The Network

The Network
This blog is no longer updated. Please click the picture to hop across to The Network

Monday, October 15, 2007

Howard's Hallmarks

The hallmarks of John Howard's career are a perseverance which sometimes resembles doggedness and cussedness and an unwillingness to include disparate views on the road to his decision-making. He has his own compass, skewed somewhere to the furthest right of True North, and brooks little deflection from the course to which it points.

There is an oft-used Howard quote which illustrates his doggedness, his preparedness to wait: The times will suit me.

The statement was made by Howard in a 1986 interview in Washington DC with Anne Summers. Just over three years ago, Summers revisited that interview in a piece titled: The sad times do suit him; he made them.

At that time, it looked like Howard would demolish Medicare, Australia's form of national medical insurance. The facts are that it is 2007 and we are in the first 24 hours of the Federal Election campaign which will decide who governs Australia for the next three years. Medicare is still with us.

Howard has interfered in Australian workplaces, changed the laws, left people powerless, lowered their wages. Howard's Work Choices has driven voters - it appears - into or back to the Australian Labor Party. The whole thing has left Australians feeling quite dismal.

Miss Eagle has been reminding for some time anyone who will listen that Howard's political imprimatur is neither invincible nor infallible. Medicare is here - and Howard may not be after November 24.

Why is Medicare here? Because it is quite clear that Australians appreciate and want to keep Medicare. They have made this clear year in and year out. Howard will interfere with Medicare at his peril.

This does not mean that in the next triennium, should Howard be re-elected, that he will not try to remove Medicare from the Australian landscape. And he certainly won't make such removal an agenda item at this election or any election.

Remember, dear Reader, that he promised never-ever to introduce a GST. He did. He didn't put his Work Choices legislation before the voters in 2004 - but he did it anyway as any astute political observer always knew he would. So full privatisation of medical services is part of his agenda. All those doctors want it and an awful lot of them tend to be members of, or at least vote for, the Liberal and National Parties.

But, it is clear that, if Australian voters tell the opinion polls and their politicians consistently of their support for Medicare, it will be extremely difficult to eradicate it. Similarly, for any other policy. The guarantee for survival or introduction of good policy is to demonstrate in word and deed support for that policy.

Kevin Rudd and Krew will need such reminders too should they form the next government.