Yes, it has happened. A very minor detail but a long awaited result for many of us Aussies out there. But finally, after for what seems like an eternity, John Howard is on his way out, and thank god the clown has been taken down (to paraphrase an earlier article of my two years ago). I don't know exactly, but I believe Howard has been in office for four straight terms and this would have been a fifth one. It has been almost a dozen years as the head man of Oz, and we're still paying for every minute of it.
A much better schadenfreude is written by Glenn Greenwald. It's difficult not to smile at such a shellacking for Howard but the man did not really win plenty of friends amongst those in the left and even some in the centrist spectrum. And as Greenwald so poignantly noted:
"[But] nothing captures the core corruption and dishonesty of John Howard -- and that of other blind supporters of the war in Iraq generally -- quite as vividly as a May, 2003 speech he delivered to the Australian parliament, in which Howard hailed the Greatness of George W. Bush and praised Bush's "Strength and Determination" for having led the "American-led coalition" to "Decisive Victory" in Iraq...
The ignominious defeat of John Howard had many causes having nothing to do with his disgraceful pronouncements on Iraq (though his triumphant opponent, Labor's Kevin Rudd, did pledge to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq). Nonetheless, it is still satisfying to witness such a well-deserved ejection from power of one of the last political leaders slavishly loyal to the disastrous Bush/Cheney/neoconservative war agenda."
Since my departure from Australia, it has been rather difficult to remain focused on Australian domestic politics. Kevin Rudd is still quite unknown in my outlook, but I am always skeptical. It is the Labour Party: they're no saints either. But he seems to be on his way to showing some backbone. As I am writing this, Rudd is planning a withdrawal from Iraq and signing the Kyoto Protocols. Now that's quite a change from the last twelve years.
Consequently, Mahir Ali describes Rudd something closer to a neo-Tony Blair or a mini-John Howard.
"In fact, Rudd’s main strategy throughout the campaign was to reassure all and sundry that in key areas of policy a Labor government would not be remarkably different from its predecessor. This was largely intended as a gesture towards voters who had grown sick and tired of Howard and his ministers, but saw no particular reason to take issue with the Liberal administration’s social or economic policies."
But Rudd's two gestures has certainly put him in the right direction so far. And a third gesture to the Aborigines of Australia is a big step towards the healing. You cannot picture Howard doing something of high temerity as this apology.
Ali's article is a good synopsis of what took down Howard.
"...arguably the biggest factor was an insidious piece of legislation dubbed WorkChoices. Its purported aim was to enhance workplace “flexibility” - which is neoliberal code for further empowering employers at the expense of employees. The Howard government, despite its best efforts, was unable to disguise the fact that this was an attempt to snatch away more of the basic rights that workers had won through long and arduous struggles during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Howard was also wrong-footed by his failure to anticipate growing popular concern over global warming: until some months ago he was an outspoken sceptic, insisting in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the jury was still out on the likelihood as well as the causes of climate change. He eventually switched his tune, but remained adamantly opposed to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which reinforced the impression that the primary motivation for his unconvincing conversion lay in political realities rather than a change of heart.
The nagging suspicion has also lingered that his blockheadedness on Kyoto is not so much a matter of conviction as a measure of Howard’s obsequiousness towards the Bush administration. This embarrassing relationship is epitomized by Australia’s involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. A vast majority of the Australian public has consistently opposed this role, but this factor didn’t seriously hurt Howard electorally in the past, partly because the country’s small contingent suffered no combat casualties."
Howard had totally failed in most aspects of winning the public, and by pandering to a Bushite ladder of rich vs poor, it contributed to his spectacular downfall. The polls had him slipping in the eary months of the year, and despite some jargon that attempted to hide the discontent, Howard was deseated and with him the rejection of a ruling class that wanted to increase the growing divide between upper and lower classes. Yes, Rudd has not done anything to change it yet, and he may not do anything of major to note that could make a difference to the normal taxpayer, but it is a good feeling (an ephermeral at that) to see the back of Howard and his bullshit.
And I cannot help but rub it in, Howard was unable to even win his own seat of Bennelong.
So long Howard, and thanks for all the memories.