Monday, February 20, 2006

A Decade of Despair

This will be published as an additional feature for SX.

I have a draft post of an intensely personal contemplation of my life at the moment and the rather unsettling realisation that many of my current realities aren't in fact real - yes, Existential Crisis 101, but it's really fucking with my mind right now - but I'm hoping this might pass if I just post instead on nice, non-personal brow-beatings of the PM and other targets. I have after all pledged to keep whiny, introverted and self-indulgent postings away from QP.

Anyway, enjoy. Or don't.

Those of us currently not living under rocks will know that the 4th of March will see the annual Oxford Street parade conclude Mardi Gras festival for 2006.

Some may also note that this will mark the 29th anniversary of the first ever Mardi Gras protest march.

But did you know that next week heralds another significant anniversary? I’m talking about 10 years of the Howard government. Yep, on March 2nd 1996 John Howard, truly the little engine that could, took the Coalition Party to a landslide victory and became Australia’s 25th Prime Minister.

Ten years later, and our country is a very different – and apparently better – place, as more and more Australians continue to Vote 1 Liberal/National at election time and polls regularly suggest we are neither ready nor willing for a change of government, or PM, anytime soon.

I’m one of those people unsatisfied with the Howard government. I wasn’t satisfied when he was elected during my precocious teen years, and I’m still not satisfied now I’m well into my terrible twenties. I’m what many government-friendly media outlets like to dismiss as a “Howard-hater”, despite the fact that, not knowing John Howard personally, I bear little animosity towards him personally, merely his style, leadership, and his government’s long history of lies, corruption and regressive policies.

Here are a few reasons why:

1996-98: After a fairly impressive debut during an unprecedented massacre, where Howard took on the pro-gun lobby and other assorted nuts to wind back access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons, he presented us with a noble Ministerial Code of Conduct that would ensure responsibility and accountability within his ministry. The only problem was that the Code, when actually enforced, worked a little too well, as seven of his ministers soon resigned in quick succession for breaching the Code through various travel rorts.

It would appear this Code of Conduct is now gathering dust somewhere, with ministers who have breached its high standard of ethics – Wilson Tuckey, Deanne Kelly and Amanda Vanstone to name but three – still happily employed at the tax-payer’s expense.

1997: The rise of fish-and-chip shop proprietress, Pauline Hanson, should have been a case of racial extremism cut off at the pass by a Prime Minister committed to tolerance and multiculturalism. Instead, Howard, by refusing to condemn outrightly Hanson’s views, tacitly endorsed the woman who feared “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians” and so, when her flame eventually burned out, One Nation voters returned to the Howard fold, assured they had every valid reason to hold their racist, “assimilationist” views.

1998: Although Howard won the 1996 election so comprehensively, less than only 3 years since this victory the majority of Australians decided all was forgiven with the Labor Party and voted to have them returned. This may have had something to do with Howard pledging, should he win, to introduce the Goods and Services Tax that he had assured us in 1995 would “never, ever” exist.

Unfortunately, winning the majority of the two-party preferred vote did not translate into Labor regaining enough seats to form government, and so it continued its long and tortuous journey through the Opposition wilderness.

1999: A perfect opportunity for Howard to cement his name in history as leader of a country that severed ties with a redundant monarchy and proudly voted for an Australian head of state. Instead Howard, a parochial monarchist, orchestrated a referendum, the outcome of which merely demonstrated Australians did not want a republic with an appointed, rather than directly-elected, President. He’s insisted ever since that the issue of a republic is therefore “dead” despite numerous successive polls showing the majority of Australians still wish to become a republic in some form.

2001: Perhaps never in the course of Australian history have two significant events, Tampa and September 11, occurring within 2 months of each other – and within three months of an election – worked so favourably for a government’s re-election prospects. There was no immediate interest in spinning lies about September 11, but it was a big vote-winner to demonise asylum-seekers as evil men and women who would willingly throw their children overboard in order to gain access to Australian shores, even when the evidence on which this statement was based was proved to be unsubstantiated.

2002: Howard’s “close personal friend”, Senator Bill Heffernan, abused his parliamentary privilege to level fabricated and utterly erroneous allegations of paedophila against the highly-respected – and openly gay – High Court justice Michael Kirby. Though Howard deigned to demote the bitterly homphobic senator for this travesty, Heffernan continues to operate as a heinous blight on our parliament – and maintains the trust and friendship of our Prime Minister.

2003: Howard committed our country to a war based on lies relating to non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

2004: A Howard government-initiated ban on same-sex marriages opened the door to a raft of Rancid Religious Right people and organisations to legitimately spew their bilous hatred against queers within the Great Hall of Parliament. As with Hanson supporters, Howard was far too busy securing the votes of people who argued queer people are “shameful, vile, immoral terrorists”, to condemn their outrageous propaganda.

2005 – Today: It had been a little while between scandals, so along came the AWB, and along will come, no doubt, the Howard government once again scapegoating the public service as it abrogates its own responsibility.

Ten years later, and a recent survey indicates that half of Australian voters believe their country has become a “meaner place” since John Howard was first elected Prime Minister. However, so long as low interest rates and a healthy economy are maintained, it would appear the majority of voters are willing to turn a blind eye to the many ethical and moral transgressions of its government. Having a grossly incompetent Opposition party doesn’t help much, either.

Forget the Lucky Country; the Howard Mean Country, tragically, looks poised to enjoy a healthy and prosperous future instead.


At 20/2/06 6:13 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

There goes the theory of Australia as the land of technical excellence.
In ten years no one has managed to build a better rat trap and get the little rodent.

At 21/2/06 6:24 pm, Anonymous Bazza said...

OK! Hands up who likes JH?

You at the back! go to my room!

At 21/2/06 6:26 pm, Anonymous bazza said...

Oh! its you Deadnaught, forget it and go home your teas ready.

At 21/2/06 6:34 pm, Anonymous Bazza said...

Deadnaught. When you go to bed, don't forget to say three Hail Marys.

Thats if you can find a Mary where you live!

At 22/2/06 12:43 pm, Blogger ninglun said...

Sigh! and elsewhere on my blog too. I now think of JH as the Great Grey Garden Gnome of Kirribilli House and National Incubus, if the last is not too horrible a thought...

At 28/2/06 12:31 pm, Blogger j(aded) said...

Sniff. I can still remember the night he got in. I was at Uni. Seems like such a long time ago... and it was! 10 years!

A great summation you have put together. Unfortunately, I agree with you in that it looks like nothing's gonna change in the near future :(


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