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John Howard: Moral Midget of the World?

"John Howard's reputation is established as a shrewd politician who keeps a finger on the public pulse and shows his feelings only on immaculate occasions, praising heroes of the sports or battle fields. He appeals to a deflationary streak in the Australian character, which tends to ask, when complex issues of ethics arise: "What's all the fuss about?"

When Pauline Hanson captured the mood of a significant part of the Australian electorate, Howard positioned the Coalition Government as a spoiler, with soft versions of her hard prejudices. Since then the record of cagey political management has lengthened. It is now an axiom of Australian politics that he is an astute interpreter of the Australian public mind.

Yet his behaviour lately on two issues - AWB's improper payments to Saddam Hussein's regime and refugees from Indonesia - raises the question whether his political skills may have more serious consequence for Australia than simply keeping him in office."

No, these are not the words of some radical. They were written by respected author and former diplomat, Bruce Grant.

Amongst other things Grant says:

"In public debate, the Prime Minister nips and tucks, using words, especially adjectives, carefully so that he can later disown sentiments that he had seemed earlier to be endorsing. As he is neither a blatant bigot nor simple-minded, he does not appear to be lowering standards, whether of competence or morality. He appears, rather, to be trying to be sensible. But the effect is that the issue is allowed to crumble or evaporate in a flurry of self-protective corrections, refinements and denials, as well as complex, bureaucratic outcomes."

Read Grant's thoughtful and thought-provoking article, from The Age [here] and reflect on how John Howard and Co. have changed the face of Australia not necessarily for the better - even if the Government does trumpet how everyone is better off.


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