Monday, March 22, 2010

John Howard

I've been dreading this post, just because it seems like an overwhelming topic. But I think skipping Lord Wiki in the beginning will help. Also, I have to remember I'm not writing a comprehensive biography here. This is just a blog post.

What do I know already about John Howard?

He's from the Liberal Party.

He was buddies with George W. Bush.

He started being Prime Minister in 1996, following Keating.  In 2007, he was replaced by Kevin Rudd.

I know he's received criticism regarding the Tampa Affair.  I know about his support of Pauling Hanson, and his refusal to apologize to the stolen generations.

I really don't know anything positive about the guy, but I'm hoping to find something today. Most people aren't 100% horrible. There should be something good in there.

Here's the National Archives of Australia's Prime Minister page. They say he left office on 3 December 2007. That's the day after we arrived in Australia. We did know Australia had recently changed Prime Ministers, but I don't think we knew the change happened while we were there.

Howard's Prime Minister term was the second longest after Robert Menzies. Impressive.

Here's the page about before Howard was Prime Minister.

Baby John was born in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood on 26 July 1939.

I'm looking at Google Maps now. Earlwood is about fifteen minutes west of the airport. Lord Wiki says the area now has a large Greek population.

Mommy and Daddy Howard had four sons. John was the youngest.

They owned and operated a garage in Dulwich Hill. That neighborhood is about ten minutes north of Earlwood, so it wouldn't be a long commute.

The family supported the Liberal Party. The National Archives say they supported Menzies in the 1949 election. Howard would have been about ten-years-old then. I wonder how much attention he paid to politics.

As a child, Howard attended Earlwood Primary School. When I googled that, I got Earlwood Public School. I'm guessing they're one and the same. Maybe? While Howard was at the school, he received a citizenship prize from a member of the New South Wales Parliament...Eric Willis. Willis would become one of Howard's mentors.

When Howard was twelve, he switched to Canterbury Boys High School. This too was a government school. When I was making my Prime Minister flashcards, I had learned that Howard was the only Liberal Prime Minister educated at government schools.

If you go to the school's history page, they have a photo of Howard on the cricket team.

When Howard was around sixteen, his father died. I imagine that was hard. Not long after that, he finished with high school, and went to the University of Sydney to study law.

Howard joined the Young Liberals Movement when he was eighteen. That would have been around 1957.

In 1961, Howard had his law degree, and he became a solicitor for the New South Wales Supreme Court. The website says he worked for a law firm called Stephen, Jacques and Stephen. Now they're called Mallesons Stephen Jaques. I'm confused about whether Howard worked for them AFTER he worked for the Supreme Court; or if it was part of working for the Supreme Court. I'm confused about law stuff. In other words, I'm wondering if he worked FOR the Supreme Court, or if he worked IN the Supreme Court. Maybe the National Archives meant that as a member of his law firm, Howard would deal with cases in the Supreme Court.

When Howard was about twenty-three, he became President of the Young Liberals....well, just the New South Wales division. In the next few years, he helped some Liberal politicians with their political campaigns. Part of this involved visiting England. Or maybe he actually lived there for awhile. I'm not sure.

In 1965, Howard began working for another law firm. I guess he got a big role in this one, because his name got into it. Truman, Nelson and Howard. I guess they'd say he was a partner?

In 1968, Howard tried to get a seat in the state Parliament. He won the pre-selection. I still don't know what that means. But it must not be a guarantee of winning, because he didn't get the seat. Howard and his mother had moved to the electoral area(Drummoyne)....I guess to increase their chances of winning.

Drummoyne is up north, sort of near Balmain.

I guess Howard lived with his mother still. I wonder if they got along okay. I'm picturing the Mother and Son show. I've heard that the occurrences of adults moving in with parents has increased recently. I'm not sure how common it was in the 1960's though.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that in 2006, 23% of those between the ages of twenty and thirty-four still lived with their parents. Wow. And here I was worrying about having an empty nest syndrome. It might not happen when I expected it to happen. I'm not too alarmed by the trend. Things are getting crowded in this world. It might be better if people share homes more often. Plus, it's a way to save money. Hopefully, the young adult is making money, or at least contributing to society in some way.

I'm pretty sure John Howard was making money. His living arrangement was probably more about taking care of his mother than it was about saving money. Just a guess......

In April 1971, Howard got married to Janette Parker. Did Howard's mother continue to live with them?

They got a home in Wollstonecraft, which is in the North Shore. Wollstonecraft is named after a guy named Edward Wollstonecraft. Lord Wiki says he's the cousin of Mary Shelly. Cool.

In the year I was born, Howard became vice-president of the state Liberal Party. He also helped with William McMahon's campaign. McMahon didn't win.

In 1974, Howard became a Member of Parliament via the seat of Bennelong. He had that seat until 2007. I remember people gloating over the fact that not only did Howard lose his Prime Minister hat, but he also lost his Parliament seat.

In the same year, the Howard got into Parliament, he also had his first child. Janette Howard popped out a little tyke.

In Parliament, the Labor folks were in power. Howard was in the Shadow Ministry. Shadow Ministry. I love saying that...well, writing it, at least.

In 1975, there was that dismissal thing. Good-bye to Whitlam, hello to Fraser. Howard stepped out of the shadows, and became Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. A few years later, he became Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, and then after that he became Treasurer.

The National Archives says that Howard went from a protectionist position to a free trade one. I wouldn't imagine a Liberal being Protectionist. That surprises me.

In April 1982, Howard became Deputy Prime Minister. That didn't last too long though, because less than a year later, the Labor Party was in power. Still, he got to be Deputy of the Opposition. And in 1985, Howard replaced Andrew Peacock as the leader of the Liberal Party. That lasted until 1989. Peacock stole the leader hat back. Howard had his turn again in 1995.

On 11 March 1996, Howard became Prime Minister. 1996. This was the year of Independence Day, Jerry Maguire, and Twister. When we saw Jerry Maguire, Tim misheard Renee Zellweger's lines. He thought she said, You had me at Hillel. He was confused, wondering why it had suddenly turned into a Jewish thing.

I'm going to read about Howard's Prime Minister days in a moment. But before I do. I just remembered something. I have a video of Jack doing a mock-interview with Howard at the Old Parliament House. It's pretty cute.

All right. I'm back. Jack and I just ate lunch, and read some of his Peanuts book together. That was nice. Oh, and Tim stayed home again today! This morning he rushed to The Cupcake Cottage, and picked us a sampler box. It's kind of bad because yesterday was supposed to be my vegan day, and we got ice-cream. Today was supposed to be my make-up day. Buttercream frosting doesn't really fit into that. Tomorrow, I'm going to be good. Although I COULD have been good today. The Cupcake Cottage has a vegan cupcake. Unfortunately, they don't have vegan frosting though. To me, the frosting IS the cupcake.

Oh! Well, now I feel a little less guilty. I just realized they offer only certain flavors each day, and the vegan one wasn't even offered today.

Let's get back to John Howard. Here's the National Archives page about his time in office...THE office.

First we have the privatisation of Telstra. Note my Aussie spelling there. Yesterday, I tried once more to download an Australian dictionary for Firefox, but it's not working. They're still accusing me of misspelling stuff. And now I just misspelled misspelling. How sad is that. For any Australians out there who use Firefox, do you have the same problem? Does it tell you you're misspelling everything? Or have you found a way to combat that?

In 1996, the government sold a third of Telstra. In 1999, they sold a little more. By 2005, they had sold all of it.

I'm trying to figure out if Telstra is a Monopoly. From what I see on Lord Wiki's page, it looks like it. Although there's a competitor called Optus.

Telstra owns BigPond, the Internet service. I know at least one of my friends has an email address with them.

Here's a Telstra commercial. The guy there's like me....not good at remembering birthdays. I'm in the family doghouse for that one right now.

There's stuff here about industrial relations and tax issues. It's VERY important, but I'd rather talk about cupcakes and missed birthdays.

It looks like Howard did well with unemployment. I can understand that bit. It went from 8% in 1996 to 5% in 2005. It's too bad we didn't try moving to Australia back then. It would have probably been easier for Tim to find a job.

Howard had to deal with terrorism issues while in office. 9/11 happened when he was in office. I remember learning from The Howard Years that he had been in the United States at the time. I'm watching the video again now. He was in D.C...doing some sight-seeing. Then the phone rang. It was Peter Costello. They chatted a bit. Then he went back to his hotel. His press secretary knocked on the door. They talked about their upcoming press conference. Then the press secretary told him a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Howard thought it was weird, but didn't understand the implications. I didn't either, and I think a lot of us were like that. I thought it was some kind of freak accident, and I don't think I imagined it was a commercial airliner. I thought it was some dumb guy in a small plane who ended up where he shouldn't have ended up.

That was a scary day. And then you have the Bali bombings one year, one month, and one day later.

I feel this page is a bit lacking...or more that they talk about stuff I'm not interested in, rather than the stuff that does interest me. I'll get more information elsewhere.

For now though, let me go to the After Office page. What have you been up to lately, John Howard?

Wow. They don't have much there either.

I'm going to have to go to another website. I could just watch The Howard Years, but I don't want to watch it all over again.

Let's see.....

Oh never mind. I'll watch The Howard Years. My memory is so bad. It will probably feel like I'm watching it for the first time.

I'm not going to watch the whole thing....just the bits that interest me.

The website has other stuff besides the video. Here's a timeline. In 1996, Howard reduced the ministry from 31 to 28. What does that mean? Oh! This is nifty. If you click on an item in the timeline, it takes you to an explanation. Anyway, there were thirty-one ministry divisions, and Howard reduced that number. This action involved dismissing some department heads. I'm sure some people weren't pleased with that.

The Port Arthur Massacre also happened in 1996. Didn't this happen after Howard refused to accept tighter gun laws or something?

Thirty-five people were killed.

I'm not sure yet what happened before, but I guess Howard learned his lesson. He had semi-automatic weapons banned. The National Party wasn't happy with this. Oh, poo on them. Howard attended a pro-gun meeting. I guess he didn't trust those people too much. He wore a bullet-proof vest.

I think we should all get a bullet-proof vest. I say every time someone wants to buy a gun, they also have to buy and donate a bullet-proof vest. Then these should be offered at a cheap price to the general public.

Lord Wiki and I are going to have a chat about gun politics in Australia. He says 5.2% of Australians own a gun. This Gallop Poll says that in 2004, 38% of Americans had a gun in their home. We're not one of them.

Anyway, I don't see anything about John Howard being against gun control. I'm thinking maybe he just hadn't taken a stance on it until the massacre. The other thing is that six weeks before Port Arthur, there had been that horrible shooting in Scotland. Sixteen children were killed.

Oh wait. I just found something. Lord Wiki says that Howard had already been known for his dislike of firearms. Well, there you go. I found something I like about Howard. I don't like guns either.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an editorial about the gun laws. It was written a decade after the Port Arthur Massacre.

Martin Bryant killed thirty five people, and seriously injured eighteen others. It's so scary to think that you could go out one day and never come home, just because a guy decided to have fun with his gun.

The Australian government banned certain guns, and actually bought them back from people who had them. I think that's pretty cool. What did they do with the guns? Recycle them?

The editorial gives some statistics. Before the new laws, an average of 617 people per year died of gunshot wounds. After the laws, it was reduced to 331. Although you'd probably need to look at the murder rates in general. People may be using other weapons. And well, from what I see when I look at Australia news....they are. But I'm guessing that less people are dying from homicide. I hope.

The editorial actually addresses the question. They say While the annual average number of (all method) homicides has increased since June 1996, the rate per 100,000 population has fallen marginally, but can best be described as steady. I'm not quite sure what that means.

Oh! I get it. They're probably talking about adjusting for population increases. If you have more people, there are more murders. But the important thing is the rate, not the total.

You know, maybe I won't be watching The Howard Years. I'm getting enough to blab on about by just looking at the timeline.

Let me get back to that.

In 1996, Pauline Hanson made her maiden speech. She said racist stuff about Asians and Aborigines. The controversy with Howard is that he didn't denounce her speech. He said she had a right to say it, and that many people would share her views. Yeah. I agree she has a right to say speech, and all that. But John Howard also had a right to speak out against what she said....if he was against it.

A while back, people said VERY mean things about me. There were very few that spoke against them, or defended me. To me, their silence equaled agreement. Although many weren't silent. They were very vocal in their hatred....even though they likely didn't even know who I was.

I'm going to watch a bit of the video to see what John Howard has to say about it. Years later, he took the stance that he thought speaking out about the speech would bring it publicity. I'm not sure what to think about that.

To me, it sounds like that PETA analogy I talked about a few days ago. I can take someone more extreme than me, and make myself look more moderate. At the same time, they can say some of the things that I feel but am too tactful to say myself. If they say something very extreme, and I don't speak up....I think the assumption would be that I agree with them.

In 2007, Howard came to his senses and finally denounced Hanson's speech.

I'm watching the video again. Howard talks about a speech he made before the denouncement speech. He defended free speech, and expressed a dislike of rigid political correctness. I can see his point in doing that. But I think there was a right way to do it. He could have openly defended Hanson's right to speak, and applaud the fact that Australia has free speech. Then he could have explicitly said that he disagrees with what Hanson has said. People don't seem to understand that you can defend a person's right to speak, even when you disagree with them.

I remember reading an Alan Dershowitz book awhile back. There was something about how when people say free speech, what they really mean is free speech for those that agree with them. A year or so ago, I wrote a controversial post. A woman was offended by it, and criticized me for forcing my views on others. My feeling is I don't force anyone to read my blogs, so therefore I'm not forcing my views on others.

The woman wrote a post about my post on her blog. And she had every right to write this post. I have a right to say my piece, and she had every right to say hers. Although I would have respected her more if she just debated my opinion instead of complaining about me being pushy with my views.

Anyway, I lost ALL respect for her several months later. I saw her on another person's blog, and she gave major kudos for an event where people make very controversial speeches. My guess is this woman strongly supported free speech, IF she agreed with the views. If she disagreed, then it was a matter of people forcing their views on others. Or maybe I'm being too pessimistic. Perhaps she had a change of heart since denouncing me, and she was too shy to apologize. Maybe she decided instead, she'd for now on support free speech and controversial opinions. That's nice to imagine.

The timeline says that in 1999, Howard introduced a Motion of Reconciliation. He didn't want to apologize, but instead express deep and sincere regrets for past injustices to Aborigines. At first I was wondering if there was even a difference. But now I think I see it. An apology is saying I'm sorry we did this to you. The other is saying I'm sorry this happened to you.

The ABC website has the speech from Parliament. I'm reading through it kind of quickly, but from what I see, it doesn't sound so horrible. He says in one part that they need to... acknowledges that the mistreatment of many indigenous Australians over a significant period represents the most blemished chapter in our national history and express its deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.

Lord Wiki says the problem is they refused to say sorry. They felt it would imply that current generations were responsible for what past generations did. Goodness.

See, the past generations are DEAD....or at least most of them are, probably. The stealing of children didn't end all that long ago. I'm sure some guilty folks are still alive. Besides that though, most of them are not able to speak and give an apology. So instead of buying a Ouija board or hiring John Edward, the present government can apologize on behalf of those in the past. It's kind of the same concept when you have a toddler and he has a loud tantrum in the grocery store. Or he knocks down a display of Tim Tams. If he can't talk yet, Mommy or Daddy can apologize for them. What would we say if the parents said. I regret this happened, but since it wasn't the one to make the mess, I'm not going to say sorry.

In 2001, we have the children overboard thing. I think this is what the Tampa refers to, or maybe that's something else?

Lord Wiki says there was a boat of asylum seekers, and the government said they were throwing children overboard. It made the asylum seekers look heartless. Who wants heartless adults coming into Australia? But then later it was shown that photos misrepresented the truth. All this time, I thought this event was The Tampa Affair. But it wasn't. The Tampa Affair was a separate event. It took place in August 2001. The children overboard happened two months later.

Lord Wiki says what happened is Australia refused to allow a boat carrying 438 asylum seekers to enter Australian waters. Those people were originally on a fishing boat. They ran into distress. The Norwegian freighter The Tampa responded, and helped.

According to International Law, when something like this happens, the survivors are to be taken to the nearest port. This was Australia's Christmas Island.

Australia said no. That's a bit disturbing.

They wanted the ship to go to Indonesia. The captain of the ship argued they couldn't go that far. Their ship wasn't made to hold that many people. Australian government said if they proceeded, the captain would be prosecuted for people smuggling.

The captain turned around and headed for Indonesia. The people onboard became agitated, and he worried there'd be a dangerous riot. He headed back to Christmas Island. The captain begged for help. The Australian government provided some food and medical assistance, but still refused entry. The captain finally said screw this, and entered Australian waters illegally.

Lord Wiki has some information about the fate of the refugees. Many went to a country called Naura. A hundred and fifty ended up in New Zealand. In March 2008, one of the asylum seekers came in third place in a nation-wide New Zealand spelling contest.

The Tampa incident happened a few weeks before 9/11. I'm sure that event made certain people in government feel righteous about their choices.

Wow. And here I thought the worst thing about modern Australia was that the grocery stores were lacking in corn chips.

I'm joking. I knew Australia had some bad stuff in their history. America does too. It will be nice if one day we can say, yeah. Our countries made some bad choices in the past. But we don't do such things anymore. I doubt it will ever happen though. One group may be exploited and victimized less, but then another group will be abused.

I do stand with Howard in this issue on the timeline. It says people blamed him for the bombings in Bali. They said it was his fault for his stance on Iraq. Now I don't at all agree with America (or Australia's) response to Iraq. And I can agree that war is pretty much another form of terrorism. But I don't have any respect or sympathy for those who murder innocent people to get their point across. To me, the villains of the Bali bombings are the ones who set the bombs. They're to blame for those deaths. Bush and Howard can be blamed for the thousands of Iraqi's who died. It's kind of the same game, isn't it? They start a war, and claim they have valid reasons for killing innocent people. The valid reasons? Terrorists have killed innocent people. Now Iraqi children will grow up angry and bitter because their mommy was killed in the war. Some will become terrorists and kill more innocent people. It will just keep going and going.

What did Gandhi say? An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

And I like this quote by John E. Southard. The only people you should get even with are those who have helped you.

Here's an article about a speech that Howard made to Muslims. He pretty much says that if you want to live in Australia, act like an Australian. Well, okay. I agree with that. But what kind of Australian should you act like? There's kind of a variety.

Seriously, I do think when people come to a country, they should try to SOMEWHAT adapt to their new culture. I think it should be a mutual thing. The oldies make some adjustments, and the newbies make some adjustments.

It's just kind of funny hearing an Australian leader say that when you come to a country, you should act like the people who already live in that country. Why didn't the people follow that advice in 1788?

I wish I could find Howard's original speech. I'll try.

Crap. I can't find it. There's tons of websites ABOUT the speech, but I can't find the actual words. It has blossomed into some type of urban legend. Snopes even has an entry about it.

Anyway, I can't really make judgments without seeing the whole speech. I do see from various sources that there's use of the word assimilation. That word can have a horrible connotation,
if it involves the complete repression of a culture. There's an underlying statement of We'll only accept you if you act like us. But I think it can work if the attitude is please, act a little bit more like us. And you know what, we'll learn about your culture and language. Then maybe we'll absorb some of your culture into the mainstream.

I think immigrants to Australia should be absorbed and assimilated into multicultural made up of white people, black people, Asians, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Scientologists, Wiccans, Muslins Atheists, homosexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals, vegans, sport fanatics, antique collectors, etc. They should not be expected to immigrate and assimilate into Anglo-Saxon Australia. And when some people talk about assimilation, THIS is what they mean.


  1. 'I really don't know anything positive about the guy,' Me either, except he was responsible for the railway line being built from Alice Springs to Darwin.

    Pre-selection is when party members of an electorate get together and select a candidate for that particular seat who will then later face the voters for election.

    I have just changed my spell check to Aus English in FF. Aus English wasn't available before. But I had added so many Australian spellings to the dictionary, I can't notice the difference.

  2. Andrew,

    Oh! Thank you about the pre-selection thing. That makes sense. I guess we don't have that here. We vote for who will be in the election, although maybe that doesn't happen all the time? I'm not sure.

    I don't have a lot of Australian spellings in my dictionary, because I usually use American. But I do have Australian place names. If I have the name stored, and I spell it correctly later, FF won't say I'm spelling it wrong. But if I misspell the place name, FF will just underline it, but not give me the correct spelling.

    Oh, and have you ever done this: You spell something incorrectly, and mean to hit the correct spelling, but instead hit "add to dictionary". I've done that a few times. Then I worry I'll be misspelling that word for now on.

    Well, I guess I'll be grateful to John Howard for the train.....

  3. My mum grew up in Earlwood and went to Earlwood Primary School, she's 6 years younger than Howard but she remembers the Howard family's garage.

  4. Cake sounds good. Can I come visit?

    I like the "people who move to a country should try to act like the people already living there."
    I've been saying that for years.
    (no, not really. I get kind of annoyed when people expect Spanish-speakers here to learn English.) I know they have a point - but I think we should all just learn Spanish.
    Yeah, it might cost more to do everything bilingually, but how much cooler would we be? Really.

    So re: that thought.. There may be something to "when in Rome." However, obviously I also agree to what you said, Dina. Multicultural mix..
    Although, to bounce back again (b/c I think this is fun) - I am very .. oh what's the word? Well you find a word. When people move to UTAH and want to change us or they want to introduce new traditions or rag about our own traditions here. That ticks me off. "If you don't like it, just move!" heh ;)
    But except for that, I'm all for mixing it up =D

  5. Mimbles: That's pretty cool!

    HappyOrganist: You know, I've always kind of had the mindset that the Spanish people should learn English. But I'm starting to come out of it lately. There are SO many Spanish-speaking people. We might as well make it an OFFICIAL second language. I don't think I'd be open though to everyone speaking their own language. I think we should limit it to Spanish and English. I mean everyone else can speak their own language among themselves. But I think it's important to have a common language...or maybe 2-3 common languages, so most of us can communicate with each other.

    I think I understand you about the Utah thing. I think some changes are fine...a few criticisms, and a few suggestions of new customs. But when it gets to be too much, there is that feeling of "If you hate it so much, why are you here in the first place?" Although I think often people are there not by choice. They hate it, and that hatred of the new place makes them totally glorify their old place. Then they annoy people with their negativity. They're rejected, and that makes them hate the new place even more. It's an awful cycle.

  6. No, I haven't added any wrong words to the dictionary. I believe if I add wrong words to my phone predictive text, they can't be removed.