I was as excited as anyone when John Howard was elected Prime Minister in March 1996, but most of those attending a Fin Review
election party that night were dejected, reflecting just how
Labor-oriented Australian journalists, as opposed to proprietors, tend
By comparison, the party held for the Liberals at the Grand Hyatt in
Melbourne that night was quite euphoric, but the jockeying for jobs was
almost unseemly. Ten years on it’s time to admit that I applied for a
job – any job – with the new government in the aftermath of that
victory, but received a rejection letter a few weeks later addressed to
“Mr Payne”. Hmmm.
After the first two years of the Howard Government, I was as
disappointed as anyone in the policy bungling and failure to deal with
Pauline Hanson, but all this turned around with the tax reform package
which, along with busting union power on the water front, was the first
decent reform package he’d produced.
However, the 1998 election was the last time I voted for John Howard
because his cruelling of the Republic Referendum in 1999 was the last
straw. Since then, the lack of respect for Howard has been exacerbated
by the demonising of refugees, continuing big government and a complete
lack of any sense of accountability or propriety, especially with
retiring Ministers cashing in with indecent haste on leaving office.
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Honest John wasn’t so honest after all.
The PM is absolutely right that his success is thanks to a mixture of
policy and politics – but the policy hasn’t been adventurous enough and
the politics has been far too cynical.
Helping build Crikey and pursuing shareholder activism has been far
more fulfilling than working for John Howard would have been, but it is
interesting to look back at what happens to people who worked for his
Ten years on there are now more former Howard Government staffers than
current staffers, so it’s time to once again assess where they’ve all
gone. Cashing in on government connections and pedalling influence
still seems to be dominant path taken by those moving on from political
We’d love to hear from some of these people on how they feel about
working for the Howard Government. Any regrets? What were the great
achievements? We haven’t updated this for 15 months but check out our list of former Howard staffers and send through any updates to [email protected]