Tuesday 14 August 2007


“Every complex problem has a simple solution – which is wrong.”

I don’t know who wrote that line but I love it. It captures so much of the political debate under Howard.

Want to stop porn being peddled to children online? Build a firewall.

Want to stop child abuse in indigenous communities? Send in the police and the army, prohibit alcohol and don’t complicate important initiatives by consulting affected communities.

Want to stop terrorism? Repeal those old and flaky pillars of the legal system like habeas corpus – they didn’t have Islamic terror in the 14th century right?

Want to remove a cruel Iraqi dictator? Forget the details and ignore those wimps arguing for caution. Get in there and do it.

Want to safeguard Australia’s security? Spend billions on new high tech weapons. The bigger and more expensive, the safer we’ll be.

Want to win an election? Buy off, one by one marginal electorates across the country.

Get the picture?

John Howard has been a man for his times. Australians have had their ten years of wilful ignorance and over-simplification. We’ve had our ten years of indulgence. We’re richer we’re told. But nobody feels as relaxed and comfortable as the Prime Minister assures us we should.

Reality is catching up with John Howard’s ever simplistic and easily digested prescriptions.

A firewall is no more an adequate measure for dealing with the proliferation of pornography in schools than the army and police are the best people to deal with the complex issue of child abuse in indigenous communities. These measures might at best be a small part of a complex solution.

John Howard doesn’t like complex solutions. But it seems Australians are starting to realise that many of our biggest problems won’t be fixed by simplistic and politically packaged prescriptions. Climate change has probably played a part in this process. The hollow ring to Howard’s line “ Working families have never been better off” is probably also biting.

Reality is catching up with Australia and Howard is looking the worse for it.

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