Successful political leadership – Aussie style

Lynton Crosby outlines the successful leadership approach of Australian Prime Minister John Howard to politics. In an age of media management and spin he seems to rely upon them the least of the present crop of western leaders. Howard avoids the cult of celebrity and despite the cyncism of our age believes politics to be a worthy vocation. The article argues that Taylor’s approaches of personal honesty, courtesy, connectedness, coalition building, determination and a forward-looking vision are what has enabled him to succeed.

  • Keith M

    Howard is an honest, decent, “old style” politician with an excellent appreciation of his country’s place in the world. I wish him well for a another term in office.

  • Big Hughie

    “Taylor’s approaches of personal honesty, courtesy, connectedness, coalition building, determination and a forward-looking vision are what has enabled him to succeed.”

    Sounds just like your other political hero, the Doc, doesn’t he.

  • fair_deal

    Big Hughie

    Don’t make assumptions

  • IJP

    Implement[ing] unpopular policies and mak[ing] them popular. That’s leadership

    Good headline.

    Our own political leaders, most obviously in the DUP and SF, could learn a thing or two from that line.

  • Donnacha

    He’s an interesting cove, Johnny Howard. He has managed to force some quite repugnant measures down Australian throats, yet remains serenely untouched by public opprobrium. He introduced GST, deeply unpopular employment contract laws and of course followed Blair and Bush into war in Iraq, something that came back to bite the great Australian taxpayer when the cost of the army’s involvement was tacked onto federal tax demands at the end of the year. He also managed to avoid much damage in the Tampa incident and didn’t have much staining over the Cronulla rtiots either, despite a lukewarm condemnation of the rioters.
    Despite all this, he remains a popular figure in the main, which several Aussie journo acquaintances put down to his persona of a typical Aussie bloke, who likes a beer and loves his footie and cricket. He has certainly got the measure of the Australian Labor Party.

  • bunsen

    I can’t believe what I have just read. John Howard presides over what is quite probably the most corrupt government in Australian history. I say this in the knowledge that all governments are corrupt: it is only the depth that varies.

    Anyone interested in researching the greatness of Howard should start with the ‘Children Overboard’ crisis. This involved blatant lies to the Australian people that resulted in a landslide election after he used a racist political platform (lifted from our emerging far right party ‘One Nation’) to provoke fears of a Muslim, terrorist invasion from heartless animals who would willingly throw their children into the ocean. Senior Australian military personnel have since gone on record to say that Howard knowingly misled the public.

    If you still have the stomach, look at deception surrounding…GST, Weapons of Mass Destruction, changes to industrial relations (backdating conditions to before WWII) healthcare and social welfare. He has even introduced measures where private schools (including some of the most elite in the country charging $30.000 AUD plus per year) receive government funding at the expense of state schools (some of which are situated in the moist deprived areas in the country). But
    don’t stop there…there is more.

    This is not where it ends. Many of his ministers have rorted taxpayers money (for example, see Alexander Downer and his government credit card in the use of his children) and generally has undermined the previous ministerial convention of ministers resigning when scandal has erupted within their ministry.

    The last thing that Northern Ireland needs is a ‘Howard’ for a leader. While I know the present structure has its serious problems, you could kiss goodbye anything that meant anything in terms of society (unless you are already rich).

    It is not media alone that makes Howard. Like Thatcher, people keep voting for him. It is not so much his inherent greatness but the emerging ideology of greed in Australia. Look somewhere else for salvation, because the last thing NI needs is another bigoted, elitist, right wing, neo liberal slash and burner regalvanising poverty by postcode.

    I’m sorry if this transcends the playing the ball and not the man rule.

    In response to Donnacha, Howard is less a fan of beer and football: that would be beneath him. He is, after all, the leader of Australia’s centre right party. Although, he has nurtured an image of near Proletarian humbleness.

  • Harry Flashman


    He might “nurture an image” but he never did it as well as Mark Latham eh? He nurtured the image of being a competent, capable leader of a responsible political party until he lost an election and we discovered he was in fact a liar, a hypocrite, a womaniser, a back stabber and prone to outbursts of psychopathic violence. I actually kinda liked him better after that.

    No wonder Labor can’t beat Johnny, they’re not even at the starting gate.

  • Donnacha

    Bunsen, I remain amazed that he is still in charge and would in no way endorse him. I was just pointing out the strange fact that Aussies seem to like him. Mind you, they like Fosters as well….

  • Harry Flashman

    Yes, very strange, the man has presided over the longest economic boom in Australia’s history and has seen his country change itself from being a quaint if not very significant backwater into becoming the senior international player in the region. Gee how strange Australians would want to keep re-electing him, I mean he is so dull not like interesting. . .oh what’s his name. . .the leader of the Aussie opposition. . .you know. . .hang on it’ll come to me in a minute.

  • bunsen


    For a start, I would ask you not make the assumption that my criticism of Howard is an endorsement of Labor by default. I must admit that if Labor wins the next election, I will not be holding my breath to see if all that seems seedy is repealed. I myself found several aspects of Latham’s personal politics to be quite dubious. In that regard it is difficult to disagree with you, although I am sceptical of the degree of slippage between the realities of Latham, and what made a good story for Australia’s less than vigorous media. We would also do well to remember that over the past few decades, Howard appeared as totally unelectable a PM as Latham did/does. His seemingly perpetual role as second fiddle at best was a well-acknowledged fact and source of amusement.

    Certainly, most politicians would fail the pedestal morality test if scrutiny were turned onto their private lives. If we accept this fact then attention would certainly be better focused on their conduct/decisions vis-à-vis the public realm, i.e., what we the punters vote them in for. It is not so much the fact that Howard seems to have refrained from having an extra-marital partner that bothers me, what does concern me is that many (journalists, academics, bureaucrats and last of all politicians) argue he has intentionally misled the Australian people.

    Regarding Labor’s general lack of recent political success, since the early 70s, social democratic parties have continuously had to play catch up with conservatives in much the same way conservatives had to with the social democrats in the period between WWII and the oil crisis. This has made their (social democrats) job of gaining relevance with the wider public difficult at best and impossible at worst. It is not so much that for some strange reason all Labor politicians are now incompetent and all Coalition politicians somehow blessed, it is more that trying to stick to a social democratic platform while being dragged endlessly to the right has a way of making your policy appear somewhat incoherent.

    We are certainly off topic now for Northern Ireland. My initial response was to counteract any uncritical appraisal of Howard as a leader and that somehow NI would benefit from a leader from his mould. Even if we accept only half of the argument regarding the relationship between economy and conflict, we should recognize that a style of leadership that openly and unapologetically pursues the benefit of the wealthy minority at the expense of the not so fortunate majority (as Howard does) would surely create more problems in NI than it solves. A cursory look over the conditions and reactions of the working classes of both communities in recent history illustrates this. Neo liberalism will not fix Northern Ireland; its effects are divisive even within relatively homogenous societies.

    Sorry Donnacha, there is no excuse for Fosters. I want you to know that I know of no one in Australia who has ordered, purchased and/or consumed the stuff!

  • abucs

    Peter Costello, in his latest budget there announced that the family with two children and an income of up to $40,000 actually pays no net tax.

    This is when child allowances etc are taken into account etc.

    They are being subsidised by the richer elements which in the last few years has been a tremendous increase in the level of company tax revenue. This has been because of the booming Chinese economy that is demanding more and more Australian goods and raw materials.

    So the bottom is relatively happy and the top are making money hence he looks like getting in again. He is certainly well liked i think by most Australians even if they don’t agree with signing up to ‘Iraqi Freedom’. He seems to have his finger on the pulse of his electorate.

    Of course there are always people at the bottom and their numbers may grow with the new Industrial Relations rules which look like a first step in aligning Australia’s wage structure to that of its Asian competitors.

    This could end up putting him out of office but he has decided it must be done.

    Already China has overtaken the US as Australia’s second higheest trading partner behind Japan.

    With the failure of the latest round on International trade talks there are moves for redefining the Chinese / Australian trade relationship. This will be i think one of those defining moments that could change the country for good or ill and Howards fortunes with it.

    The opposition look like a mess but then i guess oppositions usually do.

  • Harry Flashman


    I find it hard to believe that only a wealthy minority has benefitted from the Howard government, are you seriously suggesting that the majority of Australians have got poorer in the past decade? Because I might be a bit thick or something but it sure as hell doesn’t look that way to me, the vast and overwhelming majority of Australians look to be doing very well indeed these days. Maybe I’m missing the soup kitchens that they’re hiding behind Bondi Beach or the emaciated waifs selling their tiny bodies for a few miserable shillings among the cafes and art galleries of Melbourne.

    Are these people who have become impoverished under the Howardista regime unable to vote? Because with their majority status they seem to have missed three very simple opportunities to boot his arse out of government. Instead this sneaky minority pulled off several brilliant coups and managed to get more votes than the majority.

    Without sounding very callous, but right now in Australia if you’re unable to do well then I’m not sure there’s alot any government can do for you. Don’t get me wrong, I believe passionately in the role of government to help the unfortunate and the destitute and this the government does. But come on this is Australia 2006 we’re talking about not Darfur. The country is inundated with immigrants rushing to get their chance to participate in the good life, they’re all around the place and doing bloody well too thank you very much and fair play to them too. What are these immigrants doing that allows them to do so well that the rest of the majority Australians are failing to do?

    The Howard government has overseen one of the longest and most successful economic booms in Aussie history, if during this time you are unable or unwilling to take advantage well I am very sorry for you, I really am, but what more can the government do?

  • micktvd

    Howard is a political success story and a very clever politician. He is a representative of and a matchless servant to the usual power elites that dominate western capitalist nations. He is an arch exponent of wedge politics, and has cleverly deflected many of the mistakes and scandals that have occured under his administration onto ministers and public servants. His policies have changed Australia socially and politically in major ways in the usual neo-liberal ways-flourishing private schools, corporate profits, etc- degrading environment, social cohesion, etc.

    There is a strong opposition to Howard’s policies in Australia, and all of the Australian States and Territories have Labor governments. Many Australians vote for the conservatives because they are heavily in debt and know that reform might well bring retaliation from the big end of town and rising interest rates will bankrupt them. There are rising real wages in many sectors, which keeps the whole shebang on the rails, and China buys everything we can dig up. Richer, but uglier is how many would describe this country under Howard.

    Harry Flashman ‘but right now in Australia if you’re unable to do well then I’m not sure there’s alot any government can do for you’ FYO, Harry, Australia has a large low wage sector, just like anywhere else. The main ways that many working people have traditionally done better for themselves- collective bargaining, public schooling- is under sustained attack from the Howard government.

  • tom strong

    As an Aussie, I am surprised to see ‘Honest John’ on a NI blog. Suggested as a leader type. Really? I am old enoughto remember how he got the nickname ‘Honest’. It occured about25 years ago when he was Treasurer. He gave us large tax cuts, his party won the subsequent election and he quickly took them back again.
    Possibly many readers here would consider a fine leader for NI as one of his brothers said that their family was Liberal rather than ALP because they did not like Catholics.
    I think it likely that while Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, his pollster, will coarsen the politics and general life in parts of Great Britain, this might be difficult to do in Northern Ireland.
    He is our problem or joy. It depends on your viewpoint I guess. Still I think most of us don’t like him really. We are justhappy with the past 15 years of growing wealth. However a mild recession would probably changemost peoples view of him.

  • Ringo

    Implement[ing] unpopular policies and mak[ing] them popular. That’s leadership

    Even better – he managed to take a popular policy and make it unpopular. I remember thinking his handling of the ‘Republic’ referendum was outrageous at the time – in hindsight it was great leadership.

    Despite the fact that the polls indicated a clear majority in favour of the republic, he created a situation where the referendum was defeated (in line with his own wishes), by putting forward a proposal that not only had all the royalists voting against it, but also a big chunk of the Republicans. He offered them a Republic that they couldn’t accept.

    I dislike the man and his politics, but he is an excellent politician (as if the length of time in power doesn’t already indicate that..), if not necessarily a great public servant.

  • IJP

    Very good point, Ringo!

  • bunsen


    I’m not interested in a statistical slinging match. What I will say is that the great era of class transcendence in Australia is over. It occurred in that ‘golden’ (?) age between WWII and the mid 70s. It came about as a direct result of social democratic politics, trade union strength and a stable and expanding economy. During that period, a significant number from the working class notched up to the middle. Ironically, they and their children are the very cohort that has distorted the traditional political divide and helped to bring an end to social democracy.

    In this regard, you seem correct. The Australian middle class is quite plump. However, it is symptomatic of our time that the working and under classes are disappearing from the empirical scene. This is not because they themselves have transcended, or that they have migrated, it is because they inhabit a geographical/economical space outside of view. In the concentric rings emanating from a city, they have been pushed further and further out. This can be seen in Belfast. Sandy Row is a geographical anomaly and its proximity to the Golden Mile and the city centre must make property developers drool. That is why Sandy Row residents cite that the money spent there does them no good. Gentrification of this sort was undertaken decades ago in other countries. Once they (Sandy Row residents) are out of sight, would you also say that they no longer exist? Trust me, outside of the city, and the creamy middle class areas, there is still a mass of working people (with and without work). Do you think that the US economy pivots on the dynamism of its best and brightest? I would argue that the army of working poor does more to generate wealth in that country than any other factor. The US economy is the very utopia of neoliberalism: the system that Howard aspires to. And what of the global poor?

    It is within this argument where Howard is interesting. He is Australia’s last class warrior. However, unlike the ALP of the past (who were continuously lambasted for class war) he is an unashamed representative of capital. So, none of us should be surprised when he alters the socio-economic landscape to suit just that. As a pro-capital agent within the logic of capitalist social relations (remember, accumulation and low taxation) the wealthy will always benefit at the ‘expense’ of the poor. Low wages = high profit! Many, from Harvard economists (see Rogoff) to the Australian Council of Social Services, to religious groups to government departments cite the fact that the gap between rich and poor (both intra and internationally) is growing (Rogoff states that the workers share of capital is now the lowest it has been for 100 years). Neo liberalism is not socialism: it creates winners and losers with a significant gap in between.

    Who votes for Howard? The wealthy, the aspirant middle classes, some of whom are mortgaged to near extinction and would perish in the slightest downturn and the easily spooked working classes. In the lead-up to the election before the Children Overboard incident, Kim Beazley—then opposition leader—was set to annihilate Howard (as cited, from memory, by all polls). Then came the crisis, then came the ‘deception’ and fear and the unbelievable media spin (sorry Mr Crosby, he has always and continues to use the media) and then came victory for Howard. The fiction of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the War Against terror and the realities of Bali (with the appropriate massaging of facts and fabrication) has helped to keep him there since.

    The poor are there! The fact that they can purchase a DVD player on hire/purchase does not alter the fact that they are poor.

  • Moochin photoman

    Couldnt resist this, serendipitiously sent to me 2day, thought i’d share………..

    John Howard called Peter Costello into his office one day and said, “Peter my boy I have a great idea! We are going to go all out to win the country voters.”

    “Good idea PM, how will we go about it?” said Costello.

    “Well,” said Howard, “we’ll get ourselves one of those Driza Bone coats, some RM Williams boots, a stick and an Akubra hat, oh and a Blue Cattle dog. Then we’ll really look the part. We’ll go to a typical old outback country pub, we’ll show them that we really at home there.”

    “Right PM,” said Costello.

    Days later, all kitted out and with the requisite Blue heeler (poor bloody dog doens’t get to pick does he a bit like being in the army lol?) They set off from Canberra in a westerly direction. Eventually they arrived at just the place they were looking for and found a typical outback pub.

    Walked in with the dog and up to the bar.

    “G,day mate,” said Howard, to the bartender, “two middies of your best beer.”

    “Good afternoon Prime Minister,” said the bartender, “two middies of our best coming up”.

    Howard and Costello stood leaning on the bar drinking their beer and chatting, nodding now and again to those who came into the bar for a drink. The dog lay quietly at their feet. All of a sudden, the door from the adjacent bar opened and in came a grizzled old stockman, complete with stockwhip. He walked up to the Cattle dog, lifted it’s tail with the whip and looked underneath, shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the
    other bar.

    A few moments later, in came another old stockman with his whip. He walked up to the dog, lifted it’s tail, looked underneath, scratched his head and went back to the other bar. Over the course of the next hour or so, >another four or five stockman came in, lifted the dog’s tail and went away looking puzzled.

    Eventually, Howard and Costello could stand it no longer and called the Barman over.

    “Tell me my good man,” said Howard, “why did all those old stockmen come in and look under the dog’s tail like that? Is it an old outback custom?”

    “Strewth no !” said the barman. “It’s just that someone went in and told them that there was a cattle dog in this bar with two arseholes!”

  • Philip Ruddocks old news from Australia.


    The following is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald September, 17th, 1996.


    The Government will cap and kill applications by Australians to bring their overseas spouses into Australia a move which would see long-term separations of married couples unless the Opposition allows through the Senate tough new measures to curb applications.
    The Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock,said the draconian move,allowable under present law but never used in relation to spouses, would help curb huge increases in applications for spouses, some of which were shams, but others a fraud on Australians.
    Under present practise,applications for offshore spouses to come are allowed regardless of the quota set.Mr Ruddock wants to enforce his quota by a cap and queue regulation, making applicants after the qouta is reached to wait, possibly for months, until heading the queue for next years intake.
    But in the face of Labor opposition in the Senate, he threatened to use his general cap and kill power to terminate applications made post-qouta.This would force Australians to apply again next year on equal terms with next year’s applicants, causing indefinite separations.
    Mr Ruddocks threat, which contradicts the Coalition’s strong pro-family rhetoric but is part of a clampdown on migration numbers,was denounced by Labor’s immigration spokeman, Mr Duncan Kerr, as social engineering.
    The Opposition last week knocked off in the Senate one of several changes to regulations to tighten elegibility for preferential family migration,available to spouses and aged parents.Mr Kerr told the Herald Labor would also disallow Mr Ruddock’s ‘cap and queue’ regulation.
    Mr Ruddock told the Herald that if people who had already applied were allowed in,the progam would overstep this years 36,700 quota by about 13,000.Rather than allow an overshoot, he would use his general power under current law to cap and kill,unless Labor stopped trying to micro-manage his immigration program by disallowing regulations in the Senate.
    Mr Kerr said that Australians have always exercised their own choice on who theyll marry,and I dont believe any red-blooded Australian will allow the Government to force couples to queue up to live together.Now he’s saying if he can’t queue them he’ll cut them off.
    If you meet and marry in January,thats OK,but if youre a December bride or groom you mightnt be able to get your spouse in for years.
    Mr Ruddock said he did not regard cap and terminate as the best outcome, but if it is necessary I will be applying it.
    He said Labor had maintained a steady 37,000 quota for four years,before lifting it last year to 50,000.Many people had reported partners walking out the door as soon as they arrive in Australia.The fraud is being occasioned on Australians by people seeking to migrate, he said.
    Mr Kerr blamed the increase on the wash-up of the Tiananmen Square massacre,under which Labor granted 40,000 Chinese people refugee status.But Mr Ruddock said there rises in applications accross the board, and the percentage increase was as great in England.

    Article from the Sydney Morning Herald.August, 25th, 1997.


    Reactionary bean counters viewed families as a burden and believed the only people who should be allowed to migrate to Australia were individuals with money.
    Australia was simply lucky to get away with those old discriminations but we will not be so lucky again.The world turned on apartheid South Africa.I don’t want Australia to become the new world target because racism is allowed to penetrate our political and administritive systems.

    From the outgoing head of the Ethnic Communties Council of NSW

    John Howard wants free trade but not the free movement of people.He thinks Australias biggest assets are its sheep, coal and uranium not people.He says he has the final solution to our problems Too many people

    The Blacklist

    Philip Ruddock gazetted regulations when he was Australia’s immigration minister number S241 of 1997 to stop visitors from many countries coming to Australia and among them is Poland.Israel is also on the list as well as the following countries-Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritius, Nauru, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Yugoslavia