Friday, November 9, 2007

Book: Still Not Happy, John!

Yes, yes, here it is. The long awaited review. Sorry guys. Finished it over a week ago and have not been able to bring myself to do the review. Not because the book was bad (it wasn't), but because it meant that I'd have to delve back into the world of the coalition. Bleugh.

Just before the 2004 election, Margo released Not Happy John. A book that looked into the questionable things the Howard government had done since gaining power in 1996. The current book is an extension of the earlier one. After all, there has been 3 more years and this time they've had a Senate majority, and we all know how well that has turned out.

The only criticism I have of the book (may as well get it out of the way early), is that, it doesn't have as much new material as I was expecting. But, by the same token, it was good to be reminded yet again of the things that have gone on over the past 11 years. While I remember the fiasco that was GWB addressing parliament, I forgot about Costello trying to get media ownership laws changed (and the ultimate success in 2006).

There is a new introduction, and the chapters each have post-script with a 2007 update. Part 5 is entirely new.

Oh god, there are so many situations presented to you in the book of the government's duplicity, arrogance and abuse of power that I can't cover them all in detail. My only hope is to give you a brief overview of a few so that you can go searching for info on your own (or, better yet, grab the book and have a read for yourself). Strap yourselves in.

GWB's visit in 2003
Aside from the lunch that was held at The Lodge and the invite list Howard tried to stop being made public, we have the absolute travesty that was GWB addressing parliament and the manner in which it was controlled, the behaviour of our own politicians and the complete and utter disregard for propriety. Oh, and let's not forget the way that the Secret Service was allowed to take over the security in our house of parliament. This is the part of the book that pisses me off the most (and pretty much the entire book pisses me off). The general public were not allowed to enter PH while GWB was there. Protesters were not allowed outside (except at a distance). "Non-essential" PH staff were told to take the day off. Control of both security and the media was given to the Americans. Our own media were being told by foreigners what they could and could not do in our house of parliament! Finally, Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle were expelled from the House of Reps by the Speaker (it was a joint meeting) at the behest of Tony Abbott. This was a breach of House rules and was unconstitutional.

Hu Jintao addresses Parliament
The day after GWB addresses parliament Hu Jintao does so, even though there is an understanding that this honour would only ever be given to visiting American Presidents. Brown and Nettles were unable to attend due to the previous expulsion which held for 24 hours. Official guests of the Greens were banned from the gallery. They are Australian citizens who just happen to be of Tibetan and Chinese descent. Chinese Embassy staff are given permission to vet official guests. In addition, the Chinese embassy sent a letter to Fairfax (and presumably to NewsLtd) stating that they were not to publish an open letter or any advertisments that may be placed by anyone associated with the Tibetan independence movement or Falungong. Fairfax refused.

WMDs. War.
Do I really need to discuss this one? No, didn't think so. Except to say that Howard referred to anti-war protesters as a "mob".

Ill treatment of Kylie Russell
SAS Sergeant Andrew Russell was the first Australian casualty in Afghanistan. On 23 October 2003 GWB announced that he was going to lay a wreath in his honour at the War Memorial. Kylie Russell was not invited. The government didn't bother to contact her to tell her. Her MP, Graham Edwards, had to tell her of it. He found out when Bush addressed Parliament. It wasn't until a week later, at the behest of Edwards, did Howard bother to contact her. He sent a letter, but didn't send so much as a photo of the wreath laying. In 2004 the US government treated Kylie Russell better than her own did. The US Ambassador met her at a function in Perth that was honouring her husband. She later presented with photos of the Bush visit, personally signed to her. She was also invited to the US, was gifted with airfares and visited the White House, Pentagon and SAS base. John Howard has never made an effort to meet Kylie.

Tax deductions to NGOs
Costello has tried to revoke the tax concessions and deductibility of donations to NGOs who make an attempt to influence (change) existing policies and laws. If the tax status is changed for NGOs, then few people would donate money to them and they'd have to shut down. Thereby reducing the amount of criticism the government has to face. The purpose of NGOs is to influence government policy so to reduce the numbers to those who are in agreement with the government is to silence yet another avenue of the voice of the people.


Throughout the book you also have the complicit nature of the MSM. The fear they have of the current government. When the media is stifled to such a degree that those who aren't cheerleaders for the government are afraid of what ramifications there are of being honest with the public, then you have some serious problems. This has been highlighted by the recent report commissioned by the media.

The 2006 cross-media ownership changes don't help things. Australians are getting a more narrow view of what goes on not just in our country, but the world. We need more independent media to get the information out there.

I cannot recommend this book enough.


In addition to the above issues, we have to remember some other things that have occurred during the current government's reign:

  • AWB (not just the oil-for-food scandal itself, but the hands-tying of the Cole Commission)
  • WorkChoices
  • Cornelia Rau
  • Vivian Alvarez
  • David Hicks
  • Mamdouh Habib
  • VSU
  • Anti-Terrorism Act 2005
  • Changing the electoral enrolment rules, ban on prisoners voting (later overturned by the High Court)
  • Mohamed Haneef
  • Detention of asylum seekers

These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to remind me of more in the comments and I will add them to the list.


Thought of two more (and I can't believe I forgot them!):

  • Marriage Act
  • Refusal to give same-sex couples the same rights as hetero couples