What
have ten years of the Howard Government given us? What are the ten trends in
Australian life and politics that define the decade?

The
answer’s very easy for Crikey subscribers. You’re seeing an unprecedented
centralisation of power and decision making in the Prime Minister’s office. Not
only that. You believe that some of this power is being accumulated by “fear-mongering”
– or, worse, the exploitation of ignorance – and is being wielded under a cloak of excessive
secrecy.

Trend
number three of the Howard decade for Crikey subscribers is a natural corollary of
the first two – a decline in accountability and openness and honesty in public
life. As is the fourth – the politicisation of our civic institutions.

This
changing balance of power shows again in trend number five. You believe that a
denigration of our nation’s intellectual and academic life is occurring and
worry about “underinvestment in education”.

Crikey
subscribers fear this is reflected in our international standing, in “the
erosion of our international reputation as a leading liberal democracy” over
the Howard decade.

But you’re
also concerned by what you see closer to home: “Consumerism is the new
religion”. Trend number seven leads to trend number eight: Consumerism driven
by borrowing or credit cards. “We’re riding on a tidal wave of debt. I worry
what might happen when the wave breaks.”

At the
same time, you fear that “there is no drive for social betterment; we should only be
interested in those things that directly impact us.” You’re worried about the
growth of “an increasingly insecure workforce, on casual contracts” and the “us
and them” mentality that it provokes. Trend number nine.

And
this, finally, ends with trend number ten – the failure
of the Howard Government to introduce “any major innovative economic measure of
any substance that will have lasting positive influence on the Australian
economy” compared with the Hawke and Keating years. “The GST was just a new
tax,” you say.

So what
about the next ten years?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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