Talk:Howard Government

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4th Term: "Energy"[edit]

The meaning of the second paragraph (as at 10 January 2010) seems to me to be unclear and in need of revision. Begins "This position was established..." and ends: "come to share relatively level business expectations and time horizons".Observoz (talk) 12:40, 10 January 2010 (UTC)


"Because it had required precise social and political calculation to embody such "protectionist" policies (opposed to the 'unconscionable' temporary solutions proposed by the nationalist One Nation Party) in legislation, to enact the Pacific Solution created during the Tampa litigation precluded any immature show of support from the legal community.[43] There was "an acute insight into constitutionalism" that raised the "humanitarian" questions of what the rule of law means if it is "precept, not cipher, an article of faith, not rhetoric".[44]" - what the heck does that mean? Peter Ballard (talk) 06:18, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

ha ha. I never really read it. It is a shocker. Needs to go. Suggest being bold and don't bother with seeking notions of consensus. --Merbabu (talk) 06:24, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
ps - it smells like pov but could never be a pov dispute as it is completely indecipherable. I know I shouldn't but it makes me laugh. --Merbabu (talk) 06:28, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm guessing the editor took a detailed commentary and tried too hard to shorten it. But the result reads like something out of SCIgen! Anyway, I deleted it. Peter Ballard (talk) 10:26, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

References section[edit]

So that we don't have to reference entire book each time they're used, would it be OK if I moved the current refs into a section called 'notes' and added a section called 'references' which can be used to put the full publisher details in? (note that I'm not offering to change all the refs into short versions at the moment ;) ) Nick-D (talk) 05:27, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

Yes. But why won't you change the references to short form - I'm sure it's heaps of fun. ;-) --Merbabu (talk) 05:49, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
I started to do that at National Party of Western Australia, it worked quite well there. Orderinchaos 07:46, 17 January 2009 (UTC)


I note this "scandal" is not in the article. I think it should be. I can do it eventually, but if someone else wants to get in first that would be great. --Merbabu (talk) 13:01, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Agreed, needs coverage in this article. Cole Inquiry and AWB Limited have some out-of-date info which might be useful as a starting point. I don't think we need to go into too much depth here, one or two sentences and links to the main articles. --Surturz (talk) 06:41, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

Rewriting the East Timor and Indonesia section[edit]

Should have a draft ready by Monday. There are a number of oversights in the second and third paragraphs:

  1. "Reacting to the Howard-Downer letter, in January 1999 Habibie announced a snap decision" -- unconventional language
  2. "The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of independence. However, within a few days, the militia undertook a retaliatory scorched earth campaign" -- no clear link between these sentences, and says nothing of outside concerns/expectations
  3. "within a few days of the vote a campaign was undertaken" -- where is this lifted from?
  4. "In the face of Australian public and international outrage, the Prime Minister led discussions for a UN peacekeeping force" -- wrong, possibly promotes an Australian POV
  5. "US President Bill Clinton and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanted a UN peacekeeping force" -- says nothing of capacity

Ottre 14:04, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

It's not our job to analyse, merely to report. There are weaknesses in the existing text (as there are in many Wikipedia articles which are developed semi-collaboratively without a master plan), and I even agree with several of your points above, but there were substantially greater weaknesses in the version proposed today (eg practically suggesting the Australian INTERFET mission was an invasion, and stating misconceptions about Australian foreign policy goals and making various original-researchy kinds of claims). It needs to be thought through carefully. Also, given this is an article about the Howard government, the section in this article should be fairly short, and straight to the point - it is relevant, but the main content of it will be in the relevant article about the East Timor independence vote and the aftermath. i.e. How did the Howard government's actions relate to what took place in East Timor? This has to be done from reliable sources. Most likely the AJPH, the various Asian and foreign affairs journals etc will be a good place to start. Orderinchaos 15:16, 24 April 2009 (UTC)
This section is already on the long side. Also, keep in mind that it is part of a summary article about the Howard Government and must remain by necessity extremely brief - your earlier edits expanded rather than made it more "concise". If you want to go add details, then there are several more specific articles on this period that you can add them too. As for your specific points above:
1. I'm not sure what's so poor about the language and why you can't just fix it - not sure why the whole section had to be re-written and a weaker still version provided. There were many more worse examples of unconventional (and uninteligible) writing that you provided in your first version. "posture calibrated against international outrage"... "project Australian military authority to the fledgling country" is not really about using conventional language - smacks of POV (even though I don't quite get it's intent).
2. Not sure how it isn't linked. East Timorese voted for independence, and militia "punished" them for it as promised. Once again, if you can tweak to improve without making a mess, then go ahead. Not sure what "outside concerns/expectations" means - but getting back to my general point, is it needed in a summary article about Howard Govt. Again, your concern is unclear, and no specific solution is offered.
3. What do you mean "where is this lifted from"? Do you mean it is uncited? ARe you questioning that maybe it is incorrect? I questiont the need for a cite - it's a border line "the sky is blue" info". But, if you want a cite, can be found.
4. Not sure what's wrong about it. Again, what in your opinion is correct? I would suggest this section needs not an "Australian POV" as in an Australian bias, but an Australian POV as in an AUstralian focus - it is afterall about Howard govt and 1999 crisis in East Timor.
5. Capacity of what? And why might it be relevant?
--Merbabu (talk) 01:05, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
Agreed with Merbabu. I've gone and checked AJPH and it largely tallies with the account we have here, though obviously they have far more detail. One interesting detail omitted from ours is that Labor changed its policy in late 1997 (at nat conf? not sure) to support East Timorese independence, and this was an additional factor putting pressure on the Howard government on the issue. From the reading at AJPH we should drop "Howard-Downer" in the point above and simply have "Howard's" - there's no indication in AJPH that Downer co-wrote it. The bit about "without consulting Cabinet" may be OR as I can't find it anywhere. (Note though I'm only going from one source and am time poor so if sources exist for those two minor points, I'm willing to be proven wrong :)) Orderinchaos 03:47, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
The bit about Downer and Howard writing it is correct - I will find the source I used. But is it notable? At the time I wrote it I thought it was. --Merbabu (talk)03:52, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
What, so you don't think she is ignoring my main points here?
1. It is pretty clear from reading the most recent books that Howard did not simply waltz into the conflict. Indeed, most people behind the scenes had very little idea of his true intentions and the intervention could rightly be described as a shift in foreign policy.
2. Either the violence intensified within a day, or really intensified after the results of the ballot were made public.
3. It's essential that we give a clear timeline of events when discussing how both sides reacted.
Ottre 04:10, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm - my comments remain the same - your complaint with the existing text is unclear, and you don't offer specific alternatives for said complaint. In detail and assuming you're sticking to your original point numbering:
1. Your complaint for this point was "unconventional language".. Now your saying something about Howard not "waltzing in" and Howard's intention - yet, your intial complaint is about a phrase about habibie? I'm confused.
2. Not sure what your latest concern here is about. Everything was quite on the day of election, then within a day or two the retalitory campaign was on. Or did you miss the news for this week? It was on the front of every paper, and on radio consistently.
3. Yeah, so where's the mistake?
4 & 5. ????
Btw, who is "she"? If it is myself, do you feel you are not ignoring my points? And remember, this is 1999 East Timorese crisis, but a section of a much broader article on the Howard Govt. .--Merbabu (talk) 04:23, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
(Re sourcing for Howard/Downer) Ah cool. It "sounded" right to me but I wasn't sure from my sources where one would look. Thanks. Orderinchaos 04:52, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't have any specific alternatives right now.
1. Firstly, I take it you honestly aren't aware of the stylistic problems in the current text? One does not "react" to such an important letter, one does not "announce a snap decision", there are clauses which should be separated, etc. Because you suggested in your first comment that I have no grasp of basic English grammar, I'll let somebody else fix the wording. Secondly, why do you believe Howard's response is characterised fairly and concisely? I think it promotes an entirely Australian point of view, which avoids mentioning the core warnings.
2. I checked the front pages of the Australian and the Fin Review for that week, and both papers suggest the campaign had started within a day. The situation was described as "anarchy" around September 5/6. Seems most people would say "within a day" is most correct. If you want to stress that the pro-integration militia was still moving in 2/3/4/5 days later, you should probably put "within a week".
3. My complaint is not all about strategic guidance as such. There is no clear timeline: no mention of UNAMET predictions, no mention of failed resupply arrangements or how involved the UN was, the bit about Timor Leste being a "fledgling nation", or even the earlier discussions in Canberra. The article is supposed to be focused on the Howard Government as a whole.
Ottre 05:02, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
1. OK, so you suggest the words used here could be improved (yeah - why not?), but you say you don't have an alternative. Can we thus scratch that off the list for now.
2. Rather than the existing "few days", you suggested violence started within "a week" and something about Dili being captured. Now you are saying you have sources saying within "one day" (which to be honest, is much closer to what happened). Which way to you want to go? I suggest if there is a change it is in a direction that can be verified with sources.
3. Still, not sure what point 3 is about. It seems to have moved on from the start of this section. It's an extremely complicated topic, and there are many (not popular opinion mind you) who say that the Howard Govt stuffed up big time in that they were naive in letting it get out of control (although that would assume they had control). IN fact, I had included such a quote from Paul Kelly but it was removed yesterday by OiC - but it was probably not unwarranted, and I admit that it wasn't very well presented. If you can elaborate on the complexities in a simple manner and reduce the word count that would be great, but I suggest it doesn't involve talk of "posture calibrated" or similar. Not sure where the "fledgling nation" comes in - concepts of nationhood (as opposed to notions of state) are inherently POV. Suggest not notable here in discussion of, as you point out, the "Howard Government". --Merbabu (talk) 05:13, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) I've a general understanding now of what will help. Thanks for that last comment Merbabu. No geopolitical terms, and no unsourced opinions about characterisation, essentially just work on the timeline. I believe we should mention that discussions between Howard and his top military advisors (and their influence over the Government?) resulted in a calculated move on Australia's part, Howard looked at a lot of unreleased intelligence from 1998, and that it is still unknown what they had hoped to gain by it all. Ottre 05:53, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Economy section...[edit]

I noticed the tag put into the economy section. I don't necessarily have a problem with opinion pieces used as sources if the material itself is accurate. If we're quoting economic figures, it's a big call to say they are inaccurate. On the other hand if we are stating an opinion in the source as fact then that is a problem. While the sections has problems, it's not IMO about accuracy or reliability. While there is nothing actually wrong with that source supporting those facts, perhaps a solution would be to find alternative sources for those figures. --Merbabu (talk) 09:54, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

My concern is that it's not a well rounded view of the Government and the source (the former head of the Treasury writing in an arch-conservative magazine) is neither independent of his subject nor neutral. It's also inappropriate to have figures on the entire period of the Howard Government in the section on the Government's fourth term. Nick-D (talk) 10:27, 27 April 2009 (UTC)
I've just (rather boldly) re-written the entire section (albeit using a single - but excellent - source). I've removed the material covering the period 1996-2007 but will post it below. Nick-D (talk) 11:13, 27 April 2009 (UTC)
Looks good to me. We need to be careful about the measures too as they were being manipulated in various ways - eg the "long term unemployment" statistic related more to particular Centrelink and Job Network policies implemented by the Government than actual decrease in long-term unemployment. Those who do not receive benefits for whatever reason, such as myself, were not being classed as unemployed. Orderinchaos 12:11, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

In a review of the economic policies of the Howard Government published in January 2009, former Treasury Secretary John Stone concluded that Australia had enjoyed “twelve years of unparalleled prosperity” under the Howard Government. As evidence, Stone cites the following key statistics relating to the twelve-year period of the Howard Government:

  • Economic output grew by 54% in real terms, as measured by Gross Domestic Product
  • Average weekly earnings grew 24.4% in real terms
  • 2.26 million jobs were created, an increase of 27.1%
  • People unemployed for periods 52 weeks and 104 weeks substantially re-entered the workforce – numbers in each of these groups of the long-term unemployed declined by two thirds
  • Real living standards increased, as measured by a 36.1% increase in consumption of goods and services per head of population[1]

I like the new section. I would like to copy edit it, and add more statistics (while being careful not to attribute blame or credit inappropriately). --Merbabu (talk) 12:27, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

Deputy Sherriff[edit]

Does anyone really want to keep the "Deputy Sheriff comments" section? It adds nothing to the article, was a storm in a teacup that has had no ongoing coverage. Even the Obama Drama has had more ongoing coverage. --Surturz (talk) 02:23, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

snip it I say. Indeed it is this article's Obama idiocy. The rest of the two articles cover big and ongoing issues of consequence rather than headlines. These two stick out like dogs balls of triviality. I had long wanted to remove this but was afraid of once again being accused (in good faith no doubt) of censorship. --Merbabu (talk) 03:40, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
It is important to mention it as it got significant Asian media coverage on an ongoing basis, but anything more than a mention is according it a mythical importance. A section is overkill. Orderinchaos 03:41, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
are u suggesting it is currently overkill? If so perhaps u could fix as u see fit. But I still think should be gone. There are many things that got coverage in 11 years but there is mo space to mention. Like the Obama drama many people speculated on how damaging it was but I have never seen anything of consequence except journalists and poltical opponents' criticism. --Merbabu (talk) 03:48, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
It was important in the sense that it helped to shape how the Howard government was seen in the Asian region (especially in Malaysia and Indonesia), especially in contrast to predecessor and successor administrations, and therefore played into Howard's entire foreign policy image. There's plenty of journal and news cites for that (when I'm finished my current assignment load I might have a look for specific ones but a random journal search turned up over 50.) What I'm saying is that the entire incident and the response to it could be condensed down to a single sentence. Orderinchaos 06:05, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
a one sentence mention, presumably at end of ET section, would be a vast but not perfect improvement - IMO. As for the question of "image" in Asia, if we start commenting on that we get into slippery OR and POV territory. That Howard was "bad in Asia" is similar to he was "good for economy", and both are based on a lot of anecdotally partisan generalisations and wishful thinking. The counter argument is that despite an (arguably) poor image in Asia, it can be well argued the govt actually accomplished more than pjk. Yup - watch the howard haters scream at my attack on the correct thinking. No, I'm not suggesting that point goes in, but I'm trying to illustrate why shouldn't use an event to illustrate something (ie image and perceptions) that is inherently pov an contentious (and from memory actually not mentioned).--Merbabu (talk) 06:47, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
Should be noted he had very good relations with some Asian govts too, especially Singapore and the Philippines. But the amount of journal coverage by experts I think takes it away from OR territory. Orderinchaos 07:14, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
hmm. There might be something encyclopedic there, but I can see another train wreck based on experience. LOL. I Like your suggestion for deputy sheriff info. Note - I am not necessarily arguing against him having a bad image in Asia (I was the afterall arguing against removal of criticism of howards management of Pauline hanson), but that this is not necessarily the same as success in Asia or that in terms of asian fp we are somehow better off now that we are back to a labor govt. --Merbabu (talk) 07:30, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
I think it's always the case though that when you have one type of government you have one set of benefits and challenges and a different sort you have different benefits and challenges. Some were arguing that having a Rudd Labor government would affect our relations with Japan negatively, for example. Orderinchaos 07:59, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
(outdent)(edit conflict) Useful non-Australian link I also have concerns about this issue because Howard recanted soon after. To what purpose do we record a policy backflip? I believe Asian trade increased under Howard, and that we became closer to ASEAN, China, APEC etc cf. Keating's 'recalcitrant' comments about Mahatir. The 'Sherriff' incident should not be used to indicate Howard made ties with Asia worse, it is but a small incident in a larger history. --Surturz (talk) 08:06, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
There wasn't much to recant - if I recall it was GB who made the comment to begin with. It was then latched onto delightedly by Mahathir and other regional leaders and still comes up in Asian political commentary on Australia even today, although more in comparing Rudd with Howard. Orderinchaos 08:21, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
Mahathir is our reliable opinion setter? groan. ;-) --Merbabu (talk) 12:37, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

OK, so i removed the section header, and culled the passage right down to what I think are the essential (if, as I maintain, the needless) elements.:

In the Bulletin Magazine it was suggested that the Prime Minister viewed Australia as a "deputy peacekeeping capacity to the global policing role of the US" in the Asia-Pacific region, and that he had embraced the term "Howard Doctrine". Both notions were criticized in the Asia region—including by diplomats and academics—and Howard rejected both notions later that week.

I hope that is a good compromise. --Merbabu (talk) 12:37, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

Much better, thanks Merbabu --Surturz (talk) 02:15, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
Agreed - looks good to me. Orderinchaos 04:18, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
Lol - did I actually write, "essential but needless"? That's clear but confusing, isn't it? Well, the main point is my change has found some endorsement. cheers --Merbabu (talk) 08:02, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

Port Arthur and gun control[edit]

My apologies for entering a half-arsed edit to this section which was correctly reverted as unreferenced and (apparently not NPOV). I came over here checking contributions by who edited the main article on the subject. In my opinion, those edits are a bit heavy-handed; but the edits to this section by Merbabu and with claims and counterclaims do not give the social or political impact of the gun law controversy; they are just tit for tat stats.

The claim of 200 lives a year directly saved is easily demonstrated to be strongly overstating the case, but quoting the SSAA release in 'he said, she said' style is not the best use of word count in a general article on the Howard Government. The harms and costs imposed on legitimate owners have been ignored.

As a start I have linked the main article on this topic, Gun politics in Australia. Most of the assertions on this story are referenced over there. ChrisPer (talk) 09:02, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Thanks Chris. I agree that this section needs a lot of work - at one stage it was basically a press release from the SSA copied and pasted into the article. The basic structure of describing the background to the reforms, what the reforms were, their political impact and different research findings seems sound to me, but the current he-says/she-says type wording isn't good. The survey of SSA members seems meaningless for instance - the fact that they're a member of this organisation (and hence have a serious interest in fireams) makes them much more likely to have bought replacement guns than the great majority of gun owners who aren't SSA members (from memory, there were lots of accounts of people selling off guns they'd inherited or lost interest in at the time). Nick-D (talk) 09:13, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
It Yes, there were a few of those. In 1978 or so we had about 10% of Australians owning guns (Harding); now its about 5% of us. The key point of the SSAA piece seems to be that the sheer number of guns was not greatly reduced so cant have caused the drop in suicide, and that is correct; about four years later the imports had exceeded the number destroyed. Suicide uses only one shot, and the fall in suicide cannot be caused by the banning of an action type; it has to be social change. Research linked at the main article shows method substitution apparently related to age and imitation - ie an uptrend in hangings appears to have started before an exactly equal downtrend in guns. Anyway, I will take advice before editing here. ChrisPer (talk) 10:00, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't see any reason to discuss suicide figures in this section. The intention of the gun buyback was to reduce gun mass-murders like Port Arthur. I personally doubt that removing a method of suicide would reduce the level of suicide. Can it be shown that reducing the number of guns also reduced the number of suicides? I doubt it. --Surturz (talk) 07:07, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Actually I read an article earlier this year linking gun control to a reduction in suicide rates. - Shiftchange (talk) 07:58, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
IMO, this article should stick to the issue of the time. Debating the effect or otherwise of the laws misses the point. --Merbabu (talk) 08:03, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Hard revert to lead improvements[edit]

I added the following text per WP:LEAD to the, well, lead diff:

Major issues included gun control, major spending cuts in the first term, industrial relations including major waterfront dispute and the introduction of “Workchoices”, reconciliation and native title, the introduction of a goods and services tax, a debate and referendum on an Australian republic, the 1999 Australian led intervention in East Timor, managing asylum seekers, the “War on Terror”, the Northern Territory intervention, a booming economy, and ongoing leadership tensions between John Howard and Peter Costello.

A lead is meant to summarise an article, and about 98% of the article's content wasn't mentioned in the lead. My addition was merely based on the headings in the article. My edit summary is quite open that it's not a perfect edit (however, it is a big improvement) and I clearly request editors to make the improvements.

User:Surturz comes along and hard reverts it with what is quite frankly a rude edit summary: Undid addition of grammatically incorrect, biased, and generally awful text to the lead In what way is it "biased" and that "generally awful" that it cannot be improved? Is Surturz suggesting it can't be improved?

It's a "generally awful" revert, and the edit summary is downright rude and uncivil (that's another issue). So, I would like other editor's comments. --Merbabu (talk) 07:51, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

It's now been over 1/2 hour since this latest Surturz hard revert requesting I use the talk page - but I have, above. I note Surturz has not. Nor has he used the talk page himself. His edit summaries do not explain the reason for his hard reverts. He does not explain why it must be removed completely and why it cannot be improved - let alone actually make the improvements himself. He niether explains what is wrong, or fixes it himself.
Given that it's now more than 1/2 hour since his revert with no comment or explanation, I will now restore the edits. Please be more constructive in your approach. --Merbabu (talk) 11:07, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec) If the lead wasn't summarising the range of issues faced by the government, then of course it should do so. The lead to that point did not and was significantly deficient. I thought your addition, though very rough (how many times can one use "major" in a paragraph? :-)) was on the right track, and your edit summary was clear about the issues: "A lead is meant to summarise an article. So, here's a raw summary list of issues - needs work, and wikilinks. but it's a start". I would fix the text you added; here's my iteration toward improvement. Anyone object to including it? Feel free to suggest a split in the long first sentence...

Significant policy issues for the Howard government included implementation of substantial spending cuts in its first term of office, gun control, industrial relations including the 1988 waterfront dispute and the introduction of WorkChoices, reconciliation and native title, the introduction of a goods and services tax, the 1999 Australian-led intervention in East Timor, managing asylum seekers, the “War on Terror”, the intervention in Northern Territory Indigenous communities, and a booming economy. The government also faced internal problems and tension, with the loss of numerous ministers during its first term, divisions around the 1999 Australian republic referendum, and ongoing leadership rivalry between John Howard and Peter Costello.

Views? hamiltonstone (talk) 11:12, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Excellent. I hope you put it in. That's how wikipedia works. Somone adds something (rough in my case - as my *initial* edit summary points out), and then people improve it. --Merbabu (talk) 11:17, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, going to be bold before going to sleep - inserted. If people now think the lead is too long, then I would say it is poorly weighted toward an excess of formal political detail, at the expense of policy activity. The second para is probably the current worst one. Might try some tweaking... hamiltonstone (talk) 11:26, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
WP:LEAD (and a lot of feature articles) suggest that 3 or 4 paragraphs is fine - I don't think length of lead here is a problem. From a purely word count aspect we could actually make it a little longer. I do agree however, that it is poorly weight to an excess of formal political and technical data that could be trimmed down. In its place, we could make the new addition more readable by making it less listy with (good) padding and explanation. But, i don't think I'm doing that tonight either. --Merbabu (talk) 11:34, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Well at least Hamiltonstone is attempting to make a silk purse out of Merbabu's sow's ear text. Merbabu, it would be a lot more constructive if you did the following: 1) Insert text that actually improves the article 2) After adding new text, and seeing it reverted, propose different text on the talk page. We've been through this many times; if someone adds new text, a dissenting editor is more-or-less forced by WP rules to revert it, to establish that there is a lack of consensus. Leaving crap text in the article gives it "consensus version" status and makes it very hard to remove subsequently. And no, I don't see that it is incumbent on ME to fix YOUR mess. Finally, I don't think the Costello stuff should be in the lead. It is of little lasting historical significance, and only of interest to political tragics. As a personality conflict, it is more suited to the BLPs - not really relevant to the government as a whole. --Surturz (talk) 11:48, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Well, I'm glad someone prompted me to realise how out of whack that lead was (in terms of being missing all the policy stuff). It isn't incumbent on anyone to fix anyone's mess here - its a case of being as constructive as we can - I happened to find Merbabu's rough draft to be a good catalyst, but others obviously didn't :-). Interesting comment re Costello. I haven't read the sources for a while - I had the impression that there was a widespread view that the tensions began to have an impact on the effectiveness of cabinet collaboration and relationships, and on public perceptions that contributed to the last term decline. In those respects, I think it was significant, but that view would need to be documented in the relevant body text (I didn't check it when I was tweaking the draft lead). Cheers, hamiltonstone (talk) 11:58, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks HS. Nice work on your behalf too. Needless to say I don't agree with Surturz and I think his recent commets are very telling. --Merbabu (talk) 12:04, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
PS - still, Surturz provides no specific or workable explanation - he merely refers to my edits as "bias", "generally awful", "crap", "mess". Why so contiually hostile to me? --Merbabu (talk) 12:25, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Budget cuts section[edit]

I replaced the 2008 Herald Sun citation with a Political Chronicles journal ref. I also updated this section to incorporate the next budget – the big cuts were over two budgets. It think the section could do with more info so I’m pasting the two relevant political chronicles paragraphs below in case others want to use it (that pertain to the 1996 budget anyway)…

Within a week of taking office Treasurer Costello discovered that forecasts of a 1996-97 Budget surplus were wrong and that there would be a $7.6 billion deficit. He blamed this budget "black hole" on Beazley who, as Finance Minister in the Labor government, had "failed dismally" to reign in government expenditure. Costello said that Cabinet's expenditure review committee would need to examine ways of pruning Commonwealth spending by $8 billion over two years. On 22 March Howard hastened to reassure that the planned cuts would not hurt lower income and disadvantaged groups. The Treasurer declared on 3 April, that the government would, however cut public service numbers by more than the 2,500 ceiling it had promised during the election although he ridiculed the Community and Public Sector Union's projection of a 15,000 cut-back. Howard's initial view was that the Coalition should stick to its election promises, but advice from the Department of Finance to his Cabinet "razor gang" was that some commitments would have to be broken. Increasingly the government retreated to proposing to hold to its "core" election promises. By 24 May Howard was in open retreat: Australians, he said, were pragmatic and would "understand that changed circumstances" could make the "delivery of some commitments difficult no matter how genuinely made".
From mid-May onwards the media carried a rush of stories about job shedding in public service departments and the cutbacks that the government's August Budget would make in areas such as welfare, job training and tertiary education. In several instances the cuthacks announced - for example to the ABC and to the universities - were clear breaches of election commitments. Accordingly on 5 June Howard embarked on a strategy to sell the Budget in advance saying that the government would seize the "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to bring the Budget into balance and restore the health of the economy, but that it would nonetheless keep its core election promises for family tax relief, health insurance rebates and to amend the capital gains tax. Little noticed in the midst of this campaign, the National Audit Commission (which the government had established on taking office) reported on 20 June. In the context of the campaign to sell the Budget, its "rationalist" recommendations that the government should vacate such areas as childcare, health care delivery and education and cut back the size of the public sector were too politically "hot" and dismissed by Costello as a discussion document produced by an "independent body".

Cheers --Merbabu (talk) 23:15, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

$9 billion, then $8 billion, now $7.6 billion. A few more years and the Keating government will have left a surplus! FWIW Howard claims the amount at $10.5B, but I doubt autobiographies are WP:RS. --Surturz (talk) 01:46, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Well, firstly the source said $8bn and not $9bn. That's just a black and white error that needs fixing - so i fixed it. Further, the source was a 2008 article from the Herald Sun so then I replaced it with the superior Political Chronicles. It says $7.6bn so i use that. But if you believe that fundamentally "demolishes neutrality" and is "crap" to use your own words, then feel free to round it back to $8 bn. Personally, i think that 10% is important, and I wouldn't round it up, or down for that matter if hypothetically stated $8.4bn. If it was $79.4 bn then I would round it up. Getting (a) the correct figure in the first place and then (b) using some common sense discretion on rounding has nothing to do with bias as you like to imply, and frankly a waste of time discussing - IMHO.
And, yeah - i agree with you that Howards autobiography is less preferred source if it conflicts with other. --Merbabu (talk) 01:52, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Neutrality in the lead re: economic conditions[edit]

The initial drafting of a para in the lead made reference to "a booming economy". Overnight this has been revised to "an economy that grew every year of the government's 11 year tenure". My feeling is the latter expression subtly links that growth to the government. However the article text on the economy - which fits my recollection of analysis at the time - indicates that the government had very little to do with that growth (as is often the case in market economies - this is not intended as having a partisan implication). My view is that "a booming economy" or "an economy that experienced sustained growth" would be preferable expressions to the current words, in terms of consistency with both body text and reliable sources. Other views? hamiltonstone (talk) 23:26, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

...and the third version of the last 24 hours was "economic reform".
I’m happy for them all to be modified, but POV is an issue. The growth commenced in the early 1990s four years before the HG came to power. It then continued through to the GST – at least it grew on an annual basis each year, there were a few hiccups around 2000 and 2001. The good economic conditions were a very significant aspect of the HG era and need to go in the lead somehow. It actually thought I did a good job in introducing this without giving full credit to the HG.
So, looking at the options – “economic reform” is non-descriptive and some would argue whether HG was all that reforming. Sure, there was the GST and Workchoices. The former’s political impact was greater than its (good or bad) economic impact and much (most?) of Workchoices was dismantled. What did i miss? Telstra?
The degree to which the government can take credit for the good times is debated too – while they are regarded (correctly or otherwise) as good economic managers, commentators point out they can’t take all the credit. Good timing and reforms of the previous Labor govt are generally accepted to have been major contributions. Even Coalition MPs acknowledge the Labor govt reforms.
While the fiscal management is mentioned separately in the lead, many (most?) commentators point out that apart from the first two budgets where the govt actively went in hard with spending cuts, for the rest of the govt they were very lucky with booming revenue from tax receipts, and indeed, they actually increased spending massively particularly towards the end – at the time, they were the biggest spending govt in Oz history but they had the revenue coming in too. (which combined with the big tax cuts made for a perilous position when tax revenues did drop sharply at the time of the GST).
But, we still get back to the "booming" economic times as a/the major factor of the era – but to what extent was the booming economy an influence on the govt, vs. the extent that govt influenced the booming economy. And how to express that in a phrase in the lead? So, suggestions? --Merbabu (talk) 23:56, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Given that the GST is mentioned separately, "economic reform" should not be used. It was not a major theme per the sources. Agree with the rest: hence my suggestion "an economy that experienced sustained growth". I think that is the best option. Hoping some other involveds will express a view. hamiltonstone (talk) 00:11, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I can live with "an economy that experienced sustained growth". That's good. But, this doesn't give a timeframe (basically the life of the govt), nor does it really indicate the scale. --Merbabu (talk) 00:32, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Most people have forgotten now, but there was actually a period around 2000-01 where the economy did go backwards (see eg. [1]) - the tech bubble burst and a number of other structural factors saw the Australian economy go into negative growth, the share market tumble and the Australian dollar fall dramatically in value. The latter part in and of itself together with interventionary action by the Reserve Bank saw it recover out of recession territory, but growth was very slow over coming years. Orderinchaos 03:29, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

The Hawke-Keating government had bipartisan support from Howard with their reforms. Later ALP leaders (Beazley, Crean, Latham, Rudd, Gillard) opposed the reform process. Paul Kelly in The March of Patriots attributes favourable economic conditions in 2000-2010 to reforms initiated by Hawke-Keating and continued by Howard. I think that is the current consensus among the chattering classes. I think it is a view that should be reflected in this article. At the moment the article implies that favourable economic conditions were an accident and had nothing to do with the HG, and that the changes to the economy by the HG were not "reforms". Would we be better served by asserting (as either opinion or fact) that the HG continued the reform process of the preceeding Hawke-Keating government (which it supported in opposition), and that the economy did well as a result of those reforms? Even if you think the main reason for the good economy was a mining boom, floating exchange rates and broad indirect taxes had a role to play in cossetting the boom. --Surturz (talk) 02:05, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Only on some reforms - Howard was only Opp Leader for 4 of the 13 years Hawke/Keating were in power and I think it would be fair enough to assume that it wasn't so much support of the government as ideological agreement with the changes themselves (see e.g. Megalogenis "The Longest Decade"). Reading older documentation shows just how confrontational and nasty politics was at that point. Orderinchaos 03:32, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
The John Howard article provides a good summary of the idealogical debates within the Libs/Coalion starting in the late 70s thru to the 1980s oppisition years. A very rough summary would be that the wet-dominated Fraser govt was not reformist, but once the Hawke-Keating reforms were underway, the new dry-dominated Libs were saying they didn't go far enough. But that's a pretty rough paraphrasing - read the JH article. --Merbabu (talk) 04:07, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Good point from Orderinchaos, but growth overall strong: I've added "an economy that experienced sustained growth throughout the government's term of office", which i thought was a fair reflection without getting into detail. hamiltonstone (talk) 05:24, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Sounds even better. The last thing we want is a stastical analysis in the lead. And, it can be dealt with further in the article. --Merbabu (talk) 05:30, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. Seems reasonable to me. Orderinchaos 06:03, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with your rough summary. The issue here is that we seem to be going to great pains to avoid any hint that economic reforms implemented by the Hawke-Keating and Howard governments had anything to do with the resulting favourable economy, or subsequent weathering of the GFC. The other issue is that the GST was just one part of a package that removed WST, FID, GDT, and went a long way to ameliorating vertical fiscal imbalance between the States and Commonwealth. However you and Hamiltonstone seem to feel that "given that the GST is mentioned separately, 'economic reform' should not be used". The logic seems to be that if we mention the teeth, we don't need to describe the lion. It is hard for me to see this as anything but lefty POV-pushing. You happily describe the tax without describing what the tax funded or why it was introduced. Absolutely no mention of the concurrent income tax cuts. Outrageous. --Surturz (talk) 05:34, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps if you AGF'd then you wouldn't see everything as "lefty POV pushing" (the collary inherently implied in your comments is that you are "righty POV pushing"). Part of AGF is to assume that people are here to improve the encyclopedia, and not to push their POV (or rather what you are assuming is their POV). It would help you and everyone else if you removed these goggles.
For what it's worth, editors such as Lester and Timeshift accuse me of right wing POV, which, combined with your left wing POV allegations, I take as a compliment.
I also think you need to be clearer about when you are critiscing the lead, and the body of the article itself. Your GST comments above seem to be about the body, yet it's mixed up with comments on the lead. If we get the article into good shape, then the lead follows naturally. You should go ahead and/or continue to add the ommissions yourself, rather than rashly adding a POV tag (which ultimately is for readers - comments for editors go here). --Merbabu (talk) 06:05, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I have added the POV tag to the whole article, and I am criticising the whole article. Your changes to the lead are merely the straw that broke the camel's back. You have hardly shown me any good faith, and are never one to miss an opportunity to accuse me of some rules infraction or other. I have listed in detail my concerns and rather than debate the substance you'd rather engage in ad hominem attacks. POV tag is not for readers, as the Template:POV indicates. Lester and Shifty would complain about Vladimir Lenin being too right wing. They are hardly an endorsement. Do you seriously believe that you (or any editor, for that matter) is free from bias? --Surturz (talk) 06:29, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Excuse me? I'm a semi-free marketeer with a social conscience. It's not my fault that the Liberals are outside of the political mainstream. Please don't refer to me in an attempt to precariously build on an already weak argument. Timeshift (talk) 06:46, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I think my point is being missed somewhat. I don't want to diminish the GST, nor avoid mention of tax cuts. I want the article to reflect what independent reliable sources offer as the assessment of the government's economic policy record. At the risk of repeating myself, the phrase "economic reform" is one which IIRC is frequently applied to the Hawke-Keating government. In the case of the Howard govt, my recollections are that the sources tend not to say that - they note, indeed often laud, the GST introduction, but do not refer to the government as one that was strongly economically reformist. I don't really care what either you or I think about this: I do want the article to reflect the scholarly assessment of the government's actions. hamiltonstone (talk) 05:51, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
[2] [3] [4] and virtually all of Paul Kelly's recent publications. You are skewing the argument. There is no reason at all not to describe the GST and other taxation changes as "reforms". Whether or not the HG can be described as "reformist" is another argument (although I believe you would be hard pressed to say that they did nothing during their term in office). --Surturz (talk) 06:29, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Peter van Onselen is a former Liberal staffer and Paul Kelly is an old-school conservative - of course they'd say that. Orderinchaos 06:43, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
...and don't create false dichtomies. The Howard government may not have had a reputation as one of economic reform overall, but the notion that it "did nothing" is laughable. Industrial relations? Public service change? East Timor? All those other things in the article? It was a busy government, I just didn't think the prevailing expert opinion was that it was a strong economic reform government. I was somewhat pursuaded by the NAA blurb, but the real test I think would be the Aulich and Wettenhall, Singleton, and Grattan publications, though they would need to be supplemented by something more recent from an economic history standpoint. To go to another of your points, I agree that describing the GST and other tax changes as economic reforms could be OK (though why not "taxation reform", just as different phases of change under Hawke and Keating were often referred to by the more specific titles "macroeconomic reform" and "microeconomic reform"). I suppose my main concern has been to avoid an unqualified remark along the lines of "a priority for the government was economic reform" until we establish that it was indeed "reformist". hamiltonstone (talk) 08:39, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

POV tag November 2010[edit]

I have added the POV tag, as Merbabu seems intent on demolishing the neutrality of the lead. This is on top of an article that is already quite biased against the Howard era. My specific concerns are:

  1. Mention of Costello-Howard rivalry in the lead. This issue is more suited to the Howard and Costello BLPs. It did not significantly impair the government or really affect it. At no point did Costello ever actually challenge Howard. Costello never resigned as Treasurer. No policy decisions were significantly affected by the rivalry. This is an article about the _government_, and I don't think the issue is particularly relevant to this article (though it is obviously notable and interesting and should be included in the Howard and Costello BLPs).
  2. Howard and Costello weren't the only members of government. The internal divisions between the wets and the dries was far more important than the essentially personal dispute between Howard and Costello. e.g. Mandatory detention was a source of angst (think Petro Giorgiou), as was Aboriginal reconciliation, and how to respond to Pauline Hanson. Unlike Hawke-Keating and Rudd-Gillard, there was never a change in leadership (nor even a challenge for that matter).
  3. One Nation was a far greater threat to the Howard Government and Coalition solidarity than the Costello rivalry. Yet it rates no mention in the lead
  4. What the hell is a Unitarist HRM? RESOLVED
  5. Reconciliation, Native Title and The Intervention should all be lumped under "Indigenous Issues" in the lead. The lead is meant to summarise, not enumerate.
  6. I don't think the Republic issue split the Howard Government during its term. No doubt it wedged the Libs during the Keating years, but I don't think it affected the stability of the government during the Howard era. Neither the section in the article nor the references given support the theory that the government was hampered by different opinions on the republic. I know the Left side of politics would see even a minor difference of opinion as a fatal schism, but actually on the Right they often have more than one idea at a time, and quite often simultaneously. RESOLVED
  7. The section on the GST implies it was a failure, when in fact it was a pretty good win for the government. The ALP never did roll back the GST, and the Coalition did not lose the election after it was implemented. There is no mention in the section of the big cuts to personal income tax rates, the removal of a raft of taxes, etc. etc. The GST was the major, but not only part, of an economic reform. RESOLVED
  8. Merbabu seems to have a ban on the word "reform" as being POV. If there is a slight positive tinge to the word, it is deserved, as evidenced by the lack of a roll-back by the ALP on assuming office, booming economy, surviving the GFC due to the implementation of APRA and government savings, etc etc.
  9. Virtually every section in the article has a sting in the tail. That is, the ultimate sentence reflects negatively on the Howard government. Very unbalanced.
  10. East Timor section hides the historically important fact that it was the first time Australia took a leading role in a military operation.
  11. John Valder's accusation of Howard being a war criminal is WP:UNDUE RESOLVED
  12. Overemphasis on left wing issues. e.g. there is an "energy" section, and also a "renewable energy" section, both a bit WP:UNDUE. I don't think it can be asserted that greenhouse issues were particularly important issues to Howard. Two paras should be enough to cover the three main points: 1) didn't sign Kyoto 2) Favoured Nuclear Energy as a solution to Greenhouse 3) Supported carbon trading scheme near end of term (this last point only really of interest because of where the issue went under Rudd).
  13. Economy section completely biased. Anything good with the economy wasn't the result of the Government. Anything bad was. No mention that "baby bonus" was related to paid maternity leave. ABANDONED (Hamiltonstone right - I couldn't find references)
  14. No mention of Noel Pearson's change of heart on indigenous issues, nor his big effect on govt. thinking on the issue
  15. No mention of the introduction of the concept of "mutual responsibility" with regards to welfare.

There are more issues. But these are a start. --Surturz (talk) 01:38, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

I have clearly been out of circulation at these Oz politics articles for a while. Why is this being dealt with by a POV tag on the whole article? I'm certainly not seeing a consensus of disatisfaction on the talk page to warrant it. I understand your points Surturz and agree with several of them, but don't really fathom this strategy. A few specifics:
    • We don't present issues according to our views, or according to what we as editors perceive as the neutral position, but a neutral representation of independent reliable sources. I can see some of the debate around these points as drifting away from the sources. One example is economic "reform". The term reform in this context generally referes to broadscale policy changes designed to in some way improve or modify national economic performance. I think most reliable sources do not regard the Howard government as strong on economic reform in general, but do make an exception in regards to GST implementation. If we have independent reliable sources (eg. avoiding publications by aligned think-tanks etc) that describe the government as one in which "economic reform" was a major theme, we can give that appropriate weight. As it stands, addressing the spending cuts and the GST specifically seems to me the right way to handle this.
    • Agree re sentence specifically on Valder - the preceding sentence is sufficient.
    • Agree "Renewable energy" section should be deleted in this case, but be careful with broader concerns about weighting - i just mean that we should realise that sometimes themes/policy areas have to be repeated as it were because of the chronological structure of the account (ie. term-by-term)
    • "No mention that "baby bonus" was related to paid maternity leave." Huh? Independent sources please?
    • "What the hell is a Unitarist HRM?" - totally agree, goodness knows where this came from.
    • One Nation more important than Costello rivalry - well, again, not sure the independent reliable sources would say that over the life of the government - in 1996, no question, but by 2000 and thereafter?
    • "Reconciliation, Native Title and The Intervention should all be lumped under "Indigenous Issues" in the lead." I dislike "Indigenous issues" - it doesn't say what those issues are. I think it is too vague, so i lean toward the longer text in this case.
    • I agree that there is a bit of a "sting in the tail" problem with the whole article. The little two sentence para at the end of the East TImor section seems particularly egregious and I would suggest deleting it. However there are other cases, such as the last line in the GST section: "The GST, however, proved to be a difficult sell during the election campaign which was considered a “referendum on the GST”", which seem to me to be making accurate points that don't necessarily reflect negatively on the govt per se.

Some initial thoughts, anyway. hamiltonstone (talk) 02:25, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

I agree - POV tag, whether it's for readers or editors, was rash and apart from hard reverts and snide edit summaries, no attempt was made to test opinion before placement. It's a last resort, not a first step. My thoughts on the specific points are generally that a POV tag is warranted.

  1. Leadership - I don't see a problem with inclusion - I think it's important, although, it's not the most important thing. Even if it was irrelevant for the lead, this doesn't make it a POV problem. Is the suggestion that it reflects badly on the government? Then, the problem would be in the article, not the lead.
  2. What do you propose? but how is this a POV problem?
  3. Pauline Hanson & One Nation - agreed that it should be included. I will insert it. POV solved.
  4. Dunno either - but it's gone. POV issue now gone
  5. Indigenous issues. Disagree. With HS on this - these are separate issues and deserve individual short mention. They should not be "lumped" together. Otherwise we should lump GST, workchoices and industrial dispute into "Economics" which we all know would be stupid. But where is the POV issue?
  6. Republic - For the lead, IMO the fact there was a referendum and a debate is what is important and justifies its inclusion. I don't agree that the lead should be about the split. The lead now reflects this position. Is there now a POV dispute?
  7. GST - try to fix it first to remove POV.
  8. "reform". I hardly "ban" it. More Surturz talk page hyperbole. However, subsequent discussion does seem to suggest I'm not alone in seeing that it can be loaded. What's wrong with "changes" - not quite sexy enough? Not enough subtle positive spin? Either way, not significant enough to warrant a POV tag.
  9. "Virtually every section" - can you be more specific? So can't be a POV dispute yet.
  10. "Deputy sheriff" - given that we had Obama drama comments mentioned then I hardly think this one is insignificant. Huge coverage in overseas and significant coverage here, especially for those of us who's interest extends beyond our shores. However, i do agree that the placement is awkward - indeed, I probably put it there! However, it was from memory within that term, and East Timor seemed the least bad section to put it in. Perhaps each term needs an "other" or "miscellaneous" section which replace POV issue but introduce stylistic awkwardness, which is a lesser sin.
  11. War criminal. agree - piss it off. POV problem solved.
  12. Energy: Kind of agree and you suggestions would be a good fix that would need further improvement (kinda like my lead really). Your improvement would fix the POV issue.
  13. Economy - "completely bias". You need to be more specific, and either propose fixes here or be bold. But, if you haven't defined the issue, how can it be disputed? So POV tag is early.
  14. I'm not sure that Noel Pearson warrants a mention, but i could be swayed with a good referenced proposal. DOes it justify a POV tag?
  15. Should it be mentioned?
So, it seems there are 2 or 3 points i don't agree (the same ones HS suggests he doesn't agree), there are a a number where I agree, and there are some where it's only fair that you propose solutions. And there's a few questions. When do you want your tag removed? --
Thanks guys for seriously considering and in some cases correcting the POV issues I've raised. I'll remove the POV tag, but I'd like to continue working through the list. --Surturz (talk) 23:38, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Should we mention the HG policy of "mutual obligation"?[edit]

  • Sorry the term is "Mutual Obligation" not "Mutual Responsibility". Here's a starting ref: [5] --Surturz (talk) 23:43, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't know much about this area - weren't there changes to the CES, indeed, wasn't the CES dismantled and employment services contracted out? --Merbabu (talk) 02:58, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

AWB Oil-for-Wheat Scandal[edit]

Shouldn't the AWB Oil-for-Wheat Scandal be at least mentioned as occurring during the Howard Government? - Shiftchange (talk) 01:17, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Boat Arrivals image POV[edit]

A discussion is underway at [6] about whether more detail needs to be added to the boat arrivals image to improve its POV. Please have a look and contribute. Djapa Owen (talk) 04:50, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Dog whistling and wedge politics - would it be removed?[edit]

If I reliably source that critics refer to the Tampa affair as the start of Lynton Crosby's dog whistling and wedge politics from Lib govts, and that this impression has been reinforced by current Liberal govt actions, would anyone revert? Timeshift (talk) 20:05, 23 June 2015 (UTC)

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