especially in Australia’s universities.”

Best Regards,


In August 2004, Margot Kingston asserted that John Howard was creating a ‘pre-fascist’ society in Australia, a characterisation that Gerard Henderson in this article, ‘Fascist Australia’ in The Age described as ‘nuts’ and a ‘fantasy’ and elsewhere as ‘psychotic’

To suggest Australia or Britain or the US today are fascist is just, well, nuts. The use of such a label in a modern context indicates a total misunderstanding of both democracy and fascism

To make his case, Henderson cited two scholarly works on Fascism, Roger Eatwell’s Fascism: A History (Pimlico, 2003) and Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (Allen Lane, 2004). Paxton typified Fascism

as a form of political behaviour “marked by an obsessive preoccupation with community decline” and by “compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity”. All this combined with the creation of “a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants” that “abandons democratic liberties” and embraces “redemptive violence”.

Henderson summarized:

It does not sound like Australia in 2004.

Contrary to Henderson, I think that certain of Paxton’s hallmarks of Fascism are readily discernable in John Howard.

The Redemptive Violence Of Cronulla

Howard’s embrace and support of the prominent broadcaster, Alan Jones, even when Jones had just been found guilty of inciting racist violence leading up to the infamous Cronulla Riots as well as Howard’s refusal to condemn the use of the Australian flag by the rioting thugs as a banner for racist thuggery indicates that Howard is willing to tolerate the redemptive violence of the Anglo rioters as they attempted to reclaim Cronulla beach from aggressive, lewd Lebanese-Arab-Muslim youth.

It is characteristic of Fascism that symbols of state are employed during attacks on unwelcome minority populations.

Howard tried to draw a distinction between pride in the Australian flag and the thuggery of those wielding it at Cronulla. If Howard loved Liberal Democracy and the Flag as much as he continually claimed then he should have been disgusted at the use of the Flag as a rallying cry for brutality. His inability to express disgust at the desecration of the Flag by the Cronulla thugs leaves open the suggestion he may have approved of its use in that context i.e. that of beating up wogs and telling them to get out and go home.

Cleansing The Media

Further, under Howard, police were desptached to “cleanse” (close enough to Paxton’s ‘purify’ for me) the media of anti-Howard elements using the violence of physical destruction of journalists’ computers

[Journalist] Travers later described to SBS Dateline how the officials spent all day trawling for information and smashed computer hard-drives with hammers in what they called an act of ‘cleansing’ that they performed regularly (‘We do this every day’) , and that they’d carried out perhaps ’70, 72 or 73 times.’
From ‘Conservative Correctness’ By Mark Davis, ‘New Matilda’ 21 November, 2007

Howard’s intimidation of the media, so shockingly demonstrated by the assault on those sympathetic to Wilkie, was not designed to protect national security but simply to warn media to stay away from Howard’s vulnerabilities. Indeed, Howard was quite happy to leak national security documents to friendly media when it suited him, doing just this by sending classified security materials thought to contradict Wilkie to Howard-friendly journalists.

Is This Where You Live?

Did you catch those words from Howard’s Goon Squad ? Every day they were out there smashing the hard drives of persons inicimal to Howard. This is behaviour characteristic of Totalitarianism. I would expect merciless intimidation of the media in say the former USSR or current day Turkmenistan, but we got it under Howard.

Abandoning Democratic Liberties

Howard professes a love for “liberal democracy” and considers himself a faithful conservative with reverence for noble tradition but introduced counter-terrorism legislation which removed democratic rights and liberties from the general population. While many in the general public sympathised with the temporary need for additional police powers and even the reduction of some much cherished democratic liberties, Howard prevented Parliament from debating his Bill and tried to hide its existence from the general public. Howard does not love democracy, parliament or tradition so much that he will abandon any of them when he feels appropriate.

The counter-terrorism laws were introduced into Parliament on Melbourne Cup Day. Howard fully realised of course that the Melbourne Cup would fully divert the general public’s attention from any political news and thus lessen public scrutiny of the Bill. He also insisted that Paraliament vote on the Bill on the same day that it was introduced.

It is almost impossible to believe that Howard could hold the Parliament and Australian people in such contempt. When democratic liberties are sneakily done away with, when Parliament is trampled on, one must ask serious questions about the totalitarian tendencies of the government, which during Howard’s tenure was, in a practical sense, a regency.

The Fostering Of Exclusivist Nationalism And The Taking Of Political Prisoners

Fascism is associated with an unhealthy exclusivist nationalism. Howard’s dog-whistle 1996 Election slogan ‘For All Of Us’ along with his condemnation of ‘vocal minorities’, his assertion that non-mainstream elite interest groups were appropriating an unfair proportion of public resources and legal advantage, his protection of the bigotry of Pauline Hanson, his support for the racist invective of Alan Jones, his encouragement of hostility toward and rejection of Middle Eastern boat people allowed sour concepts of intolerance and racially-based suspicion to settle in the public imagination.

Howard frequently voiced his veneration of the Australian flag while mixing the volatile brew described above. While it is perfectly acceptable to love and respect the national flag and to encourage citizens to likewise respect Australia’s best traditions and national symbols, Howard’s overall tone in regard to nationalism and patriotism always carried with it a menacing tinge for those outside Howard’s mainstream which even sickened and alienated many who otherwise qualified for Howard’s unqualified acceptance by reason of Anglo heritage.

Howard’s nationalism always left someone feeling under threat and political prisoners (Hicks and Haneef) became a reality on his watch.

Henderson feels that Kingston misunderstands both democracy and fascism. I say that Henderson failed to understand what was happening right in front of his eyes.

More on Pre-Fascist Australia here

You often hear the term ‘left-liberal’ but almost never ‘right-liberal’.

Here’s John Howard slagging off the ‘left-liberal’ media in front of his mates at the American Enterprise Institute:

But perhaps the most convincing sign of all that some progress has been made is the significant decline in media coverage of Iraq – noticeable both in the United States and Australia. The dominant left-liberal elements in the media in both our countries apparently cannot bring themselves to acknowledge good news stories coming out of Baghdad.

Left-Liberal v. Right-Liberal

As an exercise, try Googling ‘left-liberal’. You will get a huge number of hits.
Now try Googling “right-liberal”. Very few hits. Why ?

In my opinion the reason for this is that the political discourse in the USA and, latterly Australia, has been dragged so far to the right that liberals are no longer recognised. Small-‘l’ liberals are no longer accommodated in the public discourse.

There is no room for them because the political discourse in Australia over a decade was dominated by Howard and in the USA by the Republicans/Democrats, none of whom are small-l liberals, but right-wing either conservatives or ideologues. For Howard and the power-wielding core in the Republicans and Democrats there are precious few questions left to be answered about political economy and society. The debate is over. Hence there is no more need for critique, small-l liberals or, in fact, Liberalism.

Critique, which is a hallmark of Liberalism is thought instead to be evidence of leftism. Small-‘l’ liberals have had their political habitat destroyed by the rightward shift in the polity and have become extinct. Hence the political arm of ruling class (which is a Business-Corporate Polyarchy) and, under their tutelage, the general public have progressively forgotten what Liberalism entails and what it means to be a Liberal Democracy. In today’s polity of the USA and Australia, a small-l liberal is sighted about as frequently as Wasabi Paste in your grandmother’s lamb roast, and, to the ruling class, is about as disgusting (bordering on treacherous).

This article by Tom Switzer, a former senior Liberal advisor and a research fellow for the Institute of Public Affairs (an Australian cousin of the AEI), writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, appears to concur with my thoughts that the Australian polity has drifted rightward, approaching the topic from an ideological perspective opposite to mine.

notwithstanding the loss of conservative government, the centre of political gravity in Australia remains conservative. No longer, for instance, is welfare seen as an unconditional right. No longer are activist judges rewriting our constitution. No longer are Australians ashamed of our past, pessimistic about our future and unsure about our place in the world. In this environment, why should Liberals lurch left when Labor could only win power by moving right?

To Republican voters, Obama’s comment to ‘Joe The Plumber’ that taxes and redistribution of wealth might serve a useful purpose was seen as tantamount to Socialism or even Communism. This is an indication that the Republican Party is defining the political ground in the USA to telescope everything leftward of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School into ‘hard-left’.

In Australia, the climate is not so dire. John Howard merely believed that all the media (see above) and all Universities (see below) are dominated by the ‘soft left’.

JOHN HOWARD: Despite a more diverse and lively intellectual environment in Australia compared with past decades, we should not underestimate the degree to which the soft left still holds sway, even dominance, especially in Australia’s universities.

In his stultifying presence none of Howard’s party colleagues had the guts to disagree and so Howard’s rather crazed ideological/cultural stance, shared by Quadrant and the IPA became increasingly entrenched in the public sphere, thus providing Tom Switzer with that nice afterglow which permeates his SMH article.

Liberalism – Not Dead But Coughing Up Blood

So, as I was saying, in the context of the rightward shift of the polity in the USA/Australia, anyone who critiques the approach or policy principles of a government is assumed to be a leftist.

Thus the media, which centrally exists to critique, is deemed ‘left-liberal’ simply because it critiques and because it critiques it is thought to be ‘dominated’ (Howard’s term above) or controlled by leftists.

In fact, Howard and his ideological fellows in the AEI are not only non-liberal but anti-liberal. For them, critique only emenates from enemies, not from peers with different and equally valid conceptions of how economics and society should be arranged. For Howard and the AEI the media is an adversary which must be contained, disciplined and controlled. For Howard and the AEI, critique of their views is a sign of a sick mind infected by ‘cant, hypocrisy and moral vanity’, as Howard described the left which for him, supposedly dominates the media.

‘Right-liberal’ is an almost non-existent category because if you are a ‘conservative’ (in Howard’s terms) you do not critique except to say that the government is correct but has not gone far enough with its (basically good because rightward) policies. Such voices are those of friends. They are not critiquing the basic wisdom or ethics of the rightward agenda, just wishing for even more of the good stuff.

Liberalism is centrally about freedom of expression, toleration and debate of different viewpoints. For Howard and the American Enterprise Institute the debate is over. They are anti-liberal. The Right is absolutely right to the point of self-evidence. Hence the only liberals are left-liberals.

In March 2008 John Howard received the Irving Kristol Award of the American Enterprise Institute. In receiving that award he delivered the Irving Kristol Lecture to the AEI. Howard’s speech was entitled ‘Sharing Our Common Values’.

Howard’s Disdain For The Media

During his speech Mr. Howard made the following remarks about the media, inter alia the prevailing situation in Iraq and what he views as the success of ‘the surge’.

But perhaps the most convincing sign of all that some progress has been made is the significant decline in media coverage of Iraq – noticeable both in the United States and Australia. The dominant left-liberal elements in the media in both our countries apparently cannot bring themselves to acknowledge good news stories coming out of Baghdad.

Media: The Enemy Of Government

I find Mr. Howard’s remarks deeply disturbing.

Not only does Howard consider the ‘left-liberal’ media to be biased, he also considers it to be the enemy. John Howard approved of the nauseating description used of the ABC by his former Chief Of Staff, Graham Morris, that the ABC is

our enemy talking to our friends [i.e. the Australian people]

It is very troubling that Mr. Howard considers the media so much his enemy and the enemy of what he describes as ‘conservative’ governments such as his Liberal/National Party administration 1996-2007 and the administrations of Bush Senior and Junior. (In fact, Howard is far from a conservative but I’ll leave that for another time).

Where the media is considered the enemy of the government, repression and intimidation of the media are usually not far behind. And where you have repression and intimidation of the media, Democracy suffers.

Howard’s Harrasment And Intimidation Of The Media

Today I read this article in New Matilda which described the systematic harassment of the media by the Howard government. I was shocked to discover that in my own country the government had regularly despatched police with hammers to destroy the hard drives of computers owned by journalists thought to be troublesome by Howard.

Narrowly Avoiding The Pre-Fascist State

Margo Kingston described Australia under Howard as a ‘pre-fascist’ state, a characterisation thought to be ‘psychotic’ by Gerard Henderson, his former staffer and a prominent columnist. But when police are despatched with hammers to destroy hard drives, one should pause for thought.

Whose Common Values ?

Mr. Howard entited his speech ‘Sharing Our Common Values’ implying that the values he personally championed during his Prime Ministership are also those championed by the AEI, and the Australian and American publics. However, while the AEI and Mr. Howard are in agreement over values, there is significant divergence between the values of the AEI and those of the American public and, as noted above, Mr. Howard’s hostility toward and intimidation of the Australian media are not values common among Australians either.

Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party occupy positions on the political spectrum which are to the right of the general American population as demonstrated by this article

The University Of Maryland Centre on Policy Attitudes took a poll just after the 2005 US Federal Budget and discovered that the government implemented policies to the right of the preferences of the American people on a very wide range of issues. In the words of Noam Chomsky:

Let’s start with some proposals about the federal budget announced last February. It should have a sharp cut in military spending, including supplementals for Iraq and Afghanistan. It should have sharp increases in social spending, meaning education, job training, renewable energy, medical research, veterans’ benefits, UN peacekeeping operations, in fact, UN generally. With regard to fiscal policy, it ought to be committed to reducing the deficit—it’s a burden on future generations, a very serious one. And it should rescind Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, a large proportion of them, say for people over 200,000 dollars.

Well, that proposal happens to be very conservative. It’s the position of a very large majority of the American population. Immediately after the budget was announced, there was a careful study of attitudes toward the budget, undertaken by the most prestigious research institution in the country, based at the University of Maryland. As they pointed out, overwhelming public preferences were basically a mirror image of what the budget actually was. That is, where the budget went up, the population, by an overwhelming margin, wanted it to go down—and far down. Where the budget was going down, the same overwhelming margins wanted it to go up, by again, very large margins.

In regard to the specific issue of Health Care:

The large majority of the public feels we should have a national healthcare system, like every other industrial society. In fact, about 80% of the population regard it as a moral issue, that the government should provide adequate health care to everyone. The number of people who think the healthcare system is working is about 8%.

The same relationship, or non-relationship between policy positions preferred by the American general public and those of the major parties was observed in more polling taken two weeks before the 2005 US Federal Election

Polls showed that in 1984 over 80% of Americans supported increases in social spending and a majority favored cuts in military spending over decreased spending on healthcare. Obviously the Reagan and his administration chose to curry the favor of 20% of the population when they implemented policy.

The United States is the only industrialized nation with no universal health care system… Chomsky cited numerous opinion polls, including those conducted by NBC-Wall Street Journal and the Pew Research Center. Each poll reflected that over 60% of Americans wanted a universal health care system.

The American Enterprise Institute is on the right of the Republican Party which is itself too far to the right to represent the American population on substantive policy such as Health Care, Tax, Climate Change, The International Security, Fiscal Policy, Education, Medical Research, Terrorism, Iraq, the conduct of US Foreign Policy, Job Training and Military Spending.

Howard receives awards from the AEI and describes the ‘common values’ supposedly shared with them by him and the Australian people. I do not think, however, that the media in general, supposedly in the thrall of the ‘left-liberals’ according to Howard, are considered by the general populace of Australia to be the enemy of the Liberal Party or the Republican Party either. In this thinking Howard is to the right of the Australian people and has entered into the domain of an unhealthy ideological spectrum.

The End Of A Nasty Little Era

I am very relieved Howard lost the 2007 election. Always an ideological thinker in economics, Howard throughout the 1990’s became progressively more ideological in his cultural and sociological views and in doing so has absorbed some highly undemocratic ideas from the American outer-Republican right. By 1996, at the time of his election to Prime Minister he had become convinced that the non-commercial media was in the grip of an adversarial, politically-correct culture that made it the enemy of ordinary Australians and conservative governments.

Canaries In A Coalmine

The American author Kurt Vonnegut was once asked what earthly use an author was to society anyway. Vonnegut replied that he thought authors and artists generally were like ”canaries in a coalmine’. The old time miners would take canaries down with them underground. When the air began to foul, the canaries being most sensitive would drop dead. The miners would then be alert to the danger of foul air and be able to vacate the mine before the foul air claime them too.

Kingston, in my view, was quite right. She was one of our canaries in the coal mine, and not the only one. Howard, I am sure unwittingly, was creating the first pre-conditions for the development of an Australian Police State. Without his stultifying presence the Liberal Party has space to remember how a Liberal Democracy should behave and our media can function once again without harassment.


Here’s the excerpt from the New Matilda article where journos get their hard drives smashed with hammers:

In 2005, several months after publication of Axis of Deceit, a book about the non-existence of WMDs in Iraq by whistleblower Andrew Wilkie, officials claiming to be from the Attorney-General’s Department raided the offices of the book’s publisher, Black Inc, as well as the homes of Wilkie’s brother and sister, that of the journalist Carmel Travers (who had been emailed a draft copy of Wilkie’s manuscript), and the university office of the person who commissioned the book, the academic Robert Manne.

Travers later described to SBS Dateline how the officials spent all day trawling for information and smashed computer hard-drives with hammers in what they called an act of ‘cleansing’ that they performed regularly ( ‘We do this every day’) , and that they’d carried out perhaps ’70, 72 or 73 times.’ They spent a week at the Black Inc offices. All those who had their hard-drives smashed were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing them from discussing what had happened, which would have opened the way for charges under the National Security Act and the possibility of five years in jail.

From ‘Conservative Correctness’ By Mark Davis, ‘New Matilda’ 21 November, 2007

For more information on how the Democratic and Republican Parties are to the right of the general American population, Google ‘Chomsky Democratic Deficit’.

More on Pre-Fascist Australia here

I recently came across Lynton Crosby’s analysis of the 1998 Election Campaign, won by the Liberal Party. Lynton Crosby was the Campaign Director for the Liberal Party in their 1998 victory as well as those in 1996, 2001 and 2004.

Why You Should Not Believe Political Advertising

In his analysis of the 1998 Election Crosby makes the staggeringly deceitful claim that John Howard decided to preference One Nation last on ethical grounds and that the decision to do so came at a significant political cost to the Liberal Party.

I wonder if Crosby can lie straight in bed. Here he is in his chapter “The Liberal Party” in “Howard’s Agenda: The 1998 Australian Election Simms M. and Warhurst J., (eds), UQP, St. Lucia, 2000

The decision to put One Nation last on Labor How To Vote cards came at no cost to the Labor Party whareas a similar and totally correct decision by the Liberal Party came at a considerable political price”


Handling One Nation was always an axiomatic issue. Our research found that evert time the media focussed on Pauline Hanson her support and One Nation’s would rise in the polls. John Howard was right all along in relation to the handling of One Nation…To hound her personally gave her the oxygen of publicity which was essential to her survival. John Howard’s actions in governing for the national interest irrespective of the personal political cost spoke louder than any words ever could.

Crosby should be disgusted with himself. His article is nothing but propaganda, an attempt to inject falsehood into the political discourse to improve the image of his boss, John Howard.

In fact, Howard had only one objective with One Nation and that was how to handle them tactically to the benefit of the Liberal Party. Conceptions of the national interest or any other laudable ethic were never a consideration for Howard when it came to how to preference or otherwise interact with One Nation.

Crosby v. The State Of Reality

One Nation was established in 1997 and immediately commandeered 9% of the national vote, measured by polls, most of which came from the Liberal/National coalition. George Megalogenis states that the LNP vote fell from 49% in March 1997 when One Nation was formed, to 40% one month later ‘and all of it went over to the One Nation column’.

Howard could not afford to antagonize One Nation as their support base was comprised mainly of disaffected Coalition voters. Howard needed to ensure that One Nation voters would preference him, so he played softly-softly with them.

(see Megalogenis G., ‘The Longest Decade’, Scribe Publications, Melbourne, rev ed. 2008, p.223)

Margo Kingston in Unmasked Howard gets amnesia on Hanson provides a great overview of Howard’s tactics in relation to One Nation. This whole post is basically a paraphrase of Margo’s article.

Howard had two major objectives in relation to One Nation: minimize One Nation’s primary vote and capture as many One Nation preferences as possible. Howard was not at all averse to the policy agenda of One Nation so he had no reason to oppose them (by his ‘standards’, such as they were) on ethical grounds. According to Kingston:

Howard told his partyroom he’d prefer working with One Nation in the Senate to working with the Democrats.

Howard’s Problem

The problem that One Nation posed for Howard is that not only did One Nation significantly reduce the LNP primary vote, almost half of the One Nation vote went to Labor via preferences. So for every 1% of One Nation Vote the 2PP Coalition primary vote was reduced by approx. 0.5%. This was a huge problem for Howard and controlled his entire thinking toward One Nation.

Because of the sensitivity of the LNP 2PP vote to One Nation preferences, Howard initially decided to preference One Nation above Labor. This, Howard hoped, would send a message to One Nation voters that he was not displeased with the One Nation message, particularly in the climate of general social condemnation of One Nation, and maximize the One Nation preference flow to the Coalition.

Howard Rejects Principled Advice

In this Howard went against the advice and example of two of his senior colleagues, Peter Costello and Amanda Vanstone. Both of these made public comments that the Liberal Party should put One Nation last in the preference order on ethical grounds i.e. that One Nation were racist. Both received long and emphatic phone calls from John Howard they should retract their opinions, Vanstone commenting that Howard was so loud she was forced to hold the receiver away from her ear (‘The Howard Years’, Episode 1, ABC Television, broadcast 17 Nov. 2008)

Howard Comes A Gutser…But Only By Proxy

The first test of Howard’s tactics was the Queensland State election of June 1998. This election, held in the climate of a passionate Native Title debate turned the Australian political world upside down. One Nation won an astonishing 23% of the primary vote and, aided by Coalition preferences won 11 seats, while the Coalition itself lost 5 seats in Brisbane as inner-city voters expressed their disgust at Howard’s preferencing of One Nation above Labor.

If these results were to be repeated at the upcoming Federal Election, Howard and the Coalition would be soundly defeated. Kingston notes:

In the rural NSW seat of Gwydir, held by deputy National Party leader and Primary Industry Minister John Anderson, private party polling showed an incredible 49 percent of voters intended to vote One Nation.

Why Howard Really Put One Nation Last

It was only after the failure of Howard’s preferencing strategy in Queensland that he decided to put One Nation last. He could not afford to gift One Nation seats through Coalition preferences. Not that Howard told One Nation supporters that he would put them last. No. They still needed to be reassured that Howard was sympathetic to the grievances of One Nation voters. Immediately after Queensland election Howard flew to Queensland to meet with One Nation supporters and try to convince them that the Coalition understood their issues and would help them.

Howard now knew that One Nation presented a mortal danger to his political life.

Tony Abbott put the choices facing Howard and the Coalition succintly in his contribution the book Two Nations: The Causes and Effects of the Rise of the One Nation Party in Australia (Bookman, 1998).

The Queensland pattern suggests that a strong One Nation vote presents the Coalition with two alternatives: conceding government to Labor (by directing preferences against One Nation); or creating a credible rival for the conservative vote (by putting Labor last)…Obviously, rather than take a high One Nation vote for granted, the only viable Coalition strategy is to find ways of undermining support for the Hansonites.


Thus was born one of the more revolting episodes of Australian political history, ‘Australians For Honest Politics’ , the slush fund created by Tony Abbott with the full support of John Howard.

The purpose of that slush fund was to provide funds for a legal battle on the bona-fides of One Nation’s registration as a political party in order to deprive One Nation of the publicly-financed electoral funding they were entited to as a result of their performance in the Queensland election. The objective of that legal challenge was to destroy One Nation financially. As Tony Abbott writes:

One of the key questions is the fate of the $500,000 worth of taxpayers’ money to which it has always been assumed One Nation is entitled in the wake of the Queensland election result. To receive public funding, a party must be registered under the relevant act.

Howard and Abbott needed the Liberal Party connection to the slush fund to be kept secret. This was important enough for Abbott, with Howard’s blessing to lie to to the Australian public on two occassions, once on Four Corners when it interviewed him on July 31 2003, and again in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2000. Abbott told the truth only when confronted by the SMH with incontrovertible evidence in the form of a guarantee signed by Abbott. As Kingston relates:

That agreement, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, was handwritten by Abbott and promised “my personal guarantee that you will not be further out-of-pocket as a result of this action”. It was witnessed and dated July 11, 1998. (See Tony Abbott’s dirty Hanson trick – and he lied about it, of course)

Howard Lies To The Public

John Howard knew all about the slush fund and approved of it. He lied to general public via the ABC on this matter. In a doorstop interview on August 22, 2003 Howard denied that he knew anything about his slush fund, but on August 29, 2003 in an AM interview he admitted that he did know about it. That doorstop interview was the only interview from the time that Hanson was sentenced for the irregularities in her party’s registration that did not appear on Howard’s Prime Ministerial website.

Thanks to Margo Kingston’s tenacious research we have this:

The DoorStop Interview (in which Howard denies any knowledge of AFHP):

Q: What about the allegation that the Liberal Party may have … bankrolled the campaign against Pauline Hanson?

PM: I’m not aware of the basis of that allegation. I’m sorry.

Q:Does the Liberal Party have anything…

PM: The Liberal Party to my knowledge, and bear in mind there’s a lot of people that represent the Liberal Party, but I’m not aware of anything of that kind…

EXTRACT OF ‘AM’ INTERVIEW, THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2003 (In which Howard admits he knew about AFHP):

McGrath: After Howard has persistently avoided the question … Can I ask you though, going back to that initial question – Tony Abbott (in 1998) said the juggernaut should be stopped. Did you think that too?

PM: Well I thought One Nation should be exposed politically. I believe that it was perfectly legitimate to pursue a belief, as Tony did, that there was something improper or invalid about the party’s registration. But that was in no way the prosecution for a criminal offence of Pauline Hanson.

(after more avoidance)

McGrath: So can I ask you though – if you thought back then that One Nation should be exposed politically, when you read it in the media in late 1998 that Tony Abbott had set this up and when he disclosed it formally to you, what did you think? Did you think, oh good on you Tony, that’s the way to go?

PM: Well I knew that he was pursuing it but –

McGrath: What did you think about it?

PM: Well Catherine I had a lot of things to think about then… I mean, let’s keep a sense of perspective. This wasn’t the most important thing on my radar.

McGrath: No, I’m not suggesting it was. I guess I’m just giving you an opportunity to explain to our audience who’d probably like to know, did you think ‘Good on you Tony?’

PM: Well look Catherine, Tony was pursuing this. I was broadly aware of what he was doing. It was in the papers. And for the Labor Party or anybody in the media now to turn around and say that this is a dramatic new revelation that demands explanation, I mean that isse the vernacular, give us a break.

McGrath: Well I’m trying to focus in on you really rather than Mr Abbott.

PM: Yes I gathered that. I’m quite aware of that.


McGrath: But you must have had a thought about that.

PM: A lot of thoughts, and I’ve given you a lot of them. Let’s move on to something else.

Crosby’s Deceit

To summarize, Crosby wants us to believe that the 1998 election result was a just victory for a brave and principled John Howard who put One Nation last for reasons of the national interest despite enormous political cost. In fact, Howard was not averse to the One Nation platform, sympathised with Hanson’s bigoted viewpoints, tried to mollycoddle One Nation voters into preferencing the Coalition and resisted moves from within his party to apply a principled stand and preference One Nation last.

Only after the Queensland State election of mid-1998 did Howard to decide to preference One Nation last and he did so for his own political benefit, because preferencing One Nation above Labor cost the Coalition seats. In other words, contrary to Crosby’s deceit, Howard thought he would win more seats by putting One Nation last than by not putting One Nation last. Howard then set up a secret slush fund called ‘Australians For Honest Politics’ to finance a legal battle to destroy One Nation even while telling One Nation supporters he sympathised with them. Later, Howard lied about his knowledge of this fund.

Howard’s entire interaction with One Nation was based on how he viewed his own political fortunes. There was no laudable ethic involved at any stage.

Over to you Lynton Crosby or whoever wants to speak for him or his deceitful boss.


What seems to be the original version of Crosby’s chapter in ‘Howard’s Agenda’ appears at Lynton Crosby’s Analysis of the 1998 Election dated October 23, 1998. It contains some additional material not in the chapter.

Murray Goot in ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Party Cartelisation Thesis’ agrees that the Coalition was acting purely in self-interest in its One Nation preferencing strategy during 1998:

Goot says:

“Labor’s decision to place not just Hanson but all One Nation’s candidates last – a decision driven by its ideology, by its keen sense of self-preservation, and the opportunity to drive a wedge into the Liberal’s electoral base – dated from the 1998 Queensland election. On that occasion, both the Nationals and the Liberals placed One Nation ahead of Labor in every seat except one (Sunnybank, where One Nation had pre-selected a candidate of Chinese background).

The Nationals put One Nation ahead of Labor because they felt, correctly, that their seats were under threat both from One Nation (whose support was to be secured by an exchange of preferences) and from Labor; the Liberals may have directed their preferences to One Nation because they did not want to be out of step with the Nationals, their putative partner in a coalition.

If the strategy of the National and Liberal parties paid off outside Brisbane, where it won five seats from Labor and failed only narrowly to secure the re-election of the Borbidge Government (Ward and Rae 2000, 114), in Brisbane the strategy badly back-fired: urban voters ‘punished’ the Liberals for directing preferences to One Nation (Reynolds 2001, 156).

Labor had no common cause with the Coalition on this issue; on the contrary, it would have suited the Party well if the Liberals, in particular, had continued down the same path from the state election to the federal election. The fact that the Liberals decided not to [preference One Nation above Labor] had nothing to do with any arrangement with Labor and everything to do with protecting its own base – and not from One Nation so much as from the Labor Party.”