On Monday John Howard took to the op-ed pages to deny that he was "an extremist and a market fundamentalist" in his domestic policy. In today's Australian, Paul Kelly defends him against the corresponding charge of radicalism in foreign policy.

On the surface, the charge Kelly is rebutting is just as implausible as Kevin Rudd's claim that Howard is a Hayekian free-market ideologue. Although Kelly says "It was tempting at stages over the past decade to think that Howard and Alexander Downer were trashing the Australian foreign policy tradition", he is unable to cite anyone who really thought that. Where Howard and his critics disagree is evaluating the worth of that tradition.