Tuesday, October 16, 2007

John Howard: 0.25% Out of Touch?

So John Howard was out by a quarter of a percent on the official cash rate.

Now, my close personal friends and relatives, as well as most of my wider circle of acquaintances, my workmates, all my former uni professors, certain Sydney taxi drivers, and the dude who sells me my Herald on Saturday mornings, know that I am no great defender of Howard's.

But here's the thing. I don't think Howard is unfit to govern because he has demonstrated an insufficient grasp of detail, or because he's not an expert on interest rates, or because he's too old. I don't think any of those things are true. I do think he's unfit to govern because he is dishonest, Machiavellian, possibly racist, demonstrably xenophobic, overly concerned with material wealth, largely impervious to the plight of the needy, bizarrely attached to a romanticised Menzies-era ideal of Australian society, prone to expedient 180 degree shifts in policy, and, embarrassingly, the last great defender of President Bush. Do you see the difference?

I realise that Howard has positioned himself as the interest rate guy. It was all he bloody well talked about in 2004. He is, to an extent, falling on his own sword. So I'm not saying I don't think it's deliciously ironic that Howard slipped up on interest rates of all things. I just don't think it's what we should be talking about.

For one thing, I would rather we weren't talking about interest rates at all. I am tired of the notion that Australians vote for an interest rate, and exasperated that people still don't seem to appreciate the Reserve Bank's independence. Every minute we spend talking about Howard's interest rate gaffe is another minute we spend talking about interest rates. This is both disadvantageous and boring. Monetary policy isn't even a sexy subject by economics standards.

For another thing, it could just as easily have been Rudd - in fact, it was, more or less, a few weeks ago. And it will be again. Just because Rudd is smooth and competent, doesn't mean he's immune to this stuff. Howard is pretty smooth and competent himself, remember. That's one of the reasons he's still here.

And most of all... I just think we can do better than this. I don't want politics to be a competition to see who can store the most arcana. I don't care who knows what about the price of milk, or the name of their contesting candidate in a far-off seat. I don't think it's relevant, and I think by focusing on that kind of thing we are discouraging the kind of big-picture thinking this country needs. You can't look to the stars if you're always worried about tripping on your shoelaces. Besides, I know plenty of people who walk around with all kinds of facts and trivia in their heads. If they are united by one characteristic, it is evident unfitness for any kind of public office.

I'm not naive enough to think we can have election campaign without this stuff. I see that it fits in with Labor's theme of "out-of-touch" (read: senile). And obviously, I'd rather it was Howard slipping up than Rudd. But if we vote Howard out, I want it to be on the merits - or lack thereof.

Then again, it could be I'm just getting greedy - whoops, I mean, aspirational.


Diego Luego said...

The three rules of Incan society were "Ama Sua, Ama Llulla, Ama Quella" roughly translated as "Don't steal, Don't lie, Don't be lazy".

No-one could say John Howard is lazy. But as for the others?

He suddenly produced $35 billion that really belonged to the states for health and education. He has stolen our safe inclusive multicuture. And the right to fair pay for EVERY hour worked.

There were no WMDs in Iraq (not even a little one). No children overboard (not even a little one). He did introduce GST (but just a little one)despite previous promises.

Rufina said...

Interesting to know.