Leading article Australia


20 May 2017

9:00 AM

20 May 2017

9:00 AM

Ronald Reagan was 77 years old in his final year in office running the free world. And he made a pretty good fist of it, too, ending the Cold War among other achievements. Arguably, without the two term rule the Gipper might have even had a crack at another four years. After all, on leaving office in 1989 he held an approval rating of 68 per cent, up there with both FDR and Hillary’s philandering husband as having the highest ratings for departing presidents of the modern era. Winston Churchill, likewise, turned 77 a month after winning his second term in office. So clearly, 77 is no impediment to being a good, popular leader.

The only reason we mention this is because 77 – apart from numerically oozing good fortune and personal freedom – also happens to be the age of one of our own ‘highest rated’ leaders of the modern era. That’d be John – the middle name is no coincidence – Winston Howard.

That would also be the same John Howard who has, in the last twelve months, made the following astute comments: that the Safe Schools program should be dumped in the nearest rubbish bin; that the various governments’ renewables energy targets are a national scandal; and that (understatement trigger warning!) Morrison’s new bank tax makes our second-longest serving PM ‘uneasy’.

Around about the second bottle of shiraz, many a conservative dinner party these days tackles the vexing question of who should lead the Liberal Party out of its self-imposed wilderness in the event that Malcolm Turnbull decides (voluntarily or otherwise) to depart the political scene. That question has taken on a new urgency in the last week or so, as the ‘Turnbull Coalition Team’ (copyright Crosby, Stills, Nash & Textor) has set about deliberately detonating every core principle upon which the Liberal Party was supposedly built. Lower taxation? Boom! Spending cuts? Boom! Paying off debt? Boom! Reducing red tape? Boom! Advocating free enterprise? Boom! Privatisation? Boom! Smaller government? KA-BOOM!!

The merry mullahs of Palmyra would be mightily impressed with the swiftness and eagerness with which Turnbull, Morrison et al. have dynamited the ancient foundation pillars of Australian conservatism in their rush to create some brave new ideologically-free Liberal party, capable of easily shifting with the sands of a dodgy Senate and popular opinion polls (and pollsters).

Mainstream Australia, however, remains less enthralled with this new ‘Liberalism’, which isn’t really surprising, given its uncanny similarity to, er, the Labor Party. For many Australians, there is an understandable desire for a return to a Liberal leader, and indeed a prime minister, in the mould of the aforemention sept-et-septuagenarian John Howard.

So why not? It wouldn’t be all that hard. One of the many lefty non-entities in the Liberal Party’s North Shore electorates could step down, JWH could run in a snap by-election, and before you could say ‘Zimmerman-or-Falinski’, Janette would be re-arranging the drapes in Kirribilli House.

Just in time for John’s 78th birthday party.

Persian satire

Persian satire dates back centuries, developed by the likes of Obeyd e Zakani in the late 1300s, and fine-tuned by writers such as Iraj Mirza, Ali Akbar Dehkhoda and Bibi Khatoon Astarabadi in the early twentieth century.

Clearly, today’s Iranians have lost none of the wicked, subversive sense of humour for which these great artists were known. Indeed, Australians have been privileged recently to experience first-hand some classic examples of ironic Iranian wit, courtesy of at least six immigrants to our welcoming and generous multicultural shores.

Peter Dutton is one individual who was left shaking his head, if not his sides, when he discovered that several Iranians who had been granted asylum here after convincing authorities that they were threatened by imprisonment, torture or execution if they were forced to return to Iran, had decided to take their holidays in… well, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One such gentleman, despite having claimed that he was terrified of being persecuted at the hands of the dreadful Iranian authorities, made not one but three return trips to Iran, including one to pick up a wife. Doubtless the humble Aussie taxpayer was invited, to some extent at least, to participate in celebrating the nuptuals by picking up the tab. Persian satire at its finest.

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