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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

History 101 « Previous | |Next »
October 12, 2007

I guess that this is John Howard's way of embracing the future as the past. Or is it the past in the future? It's unclear isn't it. The conservative frame is 'the Left is in retreat'---ie., left wing voices have simply lost their relevance in an increasingly conservative cultural landscape.

Bill Leak

I notice that Howard is willing to overturn a decade of opposition to reconciliation and symbolic politics---remember all that stuff about a guilt ridden nation ashamed of its past? Now Howard is talking about referendums to formally recognize indigenous Australians in the preamble to the Australian constitution.

Isn't this the man who was not for turning on this issue? Maybe the 'sorry' word will yet be spoken. Does this indicate that conservatives are losing the culture wars?

My goodness, what are all the rusted on, well educated, conservatives at Quadrant going to say and do? You know, the eminent ones who hate difference, land rights, reconciliation and so on. The brilliant ones of renown with a distaste for low company and who deny the colonial wars, dispossession and the stolen generation. Were they not in love with the image of Howard as a man stuck in the 1950s, firm in his dog-whistling racist opposition to Aboriginal land rights and deeply anxious to bury Nugget Coomb's self-determination as separatism.

All decently said, of course. And well argued and based on fine scholarship arguing the case for integration, practical reconciliation and national social l cohesion.

You know these conservatives. Those like Tom Switzer, the opinion page editor of the Australian, who reckon that the conservatives are winning the culture wars, and who argue the public culture has improved during the past decade as a result.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:45 AM | | Comments (17)


they are going to read about the backflip over their breakfast. It's front page on The Australian this morning under a Howard's 'new reconciliation' heading.

will it invoke recrimination and accusations of hypocrisy, bad faith and cynicism amongst the conservatives?

Howard really say sorry? Nah, won't happen.
This is John Howard at his political worst - cynical, manipulative and dishonest.


I'd forgotten about the Quadrant set. What a laugh.

Will they get all livid and indignant or will they rationalise it in some way that still lets them claim ownership of the best little prime minister in town?

aw shucks. You won't even give Johnny a glimmer of a possibility that he's seen the error of his ways and is prepared to reform the bad ones on his side of politics to make up for all the harm he's realize he's done.

Itis sweet to see Honest John Howard attempying to take up Labor Party policy by recognising reconciliation constitutionally. No matter how clever his pollster's advice it is too little and far too late to try this one on.

I've been thinking about the point of it all, given the inevitability of the reaction. What was it meant to achieve?

Paul Keating thinks it's about salvaging the record for posterity, but it's a bit late for that.

Could it be that it's meant to work in with Andrews' tomfoolery with Sudanese refugees? Andrews dog whistles the right while Howard dog whistles the left? It's a wee bit late for that too.

Saving his own seat? Maybe. But if you're concerned about reconciliation and your choice is Howard or McKew, forget it. No contest.

I ended up with Keating's assessment. Whether he's sincere or not, he's understood that times have moved on and they no longer suit him. He's salvaging what he can while he can. Or thinks he can. Kind of makes you feel sorry for him. Kind of.

When the dust settles this will be seen as a good thing. What does Noel Pearson think of it?
I mean really! You's lot whine about everything.
Can't you just look beyond your political beliefs and the timing and see that this is a marvelous thing.

i'll take the risk of predicting that howard doesn't have freehold autonomy in mind for his 'reconciliation'.

i used to think the american record in dealing with native peoples was as bad as it could get, short of a 'final solution', but a nation whose white majority are cattle will find a way to treat it's black minority even worse.

It will interesting to see what the NO vote is if there is a referendum.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is higher than the YES.

And the breakdown of the states will show how aboriginals are regarded in the different regions of Australia.

It is bound to stimulate fierce debate on all indigenous issues.

I am sure that many aboriginal leaders would be worried that a no vote could be a backward step for them.

Whilst flying back to Adelaide last night I quickly read the Canberra Times. It had an edited text of the PM's reconciliation speech to the Sydney Institute. This passage caught my eye:

Some will no doubt want to portray my remarks tonight as a form of Damascus Road conversion. In reality, they are little more than an affirmation of well-worn liberal conservative ideas.

Their roots lie in a Burkean respect for custom and cultural tradition and the hidden chain of obligations that binds a community together. In the world of practical politics they owe much to the desire for national cohesion Disraeli spoke to in 19th century Britain another time of great economic and social change. And in a literary sense they find echoes in Michael Oakeshott's conservatism and the sense of loss should precious things disappear.

In the end, my appeal to the broader Australian community on this is simpler, and far less eloquent. It goes to love of country and a fair go.It's about understanding the destiny we share as Australians that we are all in this together. It's about recognising that while ever our indigenous citizens are left out or marginalised or feel their identity is challenged we are all diminished.It's about appreciating that their long struggle for a fair place in the country is our struggle too.

Howard's reconciliation speech cuts the ground from under Quadrant's enthusiastic and heartfelt hostility to the "black armband" view of Australian history----their old culture war trope.

John Howard has been so compromised by his past non-core promises and many political evasions that it is well nigh impossible to believe he is being genuine now.

Its not often I go back on what I say but on consideration of my comment that the referendum would be a marvelous thing I have changed my opinion and now say it is a dangerous thing.
It will become a vote For or Against aborigines. It will turn out to do more harm than good in regional areas particularly in W.A and N.T

I think the changes should be made to the constitution without the referendum. That will bring a positive out come.

Critics after the election if Howard gets up will call this the Tampa card. It was a drowning mans piece of bamboo (or one of them). It was smart thinking from the Howard team. Very smart thinking.


I'm not sure whether it was part of the same speech but he also said he wanted to bring liberal and conservative Australia together. All rather novel ideas coming from someone who's raised marginalising people to an art form.

not only marginalising people. Creating a stark political divide to ensure the conservative ascendancy. That's been the political strategy for the last decade. We are seeing the beginning of the end of the ascendancy with its optimistic view of history---one of great successes.

Tom Switzer is carrying on about how the intellectual elite at all the literary festivals and humanities faculties all over the nation are whipping themselves into a lather and raging about Howard has stifled them and corrupted democracy.