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State scene: Joe Poprzeczny: Howard ignores internal critics

AUSTRALIA has had 25 prime ministers. lthough the 25th, John Howard, and his spin-doctors promote the idea that he’s a virtual revisitation of Liberal Party founder, Robert Menzies, that’s not a convincing sales pitch. r Howard has shown he’s got more in common with one of his failed Liberal predecessors, and a subsequent failed Labor PM – John Gorton and Gough Whitlam, respectively – than Menzies. It’s become clear that he’s an ardent centralist, precisely what Messrs Gorton and Whitlam were, to their detriment. In both cases their centralist obsession led to their political demise. The phrase most often associated with Mr Gorton was one he uttered while addressing the WA Chamber of Manufacturers in September 1968: “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. And the one most often associated with Mr Whitlam, though who coined it State Scene doesn’t know, was: “Crash through or crash”. Both phrases suggest each realised he’d embarked on a risky path. Some have even speculated to State Scene that they had what can be called a ‘kamikaze streak’ in their personalities. Interestingly, although Mr Howard is still without such a crowning phrase – that’s if one ignores last election campaign’s “lying rodent” tag – he’s now irrevocably heading down that well-worn obsessive centralist path. Like his two kamikaze predecessors he clearly has a burning desire for ever-greater power to put into the hands of Canberra’s tiny but already powerful bureaucratic elite. Like Mr Gorton and Mr Whitlam, he’s declared a protracted war on state governments, wanting to see them steadily stripped of many of their traditional powers and responsibilities. Thankfully, that’s something many long-time loyal Liberal rank and file members and voters still find abhorrent.

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