Monday, December 29, 2008

Australian Leadership - a year without Howard (#4 of 2008)

Alan Ramsey, the Herald's writer on national politics (who has just retired), celebrated the anniversary of Australia's federal election as, more than anything else, a year without John Howard as Prime Minister.

That is indeed cause for celebration. Ramsey has been particularly vehement in his dislike for Howard "the Toad", as someone who was dishonest and mean-spirited. After a period of silence so short as to be uncharacteristic for departing Prime Ministers in recent times, John Howard came out swinging, embarked on a revisionist crusade to entrench his place in Australian history. As we recently saw, there was ample evidence that he was aiming to overtake Robert Menzies' record as the longest-serving Prime Minister. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming from his seat - booted out of parliament altogether, in a "Brucifixion" (after Stanley Bruce, the only other serving Prime Minister to lose his seat). Fortunately, there remains little evidence that history will serve Howard kindly. Few indeed are the ex-colleagues rallying to his defence.

The change in government is more than that, however. Climate change apart, the positive policy and legislative changes of the encumbents is absolutely refreshing. The latest announcement from Julia Gillard (as education minister) involved large-scale extra funding for indigenous education, which in the course of her duties she had direct evidence of its appalling state.

Education, health, infrastructure: all the right investments for Australia's future are being initiated, after a lengthy drought under Howard. Even Rudd's 'conservative' nature doesn't trump the positive. Now, if his own cabinet could roll him on climate change...

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