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Even as a pom I find Howards straight talking style very attractive.It's a style I wish more politicians of all parties would emulate here.I do however look forward to seeing Howards face when he hands Freddie Flintoff the Ashes this winter!


Actually Australia has the dubious distinction of banning guns which even Britain doesn't. You can still get to shoot certain handguns there though, I believe. The pertinent legislation (the usual overreaction to a lone nut and the failures of the rest of the system) was pushed through parliament in just two weeks.

In the wake of this Australia generally vies with Britain for the title of most violent crime ridden industrial country.

John Howard is a great man and has done great things for his country. But just as Margaret Thatcher closed more grammar schools than any other Education Secretary any assessment of his legacy must look at the downsides too. His prejudiced and ill thought out stance on guns has hurt a lot of innocent law abinding people for absolutely no benefit.

Old Hack

It's an overused term but it is true that John Howard is a statesman.

He is also a very canny politician who doens't need to indulge in the sort of wishy washy gesture politics we Tories seem to wade through all too frequently with successive leaderships.

I'm pleased that JH is going to bat on - it's clear that he has the support of the nation in doing so.


"In the wake of this Australia generally vies with Britain for the title of most violent crime ridden industrial country. "

That was already the case before Howard changed gun laws. Regardless, it hardly makes a difference - so few Aussies owned guns that any relationship to deterrence is just daft.

What you can see is a slight dip in the murder rate (so far statistically insignificant), and a major drop in the percentage of robberies committed via with firearms. However, overall robbery and assault rates had continued increasing until recently.

They key point here isn't gun ownership, which as above was already so low as to make no difference. Violent crime rates basically follow heroin use. 1975-90 robbery rates something like doubled, in the 90s they doubled again - no difference before and after the gun laws (96?). Big heroin shortage since 2001 coupled with more effective methadone treatment > big fall in violent crime.

Matthew R

The part of Howard's egacy I am ambivalent about is his centralisation. Often for understandable reasons - a desire to raise education standards or liberalise the labour market or outlaw types of guns - Howard has been a relentless centraliser, taking powers away from the states and consolidating them in the federal government.

The result is much the same as the emsaculation of local government powers in the UK (although thankfully oz has not gone nearly so far). State governments are less relevant, except as a general barometere of party popularity, and it is safe to vote Labor.

Alexander Drake

Dream on Malcolm re: Ashes ; )

Re: Points 3 and 4, one point that is not made here is that the other issue that puts him on the Right of the Liberal Party (particularly in NSW) is Howard's consistent (and in my opinion correct) opposition to a republic. There are right-wing republicans, and many moderate monarchists, within the Coalition. But they, by and large, are the exceptions that suggest some sort of rule (at least within the NSW Libs).

I am always intrigued as to why Britons commentating on Australian politics are reluctant to consider the domestic dimensions of the republican debate in Australia, as opposed to Anglo-Australian links, or the impact on the royal family. The voting results of the 1999 republican referendum making fascinating reading and reveal intriguing faultlines in Australian politics. A worthwhile analysis by Australia's answer to David Butler - Malcolm Mackerras - can be found here:

This referendum result was in my opinion, the first sign that the Howard patriotic approach would work in his electoral favour. But it is unfashionable to do so within Australia's political class as it is largely republican (rejecting the monarchy as the one institution that it cannot play with or control).

Matthew R

There is a stultifying conformism in the Australian media and commentariat that is hard to appreciate if you haven't lived there. Every newspaper in Australia (bar the Financial Review which had no opinion) editorialised in favour of a republic referendum yes vote in 1999. History was moving in one direction, and the monarchy in Australia was doomed. To be a monarchist was to be an old fogey, and to reject the particular republican model on offer was to be a sucker to a plot by the old fogeys.
And yes the NSW Liberal party is rather depressingly factionalised between right and left.

Alexander Drake

And the West Australian, Matthew - it argued for a 'no' vote on the basis of supporting direct election.

But generally you are right. It was a disgrace.

I also still cringe at the memory of Simon Heffer, wearing his Garrick tie, sitting on (what I think was) a Question Time special edition panel in Sydney, which was co-hosted by the ABC's "Red" Kerry O'Brien, doing his blimpish, cringeworthy best to make the case for the monarchy. It didn't help the cause one iota.

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