Sunday, 30 March 1997

Howard's image in full retreat


Edition 1SUN 30 MAR 1997, Page 123
Howard's image in full retreat
By RICHARD FARMER 
JOHN Howard is not blessed with any of the normal physical attributes of a charismatic politician, but during his long career in the House of Representatives he has shown a willingness to make the best of what he has.
Look at a picture of a smiling Mr Howard 20 years ago and compare it with one today.
You'll see a triumph of the dentist's art. Study the before and after eyebrows, and note the difference.
Clearly on display is a politician prepared to allow some minor cosmetic artistry to improve on nature's handiwork.
And quite sensibly, too.
In this television age, the distraction of physical oddity is sufficient to overshadow the power of any words uttered.
Look too unusual, and it doesn't matter how sensible a politician is.
Having decided that he wanted to give becoming Prime Minister a go, it was a natural step for Mr Howard to put himself forward in the most attractive light. Hence the capped teeth and cropped eyebrows.
But until very recently, Mr Howard wasn't prepared to change his fundamental self.
His views, his beliefs, were sacred.
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It was this persistence which earned him the title "Honest John". Here was that rare beast, a politician of principle, and Mr Howard gained the admiration -if sometimes a little grudging of the Australian people.
There was admiration, too, for the courage of this man who kept getting up after being knocked down by a party flirting with the more photogenic talents of Andrew Peacock and John Hewson.
Somewhere along the line in his long battle towards the top, it appears Mr Howard made the fundamental decision that to be successful, he needed to change more than his physical appearance.
The first sign was bowing to the unthinking cries of "racist" which greeted his commonsense comments about the majority of Australians'
resistance to too rapid an increase in Asian migration.
"Honest John", the politician prepared to say it how it is, beat a retreat to the wishy-washy orthodoxy of the rest of our elected representatives.
Since that step backwards on immigration, the retreat from principle has become a gallop.
The cruel hoax of the so-called "work for the dole" scheme Mr Howard is now advocating is exactly the kind of populist policy he would have torn to shreds when he made his "Honest John" reputation.
Cynicism and pragmatism have overtaken the belief in principle.

Sunday, 2 March 1997

Furthering family values


Edition 1SUN 02 MAR 1997, Page 132
Furthering family values
By RICHARD FARMER 

FAMILY values have taken on a new meaning since the Government of John Howard became dependant on Senator Mal Colston to achieve majority support in the Senate.
How to keep the valuable dollars within the family is the example being set.
First of all, employ your wife on the secretarial staff and when she suffers an unfortunate accident which requires compensation from the public purse, bestow the job upon a student son and bring his spouse in on the payroll for good measure.
That makes it easier to share the drive-yourself government car around the family in a way that maximises its use because Deputy Senate President dad can always get a chauffered one if he really needs it.
Above all, do not stint on the living-away-from-home allowances.
There's a nice little earn on the difference between the daily allowance for a Senator and the cost of a flat across the border in the struggle town of Queanbeyan.
A little bit of creativity and there might even be a way of proving that the family home in Canberra is not really home at all so that son and daughter-in-law are eligible for living-away-from-home allowances as well.
Then the family that is paid together can stay together on occasions when those horrid photographers and cameramen are on the prowl.
If the prospect of an extra $16,000 a year as Deputy President was enough for Senator Mal to leave the Labor Party then surely it was reasonable for his staff to be upgraded in salary as well.
They too, after all, would have to suffer the attention of those journalists and the taunts from former colleagues of being Labor rats.
A couple of days before the vote on Telstra's privatisation seemed an appropriate time for the adjustment in compensation to happen, and so it was.
Mr Howard's generosity made it one big happy Colston family for Christmas as he put the extra value into the family's values.
How pleased the unemployed must be to know that there is such a caring family man in charge.
Mr Howard even sacrifices living in the Prime Ministerial Lodge in Canberra and puts up with Kirribilli House on the shores of polluted Sydney Harbour so that he can spend more time with his own wife and children. Now that's devotion for you.
How wicked that the horrid Labor Party is venting its spleen on those champions of family values by suggesting that there is something more than a little sick about all these shenanigans.