From John Howard’s election announcement speech today:
"Can I say, love me or loathe me, the Australian people know where I stand on all the major issues of importance to their future."
Que? I doubt even his own party knows where he stands on anything, anymore. What we all do know is that he is a gross opportunist, forever jumping on bandwagons because he suddenly "senses" something--or is told via the focus groups, anyway. Annabel Crabb made me laugh yesterday:
"Every week, it seems, there's a new idea, bearing no critical relevance to its predecessor. It's a bit like watching a three-year-old building a pizza - "ham AND cheese AND Smarties AND apple AND toothpaste AND olives AND ..."
Anyway, over the years I've had many reasons to loathe Howard. Here are just a few current ones. But loathe might be too strong a word. Let's just say 'dislike'.
1. I dislike the way he’s still not the slightest bit convinced about the seriousness of climate change, except insofar as he "senses" that Australians are taking it seriously so he'd better look like he is, too. He dismisses Al Gore’s Nobel Prize win with,
"Everyone makes mistakes, and there is a danger that we create an aura around individuals that is not deserved."
So, our PM is very conflicted on climate change. He doesn't really believe in the whole conspiracy theory, but he's eager to build nuclear reactors in response anyway.
2. I dislike the way he muddied the moral waters on capital punishment the other day:
AUSTRALIANS would feel "let down" if the Bali bombers on death row were not executed, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday.
Well, some of us actually think that these terrorists would suffer more from lifelong deprivation of liberty than from a quick dispatching to their eagerly-anticipated sexual reward. To kill them, quite apart from reducing us to their level, turns them into martyrs. Life in prison is a far more tedious punishment, and separates them from their perceived pay-off for much longer. Of course, let our government lobby for greater restriction of prisoner freedoms so that Indonesia‘s ‘soft-counter terrorism’ measures do not equate to an easy ride for convicted terrorists. But don’t claim on our behalf that we are all relativists on capital punishment.
3. I dislike the way Howard’s sudden interest in indigenous Australia feels selfish. It feels as if it's all about him and his relationship with white Australia. I notice the way he has described it in terms of achieving some kind of "settlement" of the issue, as though you can write a few words of preamble, then draw a line under the whole thing and put it out of your mind (and maybe your history books). When I saw George Brandis on Lateline the other night I realised again what made me uncomfortable. It doesn't feel to be genuinely about indigenous Australians, more about white Australians and how we feel. Brandis says, in a petulant tone of voice:
"I've never done anything to hurt the Aboriginal people. John Howard has never done anything to hurt the Aboriginal people. I'm sure you, Virginia, and you, Lindsay, have never done anything to hurt the Aboriginal people..."
And it just all seems so self-centred--being about how it reflects back on white Australia, how we feel about ourselves and our past, and whether we must take responsibility for the actions of the settlers. The new Liberal symbolism is far less about actually making a difference to the lives of indigenous people as about making white Australians feel better about themselves. And that's not what "reconciliation" means to me.
Anyway, I’m sure there will be plenty more loathing/disliking over the next six weeks...but that’s all for tonight, I'm all ratted out.