Selective looks back

May 5, 2005

The prime minister of Australia, John Howard, is a hypocrite. Not much news in that, everybody knows it. And in this he is greatly helped by a pliant media which allows him to get away with anything.

During a recent trip to Japan - ostensibly in search of a trade deal but more aimed at trying to convince Tokyo that Canberra is not leaning too much towards Beijing - Howard made a blooper of sorts by saying that countries should be conscious of their past. His exact words were: "All countries must understand their history and their past".

When this comes from the mouth of a man who has vigorously refused to apologise for the genocide wrought on the Aboriginal population of the country, it is more than a bit rich.

Howard's one mission ever since he came to power is to indulge in a revision of history, cultivate right-wing ideologues who deny that Aborigines were ever mistreated and refuse to accept responsibility for the past.

If present-day Germany were to do that when it came to the Holocaust, I have no doubt that Howard would be among those protesting, with his whining voice joining the mob. It would be extremely convenient to do so.

But here is a man attempting to preach to Japan about its past when that period of time is exactly what Howard is trying to block out from Australia's collective memory.

What made Howard's comments stand out even more was the fact that the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologised to the world at large a few days later for his country's wartime activities.

Koizumi has apologised in the past but this apology was even more profuse, and was made to an international gathering.

Howard has done nothing of the sort, no matter who has pointed it out.

When no newspaper or TV journalist even bothers to ask the man how he could justify making such a statement in view of his own refusal to acknowledge the injustices of the past, then it goes beyond being a bit rich.

On many an occasion, Howard treats the media in a patronising manner and shows open contempt for journalists.

When no journalist takes him to task for comments such as he made in Japan, can one really wonder why the prime minister treats the media contemptuously?