Self-interest fed by ignorance

October 10, 2004

The Australian populace has returned the government to power in a federal election. John Howard, a leader who has lied to the people, demonised others whenever he needed to do so to stay in power, and played fast and loose with things when it suited him has been returned with a greater proportion of the vote than before. It says a lot about the level of self-interest and ignorance in Australia.

The thinking part of the population has now been reduced to a very small percentage - else such a result would not be possible. At least 10 eminment economists went on record, saying that the low interest rates and the general prosperity witnessed over the last few years had nothing to do with any government - but the population at large chose to believe the prime minister. Ironically, when the same man was treasurer, interest rates were totally out of control - and this was at a time when Australia had much more control over its own destiny as the economy had not yet been opened up.

Both the other Western leaders who led their countries into Iraq - Bush and Blair - have now openly admitted that they were wrong about the central reason they advanced for going in. But Howard continues to bluster about the reasons why he joined them. And everyone lets him get away with what he says. Iraq apparently didn't rate high on their list of reasons for voting.

When a number of defence personnel pointed out that the prime minister had played fast and loose with the truth during the last election, the people shrugged it off. Their overloaded credit card bills are now of greater concern. The same goes for the bloated mortgages that they carry. All a result of the so-called economic prosperity that has prevailed, prosperity that is built on a housing sector which is grossly over-priced. Greed is good in Australia these days, it's the only thing that drives people.

Fear is another factor. Howard knows how to capitalise on greed and fear, spreading FUD about interest rates and handing out dollops of cash (obtained by raising taxes willy-nilly) to people to sate their greed. The number of people who are bothered about the fact that the country is going down the American path is growing lesser by the day - most people have no time to bother about stupid things like that.

There was a great deal of bleating this year about how the trade agreement with the Americans will benefit the country. Let's see how much it gives and how much it takes. Let's also see if Howard will rate more than a passing mention once Bush disappears and Kerry takes over.

It will be interesting to see Howard's reaction to any negative economic change. Some have suggested that he will retire and leave Peter Costello to face the music. I concur with this idea but I also think that if nothing serious happens, then Howard will stick around and try to win a fifth term. Power at any cost has been his mantra and given an obliging media pack who are actially convinced that he is a great statesman, I can't see why he wouldn't try to do so.

How long before there is a day of reckoning? Many people I know would love to see that day arrive - even though it would affect them personally as well. But they are few and far between. The majority are lost in a sea of dollars and lack of sense.