The power behind the PM

05 May

The public doesn’t know his name but he had the ear of John Howard for a decade, writes Peter Hartcher.

…Howard has won four elections to become the second longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history. [Arthur] Sinodinos was there for all the highest moments. He was Howard’s chief of staff for a decade, and now that he has left for the private sector he reflects on Howard’s successful dominance of Australian politics for nearly one-fifth of the postwar era: “I thought we were on the right side of history.”…

John Howard this week described his partnership with Sinodinos as “intense”, one that probably had no precedent: “I don’t know that there’s been a relationship that long between a prime minister and a chief of staff ever before.”

His parents were Greek immigrants who only spoke their native tongue at home – he didn’t learn English till he went to school. His father was a merchant seaman and a lifelong member of the Seamen’s Union, the forerunner of the Maritime Union of Australia, the very union that the Howard Government later helped break in the Patrick docks dispute. He grew up in a working-class household in working-class Newcastle…

So what did Sinodinos mean about being on “the right side of history”?

“Without being presumptuous, in the sense that the world was moving toward globalisation, more market orientation, and the sort of framework we’d set up was consistent with where the world was going – we were going with the grain of market forces rather than against them. In that sense I thought we had a program which was appropriate for the times.”

But the core reason for the success of the Howard Government was this: “People say that Howard moved Australia to the right. But that’s a misunderstanding. The Howard Government succeeded because he expressed the innate conservatism of the Australian people.”…

Interesting profile. The odd thing is that my “innate conservatism” leads me to deplore the shrinking of the trade union movement, and many other “reforms” that Arthur and John have brought upon us. It also leads me to deplore the means that were used to get us into the Iraq War, and the lies that were told about “children overboard,” and the stacking of institutions like the ABC with ideological friends of the government.

Like many, I see Howard as a radical.

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Posted by on May 5, 2007 in Aussie interest, Current affairs, immigration, Politics



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