What are
the ten worst things John Howard has done during his ten years in office
according to Crikey? Well, one of your lists began:

  1. Toadying
    up to Bush and taking us into Iraq
    war.
  2. Toadying
    up to Bush and taking us into Iraq
    war.
  3. Toadying
    up to Bush and taking us into Iraq
    war.
  4. Toadying
    up to Bush and taking us into Iraq
    war…

Crikey
subscribers might be decidedly down on Dubya, but you’re even more dubious
about the directness of our dear leader. John Howard told Sky yesterday: “As Prime Minister, I’m asked a question, I give a direct answer. I
always have and I always will.” Your average Crikey subscriber would reply
“Bollocks”.

The worst
thing about the Howard Government, according to Crikey readers, is its lack of
accountability – how it has fudged facts and avoided scrutiny on everything
from core and non-core promises in 1996 to the current AWB ruckus, doing what
it can to jig the checks and balances in the system in its favour.

You’re
concerned about what signing up for the war on terror actually involves,
particularly the implications for civil liberties – be they your right to free
speech or David Hicks’s right to what we’d call justice.

Thirdly,
Crikey subscribers simply fear the Howard Government is in denial over global
warming – “Politicisation of climate change science” – and see ratifying Kyoto as at least a way of
acknowledging this.

Australian
participation in the war in Iraq came in at number four. A whole
stream of factors can be bundled up in another major concern for Crikey
subscribers – the culture wars. Ten years ago John Howard argued that political
correctness had gone too far. Today, you’d say the backlash, loose use of the
phrase “un-Australian”, dog-whistle politics and a vilification of intellectual
debate is now cheapening and threatening free speech.

You don’t
like the IR laws. At the same time, however, you’re concerned about the
explosion in middle class welfare – “middle class rorts at the expense of the
poor” – under the
Howard Government. There are also worries about economic short termism. I
promise I didn’t send in this entry myself under a false name:

I’d list economic management as top of the
list of the ten worst things about the Howard years. The economy has prospered
because of benign international conditions, fuelled by US and Chinese growth,
and built on the back of microeconomic reform and a late 80s recession that
unchained us from the inflation treadmill. Remember we have had not ten but 15
years of continuous economic growth – so clearly the Howard government didn’t
start it. There is in consequence an urgent need to renew our economic reform
program (although the most recent COAG was a positive step).

Crikey
readers are also angry at the administration of the immigration portfolio and
the dodgy demonisation of refugees.

Finally,
you worry about selfishness – one respondent complained that there is “little trust,
little philanthropy, and no sense of concern for the vulnerable”.

Specifics
– health, education, a republic, the US Free Trade Agreement, same-sex rights, even Indigenous
affairs – all lingered down the list. When Crikey subscribers think about the
Howard decade, abstracts seem to come to mind.

This
means we’ve rather blurred the lines between today’s list and tomorrow’s – the ten
trends that define the ten years of the Howard Government – but, then again,
this is an exercise in mapping the zeitgeist.

And,
sorry, but one of you watches too much sci-fi. “Eliminating the
Australian contribution to NASA’s Spaceguard
program to protect Earth from meteor strikes” should not top anyone’s list of
the ten worst things John Howard’s done.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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