Public First Program


Shane Elson


email Shane

+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

June 2007 # 4

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Back to Editorials 2007

Unspoken Words Among Friends

This is an edited extract from the first draft of John Howard’s address to the Sydney Institute regarding the inequities within the Australian community. 

Gerard, thank you for the warm welcome. Friends, and I can say that with confidence knowing that we share the same concerns about the grave situation facing many within our community, I might want to begin by outlining the appalling conditions under which many of our Indigenous brethren live. I could, with your indulgence begin by outlining the prison like conditions in which many carers are forced to labour as they care for the ones they love. I could also, should the mood take us, begin by discussing the impoverishment of thousands that cause them to beg and scrape to make ends meet. 

However, I realise that gathered here are the ones who know all too well about these issues. I know, dear friends, that you know as well as I and my government, that these important issues are a cause for much concern within the circles in which we move. I also realise that you are still enjoying a beautiful meal and fine wines and to talk of such matters would turn the taste to sourness. So I will, in kindness to you, avoid references to matters that might upset your delicate constitutions and focus on some of the more important matters facing us as we move further into the 21st century. 

I was saying to Gerard just before our dinner arrived, that my parliamentary colleagues and I were reflecting on our 2001 election campaign and thinking that we might modify our election slogan for this year’s election to “we will decide whose children will be abused and the conditions under which they will be abused”. But seriously, as you are aware the government has a huge task ahead of it as we attempt to juggle the complexities of the economy and the way it interacts with society and the way we must share the wealth of the nation more equitably. 

The huge public outcry at the way we treat our Indigenous community has reached our ears and we are responding. We acknowledge that many of you have a stake in the businesses that ensure the grog, the porn and the drugs make it into these remote and isolated communities. My government is also aware that many of you have interests in companies that could profit if they were contracted to provide the services currently being under funded by our government. In short, my friends, the government is your friend and we are committed to assisting in that long held tradition of what I refer to as the “trickle up” effect. 

Gerard and colleagues, friends and supporters of the Sydney Institute, I am confident that in your company I can speak openly and with candour, safe in the knowledge that you will not only appreciate what I say but will also throw your considerable economic weight behind the plan I will outline for you now. 

All of us gathered here tonight in the warmth and atmosphere of this great Australian institution are aware that times are tough. The ability for us, as a government, to redistribute the wealth of the nation is constrained by the need to meet the expectations of our masters in the global financial institutions. You, having interests in these businesses, know and understand that it is important that the political system meets the expectations you have for furthering the growth of the economy. 

In government it is much more difficult to ensure that the conditions you need to see your expectations fulfilled are met. To that end I am, tonight, declaring a war on poverty, disadvantage and abuse. Because I have declared it a war I must, necessarily, involve the military and in order to ensure that the public are convinced that I am serious I must find something to focus their minds. To that end I am, tonight, announcing that millions of dollars will be flooded into supporting the private sector in a plan that will enable them to benefit, and the public to be convinced, that we are serious about tackling the issues of poverty, disadvantage and abuse. 

What we are planning is a high tech, visible and direct attack on those conditions which we believe will prevent many of you from reaching the goals you hope to achieve. My government is committed to ensuring that your families are secure and safe in both your class system and the gated communities into which many of you are retreating as you see the rising anger of the proletariat at the failure of governments to deliver equity for all. 

I want to assure you that my government is committed to ensuring that those families most at risk and those children who endure the harshest conditions are kept well away from yours. My government is committed to ensuring that you will never be burdened with the guilt that afflicts so many within our community as they contemplate the failure they have fomented by engaging with my government for the last 11 years. 

My friends, in a society that is colour blind, has discontinued the discourse of class and in a society that is slowing losing it’s innocence, I can assure you that my government has engaged the best spin doctors, PR flacks and media hacks to make it clear that my government is here to govern for all, regardless of skin colour, religion, class or gender. 

However, as I said earlier I am among friends and I know Gerard will agree with me, I am able to speak freely. Therefore, I want to reassure you that no matter what public utterances I or my Ministers make; no matter what press releases flood into the media and no matter what debates are undertaken in the public arena, our hearts and minds are always with yours in the private spaces afforded by the wealth and privilege you have accumulated. 

Dear friends, I understand that the pressure cooker type political environment we must endure often causes you concern and trepidation. But I implore you to stay the course, to stand firm and to recognise that those who are not for us are, in reality, against us. 

We have a common enemy in this war, an enemy that spans skin colour, race and gender. My government’s plan will see private businesses being able to gain access to lands previously locked up in outdated and outmoded agreements that see small groups of people controlling the vast but unrealised wealth that lies just a few centimetres under their feet. My government has done more than any other to ensure that some private businesses now have more income that many government departments as they fulfil roles previously done by governments. You know I am committed to seeing the private accumulation of wealth continue among those we deem the rightful inheritors of the bounty of the earth. 

In closing, my friends, let me congratulate you for your role in all this. Your strategic use of political donations, the soft word in the ear of others of influence and your willingness to engage with us as we fight the scourges that surround us augur well for the future. It is your future we must focus on and to that end, you have my commitment that I and my government will remain committed to ensuring the spotlight is kept well and truly away from the obscene wealth and decadence in which you live. Thank you.

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