by Neville Kennard, preaching and practising capitalist
It was suggested, by some fawning Liberal/Conservative types, on the occasion of the release of John Howard’s book Lazarus Rising, that Prime Minister Howard was Australia’s best ever PM.
Whether he was or not is of little interest as it is a subjective choice anyway; but what is interesting is to ask, “Compared with who?” and to look at the other contenders for this title of Best Ever PM.
Ben Chifley seems to have been a well-thought-of man and PM with sound working-class values and some old-fashioned values.
Sir Robert Menzies (he was a staunch Monarchist so the knighthood suited him well) had a long time in the office and distinguished himself as a protectionist and a solid conservative populist. Where went Britain, so went Australia, even to war in Europe.
There have been some woeful PM’s: Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Frazer and Kevin Rudd in his short reign, come to mind. There have been some very ordinary PMs: Billy McMahon and Harold Holt was not there long enough nor perhaps was John Gorton.
Bob Hawke surprised with his economic reforms, as did Paul Keating and they are a class act still respected, even by Liberal-National Party.
As for John Howard and his record? On the positive side, he reformed workplace relations with his timid but still politically-contentious Work Choices legislation and with some good union-limiting acts, in particular with breaking the corrupt and inefficient Waterside Workers stranglehold on the docks.
Howard introduced the Goods and Services Tax, which, had he carried through with the elimination of other nuisance and inefficient stamp duties and taxes as promised, would have been a commendable reform. But he dropped the ball with this promised tax reform, as with any meaningful real reform in tax during his eleven years in office; his predecessors Hawke and Keating had done some heavy-lifting in this area thus paving the way for Howard’s prosperous times.
John Howard as Treasurer to Malcolm Frazer brought in Retrospective Legislation with regard to the “Bottom of The Harbour” tax avoidance schemes. Surely a gross violation of the concept of Rule of Law and a precedent-setting action that means governments can henceforth do whatever they think they can get away with, constitution, morality and trust be damned.
He was not so long in office when he had the opportunity to become popular with the city-trendies by taking away peoples’ guns following the Port Arthur shootings. Disarming the population is a dangerous act and one of the first things all dictators do; not that I accuse Howard of dictatorship tendencies (more than your average PM), but it was an act of violation of property rights and of self-ownership.
Another head-strong violation of the concept of self-ownership was Howard’s annulment of the Northern Territory’s Voluntary Euthanasia Bill. Most Australian’s like the idea of their right to a dignified way to die, with adequate safeguards, but he used his Federal muscle to squash what I thought was a very well-thought-out piece of Northern Territory Legislation which was accepted by the NT electorate. Was this Mr Howard’s Christian-Conservatism asserting itself over popular opinion and self-ownership?
Howard, I believe, had quite a strong moral-compass; but the skilled politician had an even stronger electoral-compass, which caused severe deviation in the arrow of his moral-compass.
He was fond of grand-standing around the globe to be seen with Presidents and Prime Ministers on the world stage. Perhaps it was good politics.
His biggest failing was in the growth of government-spending during his tenure. Howard had the good times and prosperity to be able to do some solid budget reforms and expenditure-reductions, but I reckon his international grand-standing and the pull of his electoral-compass steered him away from any reduction in the size of government.
Maybe he could be up there with the top three or four or ten Best PM’s — equal first, or third, or tenth? Whatever ranking dear Mr Howard may be given the other contenders make it a rather undignified shared crown.
But we should not expect much, should we, from these people? The political class is not a status to aspire to. The bar is not set very high in the Best PM Contest.
- Welcome from Neville Kennard
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- The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
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- Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
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From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
- Government Needs Bad Guys –
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- Neville Kennard Obituary