Watching John Howard on Q&A tonight made me think about a few things. He’s certainly a class act and a cut above any subsequent Australian Prime Minister or Parliamentary Leader of the Liberal Party. But he comes from a political generation where a significant number of politicians from both sides could have done what he did tonight.
Perhaps not in the same way. For a 71 year old he has an extraordinary memory. When Tony Jones suggested he’d invoked the ANZUS Alliance as a reason for going into Iraq he almost gave him time and date of the press conference when he invoked it and pointed out it was in respect of Afghanistan.
He was also impressive when ambushed by David Hicks, trotting out arguments he probably hadn’t used for years on the spur of the moment, and even recalling dates about the genesis of the US Military Commission.
His performance left an impression of authenticity, despite the fact that he deftly refused to answer questions, diverting answers to something else. His skill here was not just the diversion, but that it seemed to satisfy the audience. And I think he achieved this by showing how complex some of these issues are.
Julia Gillard demonstrated just how good Howard is by suggesting at a function tonight that the Liberal Party was adopting Hansonist economic policy because of Joe Hockey’s bizarre comments about banks and interest rates. She just doesn’t sound authentic, particularly when one realises that Treasurer Wayne Swan has been threatening the banks over rate rises for the last 3 years, Joe Hockey’s call was remarkable because of how out of line it was from Liberal party policy, and that the Resources Rental Tax and National Broadband Network are just the sorts of things Pauline would have embraced.
And then there is that phrase I’m sure she borrowed from Kevin Rudd “I’ve told my caucus quite clearly…”.
Of course, Tony Abbott had given her some room to move on the economic issues because he hadn’t gently repudiated his treasury spokesman’s suggestion.
Who would have thought that the Good Ol’ Days were less than three years ago?