John Howard started the slide

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

On Aus­tralia Day, it’ll do us good to be re­minded that the ill deeds and mean-spir­ited in­fec­tion sown by John Howard so long ago con­demns us all (Mike Sec­combe, “It’s all John Howard’s fault”, De­cem­ber 23, 2017–Jan­uary 26, 2018). Aus­tralia jet­ti­soned its rep­u­ta­tion as a car­ing na­tion when then prime min­is­ter Howard’s vil­i­fi­ca­tion of asy­lum seek­ers proved de­ci­sive in win­ning him the 2001 fed­eral elec­tion. The Tampa af­fair be­came the cal­lous prece­dent that to this day al­lows a paucity of moral prin­ci­ples to guide Aus­tralia’s na­tional dis­course on pro­tect­ing out­siders and the vul­ner­a­ble. The ruth­less am­bi­tion and back­stab­bing that plague po­lit­i­cal power strug­gles in Aus­tralia are now so en­trenched as to be con­sid­ered run of the mill. Lead­ers and the Op­po­si­tion of­fer sweet­en­ers and bribes to vot­ers to gain and stay at the sum­mit. The elec­torate protests loudly about leak­ing hip pock­ets while re­main­ing silent on harm­ful so­cial poli­cies. Gov­ern­ments are in slav­ish obei­sance to weekly opin­ion polls that dic­tate to them what favours and flavours a self-in­ter­ested elec­torate de­mands. In ad­di­tion to de­plor­ing Aus­tralia’s lead­er­ship, the elec­torate could own up to its com­plic­ity in abet­ting Aus­tralia’s leap into the moral abyss. Aus­tralians de­serve the lead­ers we vote in when we ex­pect those in charge to fo­cus on meet­ing our self­ish de­sires.

– Joseph Ting, Ca­rina, Qld

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