Ok, I admit it, I'm a non-believer, so I'm going to stick my (metaphorical) neck out and state that I'll sign up to, well, one of the three great religions, if (a) John Howard loses the Australian election for his rag-tag, bloated, hubristic ruling coaltion and if (b) he loses his own seat (Bennelong) to Labor's bright, sassy Maxine McKew. (McKew chose to contest this seat rather than the safe seat she was offered). Howard's preening performance at the APEC conference where he played to an international audience was a disgrace, (although Fox News Channel's E D Hill thought he was from Germany) and there's nothing impressive about his decision "not to quit" in the face of ever-increasing opposition. (Didn't Richard Nixon say the same thing, prior to his resignation.) But, hey, don't take my word for it. Some comments from others who've been able to see through Howard's smokescreen:
"Some people are born with so great a talent for brazen effrontery that they have no choice but to become politicians. One is Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard." So states internationally syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer in a devastating assessment of Howard and Australia's foreign policy. As for the citizens of the 'lucky country', Dyer continues: "If some Australian voters believe that the invasion of 2003 did not already 'completely destabilise and destroy Iraq and create chaos', and that only a US withdrawal would bring about that outcome, then they are free to vote for Howard, and he is free to solicit their votes."
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew West in an attack on Australia's "cringe culture," suggests that "the TV programme Big Brother adds nothing to our understanding of a complex world. (But) it reflects the ethos of the Howard era: minimum investment, maximum profit. The same profit-driven ethos has infected our education system. Far from being in thrall to the far left, as the Prime Minister (has) claimed, the schools, and especially the universities, are beholden to free marketeers."
And from Howard himself - this least intellectual of Australian leaders - speaking in Melbourne a few months ago: “Our future is open-ended, rather than a fixed, pre-determined destination. It relies as much on the local and the particular as on the bold, grand design. The American writer Virginia Postrel makes this point in her stimulating book The Future and its Enemies.” Postrel mentioned Howard's quote in her Dynamist blog: "The Melbourne-based Institute for Public Affairs sponsored a speaking tour for me back in 2000 and has promoted the book's ideas from time to time. Since the book is not available in Australian stores (no publisher bought the Commonwealth publication rights), I can only assume that directly or indirectly that's how it came to Howard's attention." I'd say it's a dead cert; I didn't hear him speak, but I'll bet that he sounded - much like George Bush - as if he'd never seen the words before his speechwriter put them in front of him.