Back in the Hawke-Keating years, Gerard Henderson was a columnist I respected. Obviously conservative, he nevertheless provided a reasoned and informative political critique. During the Howardian era, his think tank, the Sydney Institute became an influential gong-banger for neo-liberal free market dream.
Henderson became one of Howard’s most important foot-soldiers in his war on Political Correctness, while dog-whistling that some cultures and people are better and more valuable than others. When he wasn’t tilting at left wing bias in the ABC, his commentary consisted of polemic rants on the deluded and evil character of ‘The Left’ for their irrational Howard-Hating ways. Howard, the great political genius of the decade could do no wrong. Critics were simply elitists who were out of touch with ordinary Australians and therefore clearly Un-Australian.
Henderson now laments that the new Nick Torrens and Garry Sturgess documentary on the Howardian Era, Liberal Rule, is a shocker and a disgrace. This is from the man who thought The Howard Years showed too much Leftist bias, even though there was no commentary and the story was told by Howard and His Band of Merry Men themselves!
Henderson is concerned that Howard’s Legacy be rightly preserved in our historical heritage (and indeed within the contemporary Liberal Party). He accuses The Left of denying the good and lasting things that Howard gave us.
In reality, Howard was a man suited to the times – his genius was in using to them to his political advantage. His government was lazy, short-sighted, mean-spirited in public affairs, overly generous in private affairs In Foreign Affairs Howard nailed his colours to the neo-liberal Bush Administration. Howard presided over a decade of robust economic growth fueled by a resources boom and a burgeoning private debt. And that’s about the best you can say for Howard.
Ross Gittins nailed it – we had ten fat years but not much to show for it. So there you have it, Gerard. That’s Howard’s Legacy.