One cheer for John Howard

Dear old Melanie Phillips is correct in praising the Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to prevent the country’s cricket team from touring Zimbabwe.

Cancelling sporting fixtures, as we all know, is a powerful weapon to use against repressive regimes for which such recognition is all important. … What a difference, for example, from the behaviour back in 2004 of our own government, whose supposedly “ethical” foreign policy did not actually stretch to stopping the England cricket team from going on a similar tour of Zimbabwe.

Then, the English cricket authorities were reluctant to stop the tour because of the huge financial penalties that would be imposed for what would have been a technical ‘breach of contract’. In such a situation, it/we desperately needed a political leader to protect the players, and agree that the British taxpayer would underwrite any fines. As we know, citizens have no objections to footing the bill for such things, if they are persuaded that it is the morally right action. But Jack Straw provided no such leadership. Nor did Tony Blair.

But with 400 words still left to fill, Phillips veers off course.

Mr Howard, in sharp contrast, is entirely free of such absurd and crippling cultural cringe. He believes in Australia and its Western values. He thinks these values are superior to any alternatives.

And it is this total absence of equivocation in upholding the national interest which explains his robust defence of both Australian identity and Western civilisation against attack. … Understanding that the war against civilisation is being waged from within as well as from without, he abolished multiculturalism at a stroke by renaming Australia’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, turning it into the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

He has also called for a “root and branch” overhaul of the way history is taught in Australian schools, and said pupils should have “some understanding” of British and European history, the Enlightenment and the influence of Christianity on Western civilisation.

Melanie Phillips seems to forget about the plight of the Australian Aboriginies. It is precisely this narrow definition of ‘national interest’ which systematically destroyed their robust, sustainable communities. It is precisely this rhetoric of ‘civilisation’ which led to the indigenous people being forced off their land, which led to families being torn apart. It is precisely this assertion of dominance which led to the demoralisation of an entire race. Phillips’ delight in these assertions of supremacy, and her praising their increase under the leadership of John Howard, is a demonstration either ignorance or hypocrisy. A robust multicultural policy, which proudly asserts the value of the Aboriginal culture in the face of unrelenting attack, is a good thing and should be encouraged. What a shame the Department of Multicultural Affairs was abolished. There is nothing ‘crippling’ about a bit of cultural cringe in this case, and Australia could do with a little more of it.

5 Replies to “One cheer for John Howard”

  1. “which led to the indigenous people being forced off their land, which led to families being torn apart.”

    There is nothing in the Western Enlightenment that allows for that kind of behaviour, so I’m not quite what the relevance of this might be. That some ignored the Enlightenment in order to visit these horrors on others is hardly a staunch case for saying that Enlightenment values are wrong or damaging.

    The problem, as always, arises from an over powerful state that thinks it knows best and it is the “right wing” concept of property rights that usually provides the best defence…

  2. Tell that to the Native Americans. Didn’t they sell Manhattan for twenty quid or something?

    The problem, as always, arises from an over powerful state that thinks it knows best

    Isn’t that as much a part of Western Civilisation as the formal values of The Enlightenment?

  3. Wasn’t Australia just a dumping ground for criminals originally, a sort of 18th century ASBO alternative to being hung ?

    I think the concept of the Nation State was a product of the enlightenment, but invading other countries and stealing their resources was hardly a new idea, even then. Human nature (as a perpetul force de-coupled from culture) strikes again……

  4. So, when we in the West do something wrong, we can attribute it to human nature, or the result of people ignoring our righteous western values? But when someone from another country or culture does something wrong, we can claim it is something inherently wrong with their culture itself?

    This is what jars in Melanie Phillips’ analysis of John Howard and the cricket tour. Sure, he is standing up to a dictator, but this is not the ideological, value laden struggle that she implies. It is not as if Mugabe has declared that “Democracy is not for Africa” as Mobotu Sese Seko once did. Instead, he is corrupting democracy, a concept we claim as “western”.

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