There was a federal election in Australia, just last weekend: the 24th of November. This election went a lot better than the last few years worth of elections. John Howard finally lost. After 11 years in power and four election victories against either ineffective or insane Labor opposition, the mean, evil little troll has finally been ejected from power.
It was very satisfying to also see him so thoroughly ejected from power: only the second sitting prime minister to lose his seat. Ahhh…
And Australia can now try to once again become a better place to live.
There has been much discussion over why Howard deserved to lose. Many have correctly pointed out that for all his claims he was not a leader who championed much reform; that the continuous 11 years of economic growth was really part of a longer 16 years of growth started under the previous Labor government due to actual economic reforms; that he no longer offered any kind of vision for the future of Australia; that his threat to hand over to Peter Costello was seen as just that: a threat; that it was just his ‘turn’ to go.
For me, while all of those (except the last) are true, none come close to the real reason why I have always been adamantly against Howard, and why I am particularly happy that he has now been voted out.
Howard was a leader who created a government of isolation, selfishness and meanness. And of course this sort of attitude at the level of the federal government can’t help but affect the entire shape and direction of Australian society.
Consider a handful of events under Howard’s watch:
- Pauline Hanson spewed her racist, xenophobic vitriol without any form of condemnation from the government, permanently damaging our image and reputation throughout Asia.
- Refugees aboard the MV Tampa were prevented from entering the country, extending our damaged reputation to the entire world.
- The GST, a fundamentally inequitable tax hated by both small businesses and the poor alike, was introduced. When there was apparently no need as all the earnings were returned as tax cuts.
- Children nearly drowning while on their way to the Australia was used as a wedge to further incite anger against refugees.
- A deeply unpopular war was started with the sole justification of supporting George W. Bush.
- Tax cuts were the sole mechanism of delivering benefits to the population: a mechanism that always favours the rich over the poor.
- University educations became a mechanism to turn a profit.
- The enormous earnings from the global resources boom was squandered without any investment in social services.
- The Australian republic movement was deeply damaged.
- There was absolutely zero progress on Aboriginal reconciliation: capped with the ‘intervention.’ Itself worryingly reminiscent of the Stolen Generation.
Ultimately, this was a government of the mean to benefit the rich. Under Howard and his cronies Australia became a more selfish country, a more racist country, a country of people who would not do something just because it was the right thing to do.
I was always against Howard because of the damage I thought his ideaology was doing to the fabric of our society. In the end, my theory is that he lost because people finally saw him for what he was. WorkChoices showed that he didn’t really care about his ‘battlers.’ And also, I believe that people didn’t want to be selfish and scared anymore. The country wanted a more positive view of the future. You can only be terrified of your neighbour for so long before you decide that it’s enough.
It is interesting to see that others are also coming to this conclusion. My fervent hope is that his legacy is seen for what it really is. In the end, the country will be a better place without him. Hopefully, it won’t take too long for the damage to be repaired.
Good riddance Howard, we’re better off without you.