Monday, December 1, 2008

John Howard's Commanding Performance

Tonight is Episode 3 of The Howard Years: Commander-in-Chief

So here's another installment in 'The Poll that Counts' video series: Tallyroom Tension. It has a small contribution from Fran Kelly the narrator of the ABC program.

The lead up to the 2001 election was a hard time for John Howard. We saw the ultimate pragmatist who avoided a post GST recession by spending his way out, after a quarter of negative growth. Yes, Johnny could be a Keynesian when survival counted.

In John Winston Howard : the definitive biography by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen, Peter Costello criticised Howard's budgetary adventures in 2001 and 2004 as unsustainable. But they were effective.

That was Howard cunning working overtime. In 2001 we saw Lucky John emerge. In August the Tampa arrived with its ship load of Muslim refugees. He was in the States for September 11 and didn't go into hiding like George W. Bush. What a double! All it needed was a large dash of jingoism mixed with a twist of lies for Labor's chances to go overboard.

His good fortune with ALP leaders also helped to build his reputation as the consummate politician. First, Kim Beazley adopted a small target strategy during 2001. His me-too approach to terrorism and asylum seekers made him appear irrelevant during the election.

2004 saw the Mark Latham experiment which Howard exploited cleverly. He seemed unbeatable after the comfortable Coalition win that year.

But many Australians had other ideas. And Howard's luck was about to change. But that's next week's story.

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