|Issue No 118||02 November 2001|
Under Cover of Terror
You might not see him there in the corner, hiding in the shadows, but John Howard has reclaimed the Tool Shed by stealth as he attempts to sneak a third term under the cover of international terror.
Running for office under deep cover has been the Howard modus operandi since he accepted back in 1987 that no-one really liked him or what he stood for. In 1996 he slipped through our defences on the promise of not being Paul Keating, releasing barely a skerrick of policy before being swept into office on the 'It's Time' ticket. In 1998 he cynically positioned the election campaign during the Commonwealth Games and the footy Grand Finals, ensuring minimum public space to scrutinize his destructive first term. While the nation cheered for Gold, Howard snuck over the line with a minority mandate.
Now he's back for one more tilt, under the protection of international crisis, Australian troops abroad and an electorate with an ill-founded fear of being overrun by anthrax-wielding boatpeople. By extinguishing the last vestiges of compassion from Middle Australia, Howard has fashioned an election policy where his weakness is taken as strength, his myopia as vision, his prejudices as principle. He trivializes his opponents' efforts to map out a future for this nation, with the undeliverable promise that he'll turn back the clock to a mythical area when everything was All White.
John Howard fell into power on the fears of Keating's engagement with the world and has stayed there by exploiting the hatred of the Other: from day one it was ATSIC, then single mums, dole bludgers, until he had cleared all the local pariahs out. Then it was onto Muslims, first within our communities, then those wanting to join us. Using all the modern polling techniques, designed to tap the public's pulse, even as the consciousness was being formed, Howard tailored his message to tap our deepest fears. But he went one step further - actually shaping those fears through manufacturing an international crisis off our coast.
His performance is a textbook example of what government shouldn't do. He's rallied the mainstream against the marginalized, appealed to our fears over our compassion and turned long-term thinking about our nation into a form of treason. Amidst the debris lies our dreams of reconciliation, a Republic and a dynamic and integrated society respected internationally for its good heart. The after glow of the Sydney Olympics has faded, as our darker sides have been exposed, fuelled by Howard for short-term political gain.
The contradiction of the Howard era has been while pandering to nationalistic fervor, he has done more than any leader before him to expose workers to the amorality of unfettered global capital. By ripping away the rules of work that had protected workers for 100 years, the Howard Government has left its citizenry without a workable safety net to enforce the social contract of work in return for security. Ironically, it is this insecurity and lack of faith that has fuelled the fears that Howard has exploited with issues like immigration.
In some ways Howard has succeeded in his goal of returning Australia to the 1950, but without the sense of civic duty or optimism in the rewards of virtue and hard work. He's promoted a modern greed is good ethos and super-imposed it on a blame the victim mentality. The social conservatism of the fifties has melded with a 21st century self-assuredness to create an environment where any injustice is justifiable, provided it carries the trappings of success. At a time when Australia could be coming of age by engaging with its region, he has encouraged it to turn on itself - for no other reason than it suits his own short-term political agenda.
If Howard gets in there'll be many reasons to weep, but most of all we should weep for the Australia we thought we were growing in the eighties and nineties - a vibrant, multi-racial society where we defined ourselves by our desire to engage the world, welcome people in and strengthen our society. Howard is a Tool for many reasons, but most of all he's a Tool for killing off our better natures. If there is any consolation, it is that - win or lose on November 10 - history will dismiss him as the ultimate anti-leader, someone who won power by stealth, but saw this as the ultimate prize, who frittered away our history for a bed in the Lodge.
Interview: Flying High
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet on saving Ansett jobs, defeating Howard and wooing a new generation of unionists.
Corporate: Howard's List of Shame
ACTU President Shaharn Burrow runs through the litany of corporate collapses and down-sizes that have cut a swathe through the Australian community.
Campaign Diary: Week Four: The Battle Lines Drawn
It was a week that saw the leaders launch their campaigns, kiss lots of babies and battle for space with a Holy Jihad.
Industrial: Desperately Seeking Solutions
They might not call it 'industrial relations' in the spin of modern politics, but all the major parties have released plans that will affect the way we work over the next three years.
Economics: Manufacturing Prosperity
Neale Towart looks at the hidden debate of the election campaign - the degree of intervention government should take through Industry Policy.
History: War And Politics
The Conservatives are trying to wage war and win the election. The pundits say itís a tried and true recipe for electoral success. The 1940 federal poll suggests otherwise.
International: Globalising Labour
On the eve of the International Metalworkers Federation Congress general secretary Marcello Malentacchi argues all nations need to retain a manufacturing base.
Review: Security - Who Needs it?
What does it mean to be secure? Should we even need to ask? In his new book, Anthony Burke asks the tough questions.
Satire: Locksmith Promises "Greater Security" If Elected
A Melbourne locksmith has agreed to run for federal parliament, campaigning on the key issue of security.
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