Welcome back to the first ‘live’ issue of New Matilda for 2007.

We hope you had a peaceful and safe end-of-year break, and we’re looking forward to another productive and exciting year in 2007.

Politically, this year will be momentous, with a NSW State election in March, the Federal ALP’s National Conference in April, a big-spending, bells-and-whistles, carrots-and-pork-barrel pre-election Budget in May, a meeting of APEC leaders in Sydney in September, and if the pundits are right, a John Howard versus Kevin Rudd Federal election in October/November.

New Matilda‘s opinion about John Howard’s standing remains unchanged despite the cringe-worthy celebrations thrown by our News Corp comrades last year to commemorate the PM’s 10 years at the wheel.

And, despite Gerard Henderson’s frantic best efforts to include us in his cabal of rabid ‘Howard haters’, we remain unruffled. We don’t hate Howard (leave that to Lathamites and Peter Costello’s cronies), we’re just unconvinced that Howard is anything but mediocrity writ small. Sure, he’s politically savvy, opportunistic, ruthless and relentless but he’s also a vision-free zone, a lowest common denominator man, and look who he’s had to grapple with on the Opposition benches for a decade!

Interestingly, today’s Bulletin column (‘Survivor Canberra’) by former Liberal Party leader, John Hewson, agrees that Howard has been a ‘default’ PM. Here’s a sample of what Howard’s former boss had to say about him:

Howard is vulnerable on a number of points. Although more popular in the polls, he’s not really liked by the electorate. He is still seen as dull and boring. He has essentially been elected and remained as PM by default, with no significant opposition either from the Labor Party or from within his own Party. People vote for him because he’s relatively predictable and reliable. His main vulnerabilities are his exposed position on Iraq, the leadership issue, his poor policy record, and the perception of a growing lack of integrity in his Government.

My guess is that Hewson was not on Howard’s Christmas card list.

Which brings us to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. It’s been barely more than a month since the ‘Dream Team’ took over from the hapless Kim Beazley, and no one expects anything serious over the Silly Season (oops, sorry, except perhaps the Switkowski Report!). Sure, let’s give the Ruddards a break. But can the honeymoon be over, please?

Thanks to Bill Leak

We’ve had the whistle-stop tour around the country (to hear our views first-hand, naturally). And we’ve endured Rudd’s emphatic appearance at the Sydney Ashes Test (repeatedly hinting through gritted teeth what a normal, easy-going bloke he is because he wasn’t a very good ‘wicky’ during his years in the diplomatic corps). And, yes, we know how this was a wickedly clever incursion onto territory that Howard previously and tragically monopolised.

Can we now please get on with providing us with the inklings of a viable alternative government for the first time in a decade?

Howard’s in holiday mode. His minders are too. Someone at HQ is mulling over a ministerial re-shuffle for January. The only competition on the tube is One Day Cricket and the 4000th re-run of Groundhog Day. It could be a good time for the ALP to try out a few policy ideas. Test the waters. Steal a march. Hey, let’s go crazy! Maybe they could set the agenda. Surprise us. Inspire us.

After more than 10 years of the ‘hamster version of Menzies’ (thanks again Robert Hughes) being pursued by Canberra’s answer to the Keystone Cops, the Australian electorate is understandably cynical and numbed. We deserve better from the people who ask us to vote for them every three or four years. We know that Mr Mediocre will just give us more of the same.

Over to you Kevin and Julia!

José Borghino


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.