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Howard's legacy, Julia's new spin

By Bruce Haigh - posted Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Listening to “a surprised” John Howard taking a tough line against the decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to exclude him from contention of Vice President of the organisation, one is struck by how little he learnt or understood from his time as Prime Minister.

And for that we are all to blame.

Grovelling or perhaps not too bright commentators have said of Howard that the corrupt Indian administrators of the game had knocked Howard back because they would not want someone of his fierce and principled reputation for exposing the truth to be appointed to a position where he might make life difficult for them.

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What about the Australian Wheat Board, Children Overboard, the Intervention and his backdoor entry to the war in Iraq? None of these issues have been properly investigated and we the Australian people have shown no stomach or determination for them to be examined. The British have conducted an enquiry into why they went to war in Iraq, but not us. Sweep it under the carpet; that is the extent of our determination. Meantime our moral resolve gets steadily white anted by our collective desire to praise, irrespective of the merits of that praise, all things Australian.

Isolated by an inferiority complex that can only process praise, we refuse to face certain unpleasant facts about Australia. And if there is one person who represents all that is now lacking with regards to race and human rights it is Howard and his prime ministership, with his appalling philosophy of whatever it takes and the lengths to which he took it.

Do we really believe we live in a vacuum? The Indian government, media, people and other organisations, including the Indian Cricket Board are well aware of his shortcomings. The ICB is unwilling to put its views forward, but the leak to the respected Indian media outlet Times Now says it all. The problem for them is John Howard and his unrepentant racism, dating from his support of Apartheid through to the appalling attack on Mohammed Haneef, the Indian doctor based in Queensland.

Haneef is the issue which has beached Howard’s run for the ICC and he, and we, should have seen it coming. Who are these naïve Australian cricketing officials who put Howard up? Have they no idea what people in Asia and Africa have been saying about Australia behind our backs for the last 12 years or more.

Clearly former Prime Minister Rudd was in the same boat with his silly and ill-advised quest to get a seat on the UN Security Council. We have no chance and will be lucky to get enough votes to save face.

Five, six, seven thousand refugees by boat and we make it into an election issue. Spare me, particularly when the people we should be concerned about from organised crime and sharpsters come in by plane, on forged visas and stolen passports. And how many do this? It is hard to get reliable information because it is smothered by the rackets and corruption surrounding these entrants.

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Haneef will haunt Howard for the rest of his days. Not long after this appalling event occurred I went to see the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra. He was livid and if he was livid you can imagine the reaction in India. Attacks on Indian students have only played into earlier perceptions. If India did not want our uranium they might have said a lot more. But Howard no longer holds power, feelings can be vented and they have been.

I have just returned from South Africa. I was posted there as a diplomat. Amongst other things I was a people smuggler for individuals facing torture and death under the Apartheid regime. I have travelled often to the country. I ran a program bringing Black South Africans to Australia for training.

There is no sense of subterranean racism in South Africa, what you see and hear on the street, in pubs, restaurants and lounge rooms is what you get.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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