John Howard - a Personal Perspective 

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from 1997...

Often when I see the Prime Minister on TV, I am reminded of my Dad. The trouble is Dad is 76. I reckon Mr Howard is more like 56.

Dad spent a life time on committees and in meetings. I heard him stand and speak at numerous community functions. When I hear John Howard it sounds the same. They do look somewhat the same. They are balding and both have glasses. They have that slight 'move of the head' that comes from a person with a hearing disability. But it's the voice - the rhythms and patterns of speech that are so alike. They date from the 1950's. Howard sounds like my Dad.

Howard sounds older than he is. It reminds me of the Martin and Molloy spoof on Howard: "Friends, it is a great honour, and gives me great pleasure, to declare open the Sydney 1956 Olympic Games.!"

In many ways Dad's social attitudes are those of the 56 year old, and John Howard's the 76 year old. The contrast always hits me. I can respect some one who is old fashioned and conservative. What has offended me is John Howard's response to Pauline Hanson. He seemed unable to repudiate her. Even during the election campaign in 1998, when opinion was turning against her, the Coalition by and large said she was wrong because of the economic cost she would incur from our Asian neighbours. They rarely seemed able to say she was wrong because she was wrong. I've heard Howard directly challenged on the point. He could not to come out and plainly say her attitudes were racist and wrong. "People are entitled to their view," he would say, (or some other such politician's reply). He can hardly blame the many people who wonder if her views are his views. Was he afraid of offending voters who agreed with her attitudes. What a cost to pay for votes: racial tolerance goes to the heart of our society.

I rather like our local Liberal Party MP. She is much more impressive than the Labor candidate we had. But I did not vote for her (or him!). Howard has failed the test of leadership. Is he racist? Perhaps we all are, in some degree. Certainly, he is afraid to lead on the basic issues of our society, where we are struggling, and need a lead. We need more than a politician who will not move until he sees which way the wind is blowing.

Jan Thomas       

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