After
ten years as prime minister, I’m sure John Howard could find an
important international job. Former PMs Joseph Cook and Stanley Bruce
took up the job of Australian High Commissioner in London, but that was
before the days of easy international communication and travel. Such a
job is now for lower level functionaries.

Before taking on the
London job, Joseph Cook was an Australian delegate to the Paris peace
treaties that finalised the First World War and, with hindsight, laid
the groundwork for the Second World War.

The British chose to
put Cook in charge of the commission drawing the boundaries of
Czechoslovakia. He was strong advocate of ensuring the new country
retained all of the Sudetenland and its largely German population.

For
believers in the six degrees of separation theory of world history, it
was the Sudetenland that was handed to Hitler by the 1938 Munich
conference. Those who read Gerard Henderson’s book A Howard Government? would
know he memorably described John Howard as being conceived around the
time of the Munich conference, and it was Churchill’s opposition to the
Munich deal that may have been the reason why Howard received the
middle name “Winston”.

Mind you, students of history would know
that after he finished as PM, Churchill was given the peculiarly
archaic role of “Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports”, a role taken up by
Sir Robert Menzies after his retirement. Most recently the role was
filled by the late Queen Mother. However, despite the Prime Minister’s
reverence for all three people who have held the post in recent
decades, I can’t see him being attracted to the job, even if for no
other reason than having to wear the ceremonial three-cornered hat,
frilly vest and black stockings. Sounds more like a job for Alexander
Downer.

Peter Fray

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