Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 4, 2011

Saturday, 2nd April 2011 – a finish to the John Howard biography

Weather wise, a strange day, mixture of  sunshiny periods, interspersed with cloudy overcast conditions, as rain threatened, at times almost felt like it was raining.  Between those periods, we managed to get a bit of work achieved in the back garden [fighting those blackberry bushes again], as well as the front lawns mowed. In fact, I guess I took advantage of the isolated house, and caught up on a bit of ‘old fashioned’ housework, all those things which need to be done, but which one [me] tends to put off, and off, and off!!!  Until today! Even found time to have a look at the big Group 1 horse races up at the Rosehill course in Sydney –  what a great program, five Group 1 races featuring some of the best horses in Australia [and New Zealand] at present. What a pity Black Caviar wasn’t running today. A couple of my tips, from yesterday morning on the radio, came through – must admit, my average of successes are rather low, a good reason why I don’t usually spend much money on the horses!!

Now after reading through it, chapter by chapter, since around November, I finally finished reading the biography published late last year, by former Prime Minister, John Howard –  ‘Lazarus Rising’. While it’s 710 pages had taken me quite a while to get through – occasional diversions to historical novels by Wilbur Smith, and Bryce Courtney, amongst other things –  I found it a relatively easy read, compared with some much ‘heavier’ biographies. In fact, Howard wrote his book in the style of biographical/cum history format that I believe I am trying to write my own family history. Quite often throughout the pages, he refers back to his own diary notes keep over many years, and  many personal recollections and circumstances that give the story a much more personal approach rather than a strictly political history. Whilst any non-Liberal supporter would probably accuse this comment of being somewhat biased, I genuinely felt that I was reading the story of a man who genuinely appears to believe deeply in the those things which his political life worked towards over almost 40 years of ups and downs, defeats and gains, successes and disappointments, etc.

I enjoyed John Howard’s ‘personal’ references to many significant events outside of politics in particular, and the way such events affected him and/or his family. Some examples – Cyclone Tracey, which devastated Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974;  the September 2001 Twin Towers atrocity in New York; the Bali Bombing a couple of years later which cost 88 Australian lives as well as over 120 from other countries; the Port Arthur murders of April 2006 [and the subsequent Gun Laws legislation]; his personal relationship as a ‘friend’ with George Bush;’ and so it goes on. I have over recent months included various quotations from the book in these pages, and probably will again on future occasions, when the circumstances warrant doing so, as I found so many fascinating little antidotes, Howard viewpoints, opinions of other leaders, and personalities in all fields of Australian society, especially in the sporting area.  I read somewhere one that one criticism of Howard was his apparent lack of interest in academic circles and the arts – certainly the latter aspect of Australian cultural life does get little mention in the book, and the arts generally don’t seem to have figured greatly in his life and lifestyle. That may be a misreading, but that impression comes through to this reader anyway.

I might finish this little reference to John Howard’s biography with a quotation from one of the closing chapters, entitled ‘The Tide Runs Out’, which is obviously referring to the election of November 2007, when he and the Coalition Government were thrown out of office. It reveals that he was a realist, who didn’t really hold out false hopes that things would always fall in his direction, as had been proved over many decades of political life, and the honesty of his strength of purpose in accepting defeat, together with his surprise at Costello’s response to the defeat,  He writes:-

“Election day, 24 November 2007, was a lovely summer day in Sydney. I had my customary morning walk, followed by hordes of press people. I thought that it was probably my last day as PM, but still held out a small amount of hope, based once again on that poll shift earlier in the week. Having being a member of the House of Representatives for 33 years and 6 months, which made me the 12th longest-serving MP out of the more than 1100 who have been elected since Federation,  I had a good sense of the mood of the electorate, simply from moving around, talking to people on polling booths and observing their body language. By mid-afternoon I sensed that the Government was gone and that I would probably lose Bennelong [his seat]. Too many eyes were averted. There were two middle-aged women at Denistone East who simply said, ‘No thanks, Mr Howard’…….It was a different mood that of the two previous elections………………………..About 8.30 it was all over, even though the polling booths in WA had not closed. At about 9.30pm I rang Kevin Rudd, congratulated him and discussed transition arrangements. Peter Costello phoned. I told him that I would make my concession speech shortly and would say that I thought he should assume the leadership of the Liberal Party. He replied that he was not sure that he would take it on and intended to discuss it further with family and friends, Having other things on my mind, I did not think much more about Peter and the leadership. I was genuinely surprised when he walked away from the leadership the next day. As events were to prove, I had wrongly assumed that politics was so much part of his being that he could not walk away whilst the possibility of the ultimate prize was still there………………………………..The following morning I went on my normal walk, accompanied by an army of press people, which included a few strays who have come along for the ghoulish pleasure of watching me the day after my loss. I disappointed them and kept up my usual pace.  Later that morning, Janette and I attended Holy Communion at the local Anglican Church in Lavender Bay. If we had won the election we would have done the same thing. By these actions, I was saying in my own way that I fully accepted what had happened; it disappointed me, but that was the democratic process. For me and my family, life would go on, and it would continue to be a good life.” [pps 645-647 ‘Lazarus Rising’]

Writing in my own ‘Blog’ that night [24 November 2007], I noted “It’s 11.30pm Saturday – I feel a little flat, a bit washed out, a little disappointed, but optimistically philosophical. I feel proud to be in a nation which allows it’s people the freedom to change it’s government without fear or threat”. And later, in responding to a response to my blog from a friend, I replied that ‘It seems  that the desire of the majority of the Australian electorate is fairly clear, as all governments in Australia [Federal and State] [at that time] are now Labor controlled. That for the time being, is the will of the people in our democratic society. Let’s hope that the trust that has been placed in those who govern us will not be betrayed. At least I won’t have to go to work tomorrow morning as I did 3 years ago,  and be told that half of Australia’s population are idiots and imbeciles because they didn’t vote for Labor. This time, only about 48% of us are idiots  in that person’s eyes, lol”.

Blues update, Round 2, 2001 AFL Season:  by Saturday night [back to 2nd April, 2011] my attention went to more important matters  –  it was the Carlton Football team’s second match for the AFL’s 2011 season, on tonight up in Brisbane. My elder son, James, came over to watch the game on the TV – he  brought his young dog with him [which answers to the name of Murphy, by coincidence, one of Carlton’s best players!!]. A very friendly kelpie [of the sheep dog variety], but not quite properly house trained as yet in some respects, as I would discover on two occasions through the evening!

This was a rather historic game tonight [quite apart from the fact that Carlton captain Chris Judd was playing his 200th game!] – we were playing against the Gold Coast Suns, a new team in the AFL Competition, and this was in fact their first game ever. Many of the pundits were predicting that as with one or two other first time interstate teams,  Carlton would be beaten tonight, but on form, and because of the relatively inexperience of the new team make-up, I couldn’t really see that. Just before the game started, I received a welcome little text message from my Collingwood supporting brother up in Brisbane, whom most of the family have not heard much from lately. I was pleased that football called briefly break that silence. Only brief, but a contact – “Good luck, first to play the Suns’.

As the game eventuated, it was the Suns who needed a bit of luck, but unfortunately for them, it didn’t come their way tonight, and as the score sheet below indicates, it was a rather one-sided affair, and for the Suns, a ‘rather rude welcome’ to the ranks of the AFL. For us Blues’ supporters, a pleasing outcome, which saw the team dominate in each quarter for a change – usually a poor one or two quarters, often leads to a disappointing result.

Carlton Blues:                   9.5.59                  15.7.97               21.10.136               FINAL:  26.15.171

Gold Coast Suns:               1.1.7                     3.5.23                 6.8.44                    FINAL:    7.10.52

[Carlton moves to 2nd of the AFL Ladder after 2 rounds, behind last year’s premiers, Collingwood – these two teams come up against each other next Friday night, a real good test for the Blues to establish how good their form really is at present].

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