Monday, 26 February 2007

Michelle Grattan, Walkley Award-winning political editor of The Age of Melbourne, for whose sake the prime minister made comments when she accepted her gong, has reviewed a new book. This didn't have to be written. On 10 February sister broadsheet The Sydney Morning Herald published a review by David Marr. The Age, we must conclude, is on John Howard's case.

More than a book review (like Marr's), Grattan's piece is a summary of what many people think about the incumbent federal government. Watchers of Australian politics will know that Howard first won government in 1996. They've been in power for over ten years. It shows, says Grattan.

A few months after he won power, the new prime minister was celebrating that the "pall of censorship" had been lifted - people could speak out more freely without being labelled bigot or racist. If so, one curtain was soon replaced by another, and the new jibe was to label those you wanted to denigrate as from the "elites".

And it's no joke. The truth of this assertion will be obvious to anyone who has followed comments made by senior ministers as well as pro-government journalists, of which there are many. The Australian newspaper is particularly notable for this kind of intolerance of progressive ideas.

When Kevin Rudd wins government in September or October this year, we will see another bland cypher fill the top job. The similarities between Rudd and Howard are many. They even frequent the same church.

We'll have to see what stance Rudd takes toward the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). This will be the litmus test of tolerance. How progressive a Labor government really is can be gauged by its attitude toward Aunty.

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