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Australians all let us rejoice

There were no blogs in 1996. No Wikipedia, no Youtube, not even a Google. There was a CricInfo, and I used my dialup terminal connection to follow the live scores on a lynx browser, and to catch up on the archives through gopher. That was how I kept up with the Cricket World Cup on March 2, 1996, the last time Australia had a Labor government.

It was the night that Paul Keating's government was knocked off its perch in an electoral landslide. John Howard completed one of the great comebacks of Australian political history to take the Prime Ministership on a wave of popularity emanating from working-class western Sydney.

And he stayed. For eleven years and eight months. Through four federal election victories. Tonight, November 24, 2007, the voters of Australia finally kicked him out.

Let's not eulogise him as a great Prime Minister. He wasn't. He was a very mediocre but stubborn ideologue, and an extremely canny tactician. It was said that he made lots of mistakes, but never the same mistake twice. That description, attributed to Laurie Oakes, encapsulates all that was good, bad, and ugly about John Winston Howard.

He believed in re-molding Australia in his own vision. And he went a long way towards doing that, much to this nation's detriment.

He refused to say sorry to our indigenous brethren. He refused for eleven years to even acknowledge the poverty and depravity of indigenous childhood in northern Australia.

He refused to give refuge to the displaced persons who sailed to our country seeking shelter from oppression.

He refused to listen when the people of Australia took to the streets telling him not to take us to an unjustified war against Iraq.

He refused to condemn those of us who draped themselves in the Australian flag whilst indulging in racist attacks on their Muslim countrymen.

He refused to accept responsibility for the incompetence of some of his government's departments, especially in the areas of defence, trade and immigration.

He refused to pay attention when Australia's monopoly wheat exporter bribed the aforementioned Iraqi government, lest it harm our nation's foreign trade.

He refused to do anything about climate change if taking action harmed our nation's foreign trade.

He refused to enforce his ministerial code of conduct once he realised that too many of his ministers were actually breaching it.

He refused to be bound by such quaint niceties as the constitution, parliamentary democracy, and the concept of honesty.

He refused to support innovation in industry and technology if it competed with, and jeopardised the profits of, existing big business.

He refused to believe that the economy was about people and environment, instead of being about surpluses, dividends and material wealth.

He refused to live, like all Prime Ministers before him, in Canberra when he could live it up in a taxpayer-funded Sydney harbourside mansion.

He refused to live up to his 1996 election slogan, to govern "For All of Us".

And he refused to quit, just two months ago, when his Liberal Party colleagues told him it was time.

No, let's not praise John Winston Howard, the man who, over the past five years or so, has made me uncomfortable, even ashamed at times, of being Australian. He deserves nothing but political burial.

Australians let us all rejoice, for we are free from John Winston Howard. After eleven long, dark years, let the clouds roll away. Let this nation grow and stand proud again.