As John Howard prepares to begin his tenth year in office, his predecessor has reminded us that he’s still around and has lost none of his touch.

Back in 1986, it was on John Laws’s program that Paul Keating gave his infamous warning about a “banana republic”. And sure enough, it was to Laws that he returned yesterday to deliver some well-chosen words on the Howard/Costello management of the economy.

As reported by Matt Price in today’s Australian, Keating was confronted with Peter Costello’s argument that although the trade deficit was higher, Australia’s economy was stronger than it was in 1986. “Well, I spent a decade and a half making it stronger for him – of course it is.”

The government never seems to tire of the claim that Labor has turned its back on economic reform, but here’s someone who’s prepared to turn the tables on the issue:

“It’s like the old car, you’ve got to keep servicing the motor,” counselled the former PM. “If the Government decide they can just keep running and putting petrol and oil in, but never give the car a service, you know we’ll end up with less performance.”

What a tragedy that this man didn’t stay on as opposition leader. Just imagine nine years of his needling his successors in parliament and the daily media, and compare it with what Labor has served up in his place.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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