Now, his former boss, John Howard has got himself back in the news by way of an interview with the Daily Telegraph in which he criticises his successor as former PMs are wont to do a year out from the next election. Cutting through all the predictable self-justification, he does make one fair point:
"Mr Rudd will say he had the global financial crisis to handle. Well, courtesy of us he was well endowed with money in the bank.''I’ll pay him that one. Although, according to the documentaries, The Howard Years and Liberal Rule, that surplus was probably due more to Treasurer Peter Costello, who was apparently quite annoyed that so much of the savings he had made went to fund Howard’s pork-barrelling. Costello’s skill in savings is the most likely reason Kevin Rudd invited him to be on the board of directors for the Future Fund, which probably also rankles with Howard considering there is really no love lost between him and Costello. It also should be recognised that Howard supported many of the free market assumptions that led to the financial crisis, but I certainly won’t deny that the surpluses of the Howard government left Australia better placed to handle the crisis than many other countries.
However, the thing Howard said that really leapt out at me was this:
"People knew where we stood. We didn't try and be all things to all men. ''It echoes a talking point brought up by Joe Hockey on Q and A last week, and almost channels an utterly fatuous assertion made by John Bolton that President Bush’s first responsibility was to govern in the interests of those who voted for him rather than all citizens equally. Call me old fashioned, call me naive, but I thought it was a national leader’s job to lead the nation. The nation as a whole, not just the ones our elected officials have decided are right.
This is the paradox of representative democracy. It assumes that representatives will represent all their constituents. It raises the question of whether we truly have a democracy or just an elective, occasionally consultative dictatorship. Do we elect officials to represent us, or merely to enact their own policies on our behalf? Howard’s comment implies that he thinks it’s the latter and that he and Hockey believe that trying to please everyone as a government is something to be criticised.
What I don’t think Howard even realises, is that he has just contradicted what he said in every election victory speech except 2001.
The Australian people have given me the privilege of leading the Government of this country and I want to say it will be a government not only for the people who voted us but also for the people who voted against us. – 1996
The Government you have elected tonight will be a government for all Australians; the Government you have elected tonight will dedicate itself to the welfare of all Australian people. – 1998
We are happy, we are joyful that the verdict has been given by the Australian people but never forget the fact that governments are elected to govern not only for the people who voted for them, but also for the people who voted against them. – 2004We all knew he wouldn’t, but he has now admitted that he didn’t even try, nor is he even kidding himself that he did try.