Photo courtesy: Andrew Meares and The Age
The problem with Lateline is that it often buggers a good night's sleep. Last night was certainly no exception. Host Tony Jones prefaced the program with a comment something to the effect that in this election campaign, not a word has been said about the inconceivable bungles of the Immigration Department.
We've heard about Cornelia Rau, Vivian Solon and Mohammed Haneef, but here came another one, Wrongfully detained for 5 years - the tragic story of Tony Tran:
A young husband and father, he was wrongfully locked-up for five and a half years; he was separated from his wife, who went back overseas and now can't be found; he lost his home and his livelihood and his Australian-born son was put into foster care while an attempt was made to deport the boy without his father's knowledge. You may think, well, it can't get worse than that. But while in detention Tony Tran was stabbed and bashed by another inmate and now suffers a range of chronic health problems. Despite all this the Government has never apologised. Indeed, Tony Tran and his son still face possible deportation, although they're stateless with no citizenship rights anywhere else in the world.
A final resolution to this horrendous stuff-up has been sitting before the Minister (that's Kevin Andrews yet again) for nearly two years. This is the Howard Government in action: that is, no action, especially for non-Aryans.
Ross McMullan (The great deceiver is in a class of his own) sums up what we should have been hearing from journalists and editorial writers ad nauseam for years: Aside from Billy Hughes, "John Howard is surely our most dishonest prime minister."
Having won the 1996 election, Howard swiftly dismantled many of the previous government's initiatives that he had pledged to retain. While this breach of trust was most blatantly evident in higher education, labour market programs and the ABC, a range of other cuts in the 1996 horror budget also clearly contravened Howard's pre-election promises. Howard's justification has become part of Australian political folklore. These undertakings didn't really count, he explained, because they were non-core promises.
In the context of contested credibility in the 2007 campaign, some commentators have contrasted the failure to mention WorkChoices before the 2004 election with its subsequent introduction after the Howard Government's horizons expanded in response to its unexpected Senate majority. However, it is the 1996 background, not 2004, that makes Howard's strident 2007 accusations about Labor's intentions most hypocritical.
With John Howard's record establishing him incontrovertibly as a serial deceiver, he has a nerve to point the finger about credibility.
Reading McMullan and recalling the past eleven and a half years, you would have to agree that John Howard is not only a pathological liar who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and unconscious projection, but remains, more so than ever, a clear and present danger to the well-being of Australians.
Finally, here are some pithy comments about the weirdly somnambulant "campaign launch" yesterday.
Caroline Overington: Oh please, let me stay just a little big longer:
John Howard wants to be prime minister again. In case you didn't get that, he said it four times. "I want to be the prime minister again. I want, I want, I want to be prime minister again!" It was difficult not to imagine voters at home, shaking their heads and thinking: Yes, John, but it's not all about you. For the best part of a year, voters have been telling pollsters - again and again - they want Kevin Rudd to be prime minister. Howard has a message for these voters. Forget what you want. He knows what you need. Howard's naked, lover-like plea for another chance, another go, was delivered at the official launch of the Liberal Party's campaign in Brisbane yesterday.
Samantha Maiden (Spin Cycle): Bionic vote-buying man is back:
John Howard spent $8.5 billion in just under 15 minutes at yesterday’s launch.
Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away yesterday, the Reserve Bank was warning the underlying rate of inflation was already too high.
Michelle Grattan: Howard tries to overlook the obvious:
Not that you would have known yesterday, from what was said, that the PM had already announced he would hand over during a fifth term. The leadership transition was not mentioned in his speech. Peter Costello was praised by his leader, but the question of his succession was strictly taboo.
This was extraordinary and gave the launch an air of incredibility. The fact that a leadership switch is already in the script fundamentally undermines Howard's pitch on why he wants to be PM again.
Tony Wright: Howard's new frontier: upper class welfare:
While the needy got a hand-up, the wealthy could get the same handy tax breaks paying their kids' private school fees, and they could get another tax break tossing handfuls of money into savings schemes to help buy those same kids' their first homes. It was all about choice — which is to say, who would choose Mr Howard's package over Mr Rudd's?
It may have been imagination, but it seemed possible to detect the peculiarly depressing scent of mothballs about the Howard Coalition's campaign launch.
Mr Costello's speech — passionate here, humorous there … served mostly to remind that here stood, most probably, a political tragedy. If only Mr Howard had made good on just one of his numerous nudge-nudge, wink-winks over the years and had stood aside for Mr Costello, there might have been the chance of a sense of renewal in Brisbane's Lyric Theatre yesterday.
But Mr Costello's was a mere supporting role, and he was followed by Mark Vaile, National Party leader and thus Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Vaile may ride a skateboard passably well for a grandfather, but he is a plonker on a stage, particularly an expansive one bare of adornment beyond a national flag. He abandoned his notes for a single unscripted joke, and it was a stinker: Mr Rudd's education revolution sounded like something you'd find in a communist country, Mr Vaile chuckled to himself. God save us.
As reported elsewhere on this blog, God took a hike aeons ago. Only the Australian voter can save us now.