How on earth could we have put this scheming, mendacious little man and his miserable claque back in office for another three years? Worse, how could we have brought them to the very brink of absolute control of the nation's entire parliamentary process and authority?
Very easily, as things turned out, to the cost of the rest of us and our national self-respect.
For almost nine years this Government, incompetent in most everything except mediocrity, debauched its word and the people's trust, along with voters' gullibility, their ignorance, their taxes and, in the end, their greedy self-interest.
And so Alan Ramsey, the Sydney Morning Herald's senior political correspondent in Canberra begins his column in this morning's edition.
More from today's papers:
Editorial in today's Australian:
For the entire eight years of the Howard Government, the Senate has not been a chamber of review. Instead it has been two things: a chamber of special interests, and a chamber where hostile inquiries could be set up as a check on the power of executive government – for example, the children overboard inquiry. The fact the Senate will no longer be the latter is a loss, but can be compensated by the fact it will also no longer be the former.
Matt Price in The Australian:
Kim Beazley was gracious and correct to point out that when Latham took over from Crean, the entire party feared a catastrophic train wreck. After months of daring to dream of victory, Latham, Gartrell and Co have reduced the damage to a serious derailment.
Hugh Mackay in The Age:
John Howard neutralised his only real weakness going into this election - voters' scepticism about his handling of the truth and his capacity to admit error - by effectively distinguishing between "truth" and "trust". He knew many voters believed he had lied to them on various occasions, but he also knew they trusted him on economic management and respected his tough talk on security.
John Button, minister in the Hawke and Keating governments, in The Age:
At the next election Howard will be even more "experienced" than he is now. Mark Latham will be the leader of the ALP, most likely because there is no one else. He will be described in The Age editorial as "a work in progress", a memorable phrase because it's the most widely used and silliest journalistic cliche of the 2004 election. So it will be worth repeating.
What will change of course is the external circumstances: the global economy, international political alliances, attitudes to sustainability, the economic and political situation of our neighbours. But as Australians are not much interested in these things, the concentration will be on parochial issues.
Editorial, The Age:
Mr Howard is disliked by many Australians. There are many who believe that he is not open and honest, that he has not set the sort of standards in government that he promised he would set when he first won office in 1996. There are many who excoriate him and his government for their policies on refugees, for their commitment to the war in Iraq, for the tawdry children overboard affair. But the fact is that they are a minority.
Editorial, the Herald-Sun:
John Howard's remarkable win has handed this tough and intuitive politician a well-earned place in Australian political history. But it is much more than a personal triumph: voters have also handed the Prime Minister a convincing mandate to press ahead with reform. There is much to do.
Editorial, the Courier-Mail:
The Howard Government has a more centralist, anti-states'-rights outlook than any government in the past 30 years. It has the power to implement these programs, beginning with its own technical colleges and with grants directly to P&C organisations for school improvements. It has a historic opportunity to make changes. What matters now is how it uses that opportunity.
Editorial, the Advertiser:
The Australian people have trusted him for the next three years. He needs to trust them enough to make his intentions for his own future clearer.
Finally, in business and finance: at 1pm Monday the ASX/S&P200 (almost, but not quite the All Ordinaries) is up 15.1 points to 3701.9, the Aussie dollar is worth 73.42 US cents, 40.90 pence, and 59.18 Euro cents, and Telstra shares have risen nearly 3 per cent this morning to $4.85.