Don't Dismiss Howard Just Because He's Wrong


One of the most pressing problems of this modern, youth-centric world is how to keep our elderly population engaged with society. It can sometimes be difficult for those more advanced in years to feel useful and relevant to the wider community.

Thankfully there are some wonderful role models out there who provide salutary examples of how a person can keep on contributing to the world long after they have ceased to have any practical value to anyone at all.

First and foremost among these role models is John Howard, the former prime minister and eight-time Family Circle magazine Sexiest Man Alive winner. Howard is no longer a young man. In fact, he has always been no longer a young man: historians estimate he was around 48 years old at birth. He nevertheless has shown this week that age is no barrier to going out in public and loudly braying at people.

His latest such escapade was in London, where he delivered a speech to a gathering of distinguished British climate sceptics who are currently off their medication. He explained how he willingly attempted to destroy the Australian economy in an effort to cling on to power in the 2007 federal election. Or to put it another way, he expressed his doubts about the science of climate change.

The speech was titled “One religion is enough”, but those turning up expecting a mild, uncontroversial address about the need to wipe Islam from the face of the earth were in for a shock, as the kindly old gent instead attacked the new religion of global warming, a religion whose adherents are so fundamentalist in their outlook and militant in their cause that if allowed to continue unchecked, western civilisation is at risk of suffering a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the next century.

The problem with religion is that once you allow it to influence affairs of state, you are on a very slippery slope indeed. We would not wish Australia to become a sort of carbon-neutral Saudi Arabia of the Pacific – it is bad enough not allowing women to drive, but imagine how much worse it would be to not allow ANYONE to drive, because there’s no petrol left. This is basically Howard’s warning, and he knows what he’s talking about, he used to work at a petrol station. This is no mere layman’s musing.

It’s important we take Howard seriously, for although he may be old and frail and bald and weird-looking, his brain is as sharp as it ever was, assuming that’s a positive, and we had better listen when he tells us that:

"Politicians who bemoan the loss of respect for their calling should remember that every time they allow themselves to be browbeaten by the alleged views of experts they contribute further to that lack of respect."

It’s amazing that it took this long for someone to finally figure out the reason the public hates politicians: their slavish devotion to expertise.

Howard’s call is timely. We need to put an end to alleged views, and return to actual views. Strong, straightforward views, with no mucking about or beating of innocent brows. Views based on traditional values like mateship, hard work, and trucks. Howard himself has views like these, and it just shows what wisdom we can take from the older generation.

Back in Howard’s day we did not rely on “experts” or “scientists” or “decades of painstaking peer-reviewed research amounting to an overwhelming preponderance of evidence pointing unmistakably to the same inescapable conclusion”.

No, back then we went with our gut, and we were better off for it. Hence Howard’s pointed declaration that he “instinctively” considers some of the climate zealots’ claims to be exaggerated. And let’s not pretend this is an ignorant instinct. This is the educated instinct of a man who’s read a book. So what, anyone can read a book, you might say. But wait – Howard has read this book twice. What say you now, doubters?

Look, I'm not saying that John Howard is right. I'm not saying he has all the answers. I'm not saying he is a voice of sanity in an insane world. I'm not saying he has the slightest clue what the hell he’s talking about. I'm not saying he’s pleasant company, or should be trusted with large sums of money.

All I’m saying is that if we are willing to listen to climate scientists, most of whom have never been prime minister during a period of unprecedented economic growth, shouldn't we be willing to listen to a simple man impart the breadth of his life experience and accumulated wisdom, before he starts going a bit funny and putting his Vegemite in the fridge?

Are we so shallow that we would dismiss a man’s opinion simply because he is old and wrong? Why should we blindly accept the judgement of the climate lobby, when there are in fact many eminent scientists around the world who now agree that science isn't really a thing?

But look, let’s not get too heated about the issue. Climate change, after all, is something that will mainly affect poor people and our children, so there’s no point fighting over it. The important thing is, John Howard has shown us that old people are good for more than just driving slowly and looking forward eagerly to their own deaths in insurance commercials.

The elderly in our society have something to say, and like Howard, they are going to say it, and if only we youngsters will take the time to listen, we just might have ourselves a bit of a laugh.

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.