Tag Archive for 'John Howard'

Howard and Costello

With the news that Peter Costello will not be seeking reelection, Peter Martin gives us two stories of Costello’s way of dealing with people.  The first, with Saul Eslake, the chief economist of ANZ, is interesting enough, I guess.  The second one really caught my eye:

Richard Denniss is these days the chief of staff for the Greens’ leader Bob Brown. In 2002 he was the chief of staff to the then Democrats’ leader Natasha Stott Despoja. In Mr Costello’s budget speech that year he had announced that pensioners and other concession card holders would have to pay more for their medicines. Their co-payment would climb from $3.60 to $4.60 per prescription.

The Democrats said they would oppose the measure in the Senate. Some weeks later Senator Stott Despoja and Dr Denniss were summoned to the Peter Costello’s office.

Denniss says Costello took them through page after page of laminated graphs, talking at them for the best part of an hour. The Treasurer seemed surprised to discover that they hadn’t been won over.

“At one point Costello said: Natasha, you don’t appear to understand the numbers. To which she replied: I do understand the numbers Peter, you don’t have them in the Senate and you won’t be passing this bill”.

A few days later the two were summoned to the Prime Minister’s office. Denniss says he had expected Mr Howard to be even worse.

Instead they found Howard “effusive in apologising for being late, come in sit down, can I get you a cup of tea – lots of chit chat, lots of actual conversation”.

The Prime Minister said “I know you spoke to the Treasurer last week and I’m sure he showed you all his graphs” and I understand your position: “we are trying to drive up the price of medicine for sick people, of course the Democrats are going to oppose it”.

And then he said: “How about ten cents? That wouldn’t hurt anyone.” “It absolutely floored us.”

Howard said: “Natasha, you’re the leader, I’m the leader, can’t we just settle this right now?”

Denniss says he found the Prime Minister almost impossible to resist. “His genius was to make us feel powerful.”

Costello by contrast “wanted to wield the power that had been bestowed upon him.”

I find this entirely compelling.  Costello always struck me as a technocrat.  I may not have liked Howard much (and not at all for the latter half of his time as PM), but he knew better than most what any specific audience wanted to hear.

*sigh* (Zimbabwe)

This is from The Independent. It’s a fairly short article, so I’ll include it in full (all emphasis is mine):

Chinese troops have been seen on the streets of Zimbabwe’s third largest city, Mutare, according to local witnesses. They were seen patrolling with Zimbabwean soldiers before and during Tuesday’s ill-fated general strike called by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Earlier, 10 Chinese soldiers armed with pistols checked in at the city’s Holiday Inn along with 70 Zimbabwean troops.

One eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said: “We’ve never seen Chinese soldiers in full regalia on our streets before. The entire delegation took 80 rooms from the hotel, 10 for the Chinese and 70 for Zimbabwean soldiers.”

Officially, the Chinese were visiting strategic locations such as border posts, key companies and state institutions, he said. But it is unclear why they were patrolling at such a sensitive time. They were supposed to stay five days, but left after three to travel to Masvingo, in the south.

China’s support for President Mugabe’s regime has been highlighted by the arrival in South Africa of a ship carrying a large cache of weapons destined for Zimbabwe’s armed forces. Dock workers in Durban refused to unload it.

The 300,000-strong South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to touch the cargo of ammunition, grenades and mortar rounds on board the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang anchored outside the port.

A Satawu spokesman Randall Howard said: “Our members employed at Durban container terminal will not unload this cargo, neither will any of our members in the truck-driving sector move this cargo by road. South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation between Zanu-PF and the MDC.”

Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship, according to copies of the inventory published by a South African newspaper.

According to Beeld, the documentation for the shipment was completed on 1 April, three days after the presidential vote.

Zimbabwe and China have close military ties. Three years ago, Mr Mugabe signed extensive trade pacts with the Chinese as part of the “Look East” policy forced on him by his ostracising by Western governments over human rights abuses. The deal gave the Chinese mineral and trade concessions in exchange for economic help.

The shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague called on David Miliband to demand a cessation of arms shipments.

A South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said it would be difficult to stop the shipment.


Sweating the small stuff

Oh, c’mon.  How is this news?  $1,111 across 40 people is less than $28 per person.  It’s cheaper than it would have been going down to the local cafe.

Congratulations, News Corp, you’ve managed to slip even lower on my internal quality-of-the-media rating.

Oz Election (again)

I’m still not that interested in general, but these two bits looked interesting in their specifics:

  • Looking at Bryan Palmer’s “Day 6 report,” it seems that the betting markets have started moving sharply in favour of the Coalition. Labor is still being billed as the favourites, but it’s narrowing fast.

* The action is really at the top. The only difference between the Howard and Rudd tax cuts is that Rudd wouldn’t cut tax rates from 45% to 42% for those earning over $180,000. Assuming the same rate of wage growth that we’ve had over past years, only 1.4% of adults in 2010-11 will have an income in that range, while only 3% of families will have an income-earner in that range.

* This means that the richest 1% of families get 7% of the Howard tax cuts, but only 4% of the Rudd tax cuts. The richest 10% get 28% of the Howard tax cuts, but 25% of the Rudd tax cuts.

* The education credit is fairly evenly distributed across the income spectrum (as Labor pointed out on Friday, 2/3rds of families with children are eligible for it). So the Rudd package looks more even – but only a little – if you take account of it.

Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank

I think that Wolfowitz was a tainted choice to head the World Bank from the get-go; an architect of the Iraq war was never going to be a popular choice among Europeans. To some extent, I see a parallel between the US choosing Paul Wolfowitz to lead the World Bank and John Howard choosing Peter Hollingworth to be Governor-General of Australia. Both were seen as placing an ideological choice into a role that is, in theory, meant to be above ideology. In both cases, ideological opponents complained loudly, but could do nothing until a moral slight could be held against the appointee.