CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Two and a Half Cheers for the Former Government

Dec 3, 2007

There is no perfect politician, and there is no perfect political party. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad points. And a political leader will be judged depending on what people consider to be important. So it is difficult to find uniform and consistently agreed upon criteria for judging a leader or a government. We all have our own standards, and my assessment of great leaders and leadership is in many ways as subjective as anyone else’s.

Having said all that, I offer a few thoughts on the departure of John Howard and his Coalition Government. First, a few negatives. For a conservative leader and a conservative party, ruling a nation for 11 years, one might have expected a few more wins on some crucial issues, be they family issues, life issues or related concerns. More could have been done in these areas, and on occasion the Prime Minister and some of his ministers voted on issues in ways which pro-family and pro-life folk would have been uncomfortable with.

But there were nonetheless some impressive victories. Nailing down into law the one man, one woman nature of marriage was certainly a very significant achievement. Of course that is not the end of the battle. The states have been doing their best to circumvent this, and the battle for marriage is far from over. For example, within days of the Rudd election victory, the ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope announced that he expected easy passage of a civil union bill for homosexuals, something the Howard Government had previously twice knocked back.

There were other lasting achievements which occurred in the Howard years. A nice summary of some of the major ones can be found in an opinion piece by an overseas observer, Mark Steyn. He also begins by noting some areas in which he disagreed with Howard. But overall, he finds his loss to be a “loss for civilisation”.

Consider several crucial areas. The first concerns the war on terror. Says Steyn, “What mattered to the world was the strategic clarity Howard’s ministry demonstrated on the critical issues facing (if you’ll forgive the expression) Western civilisation. First, the prime minister grasped the particular challenge posed by Islam. ‘I’ve heard those very silly remarks made about immigrants to this country since I was a child,’ said the Democrats’ Lyn Allison. ‘If it wasn’t the Greeks, it was the Italians … or it was the Vietnamese.’ But those are races and nationalities. Islam is a religion, and a political project, and a globalised ideology. Unlike the birthplace of your grandfather, it’s not something you leave behind in the old country.”

He continues, “Indeed, the pan-Islamic identity embraced by many second and third-generation Muslims in the West has very little to do with where their mums and dads happen to hail from. ‘You can’t find any equivalent in Italian or Greek or Lebanese or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad,’ said Howard, stating the obvious in a way most of his fellow Western leaders could never quite bring themselves to do.”

And it was not just Howard, but many ranking government ministers who seemed to be clear on the threat of Islamism. Consider Peter Costello for example. “Sympathising with Muslims who wish to live under sharia law, he mused: ‘There are countries that apply religious or sharia law: Saudi Arabia and Iran come to mind. If a person wants to live under sharia law these are countries where they might feel at ease. But not Australia.’ It’s a glum reflection on the times that such an observation should be controversial. Yet it stands in marked contrast to, say, the Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, who remarked that if the electors voted to bring in sharia he’d be OK with that, or the Swedish politician who said that Swedes should be ‘nice to Muslims while we are in the majority so that when they are in the majority they will be nice to us’.”

Another and related issue is the whole sense of national purpose, pride and identity. The Coalition Government saw these as important characteristics of a healthy nation, or as Steyn puts it, “the Coalition’s next great strand of strategic clarity. At his 2006 education summit, Howard called for ‘a root and branch renewal of Australian history in our schools, with a restoration of narrative’.”

Steyn continues, “As he explained at the Quadrant 50th anniversary celebration: ‘This is about ensuring children are actually taught their national inheritance.’ The absence of a ‘narrative’ and an ‘inheritance’ is a big part of the reason that British subjects born and bred blow up the London Tube, why young Canadian Muslims with no memory of living in any other society plot to behead their own prime minister.”

“You can’t assimilate immigrants and minorities unless you give them something to assimilate to. It’s one thing to teach children their history ‘warts and all’, quite another to obsess on the warts at the expense of all else. The West’s demographic weakness is merely the physical embodiment of a broader loss of civilisational confidence. Australia should never have had a ‘department of immigration and multicultural affairs’, but, given that it did, Howard was right to rename it the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Government should promote citizenship, not multiculturalism.”

He concludes, “The Coalition was all but unique in understanding the three great challenges of the age – Islamism, demography, civilisational will – that in other parts of the West are combining to form the perfect storm. Just as importantly, unlike so many second-tier powers, Australia did not put its faith in the chimera of insipid obsolescent transnational talking shops in which attitudes substitute for policy.”

Indeed, on many of the big-picture items I believe the Coalition Government quite often got it right, and often did so as a lone figure in the world. It remains to be seen how the new government will score on some of these crucial issues, but based on past rhetoric and performance, it does not look all that promising.

As mentioned, Howard and co. were far from perfect. But on some of the important matters of the day, they seemed to be light-years ahead of many of their peers. They will be missed.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22857673-7583,00.html

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19 Responses to Two and a Half Cheers for the Former Government

  • I would have liked to have seen Howard do more in the family area, such as with abortion, pornography and prostitution. I would like to have seen him balance the ABC, mainstream our Aboriginal brothers, and do more to make our universities not so left-wing, etc.

    But what he did do has probably been more than any prime minister since Menzies. I think he stuck his neck out incredibly, which is one reason why I think the left hates him so.

    I expect that he was constrained by the politics of what was possible, such as by the left leaning members of the coalition and the left leaning attitude of the Australian electorate.

    Which means that politics is only part of the cultural battle. One of the problems we face in Australia, and the west, is that a large proportion of the mainstream church no longer accepts Scripture as authoritative.

    My litmus test on a church’s attitude to Scripture is this question: Do you accept that God created the universe in six literal days (Exodus 20:8-11) and that the world was destroyed by a globe-covering world-wide deluge (Genesis 6-9)?

    Tas Walker

  • Agree with Tas and would add that IMO Howard’s worst legacy was his draconian gun laws way back at the beginning of his term.

    Also he should never have converted to the global-warming religion. Establishing the federal government Australian Greenhouse Office simply gave funding to a bunch of climate-change propagandists who along with the CSIRO proceeded to brainwash the Australian public into the new faith. That new faith then came back to bite him.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Agreed. Indeed, Howard should have privatized the Atheist Bolsheviks Collective. There is no excuse for making taxpayers fund the dissemination of propaganda they find abhorrent (cf. Thomas Jefferson). And this rebounded on him in his own seat, “A swing to the ABC”.

    And Howard should have informed himself about another Jeffersonian piece of wisdom: laws against guns mean that only the lawless will have guns.

    I say the above as a general admirer of Howard as the best PM Australia’s ever had.

    The most disturbing thing about the election was the revelation of the leftward shift of once evangelical organizations into evanjellyfish.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Prime Minister Howard and his Coalition government certainly performed well in their time in office. Their economic credentials are next to flawless; continuous growth over virtually the entire span of the regime is something to be commended. (The details of this are well documented elsewhere; low interest rates, GST etc…)

    However, the “Two and a half cheers” is always in order for any government. I would add to the Coalition governments’ weaknesses these things;

    – It ran a relatively secretive government(or, put less harshly, they lacked openess). Information, media releases, were tightly controlled. This is hinderance to democracy itself.
    – In the same vain, it’s treatment of public servants who didn’t necessarily tow the party line was questionable. This politicised the public service even more than it already was. Rudd has said he plans to change that; a good thing, to be sure.
    – It’s treatment of refugees has been, in my opinion, deplorable.
    – It’s refusal to act on repeated warnings regarding global climate change, and it’s, frankly, stupidly stubborn refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol. History will probably judge the Howard government harshly on this. (Most of you will disagree with me on that point.)

    All in all, though, Mr. Howard and co. guided the country through what was a prosperous and stable period.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • I also wish more happened in the family area, but I guess Howard just felt constrained.

    Another disappointment for me was the role of government didn’t appear to shrink much under conservative rule. I worry that this has created an entitlement mentality amongst some, instead of fostering an ability in each person to look after themselves as much as possible.

    Tim Baker

  • The Coalition was right to reject the gloBULL warm-mongering hysteria. Now Chairman Rudd has signed Kyoto, which will mean that Australia will be impoverished by hundreds of millions of dollars. And this money will go to the corrupt UN thugocracy, and to polluting countries like India and the former Soviet republics who have managed to win carbon indulgences credits.

    Never mind that the UN Climate Change gab-fest in a luxury resort in Bali meant 20,000 junket-lovers jetting there business class, with emissions from burnt jet fuel that would require an off-set of 2.5 million new trees.

    It’s a shame that Simon Kennedy is so willing to swallow the propaganda uncritically, including alGore’s film that a British court found had 11 errors. One of the most egregious lies in the film was quickly showing a graph of CO2 concentration v temperature, not allowing the viewers to see that the temperature rise preceded the CO2 increase, so cause and effect are 180 degrees back to front! But of course, alGore will become even wealthier thanx to his managed fund, and continue to live in a mansion that uses up 20 times more energy than average.

    But the bottom line for me is: if the global warm-mongers want me to believe there is a crisis, then they should act like there is! Instead, its leaders are Gulfstream Greenie hypocrites, like alGore, his producer Laurie David who makes two trips per year on her private jet (oh but she feels very guilty about it, so that’s OK apparently), which uses up more energy in a month than you drive in a year, Arnie, and those at the Bali junket.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Under Howard’s government Christians enjoyed expansion and a voice that was heard, possibly in response to the growth in and the churches making the effort to come together in unity. I am very grateful to the Howard government for the environment that it created for Christians, and the attempt to reverse leftist humanist thought and policy. While we may differ in viewpoints on serious issues such as refugees and climate change, I’d say that the lack of scriptural integrity in many of these newer churches will result in a period of soul-searching for Christianity in Australia.

    But as a people we get the civil government that we deserve.

    Garth Penglase

  • Just look at how Chairman Rudd has backtracked about the gay marriage issue. Even worse certain gulible self-appointed Christian leaders were naïve enough to trust someone who claimed to be Christian but wouldn’t even affirm that Jesus is the Son of God. Andrew Bolt has noted the incongruity as he often does, even though he is personally an agnostic and supporter of gay rights.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • UN GloBULL Warm-mongers at the Bali junket quash dissent (so what’s new?)
    Bali not for party-poopers
    Andrew Bolt
    7 Dec 2007

    With 15,000 global warming believers already choking the UN’s conference on how to cut the gases they emitted just getting there, it’s natural a few had to excluded.

    And how convenient those exclusions were:

    The United Nations has rejected all attempts by a group of dissenting scientists seeking to present information at the climate change conference taking place in Bali, Indonesia.

    The International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) has been denied the opportunity to present at panel discussions, side events, and exhibits; its members were denied press credentials. The group consists of distinguished scientists from Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

    The scientists, citing pivotal evidence on climate change published in peer-reviewed journals, have expressed their opposition to the UN’s alarmist theory of anthropogenic global warming.

    Same story with reporters unlikely to write the right stuff:

    A group of reporters representing the conservative newspaper Environment & Climate News were refused press credentials to attend the U.N.’s climate change meeting in Bali this week.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Re the banning of skeptics from the Bali junket. Unbelievable deliberate suppression of legitimate alternative views – uncanny similarity to what happens with the creation/evolution debate. Alternative views deliberately suppressed to protect the favoured paradigm.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • It is mildly stunning, Jonathan, that you will confidently dismiss fellow evangelical Christians as “evanjellyfish” because they voted for the ALP. How arrogant of you to assume that voting for the Liberal Party or CDP makes you superior to those Christians who may have voted differently. How arrogant of you to lable them as, to paraphrase the above term you used, soft and spineless, due to their political preference.

    I have a similar reaction to your somewhat aggressive dismissals of climate scientists who have reason to believe there may be man made heating occuring on our planet. Some of your criticisms of world leaders who are attending the Bali summit are, however, somewhat poignant(eg. “jet fuel that would require an off-set of 2.5 million new trees.”), but you surely cannot dismiss their concerns as simply propaganda, brainwashing or conspiracy. How could it possibly be conveinient for the industrialized nations of the world to papourt a “myth”, or “religion”, which would require the entire world to change the way they live, and the direction in which it will develop?

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Hi Simon,

    You seem to be prepared to believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) not because of the facts but on the basis that you can’t imagine what else could possibly motivate so many people/countries into pursuing what are self destructive carbon reducing policies if there wasn’t a genuine threat.

    My AGW skepticism does not depend upon any belief in conspiracies. A biblical understanding of the nature of man recognises that humans are fallible and capable of self-deception and group-think. This applies even to science and scientists. I am doubly suspicious of those who not only claim to be able to predict the future with certainly but who are in many cases motivated by the anti-Christian agendas of leftist politicians and extreme green groups.

    It’s not difficult to believe that the AGW phenomenon is little more than a product of mass deception and group think when one remembers that there is an even more widely held myth than even AGW – that is of course the theory of evolution. When so much of the world including many otherwise intelligent scientists can be deceived into believing the evolution myth, it’s a very small leap indeed to believe that similar numbers can be brainwashed into believing in AGW.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Hi Simon,

    When Christians vote conservative rather than for parties of the left it doesn’t make them superior, just more discerning. Even in the short time since the election of federal Labor, it has become obvious that those Christians who voted Labor have been extremely naive when they believed the promises that Labor would support marriage and families. I refer especially to the recent backflip by Rudd who has now ruled out blocking same-sex civil unions.

    As I understand it, the term ‘evanjellyfish’ is not used to describe Christians who vote Labor, but is a more general term used to describe those groups who have drifted so far from biblical orthodoxy as to be no longer deserving of the term ‘evangelical’.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Hi Ewan, I understand what you have said here about the ‘evanjellyfish’. If the comments being made here were entirely about theology and orthodoxy, I would have very little problem with them. However…

    J. Sarfati wrote: “The most disturbing thing about the election was the revelation of the leftward shift of once evangelical organizations into evanjellyfish.”

    Here, the comment appears to be nothing to do with biblical orthodoxy, and entirely to do with political preference.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Simon:

    The “evanjellyfish” stems from their rejection of biblical authority. E.g. they downplay the Bible’s clear teaching on sexual morality, claiming that “social” morality is more important. However, their “social” morality is usually socialist morality owing more to Marx than the Bible, e.g. advocating forcible wealth distribution and foreign aid. See for example the excellent paper A Biblical View of Economics and Industrial Relations, or, Why everything the Evangelical Alliance says about economics is wrong… by Andrew Kulikovsky B.App.Sc.(Hons), M.A., SA Co-ordinator, Centre for Worldview Studies.

    I explained a number of reasons why we should be sceptical of globull warm-mongering. One was the deceit of alGore’s film, not revealing that world temperatures consistently rose before CO2 increased. Another was the rank hypocrisy of the alarmists.

    And there is good evidence that the “consensus” is manufactured, i.e. people join this consensus because they believe there is a consensus:

    Here’s exactly the problem that availability cascades pose: What if the heads being counted to certify an alleged “consensus” arrived at their positions by counting heads?

    Yet there is much to condemn about the IPCC’s marketing, e.g. ignoring the historical warm periods in the last two or three millennia. And Chairman Rudd’s signing of Kyoto will cost us big time but not make a blind bit of difference to world temp.

    There is no need for “conspiracy theories”. But maybe KRudd hopes to become as filthy rich as alGore, the leading globull war-mongering pimp, living off his prostitution of climate science:

    Today Gore commands between £50,000 and £85,000 a speech, holds stock options in Google worth £15m and has made as much as £4m from advances on his book deals. He is also advising a US venture capital company on how to invest a $600m green technology fund… Since the release of his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has given 150 speeches a year.

    And of course, it gives the Left-Anointed more means to control our lives, for our own good of course.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Ok, thanks Jonathan. I will read Kulikovsky’s paper. Thanks for the link.
    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Jonathan,

    The alleged lag between CO2 and temperature from ice core data was not a finding of the UK court case, but an assertion of the Swindle documentary. It is well explained in the scientific literature. The basics of it are shown in The lag between temperature and CO2. (Gore’s got it right.).

    Secondly the judge in the UK case did not find 11 errors in the film, he found 9 ‘errors’ (the quotation marks are significant). He did not find any evidence contradicting Gore’s central thesis that climate change was happening and was being driven by emissions from humans.

    There is plenty of material which explains the global warming crisis in language that the layman can understand, e.g. Barrie Pittock, Tim Flannery and Mark Diesendorf’s recent books. Quoting Andrew Bolt as your reference hardly lends any credibility to your contrarian argument.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • You’re welcome, Simon.

    Steve, Andrew Bolt is a good secondary source to many primary sources that are not as gullible about globull warm-mongering as you are. For example, What consensus? Experts protest the Bali madness with an impressive list of signatories

    But by all means, keep lining the pockets of hypocritical climate change pimps so they can continue to live in their CO2-spewing luxurious lifestyle while ordinary people are impoverished.

    The point about the lag still stands, and alGore desperately tried to gloss over it. The data as they stand do NOT show that CO2 rise causes temperature rise; rather, if correlation means causation, it is the temperature rise that causes CO2 increase, which makes sense to a chemist like me (gases are less soluble in hot liquids than cold).

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • And let’s not forget that having Monarchists in the Coalition helped to defeat the republic in 1999. The importance of defending our Christian Monarchy is often forgotten by many Christians and some who call themselves Christians (like Rudd) are against our Christian Crown.

    I don’t know of any Monarchists in the ALP.

    Who in the Rudd Government will defend our Christian Monarchy?

    The new Rudd Government has already dropped the Oath of Allegiance and more signs of atheist republicanism are sure to follow……

    George Bougias, Brunswick VIC

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