Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Reconciliation and Range Rovers.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 12, 2007

“I’m convinced we are dealing today with a new alignment of ideas and individuals; a coming together of forces I have not witnessed in 32 years of public life.

As always, the Australian people themselves are the best guide.”….. John Howard

The PM is right in more ways than he probably meant to let on.

That alignment of individuals is the blue and white collar workers on the one hand, and affluent professionals and their spouses on the other. The former make up the seats that provides the Coalition its governing majority, the latter makes up the seats that provide the Coalition its very existence.

Over the last few weeks, Liberal polling has seemingly been undertaken in seats like Kooyong, Goldstein, Higgins, Wentworth, North Sydney, Ryan etc. We know this, because my email box gets filled up with people telling me that they’ve just been polled, where they live and the name of the company that polled them. These seats aren’t just “seats” in the normal meaning of the word; they are the very heart of the Liberal party that pumps leadership blood and fund raising capability through the body of the entire organisation.

Without those types of Range Rover seats, there is no functioning Liberal party.

Let’s cut to the chase here – this is no Howard conversion on the goat track to Damascus, this is Howard as he has always been when he not only finds himself in trouble, but when he has an absence of good advice to temper his usually ill-conceived political reactions.

The underlying political objective of this sort of backflip-dressed-up-as-leadership is as transparent as it will be counterproductive.

The political problem Howard faces is that the Liberals are dangerously bleeding votes in their heartland seats, but for a completely different set of reasons that they are bleeding votes out in the rest of the electorate. While non-core seats held by the Liberals are getting hammered by Workchoices, housing affordability, childcare issues, the age of the government and a couple of dozen other issues, the core Liberal heartland seats are bleeding for a different set of reasons – indigenous affairs failure, dog whistling blowback, Iraq and the general 11 year rejection by the government of anything resembling small “L” liberal values. As long as the ALP had leaders that gave these people an allergic reaction, they were always going to suck it up and take it – simply as consequence of there being a powerful lack of alternatives. With Rudd being a viable proposition, however temporary, these voters can and are now exercising their ability to vote according to issues that are important to them.

This has resulted in the worst possible Catch 22 situation for the Liberal party. Any attempt to shore up their vote in those heartland seats, seats that provide the very foundation for the Liberal party being a viable political organisation, have the unfortunate consequence of alienating Coalition voters in regional and outer metropolitan seats. For every vote in North Sydney that can be regained by symbolic gestures on reconciliation, there is a vote lost in Flynn or Herbert. Yet, in those seats where the Range Rover count is low, the economic policy program of the Coalition no longer resonates – pork is expected, tax cuts are assumed and middle class welfare has become viewed as a right. Workchoices hangs over these electorates like a dark cloud and neutralises to a large extent any potential gain from Coalition economic policy initiatives. The only weapons left in the armoury are the rhetorical ones, the culture war spin-offs of dog whistling politics and various flavours of socially conservative finger pointing.

Yet for every Coalition initiative that tries on this rhetoric to shore up their vote in Flynn and Herbert, a vote becomes lost in Goldstein or Kooyong.

Thus we have Howard and reconciliation – trying to walk both sides of the street on an issue that he hopes can pander to enough of the heartland voters, while jumping through hoops to frame the issue in a way that won’t alienate the non-core seats. But make no mistake here, if it comes down to a choice between the two, the non-core seats can go and take a running a jump. Firewalls have centres – that’s the point of them.

But the framing of the speech, the fluff that’s supposed to temper any negative reaction in the non-core seats is a waste of time. The only Burke most voters in Herbert and Flynn are familiar with is Don Burke. The TV news reports will carry the reconciliation message and the insertion of blackfellas in the Constitution – the framing doesn’t get a look in when it comes to 15 second sound bites. There’s the usual Crosby-Textor strategic prism to view this through (although if they were behind this, they’ve gone more troppo than Howard himself). Howard trying to boost his personal standing via enhancing perceptions of his leadership, showing that he has ideas, demonstrating flexibility and policy adaptation in the face of a changing world etc etc.

But in the regions, all that positioning guff will just flow past a lot of the conservative punters like an afternoon breeze. The only thing they’ll see is “Backflip”, “stands for nothing”, “betrayed my trust”, “will do anything to get elected” type thing. Especially when the government starts using gay rights to shore up their heartland seats as they are planning to do shortly.

If the only thing stopping these people from voting for Rudd is Howards conservative values, and if it looks as if he has ditched them to try and win an election (a reconciliation and a gay rights agenda will ensure that perception) – there is nothing stopping these conservatives, these conservatives that have voted for both Howard and Beattie for example, from voting for Rudd.

If Howard is like the Labor Party on social values, then what’s in it for me?” becomes the key question in the non-core seats with a sizeable conservative population… i.e. Qld. Well, it becomes the question for those that won’t punish Howard as a matter of principle for betraying them.

And for those punters that start asking “what’s in it for me?“, for many the answer is simple – no Workchoices.

Howards reconciliation is born from his need to maintain the medium and long term viability of the Liberal Party. The fact that the firewall is now more concerned with protecting the Liberal heartland highlights the sheer desperation of the governments electoral position.

Thursday night was good timing – it allows tracking polls to be undertaken today and tomorrow, and if the first impression of Howards announcement is good, he can call the election on Sunday, or even Saturday afternoon and use the reconciliation speech as momentum to launch into the campaign. If the reconciliation speech went down like a lead balloon, he can still recall Parliament to try something else.

Yet, even in the heartland seats, once the first impressions have faded, this reconciliation agenda will turn out to be a meaningless gesture to the voters whom are its target.

“I’m the first to admit that this whole area is one I have struggled with during the entire time that I have been Prime Minister”

And this gets to crux of why it won’t work. Howard isn’t the first to admit, he’s the last to admit, and everyone of his target audience knows it. After the first impressions wash out of the system, it will be treated with the cynicism it deserves.

I’m not sure how many more of these fluffed strategies that result in a lose/lose situation the Coalition can take. It’s as if Hawker Britton have been running Coalition strategy on behalf of the Labor Party for the last 6 months.

Song of the day is Speed of Light, by uber-rockchick Britt Black from her album Blackout.


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116 Responses to “Reconciliation and Range Rovers.”

  1. Aristotle said

    Some insight from my good friend Aesop, sums up John Howard’s political situation.


    A pedlar who owned an ass, one day bought a quantity of salt, and loaded up his beast with as much as he could bear. On the way home the ass stumbled as he was crossing a stream and fell into the water. The salt got thoroughly wetted and much of it melted and drained away, so that, when he got on his legs again, the ass found his load had become much less heavy. His master, however, drove him back to town and bought more salt, which he added to what remained in the panniers, and started out again. No sooner had they reached the stream than the ass lay down in it, and rose, as before, with a much lighter load. But his master detected the trick, and turning back once more, bought a large number of sponges, and piled them on the back of the ass. When they came to the stream, the ass again lay down: but this time, as the sponges soaked up large quantities of water, he found, when he got up on his legs, that he had a bigger burden to carry than ever.

    Moral: you may play a good card once too often.


    The shepherd’s boy was tending his flock near a village, and thought it would be great fun to hoax the villagers by pretending that a wolf was attacking the sheep: so he shouted out, ‘Wolf! wolf!’ and when the people came running up he laughed at them for their pains. He did this more than once, and every time the villagers found they had been hoaxed, for there was no wolf at all. At last a wolf really did come, and the boy cried, ‘Wolf! wolf!’, as loud as he could: but the people were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his cries for help. And so the wolf had it all his own way, and killed off sheep after sheep at his leisure.

    Moral: you cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.

  2. Crispy said

    Fair enough, Poss. Slots neatly into the firewall strategy thesis you have developed lately. Taking in the meeja this morning, I note the papers largely ran positive headlines and caught some of yesterday’s ‘Damascus Road’ road vibe, but the radio I’ve heard has had time to sleep on it and is more along the ‘deathbed conversion’ narrative. The Howard interview on AM… Chris Uhlman I think… quickly got to the ‘I won’t say sorry’ bits, and ended up sounding like a re-run of a piece from 2000. So even the doctor’s wives aren’t going to be impressed. Meanwhile the online News polls are running AGAINST the referendum idea, which I guess is your suburban social conservatives having a grumble.

    I got a chance to talk to Pru Goward a few months back. Apart from picking December 1 for the election, she talked about how easily panicked Howard is. He startles easily when someone gets his measure, and makes sudden unilateral decisions. Not always wise ones. He’s missing Arthur.

    I’m stocking up on popcorn.

  3. DeeCee said

    Possum, I “dips me lid!!”

    Concise, intelligent and balanced analysis of Howard’s dilemma.

    Thank you.

  4. Rex said

    The question of Howard’s sincerity on the rconciliation issue is currently being polled on Channel 9’s website, with a majority so far doubting that sincerity.

  5. andrew said

    Maybe they’ll use “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror show as the coalition campaign theme.

  6. Paul said

    Personally I think it is a wedge, Howard knows the symbolism of his commitment is meaningless but he also knows Labor’s commitment to saying “sorry”. Howard is well aware the bush is feral on this issue and is attempting to rally the rednecks in the Qld seats by forcing Rudd into acknowledging he would go further and say “sorry”. This is what Howard is after and now that Howard has made the speech all discussion will turn to the “sorry” acknowledgement and Rudd will be wedged in the redneck Qld seats as well as all other racists, and there are many of them as all well know.

  7. Doug said

    why will Rudd be wedged?

    He can simply point to the fact that the Pm has raised the issue and maintain in principle support.

    It’s the same logic as the decision on the wood chip mill. the parties might be presenting a similar position but it is the government who has shifted ground and will wear the flak from those who don’t like the decision.

  8. jassy said

    If Parliament comes back to sit next week could Mr Rudd conceivably move to push through Howards referendum question to be put at this election, so as to save the Country the expense of an extra referendum and promise to use the next 18 months to move forward on both practical and symbolic reconcilliation with the WHOLE country, without committing to saying sorry or anything?

  9. Guido said

    Excellent Possum! I mentioned this post on the comments at Larvatus Prodeo because I hope lots of people will read it.

    As I mentioned in my blog I don’t think this is a wedge by Howard, but as Possum has said is a way to claw back some liberal Liberals votes.

    By going into this territory Howard has done Kevin Rudd a big favour. Not only it has put the death penalty debacle out of the front pages of the media, but it has presented Rudd with a great opportunity to wedge Howard.

    Rudd should state that he would go further and if elected as Prime Minister he will apologise to the Aborigines people of Australia. This will go down well with the Labor voters, the Green voters, the ‘liberal Liberals’. The Hansonites would do not vote Labor anyway. It would also differentiate Rudd from the Prime Minister. Stand on a different set of principles.

    Unlike the ‘battlers’ who for a variety of valid reasons may be not into politics, the ‘liberal Liberals’ are into politics and read and watch and they can see a cynical move when they see one.

    I want to stress here that I am not putting the ‘battlers’ down. People may not be into politics and that is fine. Often this set of voters are busy with their families, or maintaining a business. So the time to analyse political discourse is limited.

    But Howard is applying his proven ‘battlers’ formula to this very different set of voters, and I don’t think it is going to work.

  10. Adam said

    Excellent analysis, Possum. This is what I have called for some time Howard’s “Bangkok dilemma” – he is being screwed from both ends. The comment about the diminishing efficacy of pork is also accurate. If you promise to upgrade, fund, take over every single thing in Australia, it loses its effect, and no-one believes you anyway.

  11. janice said

    It seems people did ‘sleep’ on this startling revelation by our illustrious PM deeply intent on hanging on to HIS prime-ministership and Kirribilli residency. When I first heard him pretending that the leopard has changed his spots I thought that just maybe voters would be foolish enough to forgive and forget. So, I was relieved this morning to find there seems to be hardly a soul out there who doesn’t think this is just another con designed to pull the wool over.

    Now we wait to see if the slippery little louse will call the election or opt for trying another stunt. I’d love to know if he’s being ‘advised’ or if he’s dreaming up all this stuff himself.

  12. Sean said


    This is one of the most insightful, comprehensive and brilliant analysis of the current state of play that I’ve come across. If only the MSM was offering this kind of standard.

  13. steve_e said

    If Crispy is right in his reading of how this is going down we may see Parliament resume.

    The question is what will they do for 2 weeks. Is JWH really going to Tonga?

    Is this process being managed at all?

    Recalling Parliamnet opens up the electorates for opposition canvassing in the sitting member’s absence. However, from all the data on this site, it seems like icing on the cake.

    Interest Rates are likely to increase on 06/11 and we know what this means in TPP outcomes.

  14. canberra boy said

    I agree with you, Possum, with one important exception.

    This really is the most pathetic attempt to bring back the Sydney North Shore and Melbourne inner Eastern Suburbs set. Peter Hartcher on the front page of the SMH saying ‘deathbed conversion’ is what they’ll read and believe on the North Shore. There really is a serious danger that schemes like this will backfire. But when you’re a cornered rodent, there’s not many schemes to choose from…

    It does, however, show that Howard has finally acknowledged how desperate the situation has become.

    After thinking earlier this week that it was guaranteed, I am now getting conflicting signals about whether Parliament is going to sit next week. I would say Mark Textor is going to talk to the PM tonight or tomorrow morning about the tracking polls and maybe even some focus groups to be held tonight.

    Oh, and the exception… I’m afraid you are so terribly wrong, dahling, about the Range Rovers. Range Rovers are so déclassé – so eighties. These days its a VW Touareg, BMW X5, Audi Q7 or Mercedes ML when you need to nip down to the Mosman shops for a little something to wear to dinner tonight.

  15. Paul said

    “why will Rudd be wedged?”
    Comment by Doug — October 12, 2007 @ 11:46 am

    Rightly or wrongly the comment two below yours is a good example of why

    “Rudd should state that he would go further and if elected as Prime Minister he will apologise to the Aborigines people of Australia.”
    Comment by Guido — October 12, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

    This is what the rodent is after as it will rally all the rednecks back to the Howard camp. He wins both ways, gets the “doctors wives” with his meaningless symbolism and frightens the rednecks that Rudd will go further and say “sorry”, a perfect wedge. Just watch Howard now shift the debate to being about saying “sorry”.

  16. Kina said

    If you are right on this Possum then a bit of clever work by Rudd could end up wedging even more votes from Howard – creating a total disaster for the Liberal party.

    The Labor party ends up representing the Labor/Liberal party and Howard becomes irrelevant. Hope Rudd has some good strategists.

  17. adrian said

    Yes, brilliant analysis PC. You are too good for the MSM.

  18. stevet said

    Watching Howard on TV last night reminded me of any number of political leaders, two examples that spring to mind would be Hitler or Suharto, when they are at the stage of inevitable defeat, but are searching around for anything, I repeat anything, and will do or say anything to try and stave off the inevitable. I’d like to be a fly on the wall at Kiribilli right now and see how Hyacinth is coping with this (not). She must not be looking forward to going back to Wollstencraft. I seriously wonder if they will anyway.

    Apart from that I just sat agape and watched in disbelief at what he was saying. He has truly lost the plot. Even the Murdoch tabloids are now screaming at him to go this weekend. I wonder if he has realised he can only make things worse by delaying the inevitable.

  19. Kymbos said

    Great work again, Possum. I especially like the comment “Howard isn’t the first to admit, he’s the last to admit”. Absolutely.

  20. Snarky Platypus said

    “This really is the most pathetic attempt to bring back the Sydney North Shore and Melbourne inner Eastern Suburbs set.”

    Indeed. After 11 years of nothing, he suddenly has several socially liberal policies on the table? That internal polling he’s not showing to anybody must be really bad for the leafy small ‘l’ Liberal seats.

  21. alpal said

    A big watch on Aston – held by the ALP in the Hawke years. Now safe Liberal. There is movement at the station – similar to Latrobe. Also, Queensland will swing massively to Rudd, with the help of an increasingly popular Anna Bligh.

  22. Steve said

    (Partial cross posting from Ambit Gambit, with apologies)
    Labor has been wedged before, by less controversial issues than reconciliation. This is not a deathbed confession, more a desparate attempt to claw back some votes. Howard will not go quietly.

  23. Alex McDonnel said

    Great analysis Possum – Howard really is behaving like a cornered rodent. BTW Canberra Boy (14) – you forgot to include Porsche Cayenne.

  24. I almost feel sorry for the PM… He can’t be sleeping well these days. What else could explain this fundamental 11th hour reversal?

    I said _almost_.

    I’d love to see Labor point this out, but I suppose “Me too” is the order of the day.

  25. seajay said

    I got the impression from the way Howard spoke (so many ‘I’ this and ‘I’ that) that this so-called policy was something he had made up himself on the run. As such it strikes me as representing his belief in his own greatness and self-importance when events have passed him by. I am reminded of Lear after he has divided the kingdom. The same fate awaits.

  26. robertbe said

    On the mark Possum. Wouldn’t you give your right whatever to see the internal polling he is responding to? Although, I wouldn’t be Mark Textor for anything (even with his salary) at this point. Messengers usually end up shot in these circumstances. I live in the leftie inner suburbs of Melbourne and so am not much in touch the leafy suburbs small Ls just lately but I know from past experience that the reconciliation thing really steamed their clams when JWH turned his back on it 10 years ago.

    Oh, and in a not completely irrelevant footnote. As an ignorant Victorian it only lately dawning on me that Anna Bligh is very, very good. Watch that space in two or three term’s time.

  27. Just Me said

    I got the impression from the way Howard spoke (so many ‘I’ this and ‘I’ that)

    It’s the delusional ‘Father of the Nation’ syndrome that infects all leaders who stay around for too long. They start believing that they are the nation, or at least that what is good for the leader is good for the nation. And Howard has a very nasty and terminal case of it.

    Should have retired 12 months agor, Mr Howard. Had your chance and blew it.

  28. Andos the Great said

    In reply to 25 and 27:

    I think all the “I” this and “I” that is part of JWH trying to influence the “strong leader” issue, as identified by Possum. It also looks like he is trying to make people believe that he is taking personal responsibility. After seeing how well this has worked for Peter Beattie and Kevin Rudd, I guess he figures it must be worth a try.
    This piece from Paul Kelly certainly makes me think that’s what he’s trying to do:

    “In an exercise of national leadership he both unveils a future vision and concedes his own “share of the blame” for past mistakes.”

    “By accepting his own mistakes, Howard offers to meet Aboriginal Australians on new political ground. This is the real meaning of his speech.”

    Personally, I can’t stand Kelly; it wouldn’t surprise me if Howard is trying to say “Sorry” to the electorate for being a lying rat, as opposed to saying Sorry to Indigenous Australians, in the hope this might help him reinvent himself during the campaign.

  29. 50_sigmas said

    There’s a second shoe yet to drop on this wedge. How much “sorry” is going to cost in compensation? It will be easy to build a case, or simply set off a rumour, that an activist judiciary will interpret a “sorry” to award massive damages. And it’s an argument impossible to refute – you can’t say you know for sure until there is a decided case.

    A huge mother lode of hypocrisy exists in the electorate on issues like this. Everyone wants to mouth respectable, high-minded opinions. Nobody wants to pay for them. It’s a breeze to get the leafy dwellers to march across the Harbour Bridge in the cause of reconciliation, but just try getting them to pay $1,000 each for a ticket.

    A principled and equitable way to share the costs of true reconciliation would be to impose a temporary tax levy that could not be offset with deductions. Political suicide, I know.

  30. Lomandra said

    Honestly, Possum, if you’re not offered a gig as a senior political analyst with one of the majors, that can only be because the editors haven’t been reading your blog.

    Brilliant stuff. Cuts right through. Thank you.

  31. pondie84 said

    I’ll be interested to see Possum’s analysis in the event that the Coalition win this election. Will he have credibility for the next election?

    Come on Labor, time to move was weeks ago. Start stepping up your game now or risk being known as the party that blew their historic lead.

  32. Lord D said

    Labor doesn’t need to move until the election’s called. All the pressure’s on Howard to call the bloody thing.

  33. pondie84 said

    Wrong, if a perception kicks in that Labor doesn’t have a plan, waiting til the election will be too late. They at least need to make some noise, outline general principals that they believe in etc.

    Kevin could get labelled as a leader with no vision, no beliefs. He needs to start working now.

    Don’t say you weren’t warned.

  34. Sean said

    The kelly piece is the usual pompous tosh drowning in psuedo gravitas and mushy pretentious language. . You really expect a flurry of heralding trumpets to preface every Kelly offering. I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying but the general impression is that the Rodent is in full control and knows what he’s doing. Its comical. On the other hand Peter Harcher in the Herald today in a very good analysis said that this move by Howard was cobbled together in his office over the last couple of days with no consultation with cabinet. My instincts are that Howard has erred badly- which I suppose is what you do when you’re not sleeping, Hyacinth is raving and ranting and every appearance of crosby and texter at your door is like a visitation from the grim reaper.

  35. steve_e said

    New Release


    This is to tbe the basis for the Coalition’s pitch for re-election.

    It pushes a lot of areas where ALP has preceived dominance as reported by Crosby Textor so it is a gamble for the Coalition.

  36. Alex McDonnel said

    pondie84 (31) If the Coalition win this election, it would be an event with no precedent ever in this country, considering Howard’s position in the polls over the past 9 months and at present. So there would be a lot of analysis, that’s for sure.

  37. Dan said

    There’s another element to add to this. If we look at one of Possum’s earlier interpretations of OZTrack33, we see that the ALP actually own the issue of aboriginal reconciliation, so by creating a lot of noise in this area JWH is forcing the electorate to think about it and driving them further into the arms of Rudd.

    He can’t be unaware of this, and I think it’s important to note in measuring his desperation.

  38. N Griffiths said

    I agree with comments 25 and 34, particularly having heard Peter Costello on John Faine ABC 774 this morning. Faine introduced him as undoubtedly having had some influence on this change of mind, but Costello disavowed having had any input (from what I heard). So this does look like Mr Howard’s own desperate measure, and the doctors’ wives did not like it, judging from the 60 or so text messages that Faine got afterwards. If he had got Costello in on it, this move might have also given some strength to the Coalition’s claims a few weeks ago that they were presenting a “Team”. If Howard had said “Hey, I am adopting Costello’s pet cause of reconciliation because I recognise that he will move towards it when he is leader”, then one might actually believe that he was going to leave next term and wanted a graceful transition.

  39. Martin said

    whispers of more nasties on the way for Johnny in Monday’s Galaxy poll…qualitative polling apparently indicates voters in the marginals feel they’re doing OK, but just want the rodent gone and can’t wait to punish him at the ballot box

  40. Guido said

    In regards to Howard owning everything, Road to Surfdom has a good post about this.

    <a href=”http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/2007/10/12/no-we-in-the-howard-team/”[LINK]

  41. Guido said

    Sorry I stuffed that up.

    Try again


  42. Possum Comitatus said

    Ouch Martin.


    If they call the election this weekend, that will put them on the back foot from Day 1 of the campaign.You cant generate momentum if you cant even get out of the starting blocks.But worse than that, the marginal seat polling will set the media narrative for the first week in the campaign and set the framework to interpret the next 2 weeks of polls.


    Thanks Steve E,
    That document will make for a wonderful series of articles.Some of the content in it is a shocker of a free hit for the ALP.

    Is it just me, or does the entire Coalition political apparatus seem to be falling apart?

  43. Pancho said

    Possum, love your writing, but what’s with all the veronicas-esque teen-punk?

  44. Possum Comitatus said

    I’ll have you know Pancho, there be no screaching harpies in my music collection…. thankyou very much!

    I picked up a liking for chick rock bands like L7, Babes in Toyland and whatnot in the very late 80’s early 90s, and its just carried on from there.

    The reason the bands are all young is pretty simple, members have a bad habit of dying in their twenties.

    And for some reason, I seem to be able to think quicker and write faster with that type of music blaring in the background.

  45. Sean said

    I wonder if there was a perception of blow back from the Govts recent verballing of Labor re capital punishment. This wouldn’t have gone down to well in those small L liberal seats that Howard appears to be now trying to woo. Costello for instance saying that labor was supporting the Bali Bombers looked plain dumb and desperate. Perhaps there hasn’t been much turnaround time for this to be the case but I think Howards probably thinking a little fast and feverishly these days. In any case there’s definitely a schizo turn in the coalition that suggests major breakdown. You get the feeling that Howard’s running around with a box of matches in one hand and a bucket of water in the other, inflaming core constituencies one moment and then trying to dowse out the blow back in other constituencies. Rats in mazes often end up chasing their own tails.

  46. Martin said

    apparently the punters in marginals were surveyed early this week by Galaxy about the death penalty fracas…their verdict: Rudd came across as strong & decisive

  47. Paul said

    I believe Howard’s main tactic here is dog whistling conservative rednecks. He has been very consistent over the last 2 weeks of dog whistling the racist issues of Sudanese, Bali terrorists and now the Govt saying “sorry” issue along with the death penalty stuff. Next will come the gay issue, and IMO it is all designed to scare the pants of his wavering rednecks by reminding them of where labor stands on these issues. At the same time he is cunningly appeasing the small “l” libs who don’t hear the dog whistle. Howard is just being Howard doing what Howard always does, everything he does is always an attempt to divide along hard lines. Like it or not many considering voting Labor because of serfchoices are still racist at heart and that’s who he’s calling with this stuff.

  48. stevet said


    You ask are they falling apart? It feels to me like the whole thing is reaching a crescendo of pathos. Howard looked so insincere and pathetic last night. What was he thinking? I honestly don’t think anyone will believe him.

    However, this was outdone by him and a string of his ministers all sticking up for poor old Robert McClelland. No matter what you think of what McClelland said, the way they lined up to defend him really took the cake in the insincerity stakes. AND, it was the government’s one chance to get themselves back in the game and they fluffed it. An own goal. For god’s sake can we just get it over and done with?!

  49. George said

    Possum, is it possible that the issues/policies Howard has been slowly releasing have been causing movement in 6-7% of those being polled, but an equal number going back and forth? As you mention with reconciliation, it may bring 2-3% back to him when the next set of polls are undertaken based on this issue fresh-of-mind, but it may equally move 2-3% away from him. And hence why not much movement is seen in the polls week to week. There isn’t onw unifying announcement/position/policy that will bring 6%+ back to the Libs and it would be interesting to know whether these second-tier issues are only causing a net neutral movement in the polls. Seems voters are looking at voting based on whole range of issues this time ’round.

  50. Rate Analyst said

    Howard seems to be desperately trying to control the agenda. Rudd has been half a step in front of him on lots of issues for much of the last year.

    Howard now seems to be trying to do the same to Rudd – but less successfully.

    Howard is changing issues so fast he’s even hurting himself as he takes successful topics out of the news with new announcements.

  51. Sean said

    Can anyone have a shot at spelling out clearly how Howard can wedge Labor on reconciliation? I don’t think it can work in this case. A wedge occurs when you push your opponent off populist mainstream ground and into an area where its core values compel it to argue a non populist (minority) position. The progressive left is always more suseptable to this since it adheres more closely to social justice, human rights principles. Howard has built a whole career around cravenly exploiting these principles. The death penatly saga was a good small scale wedge example which Rudd, if Galaxy is right, nullified. The thing with reconciliation is that Howard has already moved himself outside his safe populist mainstream stomping ground. Any attempt to force Labor to march on in ( with the ‘sorry’ dialogue) is therefore going to be nullified since the coalition has innitiated the reconciliation push and is therefore already occupying the non mainstream margins. The Damage for the libs, as possum has said, is that it will be the non heartland ‘battler’ seats (ie the eminently wedgeable) who will feel betrayed by Howards rolling over on this. These voters already have a sense that Labor is softer on these issues…..so Labor has little to lose (particularly with workchoices holding up this demographic anyway). The coalition on the other hand has everything to lose. The heartland small l liberal voters that Howard seems to be after tend to be a little more discerning than the Kath and Kim punters.

  52. canberra boy said

    Re #23 – Alex – I am ashamed to admit that it must be the envy which caused me to forget the best of all – a Porsche Cayenne S is, after all, really quite necessary when one has to haul the kids down and up the hill to Balmoral Beach.

  53. Rate Analyst said

    I don’t think it was a wedge attempt.

    I think the seeds of understanding are, seemingly as always when dealing with Howard, in the qualifications.

    The telling phrase for me is: Indigenous australians are “special, but not separate”.

    I think he’s trying to play Janus on the issue. Tell the Drs’ wives that he is “pro-reconcilliation” while simultaneously telling the great unwashed he’s going to stop letting the Abos have any more special treatment. (Apologies to any offended.) He hasn’t really said what he’s going to put into the Pre-Amble yet, has he?

    I mean, if you’d asked most small-l liberals what Howard could be done with an extra $200m (or however much it was) for Indigenous Australians very few would have come up with the Military Takeover that ensued….

    I belive he’s trying to attract both groups, but will not be able to put the required nuances into the media. What has actually happened and is likely to happen have been well dealt with by Possum

  54. Kirribilli Removals said

    In pure desperation, Howard has preambled himself into what his rightwing warriors derisively call ‘gestural politics’ (when they’re slagging anything from Labor that’s got a principle attached to it), and walked into his own wedgie in the form of the word “sorry”.

    Miranda Devine must be weeping into her medication, as just yesterday she was going off like a rabid ferret at Labor for even daring to utter a symbolic opposition to capital punishment in lands to our north, and now her champion has fallen ill with the same malady.

    It all gets weirder by the day! Time to book the removalist Janette.

  55. The Doctor said

    This announcement just says I am the problem, not the solution.

  56. Adam said

    hi poss

    wrote a paper about the previous issue, i’ll send you the first draft if you like… suspect this one might drive a paper too. productive campaign for me at least ;^)

    on this issue:

    we could currently be witnessing the systemic failure of conservative politics in this country, a failure which can be said to have begun with the symbolic driving out of ian mcphee back in the 80’s. the slashing of the wets was good short-to-medium term policy, but poor for long term policy. here’s why.

    like any organisation, the liberal party is subject to certain basic describable “rules” as a complex system. they aren’t rules, just observations, but we’ll let that ride for now. one thing these models predict, is that dynamic systems rely on a certain level of instability for their ongoing structural survival. this applies from human bodies to ecosystems, and out across economics and culture. this gives them the flexibility they need to adapt and hence survive for a duration. for a political party this instability can be framed as varying viewpoints arguing against each other for survival. removing this flexible nature is what we term might term specialization.

    so, what would be the result of intellectual specialization, such as driving out the wets and focusing only on the drys? well, it’s analogous to being that weird-looking bird that grew the special nut-cracking beak. you get really good at cracking that nut – day in, day out. that’s fine, so long as the nuts are plentiful. well, if those nuts should ever dry up, you are basically screwed. your beak won’t permit you to move to alternative foods, and you die out in a rather short period.

    this is the position the coalition finds itself in. in the 80’s under howard’s sway, it began to specialize in the mode of thinking of the 20th century – ultra-rationalism. but, in driving out the wets, it therefore overspecialized intellectually in *rationalist* thought, against *emotional* thought, and now, faces the awful truth that it has no core competency in dealing with the sea-change *in thinking itself* that is naturally occurring as we move towards a new model of thinking, in terms of how it is to be understood in the 21st century. this sea-change seems to be the rise of multiple modes of thought as having better utility, rather than the dominance of reason over all.

    we can see this failure to consider that how we do thinking itself has an agenda in a nutshell if we look to howard’s recent comments on postmodern sludge in history curricula. in noting this relativity, howard fails to notice the fundamental change in approach. thinking also involves the heart, not just the logic gland. much as he might bemoan “postmodern thinking”, it has nonetheless seriously shifted the debate in its allowance for this, because at its best it clearly brings the Enlightenment’s assumptions of rational dominance out to face serious scrutiny and on its own terms. in doing so, the economic rationalism predicated on this Enlightenment objectivity has been determined harmful: as jehovah might say, mene mene tekel upharshin (judged and found wanting, as daniel translates). well, we know what came next: that very night, belshazzar is slain and darius becomes king.

    things look pretty depressing for the liberals at this point. i really fear they are doomed, seriously doomed. it may play out over a few more years, but the end for them is nigh. they’ll try to go further dry, but will seem more and more old-fashioned in the process. we might argue that what we may see is yet another phoenix-like renewal of the conservative, who have self-immolated in the past only to re-group. but, problematically, labor (and not just because of kevin, this goes further back) is now the conservatives – because it SIDES WITH THE “THINKING” OF THE TIMES, rather than setting the agenda. so, who are they to be? the realization arises that they must become the greens in a pragmatic/constructive rather than a brown-ian obstructionist sense, as david cameron proposes in the uk. philosophy should be compulsory for the political operative, as it predicts the future of culture by setting its agendas and framing its debates.

    how sad, that howard’s eventual legacy is: “the times *would have* suited me, but i was born 3 decades too late for them”.

    (btw: on a specialist note, this position of howard’s on the postmodern btw is another bullshit call on his part, as any serious student of philosophy will tell you – not only is the term a brutal generalization, but if it is true then how could analytical modernists like habermas hold ongoing meaningful debates with them over a lengthy period?)

  57. John V K said

    He is going mad.

    Howard actually owned the issue of reconcilation, prior to this. I know the left will say blah and blah, but he had neutralised in the small l circles at the last elelction, because if he hadn’t as Possum quite rightly posits, they would have felt it in the bank account. Remember always, rich well off people may talk nice but they play hard. He owned the small l liberals but he also had a deal with the red necks as some like to disparage, these people would not agree with the apology. But could look at a hands on approach and say fair enough.

    So in fact as far as blogs everywhere seem to be indicating and those silly little uncontrolled machines the MSM use, Howard has taken aim at Rudd and blown off his other big toe.

    Like Poss said whatever traction, it’s gone on all issues. Me I reckon it’s broken trust. Trust though it might not be a big vote or vote perception thing actually drives all of the opinion areas. If I dont trust someone on issue work choices why am I going to believe a spin on reconciliation which really is what is called a heart beat trigger issue or for that matter any other issue.

    My two bobs worth. Professor Snape would be after Howard Potter for such a dismal perfomance in dark arts, mass manipulation 101.

  58. Enemy Combatant said

    “It’s as if Hawker Britton have been running Coalition strategy on behalf of the Labor Party for the last 6 months.”

    Yeah, Possum. Friendly Fire BEHIND The Firewall. Self Swiftboating. This is what happens when a formerly good War Room goes bad. I’ll wager the knuckle-heads forgot where they buried all those “Use Only In Case Of Emegency” Spin-Special IEDs too! Collateral damage will be massive.

    Aristotle at Numero Uno. Aesop is wisdom for the ages, thank you.

  59. the munz said

    JWH has said a lot about history lately and this fits nicely into his. “I wanted to do all these things for reconcilliation but the voters didn’t elect me”.

  60. disenfranchised Gippslander said

    Rudd is a marvel! He refuses to comment on Howards timing of the referendum, says it’s always been Labor’s policy and the timing is Mr Howard’s problem. He then walks away and lets M Fraser lead the slagging of Howard. Another blunt wedge turned into a self inflicted wound.!
    Remember K Andrews’ petulance when Rudd didn’t rise to the bait on Dr Haneef… let the courts do it for him.. Rudd is a very smooth operator!!

  61. The Keegan said

    Toad of Toad Hall just keeps smashing around the countryside in his 1950s jalopy, one fearful crash after another, but this tangle with the word ‘sorry’ has to be the best of his bingles yet. What a shrivelled, twitching amphibian he’s become. Get us to a ballot box NOW so we can put this feckless frog in a specimen jar.

  62. Kirribilli Removals said

    It’s not a ‘preamble’ we want from Howard; it’s a ‘postscript’!

  63. Lomandra said

    pondie84, I don’t imagine for a nanosecond that Rudd hasn’t given hundreds of hours’ thought to the policies he’ll be announcing once the election is called. Do you really think he hasn’t kept tonnes of powder dry, waiting for this moment?

    He’s played Howard like a fiddle to this point. He’s hardly likely to lose it come the real game.

  64. dylwah said

    Thanks Possum,

    it is nice to hear that the small l libs are finding little johnnie hard to love for a long time, but i wont hold my breath, i remember being told by a retired nsw lib minister of tears in the voting booth in the 72 election, McMahon got the vote, but my correspondent was ashamed of the vote for the past. Rudd might be inoffencive and a small target, but I’ve not seen any evidence that these small l libs prefer a mandarin speaker to a classical scholar.

    i’m looking forward to some more numbercrunching magic during the election proper.


  65. Lomandra said

    I was deeply irritated by ABC TV News tonight, referring to Howard’s announcement as relating to “Aboriginal rights”. What piffle. A statement in the Preamble to the Constitution has absolutely no legal power. It confers no rights.

    All that the Preamble does is create an entirely symbolic message, precisely the equivalent of what Howard has and continues to refuse in the context of an apology.

    If you dismiss saying “sorry” because it’s merely symbolic, then you have to dismiss what Howard proposes.

  66. Kirribilli Removals said

    It sure ain’t the ‘preamble we had to have’!

  67. Lomandra said

    By the way, Kirribilli Removals. I just love your username. 🙂

  68. Kirribilli Removals said

    Thanks Lomandra. We await the call!

  69. brisgreg said

    Don’t quite know what to make of Howard’s latest political stunt in terms of reaction of the voting public.

    I agree Paul Kelly’s pompous posturing on the issue is vomit inducing – this bloke is just so full of himself – what is he after, a knightgood from the Palace directly?

    As we all know, Howard is a liar and has always been so. He just can’t help himself. When the political epitaphs are written, firmly engraved across Howard’s forehead will be one four letter word – LIAR – which will sum up his entire leadership.

  70. brisgreg said

    sorry, that should be “knighthood”

  71. Tim said

    Adam @ 10

    W S Gilbert summed up the Rodent’s pork everywhere dilemma best with “When everybody is somebody then no one’s anybody”. The Rodent just doesn’t believe the fact that most people now consider him to be a “clever politician” and want him gone. Luckily the institutions of Government will prevent from becoming what he wants to be – Australia’s Robert Mugabe.

  72. steve_e said

    Look at what JWH has said will become the basis for his campaign for Re-Election – his Manifesto. See 35. above. Don’t worry one will soon be in your letter box or on a fridge magnet if they can get one big enough.

    The cover suggests that a different set of Art Directors have been engaged compared to Be Climate Clever. The content is about a reflective view (looking at the past) rather than an examination of options for the future.

    For those not brave enough to open it, the cover illustrates that the TEAM is back and don’t they just look full of joy and enthusiasm for their role. Remember that this same team is the same group that could not identify and resolve the problem that confronts their re-election in times of positive economic conditions that are without precendent.

    We are asked to vote for them because they are better than the alternative.

    I am yet to see why this is the case based on the content of this document.

    All the available evidence at this time (late Friday night on 12/10) supports that the visit to the GG will be after he is back home on Sunday night. The idea of recalling Parliament has not gone down well, there is no legislation to consider, Ministers have empty In Boxes, resuming Parliament and then going to Tonga is beyong reason when you are down more than 10% in the TPP.

    All the current attention on JWH (11/10 re-conciliation, 12/10 Manifesto) is an attempt to kick start his campaign. This campaign seems to be based on the premise that any PR cover is better than no PR cover. If JWH is in the headlines, the other fellow is not. If anything the logical basis for this approach is that sufficient of us voters pay no attention to the detail and only vaguely hear the headlines that are controlled by SubEditors in the established media (these headlines do not have to relate to the body of the story). I regret that this is a true statement for the pre occupied voter who is more intent in living their life.

    The only way to counter this campaign is with the TRUTH, stated cleary in simple words and stated often. Get ready for an election that is really repetitive in its messages.

  73. Philmour said

    Anyone seen this article?


  74. Graham said

    I was more interested not in what Howard had to say, but where he said it – The Sydney Institute. I think this reaffirms Possum’s thesis that Howard is talking to his heartland, and also that it is a throw away commitment, which would be either forgotten or downgraded if he won the next election.

    Howard is into the grand gesture (even though he isn’t very good at them) and if this had really had some meaning, he would have chosen a more auspicious time and more particularly, place to make the statement. If he really wanted to talk to Aboriginal Australia, he would have done it in one of their communities, sitting on the red earth surrounded by some of the people from that community. We all know that powerful image of Gough Whitlam pouring the sand into the hands of Vincent Lingiari – that is how you make history, but clearly this is not what John Howard wants to do with this rather meaningless “aspiration”.

  75. Rod said


    I think the strategy is actually cleverer, and nastier, than you suggest, possum, though I’m far from sure that it will be effective.

    One thing that I haven’t heard picked up on in the discussions since Howard’s little surprise on reconciliation involves the potential detail of any such question. Its noteworthy that he frames it in terms of “indivisible” nationhood, a ” common set of laws which we must all obey”, ” a point of intersection between rights and responsibilities”.

    Am I just cynical after too many years of listening to the guy, trying to keep track of the let out clauses, and mischievous retreats to extreme literalism on some occasions and extreme generality on others, or do such phrases give us some idea of what might come along with “recognition” in the phrasing of question?

    With Howard the devil is always in the detail. Would, for example, the amendment be worded in a way which also expresses Howard’s essentially assimilationist , monocultural proclivities claiming, perhaps, that we are all now “one people, sharing common values and goals, under the one set of laws” or some such, thereby seeking to enshrine mono-cultural aims constitutionally?

    I wouldn’t put it past him. As we saw with the NT intervention, it is the stings in the tail (loss of the permit system, loss of control over land in towns etc) that do most of the damage.

    A second , related thought, comes to mind. I’ve long thought that Howard is going to want to keep issues of “ethnicity” and “middle Australian culture” in front of the voters in this election. The “Intervention” was a clever way of doing this. The process publicly painted Aboriginal people in an extremely negative light, while providing the “let-out” that it was all “for the good of the children”. It played to the negative stereotypes of Aborigines held by the Hansonite racists while at the same time making it look as if “something is being done” to assuage the more liberal Liberals. It also provided Howard with numerous opportunities to wax eloquent about the fact that the Libs are the people who placed the greatest stress on the values of suburban white Australia.

    The “reconciliation” statement is already providing similar opportunities. Inevitably, the speech raised questions about “saying sorry”. Inevitably Howard is already using the opportunities provided by talking about “integration”, the values of “middle Australia”, and the like. (Brandis focused heavily on the “middle Australia” line again tonight on Lateline while discussing the same issue)

    Couple this with Andrews foray into African immigration and you can see a substantial theme emerging for the unannounced election campaign – one that Howard has exploited very effectively (though less subtly) in the past.

    Now , it won’t be as easy as in the past to sell such a message this time around. Like the boy who cried wolf, Howard has been down the same track often enough for people to be getting very sceptical and there is certainly evidence that many may not be listening at all. But don’t be surprised if this turns out , rather than being a plea for the more liberal Liberal heartland, to be the beginning of a concerted campaign based heavily on race and cultural homogeneity.

  76. Guido said

    Interestingly Lindsay Tanner stated on Lateline tonight that Labor will make an apology to the Aboriginal people.

  77. Verity said

    What Mr Howard has failed to recognise is that reconciliation cannot occur alone. The team needs to come out in support of the proposal and that it will support this proposal win or lose and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be involved in whatever wording is to be put forward in a referendum. This may make the proposal more believable.

    Mr Howard cannot work with others and so all of the above is unlikely.

    What I found compelling and may have been the most telling own goal is his admission of being a product of his time and place – a product which is not only racist but sexist and patriachal; a product of a time which is long past. Out of time and out of place with a fail grade for team work.

  78. LetItEnd said

    He’s not interested in reconciliation, never was never will be. Lindsay Tanner gave him what he wanted and Brandits jumped all over it like a slavish dog on lateline tonight.

  79. VoterBoy from Over the Water said

    I noticed the SMH lead today with the line ‘Only I can deliver reconciliation’. What that should have read was ‘…and I’ll only deliver if you re-elect me’.

    Howard says he’s the only person who can bring ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ together, but it will only be on his terms, ie. with him back as PM. No journalist has yet appeared to ask him whether he’d still do his bit to get conservatives onside if Rudd is elected. His comments indicate he wouldn’t, because he thinks it’s a waste of time.

    He needs to be asked this. How far will John Howard go to help deliver reconciliation? Is he prepared to campaign for a similar referendum under PM Rudd?

    Once again, it’s all about John.

  80. Charles said

    Comment by Paul
    “This is what the rodent is after as it will rally all the rednecks back to the Howard camp.”

    The rednecks are not and never will be in Rudd’s camp, just as the hard left will never be in Howard’s.

    This is about the center, the center that Howard lost years ago and is not come back to the Liberals unless he is gone gone gone.

  81. Plasma Supplies said

    Possum it truly is a great piece you have written. The spin off comments from your readers are your tribute – so many written in the highest tradition of Australian wit. Look at The Keegan for instance. His verbal visual of Toad rushing around and repeatedly crashing his 1950’s jalopy is exquisitely apposite.

    Do you think Rudd’s master statement made back earlier this year saying that he was “going to play with Howard’s mind” will stand as one of the toughest and most insightful election slogans ever?

    Unfortunately, on a serious note we have to advise that our supplies of Plasma Sick Bags are running low. This is down mainly to Kelly of The Australian, who sicks up extraordinary buckets of the stuff and expects people to eat it. Strange man.

    We are doing a re-run of the bags featuring a graphic of the Abbot carrying out his self appointed role as guardian of the nation’s vaginas. Freaky and creepy.

    The bag reserved for children is still popular. It features Mr Downer scratching his ass and shooshing his fluff away. The kiddies just chuckle and chuckle as they throw up.

    And no Jennifer, we have nothing featuring the hapless and unloved Mr Costelloe. We do not like to draw attention to his weak state. Besides, he is the bagman for the Briber and needs all the strength he doesn’t have for that job.

    Plasma Supplies “Serving Australia’s Sick”

  82. […] I did laugh out loud, I must admit, when I saw yesterday’s news that Howard had suddenly discovered Aboriginal reconciliation. I have yet to find a single person who genuinely believes this change of heart — after years of impassioned argument for the exact opposite — is anything other than pre-election panic. And I was amused to read Possums Pollytics’ astute observation that this backflip-dressed-up-as-leadership is as transparent as it will be counter-productive. […]

  83. Tom said

    Thanks for the fascinating article Possum. This is my first contribution to a political blog although I have been following the self immolation of the Howard government with morbid curiosity throughout the course of this “neverending” election year. I mean to say, whatever possessed the PM to come out with this speech on Aborigines? Has he lost his mind?

    The shadow foreign affairs minister with his ill timed speech on the death penalty opened a door big enough for a truck to drive through, despite the typical overeaction from the drivers in the unfit to govern, and unelectable (looking to the future) liberals. But the Ruddmeister closed that one down ruthlessly in a New York minute and suspended their licences, only for our PM to counter with his speech proposing a preamble to the constitution recognising the role of indigenous Australians.

    As a punter I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, what has the Coalition war cabinet come to? Who is going to buy this nauseating mea culpa that isn’t from the PM, and then rush out to vote for a return of the Coalition government because of their new found “compassion” at five minutes to midnight? The speech will alienate the (unelectable and unfit to govern) hard right constituents that form the core of the liberals support base nowadays, and was greeted with incredulity by the rest of us who just can’t connect the dots between the PM we know oh so well after 11 years, and the words that came out of his mouth at that well known Aboriginal hangout – the Sydney Institute.

    I really can’t see an wriggle room for the liberals (and their bush mates) whether the PM calls the kick off for the election campaign this weekend or next. No chance, no hope(rs), no vision, just say no Australia!

  84. codger said

    Possum, don’t know about the Rovers or the Range for that matter; more like…the fire sale…

    Rodent Rambler (The Pinguid) LSD, never spins, clunks out of Hendo’s Garage marketed by one P Kelly sometime used intellectual salesman, political master class hawker & apologist-at-Loose. ‘the genius of Howard lies’ still cracks it up for me Paul.

    But it’s hard to go past Ms Crabb’s sandwedge: ‘Captain Wacky at the helm spreading toothpaste on his pizza’ And now this “Australia: Strong, Prosperous and Secure”. ASPS; by the sack full says it all. One for every aspro rational.

    Oh and the boot who could forget the boot; plenty of room there for a cabinet load of ‘couch panics’ screaming are we there yet. Buy one get one free.

  85. dave said

    If we assume labor gets up in the coming election, what do we then call the Government Gazette with the conservatives gone ?

  86. Stig said

    Geez this blog’s getting busy nowadays. Must be an election in the air.

    Possum, I can’t fault your stuff here. However, I reckon the kernal at the centre of it is touched in posts 59 & 79 – with John Howard, it’s ALL about John Howard. While he may be figuring that this will, somehow, score him some votes, maybe this is about Howard’s place in history. If you look back over the last 11-12 years, what has his government actually done that has made Australia a better place? What is his legacy? There’s some incremental stuff with employment and standard of living, and also screwing TEH LEFT over, banning a lot of guns, and introducing a GST. A Howard partisan could come up with more, but I’d being arguing about most of it. All of this at a time of serious national and international prosperity.

    Howard is not just a politician, he is a political man. Without politics, there’s not much left except a slavish devotion to some sports teams. Maybe he know’s he’s screwed this time, and wants his place in history as the guy who was going to solve one of the great neo-liberal policy failures of our time, if only the country had followed his vision.

    Yeah, reality gets pretty distorted once you start believing your own bullshit.

  87. Helen said

    My initial reactions to seeing and hearing Mr Howard’s ‘reconciliation’ performance were disbelief and annoyance, but certainly not scepticism – that might have inferred a possibility that he was genuine!

    Many other bloggers have made excellent ‘big picture’ comments about this matter.

    Mr Howard says “I don’t believe Labor could unite conservative and progressive Australia on this issue”.

    As he continues to demonstrate, there is no “I” in “team”, there is no “we” in “John Winston Howard”. Sadly, that “I” in JWH seems to have stifled any progressive thoughts that might have lurked within other members of the conservative Liberal/Coalition government.

    I don’t believe Mr Howard can, or ever could, unite Australia on anything.

    If he’s really had a last minute ‘conversion’, I’m pleased for him. But how much damage has been done by the fact it didn’t ‘happen’ thirty years ago? Or forty years ago?

    I’m sorry.


    PS Philmour, thanks for that link to “Unleashed” – scary stuff!

  88. Leopold said

    In my opinion, if ‘leafy Liberals’ are really a major part of the government’s problem, the Coalition could have won most of them back by switching leaders a month ago. The PM’s two major policies since then – the Clean Energy target and this reconciliation thing – would have looked like a new leader with a new vision (an announcement on the Republic would probably have been in the mix as well). As it is, they are probably not doing much to change entrenched views.

    But I don’t think it’s quite as bad for Howard among the ‘redneck’ element as you suggest, Possum. We’ve had a number of ‘blackfellas’ going on TV to bash the PM, footage of him yelling at them back in 1997 has been replayed repeatedly, and he has once again refused to say sorry. This semi-flip-flop has been quite well executed (it was an excellent speech) and may be worth a seat or two. But any prospect of a major shift in the opinion polls? Not likely.

    Election must surely be called tomorrow. Surely.

  89. Sean said

    Re Rods points

    I think that Howard will try to manouver the ensuing debate on reconciliation toward what he is not prepared to encorporate rather than the substance of what he is proposing. I don’t think there is much gain for him in this since, as possum observes, the nuances of his argument will probably not get an airing and the broad thrust of what he is doing ‘howard for reconcilation etc’ is what the average suburban punter will take on.
    THe danger for Labor from my perspective is if the media run hard on framing the Labor party as being excessively bleeding heart. THe Murdoch press at the moment, if the death penalty beat up is anything to go by, is absolutely desperate to find some escape route for Howard. I think Labor have to avoid getting bogged down in the whole ‘sorry’ question. I suspect this is what Howard is about. You can bet that though he may have made a last minute decision to embrace reconciliation, the rationale for it was no doubt put together well in advance by crosby texter as an option should the polls still not come good. The ‘say sorry’ issue plays strongly to the ‘battlers’ sense of grievance and really gets up their noses. It also unfortunately has a petty and juvenile ring to it which grates with people. I’ve noticed that Labor don’t seem concerned since Lindsey Tanner and Morris Iemma have both already bandied the ‘say sorry’ argument around.
    Labor already own the credibility on this issue. They don’t need to prove it to anybody – least of all by fighting on Howards ground. Tread carefully, its not sufficient to say that the Rodent has completely lost the plot.

  90. Leopold said


    The conservatives won’t be gone. Only the names will change, and the Oz will remain the government’s running dog (as it was for Keating).

  91. Gen said

    I have a different take on this. Howard knows not how any of this will play in terms of votes, but just wants positive headlines and to appear to have grabbed the agenda before callling the poll.

    At another level, Howard suspects he will lose, but wants to rewrite a bit of history. Or rather, be able to say in his memoir ‘after supercharging the economy and giving zillions to defence, I started to tackle climate change, reconciliation etc, but alas, the population wasn’t up with me…’

  92. paul said

    It’s not a ‘preamble’ we want from Howard; it’s a ‘postscript’!

    Comment by Kirribilli Removals — October 12, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

    I’m laughing so hard i’m crying. I also believe John, he has been talking history all week, maybe someone told him what he will be remembered for the most. So much courage with guns, so little with indigenous people.

  93. Crikey Whitey said

    Howard cannot (would not) say Sooooorrry. It was he who said to do so would unleash the possible compensation demands. Cheap politics is good. Cheaper even is better.

  94. Pritam said

    Thank you Possum and all the contributors (who’ve all maintained the standard set by Possum’s piece) on this thread. An oasis in the desert that is the Oz commentary scene. Blessed relief! Some good may yet come of Howard’s Endgame if the MSM commentariat are firmly seen off to howls of richly deserved derision.

  95. George said

    Just watched Liyarn Ngam on DVD (http://www.antar.org.au/liyarn_ngarn), which is a doco featuring Pat Dodson, Peter Postlethwaite ad Archie Roach on a journey of Indigenous despair and injustice.

    Throughout the movie they have some footage of John Howard at the 1997 reconciliation conference, when he rants and raves at Abroginal Australians (after which many stand up and turn their back’s to him). Does anyone really believe this arsehole has anything to offer Indigenous Australians, other than contempt and distane?

    John Howard, you make me sick to my stomach – and I hope this time around a majority of Australians feel the same.

  96. George said

    From the Herald Sun:

    FEDERAL Labor has maintained its lead over the coalition in the polls with the latest survey showing Labor winning 59 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

    The Sun-Herald/Taverner poll, conducted last week of NSW and Victorian voters and published today, also shows Labor leader Kevin Rudd leading Prime Minister John Howard as preferred prime minister by 10 percentage points.

    The poll shows 73 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 in NSW and Victoria prefer Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party to Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition.

    It also shows 60 per cent of those surveyed aged 30 to 54 years prefer Labor.

    But the coalition just edges Labor with the over 55s, with 51 per cent favouring the Government.

    Labor is however favoured by 56 per cent of all women surveyed, and 62 per cent of the men.

  97. Possum Comitatus said

    Nice thread folks.Serious, witty and insightful.

    Much appreciated.

  98. […] best analysis of why John Howard made his statement was by Possum Pollytics: Thursday night was good timing – it allows tracking polls to be undertaken today and tomorrow, […]

  99. […] policy half-backflip on reconciliation wasn’t about the Black vote, and contrary to what The Possum seems to think, it was not about winning the Wet Liberal […]

  100. KC said


    Agree with your Catch 22, as Howard tries to regain the liberal vote he alienates more and more, his symblic gestures are seen for just that, symbolic.

    Unfortunately for Howard and co he all it looks like is he is desperatley searching for relevant issues to gain votes, not a good approach ofr a government that campaigns on stability.

    He would have been better to stick to his core philospophy, all these turnarounds make him and his government look very unstable and disorganised.

    More and more he is looking like the Unsworth government and their slogan “listening and learning”.

  101. Martin said

    hilarious to read Piers Akerman today ranting about Rudd’s supposed unfitness to govern, citing the bogus “Shreddergate” sideshow as a serious concern…

    …quite ironic, really, given the wholly debunked Shreddergate nonsense has been kept limping along for all these years thanks only to the efforts of a disgruntled old union official – who is now Piers’ best buddy it would seem. Tragic, isn’t it?

  102. Possum Comitatus said

    Martin (and to other newer readers)- there’s a long standing rule on this blog that we dont mention a certain Daily Terror columnist unless it’s phrased as “Two Akermans walk into a bar”.

    It’s all about maintaining a serious blog and keeping the sources of info appropriately categorized in terms of gravitas 😉

    So the above would be best said as “Two Akermans walked into a bar this morning over at the Terror, did you see them ranting about Rudd’s supposed unfitness to govern….. etc etc”

    We wouldnt want to mislead fellow readers by quoting sources without letting them know their underlying reliability 😉

    But you’re right – those two Akermans in the bar are becoming like mad uncles one usually tries to hide in the attic.

    Tragic – is there a Shady Acres retirement home for unraveled old journos?

    Apart from The West Australian that is 😉

  103. Reconciliation and Range Rovers

    These seats arent just seats in the normal meaning of the word; they are the very heart of the Liberal party that pumps leadership blood and fund raising capability through the body of the entire organisation.

    Without those types of Range Rov…

  104. Kirribilli Removals said

    Relaxed and comfortable are you Mr Howard? By all accounts the voters have settled into a state of mind that doesn’t include the LNP for a while, and are very relaxed and comfortable about it.

    As David Marr said on Insiders this morning, it’s not that the population has just stopped ‘listening’ to the PM, we’ve been hearing him for over a decade, and we’ve made up our minds. A volte-face (or should that be a ‘volte-farce’?) on Reconciliation is seen for what it is; a desperate attempt to grab the microphone without actually saying anything new.

    Don’t get too comfortable in that seat Mr Howard, that one marked Bennelong, it’s going on the truck too, with you still in it or not.

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