Economically, Howard did very little. He boasted of maintaining a massive surplus and his supporters claim this is his legacy. There is, however, no point in being the richest man in the cemetery. Whilst Howard sat on this surplus, infrastructure such as education and health deteriorated. Howard had inherited a strong economy from Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating. For instance, in 1996 the GDP growth rate 4.18% and inflation was 2.18%. In addition to this, Howard was able to reap the benefits of an exceptionally strong mining sector, boosting employment and government coffers, courtesy of the Western Australian and Queensland Labor governments. Howard even implemented some of Keating's economic policies, such as the GST.
Howard's reign demonstrates economic restraint which ignored expenditure on infrastructure. He encouraged discord between the States as he set them arguing over funding while he pushed for increased federal control of infrastructure which was constitutionally the responsibility of the States. For example, in blatant pork-barrelling, Howard took control of Tasmania's Mersey Hospital and promised that the federal government would fix all its ills at $45 million per year. The plan failed. Mersey Hospital is now back in the control of Tasmania.
The legacy of former Prime Minister John Howard is deceit, discord, fear, racism and victimising victims. The years of demonising asylum seekers continues to influence both Labor and Liberal policies. For instance, the ALP attempted to replace Howard's "Pacific Solution" with the "Malaysian Solution". Both policies were based on xenophobia and demonising people arriving by boat.
There was also a measure of religion thrown into fool the gullible. Ironically, we hear many Christians from the religious right saying that they don't agree with the "moral" policies of the Labor party, such as gay marriage and abortion. Yet many of them blindly supported Howard as he victimised asylum seekers, lied about his policies and their affects, and waged war based on false evidence: hardly Christian morals!
Liar v Liar
During the federal election in 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated that she would not introduce a carbon tax if re-elected, but would see victory as a mandate for a carbon price. When the election yielded a hung parliament, both her and Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, began negotiating with the independents and the Greens in order to form government. Labor successfully negotiated the support of Greens MP, Adam Bandt, and the three independents, Katter, Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie. Gillard was returned to power and was now the proud leader of a minority government.
One of the agreements Gillard made in order to form government was for the introduction of carbon pricing. This resulted in the Clean Energy Act 2011 which established the framework for carbon pricing, essentially an emissions trading scheme. It is not a tax as is pointed out numerous times throughout the Act, for instance, Section 100, subsection 10 and 11, which states:
(10) If a carbon unit is issued to a person in accordance with this section, the person is liable to pay a charge for the issue of the unit.
(11) Subsection (10) has effect only so far as it is not a law imposing taxation within the meaning of section 55 of the Constitution. Note: See also: (a) Part 2 of the Clean Energy (Charges—Excise) Act 2011; and (b) Part 2 of the Clean Energy (Charges—Customs) Act 2011; and (c) the Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge—Fixed Charge) Act 2011.
Most of the people who accused Gillard of lying had voted for the coalition anyway. Most of them had also voted for Howard years before. If these people were so concerned about this "lie" by Gillard, then perhaps they should revisit the record of Honest John Howard whom they revere. A record punctuated by years of deliberate deceit. Not promises broken because of a need to negotiate with other political parties, but electoral promises broken once he was elected with a clear majority, as well as deliberate cover-ups and blatant lies.
In 1996, Howard promised not to introduce any new taxes or tax increases during his first term of government. A promise which he failed dismally at. Then there was John Howard's "core and non-core" promises which he used to justify not keeping promises. Things such as "no new taxes, no tax increases" were deemed "non-core" promises by Mr Howard, as was the statement "I'm not going to break any promises".
Howard answered this question asked by Kerry O'Brien on ABC's "7.30 Report" on 1 February 1996:
Kerry O'Brien: "Okay, the pledge of no new taxes, no increases in existing taxes for the life of the next parliament. So for the next three years, not even a 1 cent increase on cigarettes or beer or wine or petrol, no other indirect tax increase, no tax increase of any kind?"
John Howard: "That promise is quite explicit".
Howard won the election and went on to introduce dozens of new taxes, tax increases and indirect taxes such as the Termination Payments Tax, Franchise Fees Windfall Tax, Family Trust Distribution Tax, Radiocommunications (Spectrum Licence Tax), Radiocommunications (Receiver Licence Tax), Radiocommunications (Transmitter Licence Tax) and others during his first term of government from 1996 to 1998. For a full list of Acts implemented during those years refer to the following site:
When Labor introduced the "Flood Levy" to assist in the recovery of communities in Queensland and Victoria following floods and cyclones in 2011, Abbott accused them of introducing a new tax and asked "when is a levy not a tax"? Apparently when the Liberals introduce it during the 38th parliament (Howard's first term in which there would be "no new taxes, tax increases or indirect taxes). His first term saw him introduce the above new taxes and the following levies and charges: Cattle Transaction Levy, Wine Export Charge, Dairy Produce Levy, Telecommunications (Carrier Licence Charges) and so on. Surely, "levies" and "charges" constitute "taxes".
In 1995, John Howard famously said that he would "never, ever" introduce a Goods & Services Tax, (GST). In the year 2000, Howard introduced the GST. But credit where credit is due, he did mention the GST in his 1998 election campaign. Apparently "never, ever" only has a life span of a few years.
Howard stated that the Tax Act would be reduced with the introduction of the GST, when in fact 3,000 pages were added to the Tax Act after GST
For a list of claims by Howard (which could be classified as lies using the standard "Juliar carbon tax" measure mentioned above), relating to Medicare, universities, GST, the introduction of the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax, Fuel Tax Act and other taxes (including the 130 new taxes or tax increases introduced between 1996 and 2002 - all "non-core promises"), ethanol, aged care, current account deficit, labour market programs, services for the bush, political advertising, public service jobs, savings bonus, then refer to this site:
1995 was a big year for John Howard. As Opposition Leader, Howard criticised then Prime Minister Paul Keating for "wasting" $9.4 million on advertising Labor's Working Nation policy. Funnily enough, when Howard took over as Prime Minister in 1996 he went on to spend $2 billion on government advertising whilst in office, this included $118 million on advertising the GST and $120 million advertising Work Choices.
In a spot of deja vu, Abbott criticised Labor for proposing to spend $12 million advertising the Carbon Tax, claiming that Labor had promised to "eliminate" government advertising. Yet the truth is that Kevin Rudd had promised to "significantly reduce" government advertising if Labor won the election in 2007, not to eliminate it. Apparently, $12 million is bad, $118 million is good.
But I digress. Returning to John Howard, truth was always one of Honest John's weak points. The 2001 election campaign was mired by numerous lies, misrepresentations and cover-ups, particularly in relation to human rights issues and the tragic deaths of hundreds of asylum seekers.
Victimising the victims - a legacy of fear
Some of former Prime Minister John Howard's remarkable human rights achievements include:
- In the 2001 federal election campaign, Howard used the deaths caused by Al Qaeda on 9/11 to link asylum seekers with terrorism and the need for "border security". To do this, Howard capitalised on three incidents which culminated in the loss of 353 lives:
(1) The "Children Overboard Affair", in which Howard claimed that asylum seekers had thrown their children from a sinking boat in order to force the Royal Australian Navy to rescue them. A subsequent Senate inquiry concluded that not only were NO children thrown overboard but that the Prime Minister himself knew that no children had been thrown overboard. The Senate Inquiry found that Howard deliberately misled the public in order to "exploit voters' fears of a wave of illegal immigrants by demonising asylum seekers" for political gain through appearing strong on "border security" (as detailed in the Senate Inquiries findings).
In addition, HMAS Adelaide was directed not to bring any asylum seekers on board as they were still in international waters. Taking them on board would mean that they were now on Australian territory and entitled to seek asylum in Australia. The crew of HMAS Adelaide watched the boat, known as Siev-5, sink before their eyes and only once it had sunk did they rescue the asylum seekers. A former sailor on HMAS Adelaide stated in the ABC1 documentary "Leaky Boat" aired on 7 July 2011, "this wouldn't have happened if it was the Manly ferry... they wouldn't have even got their feet wet". Crew from HMAS Adelaide were forced to dive into treacherous waters to save the asylum seekers. This could have been avoided if the government had authorised them to rescue the asylum seekers rather than to sit there and watch the boat sink, risking the lives of sailors and asylum seekers.
The media reported the "Children Overboard"deceit during the 2001 federal election campaign. Rather than Howard being called to account for it, his popularity in the polls rose and he was returned to government with an increased majority. Never underestimate the power of fear or racism.
(2) MV Tampa crisis in which a Norwegian cargo vessel rescued 438 asylum seekers from a sinking boat in international waters near Christmas Island. The captain of the Tampa sailed towards Christmas Island as this was the nearest port. When the Tampa entered Australian waters, Howard unleashed the Army's elite military unit, the SAS Counter-terrorism Unit, onto the ship, demanding that the distressed and traumatised asylum seekers be loaded onto a Navy ship and relocated to either New Zealand or a detention centre in Nauru. The asylum seekers were predominantly from Afghanistan, fleeing the Taliban (who ironically had been created in the early 1990s from direct involvement and sponsorship by the United States and other western governments during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s, as had Al Qaeda). Defence Minister Peter Reith claimed that this group of asylum seekers could be harboring terrorists. After being relocated to Nauru and New Zealand, all members of this group were found to be legitimate refugees and resettled in either Australia or New Zealand.
77% of Australians were labelled racist because of their agreement with the government's callous position on the Tampa affair. One survey found that Australian support for this action was as high as 90%. Never underestimate the power of government sanctioned racism ... and fear.
During the Tampa crisis, Howard excised 4,600 Australian islands from being considered part of Australia's migration zone for the purposes of seeking asylum. In essence, escalating the crisis and denying legal rights to asylum seekers who had the temerity to land on an Australian island. This policy required asylum seekers to reach the mainland before applying for refugee status. The policy was eventually overturned by a decision of the Australian High Court in 2009, which ruled it illegal.
Howard had inaccurately and immorally linked asylum seekers with terrorists in the psyche of many Australians. A legacy of the Howard era which many people still believe today. Yet there are far easier ways for terrorists to enter the country than to risk their lives on a leaky boat and then spend months or years in detention centres. The only link between asylum seekers and terrorists is that the asylum seekers are fleeing the very people that Howard tried to link them with; fleeing the very people who Howard tried to accuse the asylum seekers of being. The asylum seekers are victims, yet Howard dehumanised and demonised them - with the blessing of most of the Australian electorate.
(3) SIEV-X tragedy. On 19 October 2001 during the Australian federal election campaign, a boat over loaded with asylum seekers began sinking as they made their way to Australia. 353 asylum seekers drowned. The Howard government claimed the sinking occured within Indonesian waters and was therefore Indonesia's responsibility.
However, SBS reporter Geoff Parish proved that the sinking occured in international waters and that Howard knew this when he made that statement. During the election campaign, opposition leader Kim Beazley accused Howard of a cover-up. Howard won public sympathy by claiming how disgusting it was that Beazley should make this awful mud-slinging accusation during an election campaign. Yet the accusation was true and Howard used it to ensure his election victory. Never underestimate the power of sympathy when accused of profiting from the deaths of demonised people.
The proof that Howard knew the boat sank in international waters, was in a cable by the Australian ambassador to Indonesia which was sent to 40 high ranking Australians by name, including Prime Minister John Howard. Additionally, this was consistent with information in an intelligence note and people smuggling taskforce minutes, both provided on 23 October 2001 and a harbour masters report provided on 24 October 2001. The documents indicated that the boat had sunk in an area in which Howard had specifically ordered "saturation surveillance". The documents raise questions about whether Australia could have rescued the victims. So why the cover-up from Howard? 353 lives lost; 146 children, 142 women, 65 men drowned and a cover-up for political expediency. Further information on this can be found with any google search, or refer to these sites:
The Senate Inquiry which investigated the "Children Overboard" affair also reviewed the SIEV-X tragedy and concluded that it was "extraordinary that a major disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event, without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision making circles".
This deceit makes the "carbon tax lie" pale into insignificance.
- Pacific Solution. Howard negotiated with a number of Pacific countries, including Nauru and Papua New Guinea to harbour detention centres on behalf of Australia. This was known as the "Pacific Solution". These detention centres housed hundreds of asylum seekers. Many were held for years before their cases were heard. Almost all were accepted as genuine refugees after suffering the trauma of years of detention, often with families forcibly split up and held in different detention centres.
- Every time there was a drop in the polls, Howard would trot out another boatload of refugees and somehow link them to terrorism and "border security". Victims of crimes are not a "border security" issue, they are a humanitarian issue.
Politicians and voters alike, accused asylum seekers of not having the same "moral standards" as us superior Australians. What sort of moral standard are we judging this against, when even the Prime Minister had no compulsion about demonising asylum seekers and using their tragedy for his own benefit - as highlighted in the Senate Inquiry mentioned above! A haughty hypocrisy indeed!
- During the 2007 election campaign, Howard claimed that the Pacific Solution had solved the problem of asylum seekers arriving by boat because of the significant drop in boat arrivals. He argued that Labor would be "soft" on asylum seekers and would open the flood-gates. What Howard failed to mention was that between 2001 and 2006 there was a world-wide drop in asylum seekers: Australia had a 73% decrease, Europe had a 55% decrease and USA/Canada had a 50% decrease. The UNHCR estimates that around 1,600 asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters from 2001-2006. From 2006 - 2008 there was a worldwide increase in asylum claims. Refer to this graph from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees:
The entire report can be read here: http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/STATISTICS/49c796572.pdf
Asylum seeker levels in Australia have mirrored world-wide trends. In 2011, the UNHCR revealed that mandatory detention does not deter people smugglers or asylum seekers. This report recommended other options, such as community detention, which is more humane and provides better outcomes for all concerned without the mental and physical trauma that imprisonment inflicts.Whilst Howard credits the off-shore processing at Nauru and Manus Island for 'stopping the boats', it should be kept in mind that Howard also implemented 'Operation Relex', in which the Austalian Navy was used to literally tow the boats back to Indonesia. So while Abbott trumpets the benefits of the 'Pacific Solution', keep in mind that Indonesia no longer allows boats to be towed back, which is one reason for the increase in boats coming to Australia. The other reason is a significant increase in refugee numbers world-wide.
- Howard involved Australia in an illegal war against Iraq, which the United Nations warned against. To justify the war, Howard (along with U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair) lied about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), even though UN weapons inspectors had warned numerous times that Iraq had no WMD. Andrew Wilkie, at that time an intelligence officer with the Office of National Assessments (and later an independent MP), had submitted reports on the alleged Iraqi WMD. Wilkie eventually resigned and publicly stated that his resignation was because of his intelligence reports being misrepresented by the Prime Minister. Howard championed the lies by the United States that Iraq and Al Qaeda were working hand in glove when this had been disproven numerous times by intelligence experts, including the CIA.
Howard and his ministers oversaw other human rights and moral issues which few Australians concerned themselves with:
- Forced deportation of Chinese woman, 8 months pregnant, knowing she would be forced to have an abortion. In 1999, the Howard government deported a Chinese woman who was more than 8 months pregnant and who begged for her unborn child, knowing that China would enforce their "one child" policy. As expected, Chinese authorities forced her to have an abortion only 10 days before she was due to give birth. She posed no security risk to Australia, she had been held at the Port Hedland Detention Centre for 3 years, so why was the government in such a rush to deport her when he knew that she faced a forced abortion when she was almost 9 months pregnant? Would two more Chinese in Australia have been such a burden? Or if she had to be deported, couldn't the government have waited until she gave birth? She had been here for 3 years already! It is interesting that Christians don't discuss this when criticising abortion policies of the Labor party.
- Deportation of Vivienne Solon. Howard's government deported Australian citizen, Vivienne Solon. She was a citizen of Australia, not an asylum seeker, not here on a visa. She was Australian. She was eventually returned to Australia.
- Unlawful detention of Cornelia Rau. German citizen, Cornelia Rau, was unlawfully detained for 10 months through errors which saw her treated as an illegal immigrant. She had been in hospital receiving treatment for a mental illness, when she disappeared. She was reported as a 'missing patient'. She was eventually located in Queensland and incorrectly detained for 10 months before the error was discovered. Rau's detention at Baxter Detention Centre included 5 weeks in solitary confinement.
- Deportation of Robert Jovicic. Howard's government deported Robert Jovicic to Serbia on "character grounds", even though he had lived in Australia since he was 2 years old. Jovicic ended up living on the streets of Belgrade. After negative media coverage the Howard government allowed Jovicic to return to Australia, however, he was not granted a permanent visa until the Labor government, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, granted him one in 2008.
- Deportation of Afghans, resulting in a number of them being murdered in Afghanistan. The government deported 400 Afghan asylum seekers in 2004 by making the bizarre claim that Afghanistan was safe. Of these, at least 20 were murdered on their arrival in Afghanistan.
- Deportation of minors. In 2004, 42 unaccompanied minors were deported to Afghanistan. The fate of these children is unknown.
- Indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Howard's policies resulted in traumatised men, women and children being locked up behind razor wire for indefinite periods (often for years); taking away from them their dignity and their hope for the future and then encouraging media reports blaming them for "not fitting into our way of life" when they rioted, self-mutilated or suicided. Additionally, many of these families were split up with family members being held in different locations.
- National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. The Inquiry conducted by the Human Rights Equal Opportunity Commission investigated the detention of children who arrived in Australia without valid visas between 1999 and 2002. The Inquiry found that the children were detained for indefinite periods, not afforded the opportunity to be heard in a court and were denied their rights under the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Misrepresenting arrivals of 'boat people'. Howard misrepresented the "flood" of boat people, when on-shore arrivals constituted less than 3% of Australia's migrant intake. This claim of a "flood" of boat people is still believed today, even though it remains a single digit percentage of Australia's migrant intake.
The current federal Labor government certainly has a lot to answer for in relation to some of its scandals and poor decision making. Yet, where was the uproar with scandals and poor decisions in Howard's administration?
- Refusal to dismiss Governor-General accused of covering-up paedophilia claims against a Catholic priest. Howard refused to ask for the dismissal or resignation of Governor-General Peter Hollingworth following allegation that while Arch-Bishop of Brisbane, he covered up accusations of paedophilia against a Catholic priest. On the ABC's Lateline program, Prime Minister Howard stated that " ... his Excellency continues to enjoy my confidence." http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/stories/s484616.htm
Eventually Hollingworth did resign, prompting the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, to accuse Howard of moral turpitude for failing to act on the issue. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2937576.stm
- Travel rorts scandal. In 1997, the 'travel rorts scandal' was exposed resulting in three ministers losing their jobs:
- David Jull, Fadden, Qld
- John Sharp, Hume, NSW
- Peter McGauran, Gippsland, Vic
- Other first term scandals. In addition to the three ministers sacked over the travel rorts affair, the following ministers also stood down during Howard's first term for ministerial impropriety in relation to the issues stated:
- Senator Jim Short, Vic - 14 Oct 1996 - conflict of interest regarding bank licenses
- Senator Brian Gibson, Tas - 15 Oct 1996 - conflict of interest regarding bank licenses
- Senator Bob Woods, NSW - 3 Feb 1997 - alleged travel expenses claims
- Geoff Prosser, Forrest, WA - 11 Jul 1997 - conflict of interest
- Fake flyers during 2007 election campaign. During Howard's 2007 federal election campaign it was revealed that members of the Liberal Party were handing out fake flyers purporting to be from the Islamic Australia Federation (a fake organisation) and disgracefully used the deaths of 202 people, including 88 Australians, in the 2002 Bali bombing by claiming that 'we gratefully acknowledge Labors support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings' - this claim was an horrendous and blatant lie aimed at making people angry and upset. The flyers also claimed that Labor supported the construction of mosques and had allowed controversial Sheik al-Hilaly into the country against the objections of ASIO. The claims in the flyers were bogus and exploited the xenophobia that was the hallmark of Howard's administration.
- Industrial relations.
- Water front dispute
Following an illegal restructuring in 1997/1998, the Patrick Corporation then locked out their workers who were members of the Maritime Union of the Australia. The Howard government supported this illegal action in what could be seen as a harbinger of the controversial 'WorkChoices' legislation released some years later.
The WorkChoices legislation was an industrial relations policy which took away the rights of workers to collectively bargain for their rights and instead required individual negotiations. An individual versus the Corporation. David v Goliath. This resulted in many workers losing entitlements as they were required to front their senior managers by themselves to negotiate their pay and conditions.
Conservative voters screamed that democracy had been usurped when Gillard formed government even though the Labor Party received fewer votes than the Coalition, yet won the same number of seats.
Funnily enough, the conservative silence was deafening following the 1998 election in which Labor received more votes than the Coalition on two-party preferred, but not more seats. In fact, it was the biggest swing against a first term government since 1934! Based on the conservative's unconstitutional logic in 2010, Labor's Kim Beazley should have been Prime Minister in 1998, not John Howard.
The "Christian" Vote
Throughout the world there has been a rise in religious conservatism. In the West, it has manifested itself through the religious right. Some politicians have tried to capitalise on this. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard, both claimed to be Christians and both capitalised on the vote by the religious right even though their policies were anything but "Christian". Had Christians spoken up and demanded that their Lord, the Prince of Peace, not be reinvented as a war-mongering, fear-driven, money-hungry capitalist perhaps thousands of lives would have been saved, perhaps we wouldn't be the target of extremists.
Today, many Christians criticise the Labor Party because of its support for gay marriage, abortion and multi-culturalism. Yet are these 'issues' any worse than the legacy that was left by former Prime Minister John Howard as detailed above?
Instead of defending the indefensible, the waging of war, racism, xenophobia and the abuse of asylum seekers, Christians should have been praying for their leaders, for each other and for their "enemies", those people demonised by the government.
Luke 6:27: "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you".
Matthew 5:43 "You have heard it said 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you, that you may be Sons of your Father in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust".
George W. Bush and John Howard both claimed the moral high ground in order to garner the Christian vote, while they waged war and fear campaigns, spread lies and dissent, cultivated racism and xenophobia and demonised vast groups of people. Had they lived and acted properly as Christians, we may have seen peace rather than war as highlighted in Proverbs:
Howard's legacy was one of deceit, discord, fear, racism, dissent and victimising victims. Yet Christians defended him.
"There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife amongst brothers."
Had Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd done the things that Howard did, would the electorate be as forgiving? Labor was correctly criticised for its inhumane Malaysian Solution, yet Howard was praised for his inhumane Pacific Solution. Gillard compromised on carbon tax and is accused of lying, yet Howard deliberately lied about taxes, asylum seekers, war ... and is praised for it.
What a legacy! What a haughty hypocrisy!