Irony of Howard’s por­trait

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - ERICA THOMP­SON

IT seems ironic that the man re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing one of the most re­veal­ing tele­vi­sion por­traits of John Howard left the na­tional broad­caster be­cause of him.

Ges D’Souza (be­low), pro­ducer of The Howard Years, was work­ing for the ABC in Bris­bane more than a decade ago when the fund­ing axe fell.

‘‘The Howard Gov­ern­ment had just taken of­fice and there were cuts to the ABC’s bud­get,’’ re­calls D’Souza, who was one of the found­ing mem­bers of the award­win­ning Aus­tralian Story.

‘‘There were a lot of cut­backs and re­dun­dan­cies and I got of­fered a job down in Syd­ney with Chan­nel 7 for what was sort of dou­ble what I was get­ting paid at the ABC and so we moved down to Syd­ney.’’

But life on the com­mer­cial side of the fence was no pic­nic ei­ther for D’Souza, part of Seven’s ill­fated, Jana Wendt-hosted cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram Wit­ness.

‘‘I think some of the work we did there stands the test of any­thing, but it is a very com­pet­i­tive world, TV cur­rent af­fairs,’’ he says.

Af­ter Wit­ness folded, D’Souza found his way back to the ABC and this year be­gan what he calls a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion project.

The Howard Years, a four-part in­ter­view se­ries chron­i­cling the for­mer prime min­is­ter’s al­most 12 years in power, con­cludes on Mon­day.

D’Souza and his team spent nine months por­ing over archive ma­te­rial and in­ter­view­ing not only Howard, but mem­bers of his cab­i­net, key po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers and even out­go­ing US pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush and for­mer Bri­tish PM Tony Blair.

While D’Souza says the se­ries could have been made without Howard, the pro­gram is much richer for his pres­ence.

‘‘For in­stance, in episode four, he speaks for the first time about his rea­sons for not (stand­ing down from the lead­er­ship),’’ he says.

‘‘An­other ex­am­ple is he just hap­pened to be in Wash­ing­ton for Septem­ber 11. Hear­ing him talk about his ex­pe­ri­ence, you get an un­der­stand­ing of how that af­fected de­ci­sions that then came, for in­stance, with the Iraq war.’’

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