Aussie Prime Ministers in history

 
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
What could have happened if the whitlam dissmissal turned into a fully blown constitutional crisis? What would have the effects of this been on Australia?
Gayspie
Probably not - even Whitlam himself acknowledged on the steps of Parliament House that he'd been swindled by the old drunk Kerr and that there was nothing that could be done. Even he knew that he'd buggered up and would have to face a new poll.

We don't have a history of revolutions or civil wars in this country - for better or for worse our politicians do generally follow the law and behave with good grace rather than try and call in the military etc.

Sponsored advertisement

  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
...

Gorton, through a no-confidence motion in the party room, actually voted himself out of office, and Billy McMahon finally made it into The Lodge. He had been plotting actively for years, undermining Gorton, counting numbers and making promises, and was described by Whitlam as “Tiberius with a telephone.”
He made numerous changes to the ministry, and one that came back to bite him was removing Minister for the Navy, Jim Killen, from that position and sending him to the back bench. On one subsequent occasion, McMahon was holding forth at the despatch box and declared dramatically, “I am my own worst enemy!” Came the rich baritone voice of Killen, “Not while I’m alive.”  McMahon basically failed to impress anybody, and finally lost any press support when Sir Frank Packer sold the Daily Telegraph to Rupert Murdoch. He was also mercilessly lampooned in a couple of  local newspapers which always referred to him as, “ the Prim Monster, Mr McMoan.” Eventually, the seemingly inevitable happened, and the change of government saw the end of Billy.
Valvegear
My old Labor Party stalwart friends would have a lot to say about McMahon - especially about his private life. Most of it doesn't deserve repeating here but certainly the Melbourne Truth loved having a field day with insinuations and gossip. My friends swear that Julian McMahon is not actually Billy McMahon's son... but it's just gossip isn't it.

As for his leadership style, he's often described as one of the worst Prime Ministers we've ever had but at least he did manage to start the withdrawal of Australian troops from the failed Vietnam campaign in conjunction with US President R.M. Nixon. A stuff-up very early in his leadership was to condemn the newly-elected Leader of the Opposition Gough Whitlam for his policy to recognise communist China but he was left with egg on his face when Nixon announced that he was going to do just that.

McMahon's predecessor John Gorton had decided to get Australia in on the nuclear armaments business and had ordered the construction of a nuclear reactor that was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium but this was one of the first things McMahon cancelled upon assuming office declaring it incompatible with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty Australia signed in 1970. Interesting to imagine what Australia would have been like as a nuclear-armed nation with nuclear power plants?

Finally Sonia McMahon's appearance at the White House in THAT dress with a very revealing slits down both sides raised lots of eyebrows... she later said that her husband had chosen it for her to wear that night.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Harold Holt is first. Here is a man who showed no signs of higher ambition for the entire time that he served under Menzies, and this suited Menzies perfectly. Menzies had seen off the obvious potential challengers and Holt was the ideal lieutenant. Menzies finally retired in 1966 and Holt became PM. In that same year, he visited the USA and made what many considered a grovelling speech which included a ringing endorsement of Australia’s presence in Vietnam. He ended his speech to President Lyndon Johnson among others, with words which haunted him for years, “ . . . you have an admiring friend, a staunch friend that will be all the way with LBJ.” Johnson repaid him by visiting just prior to the 1966 election and campaigning unashamedly for Holt’s re-election, despite the convention that you don’t meddle in the politics of another country. It all ended on 17 December 1967 when Holt visited Cheviot Beach at Portsea with his current mistress, Marjorie Gillespie, and being a womaniser, decided to show off, swam out in a heavy sea and vanished, later presumed drowned.
Valvegear
Holt was really quite a weak character who made arbitrary decisions without consulting cabinet and I think Menzies made a big mistake picking him over other candidates. Holt had already served as loyal Treasurer since 1958 and introduced some positive changes such as initiating the transition to decimal currency but he was widely blamed for the 1961 credit squeeze which very nearly lost Menzies the election that year. As you say, he was not really ambitious and maybe that's why Menzies picked him as his replacement in 1966.

Holt's "all the way with LBJ" speech in the United States not long after replacing Menzies and commitment to an unpopular and strategically dubious Vietnam war made him some what of a pariah internationally. Despite all this he won the November 1966 poll with a unexpectedly huge swing towards the LNP, picking up ten seats. Holt as Prime Minister was quite small "L" liberal and reformed many parts of Australia's bureaucracy; he officially abandoned the White Australia policy, instituted a referendum to formally recognise Indigenous Australians and work on early land-rights for them, established the Australia Council and started work on the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.

LBJ reportedly burst into tears when he heard that Holt was missing presumed drowned: I guess he knew that he'd lost a key ally in the Australian leadership and at that stage the Vietnam was going shockingly bad for the United States with the constant bombing of the north achieving nothing. Holt was a very strong supporter of the military campaign against the communist North particularly the bombing of Hanoi but in reality it wasn't disrupting supply chains to the Viet Kong in the south and it was becoming obvious at that point that the USA was going to lose. It was left to Nixon to try and get them out of that war with what little face the Americans could salvage.

His personal life was also the subject of a lot of gossip as Valvegear says - he was a notorious womaniser and it was unfortunate this his mistress was the one who witnesses his untimely death - unless the rumor about the Chinese submarine is true! It's also pretty weird that he ended up having the Harold Holt Swim Centre - that piece of dreadful brutalist architecture - named after him in Malvern VIC. I used to sometimes go there as a Stonnington resident and wonder what on earth he'd make of the fact that a swimming pool was named after him given his unfortunate end...
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

What could have happened if the whitlam dissmissal turned into a fully blown constitutional crisis? What would have the effects of this been on Australia?
Gayspie
We can guess at a few potential outcomes, but we don't know.

That's exactly the point of a constitutional crisis - it's a situation where the constitution doesn't have a clear solution.

The reason it is still worth talking about is that while it didn't turn into a constitutional crisis, it wasn't far off becoming one. Arguably, it was only prevented from going further by incompetence (Whitlam not challenging the Fraser government on the floor of the House of Representatives).

Probably not - even Whitlam himself acknowledged on the steps of Parliament House that he'd been swindled by the old drunk Kerr and that there was nothing that could be done. Even he knew that he'd buggered up and would have to face a new poll.
don_dunstan
The thing that probably got him to accept it was that he thought he'd romp it in at the subsequent election.

Combine that with his attempt to get Kerr to approve a half-Senate election (despite the fact that it couldn't have changed the balance of the Senate) and it points towards him having been insulated from the realities of the situation.

At best, that might have been a result of the ALP lacking experience as a party of government (something they'll need to look out for if they lose the next election and more members/staffers leaving before they win one again) and at worst it might have been the result of him running the DPC as a personality cult. I'd suggest it was somewhere in the middle - that Whitlam was genuine but naive, and surrounded by people who adored him a little too much to give fearless advice.

How will Whitlam's performance be regarded once those with an emotional connection to the issues have all fallen off the perch? I think he'll become Australia's version of Warren Harding, the 1921-23 POTUS who was enormously popular at the time and for a few years after his death in office, but is now regarded as one of the worst US presidents now. History may yet regard Kerr as having been a better performer (even if only by accident rather than by competence) during the crisis than Whitlam.

We don't have a history of revolutions or civil wars in this country - for better or for worse our politicians do generally follow the law and behave with good grace rather than try and call in the military etc.
don_dunstan
It's quite a balancing act.

Australia's system of government relies heavily on convention rather than spelling out solutions for every possible scenario. The good thing about that is the fear of the unknown acts as a deterrent for political brinksmanship - and this is only enhanced by the current domination of the parliament by professional politicians who fear getting ejected - but if things do go pear-shaped (e.g. if Kerr had swallowed Whitlam's faulty advice about using a half-Senate election to solve the supply crisis) then it may be complex to recover from the situation.

The best result of The Dismissal was that there was a general precedent set that getting too close to the brink may result in the GG stepping in and making a decision, but no specific precedent. It was by far the strongest possible outcome for our parliamentary democracy.
The worst outcome would have been a specific precedent (or a constitutional amendment voted in at a subsequent referendum) that would be a "in the event of situation X, Y happens" situation, as it would legitimise a party treating it as "if outcome Y is desirable, crank handle X" rather than a warning to steer clear of situation X.
  Gayspie Deputy Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, SA
It's quite a balancing act.

Australia's system of government relies heavily on convention rather than spelling out solutions for every possible scenario. The good thing about that is the fear of the unknown acts as a deterrent for political brinksmanship - and this is only enhanced by the current domination of the parliament by professional politicians who fear getting ejected - but if things do go pear-shaped (e.g. if Kerr had swallowed Whitlam's faulty advice about using a half-Senate election to solve the supply crisis) then it may be complex to recover from the situation.

The best result of The Dismissal was that there was a general precedent set that getting too close to the brink may result in the GG stepping in and making a decision, but no specific precedent. It was by far the strongest possible outcome for our parliamentary democracy.
The worst outcome would have been a specific precedent (or a constitutional amendment voted in at a subsequent referendum) that would be a "in the event of situation X, Y happens" situation, as it would legitimise a party treating it as "if outcome Y is desirable, crank handle X" rather than a warning to steer clear of situation X.
justapassenger
How is an unelected governor general dismissing an elected prime minister democratic?
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
It's quite a balancing act.

Australia's system of government relies heavily on convention rather than spelling out solutions for every possible scenario. The good thing about that is the fear of the unknown acts as a deterrent for political brinksmanship - and this is only enhanced by the current domination of the parliament by professional politicians who fear getting ejected - but if things do go pear-shaped (e.g. if Kerr had swallowed Whitlam's faulty advice about using a half-Senate election to solve the supply crisis) then it may be complex to recover from the situation.

The best result of The Dismissal was that there was a general precedent set that getting too close to the brink may result in the GG stepping in and making a decision, but no specific precedent. It was by far the strongest possible outcome for our parliamentary democracy.
The worst outcome would have been a specific precedent (or a constitutional amendment voted in at a subsequent referendum) that would be a "in the event of situation X, Y happens" situation, as it would legitimise a party treating it as "if outcome Y is desirable, crank handle X" rather than a warning to steer clear of situation X.
How is an unelected governor general dismissing an elected prime minister democratic?
Gayspie
In a sort of a "get your smeg together guys we're starting parliment over" way.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

It's quite a balancing act.

Australia's system of government relies heavily on convention rather than spelling out solutions for every possible scenario. The good thing about that is the fear of the unknown acts as a deterrent for political brinksmanship - and this is only enhanced by the current domination of the parliament by professional politicians who fear getting ejected - but if things do go pear-shaped (e.g. if Kerr had swallowed Whitlam's faulty advice about using a half-Senate election to solve the supply crisis) then it may be complex to recover from the situation.

The best result of The Dismissal was that there was a general precedent set that getting too close to the brink may result in the GG stepping in and making a decision, but no specific precedent. It was by far the strongest possible outcome for our parliamentary democracy.
The worst outcome would have been a specific precedent (or a constitutional amendment voted in at a subsequent referendum) that would be a "in the event of situation X, Y happens" situation, as it would legitimise a party treating it as "if outcome Y is desirable, crank handle X" rather than a warning to steer clear of situation X.
How is an unelected governor general dismissing an elected prime minister democratic?
Gayspie
The PM is no more elected than the GG. Both are selected by the party with the numbers to form government, not voted on by the Australian public.

In the case of Kerr dismissing the Whitlam government, it was a democratic decision because the solution included putting it back to the public at a fresh election. There's a significant case to be made that it was the most democratic solution possible at the time.

Now we have the National Cabinet, perhaps the future solution should be that the GG be empowered to pass an extension of supply upon a majority vote of the National Cabinet (i.e. the state premiers) if supply would expire during an election period. This would allow a GG to break a supply deadlock by dissolving the parliament for a fresh election without needing to install the opposition leader as the prime minister.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud

Probably not - even Whitlam himself acknowledged on the steps of Parliament House that he'd been swindled by the old drunk Kerr and that there was nothing that could be done. Even he knew that he'd buggered up and would have to face a new poll.
The thing that probably got him to accept it was that he thought he'd romp it in at the subsequent election.

Combine that with his attempt to get Kerr to approve a half-Senate election (despite the fact that it couldn't have changed the balance of the Senate) and it points towards him having been insulated from the realities of the situation.

At best, that might have been a result of the ALP lacking experience as a party of government (something they'll need to look out for if they lose the next election and more members/staffers leaving before they win one again) and at worst it might have been the result of him running the DPC as a personality cult. I'd suggest it was somewhere in the middle - that Whitlam was genuine but naive, and surrounded by people who adored him a little too much to give fearless advice.

How will Whitlam's performance be regarded once those with an emotional connection to the issues have all fallen off the perch? I think he'll become Australia's version of Warren Harding, the 1921-23 POTUS who was enormously popular at the time and for a few years after his death in office, but is now regarded as one of the worst US presidents now. History may yet regard Kerr as having been a better performer (even if only by accident rather than by competence) during the crisis than Whitlam.
justapassenger
I'm not sure what Whitlam was thinking but given he'd won two elections perhaps he thought that winning a third on the basis of being unfairly duded out of office by his own Governor General would win him extra sympathy and he'd win by a land-slide. Instead the opposite happened and Fraser won.

Whitlam, forever the wasted opportunity.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
The last individual on the list was Hawke, so the logical successor is Paul John Keating.

He entered Federal Parliament in 1969 at the age of 25 as the Member for Blaxland, following a period of apprenticeship as it were, by mixing with serving politicians, unionists et al, leading to his holding the post of President of NSW Young Labor in 1966.

So; the background was there. In his early days, he was correctly viewed as a narrow minded young man. For example, he seemed to regard women in the workforce as undesirable, and voted against Gorton’s Bill to decriminalize homosexuality. It is uncertain what made him become less socially conservative, but it certainly happened.

He was finally recognized as a rising star in October 1975 when Whitlam appointed him as Minister  for Northern Australia. This, of course, was a very short lived post which ended abruptly on the infamous 11 November 1975. Legend has it that Keating was the first to encounter an enraged Whitlam returning to Parliament House after his dismissal at Yaralumla. “You’re sacked!” Whitlam growled at a shocked Keating who could only gasp, “What for?” being unaware that the entire government had been deposed.  He then lived through the period of opposition until the heady days when Hayden stood aside for Hawke, and the Fraser government was toppled.

Initially, there was an amazing rapport between Hawke and Keating as PM and Treasurer respectively, with many reports from serving members of the mutual admiration society that the two had established. There was a degree of tension between Keating and the Head of Treasury, John Stone, but they got along because both knew how to work hard and play hard. They were in Newport, Rhode Island when Australia won the America’s Cup, and they “helped” with the celebrations. They celebrated so well that they very nearly missed the start of the inaugural IMF/World Bank Meeting in Washington DC which, after all, was the reason they were in the U.S.

Keating fell out with some of the business community over some tax reforms on which he was defeated in the Party Room. John Leard, one of these businessman, had frequently chatted with Keating about the economy, but had now become one the  Hawke Government’s more strident critics. He reminded a group at a Securities lunch in Sydney in December 1985 that it was just over a year since Keating had been crowned as Euromoney’s  finance minister of the year, and asked, “I wonder whether you know that the Treasurer of Mexico won it the year before.”

As we have already seen, Keating eventually achieved his ambition of becoming Prime Minister. Andrew Peacock was Liberal Leader at the 1990 election which Hawke won, and, in the best tradition, he was removed to be succeeded by John Hewson (John Who?). Hawke finally went in 1991 and Keating was in the chair. As a parliamentary performer has was accomplished, and could be very savage with his language. A list of the epithets he used to describe his opponents would nearly fill a page on the Oxford Dictionary.

However, Keating is credited with one of the best parliamentary exchanges of all time. The opposition had come up with an economic blueprint which they labelled “Fightback”. Keating was scathing about it at every opportunity.   Late in 1992, in Question Time, Hewson asked Keating if he was so confident in his view of Fightback, why wouldn’t he call an early election. Keating’s classic reply was; “ The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us . . . I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm out of this load of rubbish over a couple of months. There will be no easy execution for you . . . if you think I am going to put you out of your misery quickly, you can think again.”

It was in 1993 that Keating won “the unwinnable election”. Polls had predicted a Coalition win, but Hewson was put to the sword by Keating over, among other things,  his proposed GST which he had trouble explaining properly, and not listing what items would and would not be subject to GST. Of course, Hewson had to go and was replaced by Alexander Downer who achieved some form of fame because of his propensity for gaffes and controversies. He lasted until 1995, when Keating’s ultimate nemesis, John Howard took the Liberal leadership.

Keating had courted some controversy by his attempts to strengthen ties with South East Asia, and in particular, for being close to Indonesian President Suharto to the dismay of East Timor and its supporters. Another of his not-too-bright efforts was  to publicly label Malaysia’s Dr Mahatir as “recalcitrant.”

The 1996 election loomed and Howard ran a clever campaign with a “small target” approach and this, combined with the fact that the Labor government was not doing too well with the economy, helped Howard’s “time for change” approach which saw Labor swept from power with the loss of 29 seats.

Keating’s race was run, and his retirement from politics followed.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Initially, there was an amazing rapport between Hawke and Keating as PM and Treasurer respectively, with many reports from serving members of the mutual admiration society that the two had established. There was a degree of tension between Keating and the Head of Treasury, John Stone, but they got along because both knew how to work hard and play hard. They were in Newport, Rhode Island when Australia won the America’s Cup, and they “helped” with the celebrations. They celebrated so well that they very nearly missed the start of the inaugural IMF/World Bank Meeting in Washington DC which, after all, was the reason they were in the U.S.
Valvegear
I think it was pure expediency on Hawke's part, he knew that Keating was clever and they both had the same goal of introducing Thatcherism to Australia under the guise of 'economic reform'. The thing that I hated about that entire era was that it was all incredibly dishonest - there was no consensus for Hawke and Keating were all about, not even from the Labor Party itself. And even though the Labor Party derided Fraser's attempts to keep wages in check via the "Wages pause" Hawke did exactly the same thing under the guise of the Accord Mk I & II, only with the unions signing their own death warrants by agreeing to it.
Keating fell out with some of the business community over some tax reforms on which he was defeated in the Party Room. John Leard, one of these businessman, had frequently chatted with Keating about the economy, but had now become one the Hawke Government’s more strident critics. He reminded a group at a Securities lunch in Sydney in December 1985 that it was just over a year since Keating had been crowned as Euromoney’s finance minister of the year, and asked, “I wonder whether you know that the Treasurer of Mexico won it the year before.”
Valvegear
The Thatcherite agenda was implemented in its entirety by the end of the eighties - including letting the banks fully off the leash. The only restriction left was the "four pillars" policy. But Keating's 'reforms' were directly responsible for the crash and the near-death experiences of the banks in 1990; banks of all persuasions had been lending for businesses and assets that were grossly over-inflated in price, not the least of which was our own State Bank of South Australia who (under the responsible stewardship of Tim Marcus-Clarke) had managed to accumulate a portfolio of assets that would eventually sink it - for example, they valued the Alice Springs Casino at $50 million but in reality it was only worth a tenth of that.

The State Bank of SA wasn't the only thing destroyed by Tim Marcus-Clarke and the stupidly risky eighties: Westpac was technically bankrupt but Keating secretly bailed it out because there could have been a rush on all of the banks had the public found out. Then only two years later he gave away the Commowealth Bank (and CSL) for a song and floated off Qantas - the only thing left for Howard to do by the time he got into office in 1996 privatise was Telstra.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
As we have already seen, Keating eventually achieved his ambition of becoming Prime Minister. Andrew Peacock was Liberal Leader at the 1990 election which Hawke won, and, in the best tradition, he was removed to be succeeded by John Hewson (John Who?). Hawke finally went in 1991 and Keating was in the chair. As a parliamentary performer has was accomplished, and could be very savage with his language. A list of the epithets he used to describe his opponents would nearly fill a page on the Oxford Dictionary.

However, Keating is credited with one of the best parliamentary exchanges of all time. The opposition had come up with an economic blueprint which they labelled “Fightback”. Keating was scathing about it at every opportunity. Late in 1992, in Question Time, Hewson asked Keating if he was so confident in his view of Fightback, why wouldn’t he call an early election. Keating’s classic reply was; “ The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us . . . I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm out of this load of rubbish over a couple of months. There will be no easy execution for you . . . if you think I am going to put you out of your misery quickly, you can think again.”
Valvegear
It was extraordinary luck for the Hawke/Keating regime that the Liberal Party were in such disarray for so many years. Former Liberal President during that time, Tony Staley, once lamented how much of a wasted opportunity the whole Howard/Peacock rivalry was. Also lucky for Hawke and Keating that the union movement (bar the most left wing unions) were all supportive of their agenda because of the promise of managing billions in compulsory superannuation further down the track - a sweetener for punishing their members with lower wages during the eighties.

The other big lie in my opinion was that engagement with Asia would make us wealthier when in fact it was the path to businesses off-shoring jobs and destroying more working class livelihoods; it's really hard to imagine a situation in which Chinese investment (for example) has actually benefited the bottom half.
It was in 1993 that Keating won “the unwinnable election”. Polls had predicted a Coalition win, but Hewson was put to the sword by Keating over, among other things, his proposed GST which he had trouble explaining properly, and not listing what items would and would not be subject to GST.
Valvegear
And its really strange irony looking back now and seeing Keating lead a scare campaign about a package of further reforms that he pretty much endorsed in their entirety only a few years earlier... but as usual this was Keating we were talking about so it was nothing for him to lie to the public's face about the Labor Party being substantially different from the "Fight-back" package (they really weren't) and run rings around a hapless Hewson who appeared completely out of his depth towards the end of the campaign.

Despite the fact that he was an excellent orator and entertaining I still can't forgive him for his total destruction of opportunities for working class people under the guise of helping them out. I think the epitome was the "Redfern Address": While it was necessary to talk about Mabo and try and enfranchise the Aboriginal people into the Aussie venture there were lots of problems emerging in the economy with people being thrown onto the scrap-heap, whole industries closing and traditional Labor supporters feeling completely ignored.
The 1996 election loomed and Howard ran a clever campaign with a “small target” approach and this, combined with the fact that the Labor government was not doing too well with the economy, helped Howard’s “time for change” approach which saw Labor swept from power with the loss of 29 seats. Keating’s race was run, and his retirement from politics followed.
Valvegear
Howard was a match for Keating; he was smart enough to know that the public were feeling p*ssed off and left behind so he promised to make them "relaxed and comfortable"; that the pace of change would slow down (also a complete lie on the same level as Keating's lies). However the stonking great loss to the LNP showed the built-up anger that the working class had toward the man who they blamed for their hardship.

And what a shock that the man who started the rush to off-shore all our industries to Asia now works for a Chinese government backed merchant bank... grub liar.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I know that there's a lot of people here who won't agree with my assessment of Keating but I'm still angry at the man for completely ignoring the suffering of the many Australians whose livelihoods were totally destroyed by that closet-Thatcherite... "Clever Country" was just a smoke-screen for the off-shoring of anything and everything that wasn't (in their view) necessary or needed in the new Australia that they wanted remade in their own image, the ultimate plutocrats completely isolated from the real people that they're pretending to represent. And he's still prattling on about the fact that the republican vote failed as if its the most important issue that the millions of hand-to-mouth people in this country think about. Clueless.

I guess we should also examine the Howard era - which was basically just more of the same since the heavy lifting had already been done by Hawke/Keating.
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

I know that there's a lot of people here who won't agree with my assessment of Keating but I'm still angry at the man for completely ignoring the suffering of the many Australians whose livelihoods were totally destroyed by that closet-Thatcherite... "Clever Country" was just a smoke-screen for the off-shoring of anything and everything that wasn't (in their view) necessary or needed in the new Australia that they wanted remade in their own image, the ultimate plutocrats completely isolated from the real people that they're pretending to represent. And he's still prattling on about the fact that the republican vote failed as if its the most important issue that the millions of hand-to-mouth people in this country wake up every morning thinking about.

I guess we should also examine the Howard era - which was basically just more of the same since the heavy lifting had already been done by Hawke/Keating.
don_dunstan
Looking forward to VG’s summing up of Abbott and the current goon in the big chair, either when he’s punted at a general election or sliced and diced by one his ambitious colleagues.

COVID 19 has been good for some agendas.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2020/07/04/morrison-ruling-henry-viii-clauses/159378480010053?utm_source=tsp_website&utm_campaign=social_mobile_twitter&utm_medium=social_share
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Looking forward to VG’s summing up of Abbott and the current goon in the big chair, either when he’s punted at a general election or sliced and diced by one his ambitious colleagues.

COVID 19 has been good for some agendas.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2020/07/04/morrison-ruling-henry-viii-clauses/159378480010053?utm_source=tsp_website&utm_campaign=social_mobile_twitter&utm_medium=social_share
michaelgm
Agreed, I've been enjoying Valvegear's synopsis of the various leaders and we still have a way to go with Howard onward.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I guess I'll pick up from here and try and put a synopsis on the Howard era.

"Relaxed and comfortable", that's what John Winston Howard promised. I think after the relentless change of the Hawke/Keating era it was what the public wanted to hear and I think that's pretty much the theme of his leadership - reading the public mood accurately.

The first test was his decision to ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre and that seems to have had a positive impact on his perception with the public. The privatisation of Telstra was fortuitous, it raised an absolute fortune for the Howard government at a time when they needed it and it pretty much managed to wipe out the Commonwealth public debt - I'm sure Keating was secretly jealous that Howard managed to achieve that goal and not him.

Howard went to an early election in 1998 over the issue of his wanting to introduce a GST and although Beasley won the popular vote Howard managed to get his way and the GST came into effect on July 1st 2000 after some wrangling with Meg Lee's Democrats - something that ultimately destroyed their party as they lost support for doing that.

The most memorable part of this leadership (at least for me) was the decision post September 11th to go "all the way" with George W. Bush and invade Iraq, something that I think in retrospect was completely stupid and counter-productive as it destablised the region and led directly to the birth of ISIS. Howard was in a position where he could have tried to talk Dubya out of doing it and the fact that he didn't see the potential for long term damage by removing Saddam really disappoints me and is a definite low point in his leadership.

I think by 2005 Howard was running out of ideas - we had the development of Work-Choices which was really quite unnecessary and damaging to the image of his government particularly in the light of the fact that wages were already stagnating by that time and workers were doing it tough.

Over to everyone else for your take on that era...
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Interesting to read Don's take on Howard. He highlighted what I believe to be one of Howard's best achievements which was gun control. Howard stuck to his plan despite some vigorous opposition from within the coalition, and it did his public image a power of good.

The most memorable part of this leadership (at least for me) was the decision post September 11th to go "all the way" with George W. Bush and invade Iraq, something that I think in retrospect was completely stupid and counter-productive as it destablised the region and led directly to the birth of ISIS. Howard was in a position where he could have tried to talk Dubya out of doing it and the fact that he didn't see the potential for long term damage by removing Saddam really disappoints me and is a definite low point in his leadership.
don_dunstan
I can't fault the reasoning here. Iraq was probably the silliest idea Howard persisted with, and it still rankles with many.

Howard went to an early election in 1998 over the issue of his wanting to introduce a GST and although Beasley won the popular vote Howard managed to get his way and the GST came into effect on July 1st 2000 after some wrangling with Meg Lee's Democrats - something that ultimately destroyed their party as they lost support for doing that.
don_dunstan
GST was, and still is, a vexed question. Alan Ramsey, a veteran journalist from the Frank Packer era, absolutely savaged Howard over it in an article on August 18, 2004, and here are his comments quoted verbatim.

"Six years ago, I wrote in this newspaper: "Telling a lie is easier than killing it, even for a prime minister. A lie is a lie, and once it is out on the street no amount of passing traffic can ever truly skittle it. John Howard told a lie on May 2, 1995. Then he told more lies to reinforce the first lie. To protect himself from what he judged a serious threat to his last chance to be prime minister, Howard lied and went on lying. Now, three years later, he is telling still more lies to hide that first lie."
That was the lead to an article published on Saturday, May 30, 1998. I wrote it to show why Howard was a serial liar when it suited his political interests. In recent months, in an increasingly difficult election year, Howard has written twice to the Herald to challenge assertions by me.
His press secretary, at Howard's direction, has written once. All three letters were published, the latest in today's letters column, concerning his wife. Six years ago, when I set out the case history of one of the Prime Minister's more notorious lies, Howard said nothing. Neither did his office. The article went unchallenged.
In May 1995, eight months before the general election in March 1996 that made him prime minister, what Howard lied about was his commitment to a goods and services tax (GST). That was his infamous "never ever" pledge. How it happened, and how Howard ignored his pledge once he'd become prime minister, is open and shut. At a Sydney bankers' lunch, where he spoke about the Keating government's coming budget later that month, Howard referred briefly to John Hewson's losing GST policy in the 1993 election and how "nothing remotely resembling it" would be Coalition policy in the 1996 campaign.
But when a businessman asked why, if a GST was so economically sound, Howard wouldn't again support it, he gave a long answer which included, in part: "... We would occasionally like to win, you know. The fact is the last election was a referendum on the GST. There is no way we can have it as part of our policy for the next election. As to what happens some years in the future, I don't know. But the GST cause was lost in the last election ..."
Every news outlet ignored it except The Australian. It ran a single-column story on its front page next morning, saying Howard had "left open the possibility of the Coalition reconsidering a GST some years in the future". Howard panicked. He'd told the truth in answering the businessman's question. Now he felt he had to lie if he wasn't to sabotage, after 22 years in politics, his last opportunity to be prime minister.
He issued a four-sentence statement saying, "Suggestions I have left open the possibility of a GST are completely wrong. A GST or anything resembling it is no longer Coalition policy. Nor will it be policy at any time in the future. It is completely off the political agenda in Australia." Later that day, confronted by a clamouring press pack, he compounded the lie. Asked if he'd "left the door open for a GST", Howard said: "No. There's no way a GST will ever be part of our policy."
Q: "Never ever?" Howard: "Never ever. It's dead. It was killed by voters at the last election."
Nothing equivocal about that. But 27 months later, in August 1997, less than 18 months after becoming Prime Minister, Howard told the truth by telling more lies. He announced a "great adventure" in tax reform he wanted to "share with the Australian people".
Six months later, we learned the heart and soul of this "adventure" was to be the introduction of a GST. And how did Howard rationalise his "never ever" pledge? He didn't. He simply lied again. Howard told Parliament in April 1998: "I went to the 1996 election saying there would not be a GST in our first term. I go to the coming election saying we are going to reform the tax system ... The Australian public are entitled to be told before an election what a government will do after the election. They do not deserve to be misled. They do not deserve to be deceived."
Nothing could be more bare-faced. Howard lied about the GST before the 1996 campaign. He lied about these lies during the 1998 campaign. He lied about the reasons he took Australia into the Iraq travesty, now such a part of this election. Now we are told by someone at the centre of events that he lied about the children overboard affair.
The central truth is, however grave the charge, that John Howard's prime ministership has been a lie from the outset."

Pretty strong stuff from Ramsey!
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

Interesting to read Don's take on Howard. He highlighted what I believe to be one of Howard's best achievements which was gun control. Howard stuck to his plan despite some vigorous opposition from within the coalition, and it did his public image a power of good.

The most memorable part of this leadership (at least for me) was the decision post September 11th to go "all the way" with George W. Bush and invade Iraq, something that I think in retrospect was completely stupid and counter-productive as it destablised the region and led directly to the birth of ISIS. Howard was in a position where he could have tried to talk Dubya out of doing it and the fact that he didn't see the potential for long term damage by removing Saddam really disappoints me and is a definite low point in his leadership.
I can't fault the reasoning here. Iraq was probably the silliest idea Howard persisted with, and it still rankles with many.

Howard went to an early election in 1998 over the issue of his wanting to introduce a GST and although Beasley won the popular vote Howard managed to get his way and the GST came into effect on July 1st 2000 after some wrangling with Meg Lee's Democrats - something that ultimately destroyed their party as they lost support for doing that.
GST was, and still is, a vexed question. Alan Ramsey, a veteran journalist from the Frank Packer era, absolutely savaged Howard over it in an article on August 18, 2004, and here are his comments quoted verbatim.

"Six years ago, I wrote in this newspaper: "Telling a lie is easier than killing it, even for a prime minister. A lie is a lie, and once it is out on the street no amount of passing traffic can ever truly skittle it. John Howard told a lie on May 2, 1995. Then he told more lies to reinforce the first lie. To protect himself from what he judged a serious threat to his last chance to be prime minister, Howard lied and went on lying. Now, three years later, he is telling still more lies to hide that first lie."
That was the lead to an article published on Saturday, May 30, 1998. I wrote it to show why Howard was a serial liar when it suited his political interests. In recent months, in an increasingly difficult election year, Howard has written twice to the Herald to challenge assertions by me.
His press secretary, at Howard's direction, has written once. All three letters were published, the latest in today's letters column, concerning his wife. Six years ago, when I set out the case history of one of the Prime Minister's more notorious lies, Howard said nothing. Neither did his office. The article went unchallenged.
In May 1995, eight months before the general election in March 1996 that made him prime minister, what Howard lied about was his commitment to a goods and services tax (GST). That was his infamous "never ever" pledge. How it happened, and how Howard ignored his pledge once he'd become prime minister, is open and shut. At a Sydney bankers' lunch, where he spoke about the Keating government's coming budget later that month, Howard referred briefly to John Hewson's losing GST policy in the 1993 election and how "nothing remotely resembling it" would be Coalition policy in the 1996 campaign.
But when a businessman asked why, if a GST was so economically sound, Howard wouldn't again support it, he gave a long answer which included, in part: "... We would occasionally like to win, you know. The fact is the last election was a referendum on the GST. There is no way we can have it as part of our policy for the next election. As to what happens some years in the future, I don't know. But the GST cause was lost in the last election ..."
Every news outlet ignored it except The Australian. It ran a single-column story on its front page next morning, saying Howard had "left open the possibility of the Coalition reconsidering a GST some years in the future". Howard panicked. He'd told the truth in answering the businessman's question. Now he felt he had to lie if he wasn't to sabotage, after 22 years in politics, his last opportunity to be prime minister.
He issued a four-sentence statement saying, "Suggestions I have left open the possibility of a GST are completely wrong. A GST or anything resembling it is no longer Coalition policy. Nor will it be policy at any time in the future. It is completely off the political agenda in Australia." Later that day, confronted by a clamouring press pack, he compounded the lie. Asked if he'd "left the door open for a GST", Howard said: "No. There's no way a GST will ever be part of our policy."
Q: "Never ever?" Howard: "Never ever. It's dead. It was killed by voters at the last election."
Nothing equivocal about that. But 27 months later, in August 1997, less than 18 months after becoming Prime Minister, Howard told the truth by telling more lies. He announced a "great adventure" in tax reform he wanted to "share with the Australian people".
Six months later, we learned the heart and soul of this "adventure" was to be the introduction of a GST. And how did Howard rationalise his "never ever" pledge? He didn't. He simply lied again. Howard told Parliament in April 1998: "I went to the 1996 election saying there would not be a GST in our first term. I go to the coming election saying we are going to reform the tax system ... The Australian public are entitled to be told before an election what a government will do after the election. They do not deserve to be misled. They do not deserve to be deceived."
Nothing could be more bare-faced. Howard lied about the GST before the 1996 campaign. He lied about these lies during the 1998 campaign. He lied about the reasons he took Australia into the Iraq travesty, now such a part of this election. Now we are told by someone at the centre of events that he lied about the children overboard affair.
The central truth is, however grave the charge, that John Howard's prime ministership has been a lie from the outset."

Pretty strong stuff from Ramsey!
Valvegear
Still have a completely vivid memory of the ‘07 election.
Older husband and wife team, decked out in team colours, distributing how to vote paraphernalia for the rodent. She almost jamming the thing in my face, you need to vote for someone you can trust.

Ok, He’s told enough lies, the little rat is finished. And the look of horror, no sound. Priceless.
  DCook Chief Train Controller

Location: The standard state
In my opinion the only positive standout from the Howard era was the gun control decision, everything else seems uneventful.
As said by both Don and Valvegear, the decision to involve Australia with George Bush and the Iraq situation was incredibly stupid and short sighted, so many deaths could have easily been avoided in a conflict still continuing to this day.
There is no doubt that something major needed to be done after 9/11 but the Bush strategy was not the way to do it.

I am surprised nobody mentioned that he was the second Prime Minister to lose their own seat, the first being Stanley Bruce in 1929.
Howard lost the seat of Bennelong to Labor candidate Maxine McKew, the first and only Labor member for Bennelong, after holding the seat for the past 30 years, McKew lost the seat in the next election to Liberal candidate John Alexander, a former professional tennis player who remains in the seat to this day.
In his last years Howard was regarded as unproductive and slow by his own electorate, hence why he lost the seat. McKew was also regarded as unproductive and out of touch with the community leading to her own loss three years later.
  DCook Chief Train Controller

Location: The standard state
It is great to finally have a thread in the lounge that is calm and barely has any arguing
I dare say that when we get to Kevin07 things will drastically change
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Kevin Michael Rudd, AC . . . what does one say about this man?

First elected to the House in 1998, he became Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2001, due in no small measure to the fact that he speaks fluent Mandarin. Still in opposition, he finally became Opposition Leader in December 2006 following a bewildering array of leaders comprising Crean, Latham and Beazley.

His timing was pretty good, because he was facing John Howard who, in the opinion of many, had reached his “Use By” date. This proved to be right, and Labor won in a 23 seat landslide in December 2007. Rudd had campaigned on a platform of health, education, climate control and industrial relations. In one respect, he was a little like Whitlam in that he wasted no time in following up with his pet projects which included the Kyoto Protocol and the apology to indigenous people (The Stolen Generations). He pulled Australia’s remaining combat personnel out of Iraq. His government also provided a stimulus policy to fight the global financial crisis, and Australia remained one of the few countries which avoided the recession.

Now; all of that looks pretty good, so what happened?  Firstly, he suffered in Opinion Polls, due in part to his proposed Resources Super Tax and his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Then, other things intruded, such as taxation reform, the maintenance of non-combatant troops in Iran, his favouring of an Australian  military presence in Afghanistan, as well as his social conservatism on same sex marriage, abortion and stem cell research.  He was losing support within the Parliamentary party. Among other things, it was said that he was “dysfunctional” and that “the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories." Finally, Julia Gillard swooped and took the leadership on 24 June 2010, when Rudd withdrew his own nomination, knowing that he couldn’t win.

Now we have a problem because, as everyone knows, Rudd came again after three years of Gillard’s service as PM. I think we should come back to her separately next.

On 27 June 2013, Rudd once again won the leadership ballot and held the position for just under three months. Such a short period of time was no real use to anybody, and the ALP was swept from office where it has remained ever since.

There is undoubtedly a lot more to be said about Mr K Rudd!  Over to everyone for comments.
  DCook Chief Train Controller

Location: The standard state
Kevin Rudd was in my opinion one of the most bland PMs of Australia, the only major things that he accomplished were apologising to the Stolen Generations, pulling out of Iraq, avoiding the GFC and joining the Kyoto protocol.
In comparison to other post Menzies Prime Ministers he was definitely one of the better ones.

I must say that he is quite a good writer, his children's book about a cat and dog causing a kerfuffle at Parliament House was one of my favourite books when I was younger.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Kevin Michael Rudd, AC . . . what does one say about this man?

First elected to the House in 1998, he became Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2001, due in no small measure to the fact that he speaks fluent Mandarin. Still in opposition, he finally became Opposition Leader in December 2006 following a bewildering array of leaders comprising Crean, Latham and Beazley.
Valvegear
Only just noticed that you'd updated this thread - thank-you Valvegear.

What DO you say about Kevin Rudd? It's hard to not be too critical because I've been following him on Twitter for a while and I have to admit I find him unbearably smug and righteous.

I think like Tony Abbott he presented a facade as Opposition Leader that was really impressive and resonated with the public who were desperate for change, but that didn't translate into a good Prime Minister did it. Shame for the nation really because he started out with so much promise.
His timing was pretty good, because he was facing John Howard who, in the opinion of many, had reached his “Use By” date. This proved to be right, and Labor won in a 23 seat landslide in December 2007. Rudd had campaigned on a platform of health, education, climate control and industrial relations. In one respect, he was a little like Whitlam in that he wasted no time in following up with his pet projects which included the Kyoto Protocol and the apology to indigenous people (The Stolen Generations). He pulled Australia’s remaining combat personnel out of Iraq. His government also provided a stimulus policy to fight the global financial crisis, and Australia remained one of the few countries which avoided the recession.
Valvegear
Admittedly good at the bigger picture stuff - Victoria in particular has Rudd to thank for the Regional Rail Link and a host of other projects. Some of that stimulus was badly botched though, the ceiling insulation fiasco stands out in my mind. Also the building of completely unnecessary school buildings was a bit of strange choice, they should have stuck to roads, public transport and other fixed infrastructure for Sydney and Melbourne which were both suffering under the strain of Howard's unilateral decision to triple long term migration.

Also the NBN proved to be a disaster for Australian taxpayers and consumers, no two ways about it. I know that other people are going to chip in and say subsequent Liberal PM's ruined it but in reality the whole concept and execution was stupid and wrong-headed. The private sector was already building the infrastructure in our large cities to support NBN-type services and the government should have remained the provider of last resort in rural and regional areas - there was no need for the government to take over the whole thing and be the owner and developer of the network. When I heard Rudd say the words "future-proof" I knew we were in trouble... the value of the NBN has been pretty much written down to zero now due to the advent of new technologies like 5G so that's fifty billion or more down the drain.
Now; all of that looks pretty good, so what happened? Firstly, he suffered in Opinion Polls, due in part to his proposed Resources Super Tax and his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Then, other things intruded, such as taxation reform, the maintenance of non-combatant troops in Iran, his favouring of an Australian military presence in Afghanistan, as well as his social conservatism on same sex marriage, abortion and stem cell research. He was losing support within the Parliamentary party. Among other things, it was said that he was “dysfunctional” and that “the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories."
Valvegear
The stories of his dysfunctional personal style are legend.

Peter Garrett in particular has been really unflattering about Rudd labeling him a 'megalomaniac' and saying that he wasn't the only one in cabinet who thought that of him. From a 2015 interview about his book on the era:

Garrett says in the book that supporting Rudd in light of his “trail of destruction and abandoned policy” was his biggest mistake in nearly 10 years in parliament.

“I’ve been particularly strong in this book about leadership and Rudd’s leadership and I think it needed to be said,” Garrett told the program.

“Rudd wasn’t someone who was easy to work with in that way, and his vanity and his exercise of power as prime minister was contrary ultimately, to me, to what good leadership is.”

Now to be fair I think you have to be somewhat of a narcissist to aspire to and assume that kind of power anyway - but in Rudd's case he suffered from the same kind of malaise that Tony Abbott later did occupying the big chair: Not listening to his own cabinet.
Finally, Julia Gillard swooped and took the leadership on 24 June 2010, when Rudd withdrew his own nomination, knowing that he couldn’t win.
Valvegear
I did feel genuinely sorry for Rudd the day he got sacked, he's a mere human being like the rest of us after all.

The only other thing that I really have to say is that the Labor Party should have just left it alone - although Rudd was dysfunctional and not really capable of insight I think the public hadn't really noticed how bad he actually was and perhaps cabinet could have continued to operate around him without too much trouble. They should have at least let him win the following election and THEN done something about it.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
McKew was also regarded as unproductive and out of touch with the community leading to her own loss three years later.
DCook
She was a one-trick pony, a protest vote. She really wasn't suited to politics.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

Kevin Rudd
  • tobacco plain packaging.
  • the NBN as it is today (FTTH, FTTC, FTTN & HFC) bears no resemblance to the original. It is all Tony Abbott & Malcolm Turnbulls’ work, with support from Rupert Murdoch, eg $800 million to Optus for cable infrastructure not fit for purpose. 5G’s success is yet to be proved.
  • lack of support by The Greens for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
  • Utegate.
  •   don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

    Location: Adelaide proud
    Kevin Rudd
  • tobacco plain packaging.
  • kitchgp
    I read recently that removing brands didn't actually work that well and our smoking rates didn't really fall by that much.
    the NBN as it is today (FTTH, FTTC, FTTN & HFC) bears no resemblance to the original. It is all Tony Abbott & Malcolm Turnbulls’ work, with support from Rupert Murdoch, eg $800 million to Optus for cable infrastructure not fit for purpose. 5G’s success is yet to be proved.
    kitchgp
    They still shouldn't have decided to be provider AND owner of all the infrastructure - it was completely unnecessary and proved to be a disaster for taxpayers. And even as a provider of last resort they should have just contracted out the services rather than try to deliver them to rural and remote areas themselves - part of the problem was they were determined to by-pass the privatized behemoth of Telstra.
    lack of support by The Greens for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Utegate.
    kitchgp
    Yeah well nothing was probably good enough for the Greens... don't really remember 'utegate'.

    As it happens I've been reading Rudd's Way by Kevin Stewart and there's a lot of stuff there about what went wrong. For example, after his spectacular and universally-acclaimed "apology" statement (which went down really well) he didn't actually follow up with anything at all - and in fact the "intervention" policy leftover from the Howard government was left in place and continued for another few years.

    The sheer disorganisation and reluctance to listen to anyone is what comes across.

    Sponsored advertisement

    Subscribers: Big J, speedemon08

    Display from: