Recent PMs haven’t risen to fill Lazarus’s shoes
As Lazarus rose (albeit for a book launch) this week, the gaping leadership chasm that has been the Prime Ministership since John Howard’s departure was glaringly exposed.
A recent article in The Spectator on John Howard had the by-line “Remember when Australia had a real PM?” It’s a fair question.
John Howard’s re-emergence on the national stage this week, along with a raft of shoe-throwing unwashed Howard-haters, only served to remind the public what it has been missing: conviction politics. Plain and simple.
Love or loathe John Winston Howard, you always knew what he stood for. You knew he was motivated by core beliefs and that the bedrock of his policy decisions was his assessment of whether they were “in the national interest”. You might not always agree with his assessment, but you knew he was fair dinkum about it.
The same cannot be said for his two successors.
From “greatest moral challenge” Rudd to “from now on you get the real Julia” Gillard, the highest office of the land has been subject to the whim of opinion polls and focus groups (not to mention internal party machinations) as never before. It’s occupants have appeared confected and forced, rather than genuine.
I’ve written before about Labor’s ruthless machine men, as described by their own former Secretary and Minister John Della Bosca. This week Labor Senator and stalwart Doug Cameron confirmed the extent to which debate is carefully controlled by the ALP machine with his “political lobotomies” tirade.
It was a startling admission that brought to mind a zombie army of Labor MPs and Orwellian visions of “thought police” controlling them – and it painted a bleak picture indeed of the internal workings of the ALP.
Cameron’s cry for freedom was swiftly batted down by “Big Brother” Gillard.
Despite her carefully focus-grouped rhetoric like “I’m throwing out the campaign rule book”, and the fey “throwing open the curtains to let the sunshine in” line designed to convey an impression of change, Gillard’s actions since coming to office betray a deep desire to ensure it remains “business as usual” for the Labor machine men.
But then, I suppose she owes them for getting her the gig.
John Howard’s return to the national stage this week really shone a light on the confected “blandness” that both Rudd and Gillard have displayed in office.
He spoke plainly about his beliefs and his convictions. He stood his ground. He invoked passionate responses. Importantly, the re-examination of Howard’s record in Government showed that he actually got things done. And therein lies the greatest contrast of all.