According to today’s Newspoll, seven per cent of Australians have no view as to whether or not John Howard is doing a good job as prime minister. Fancy not having an opinion about John Howard.

More remarkable still is the fact that, in his twelfth year in the job, more people are satisfied than unsatisfied with Howard’s performance. Clearly, David Flint isn’t the only Howard hugger among us. So, for those commenters who think we at Crikey are too tough on the Howard Government, here are five things to admire about the PM:

1) In an era when style usually triumphs over substance, Howard has preferred the latter. He has been at the forefront of debates over taxation, privatisation and labour market reform for three decades. He knows that the perfect is the enemy of the good. While he prefers live radio to get his message out, he doesn’t shirk the big interviews with the likes of Kerry O’Brien (or Barry Cassidy).

2) He has been a tireless campaigner for the things he believes in. In last night’s two for the price of one interview on Today Tonight, Peter Costello came very close last night to admitting that he is lazy by comparison with his boss. For those of us who carry a little bit of padding around the waist, Howard’s morning walks are a constant reminder that the world is run by those who turn up.

3) Howard has restored public confidence in the immigration program. Even with 300,000 extra bods among us this year, immigration has been the dog that didn’t bark. Howard put the sword to One Nation. Pauline Hanson has been reduced to permanent Senate candidacy to earn her pocket money – a kind of three-yearly work for the dole program.

4) With so much tragedy on his watch, Howard has been outstanding in finding the right words to comfort the families of the victims and the survivors of tragedies such as Port Arthur and Bali. When words were not enough, there was always a hug.

5) It was Howard who finally repaid Australia’s debt to the East Timorese by guaranteeing their transition to independence. Howard can be proud of his record on an issue where Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Keating can only hang their heads in shame.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey