Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hounding Howard

Years ago we had a Premier in Tasmania called Robin Grey. He was a pig-headed man who stuck to his guns even when he was blatantly in the wrong, as for example in the Franklin Dam issue where he wanted the dam built and passed legislation that anyone who was on public land near the dam site was now trespassing, and was arrested for it, despite a record vote by the population for no dam at all. But when the Federal Government stepped in and halted the dam, Robin Grey didn't spit and pout; he simply accepted that if that was the situation, he'd make the best of it for Tasmania, and now fought tooth and nail for compensation for the state because of the intervention. I had to admire that about him.

Fast forward to 2006, and John Howard is under pressure this last week or two to resign and hand the leadership of the Party over. Why? Because 12 years ago he said he would serve 1-2 terms as Prime Minister if the Party got elected, and now Peter Costello is beating that memo up into a major power play. If broken promises were grounds for dismissal in politics, there wouldn't be a single player who lasted more than a week. Its the nature of the game that you tell people what they want to hear, and then try to deliver the goods afterward. If you can't, so be it.

The big question is, why should John Howard resign? I compare him to Robin Grey because, like Mr Grey, Mr Howard has beliefs and isn't afraid to stick to them. Sure a lot of his decisions are unpopular. The Liberals brought in GST; there were lots of horror stories and muddy campaigns against it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in Australia these days who doesn't think the new tax system is fairer and easier than we used to have. In a time where gay marriages are legitimized in countries such as the US, John Howard took a stand and said "No, we won't". It may have lost him a lot of gay votes but I'll guarantee it won him more from the straight population. The recent industrial relations legislation has been the subject of a smear campaign since its inception, and although you can certainly find some people who were hard done by as a result of it if you look hard enough, the average worker is much better off now. Like the GST, in 10 years time people will look back and say "Why did we complain so much about that?"

Then, of course, there's the Opposition to consider. The Labor Party has no chance of ever being elected while Kim Beazley is its leader; the fact that Labor doesn't realise this is proof of how out-of-touch with the general population and its feelings they are. Like Alexander Downer, Kim Beazley just doesn't have that "je ne sais quoi" that electors want. Peter Costello knows this, and that's why he sees his best chance at being PM to be now - provided he can get Howard out of the way.

John Howard and his Liberal Party have consistently, since gaining office, passed family- and moral-supportive laws, showed compassion to our neighbours, been tough when they had to be, and had the strength to pass legislation which made them unpopular in the short term, but ultimately was for the country's good. Australia has thrived under their leadership. I'm not a person who votes for a particular Party, but John Howard is a man I will tolerate as Prime Minister for as long as he wants to be its leader, because, like him or loathe him, his record speaks for itself.

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