Dear Johnny, It's Time To Go
News.com.au has posted a fascinating open letter forum to Prime Minister John Howard, inviting readers to tell him why they think he should stay in office, why they think he should go, why they think he should step aside for someone younger, why they admire him, why they hate him, why the think he has saved Australia, why they think he has destroyed Australia and, more often than not, why they think he...well, why they think he sucks.
More than 710 people have posted their thoughts in the Dear Johnny forum, as of this posting.
That's more than 700 chunks of precious information and opinion straight from the Australian people, particularly Australians under 45, and all of it will be absolutely devoured by the PM's team of more than 60 advisers, who are desperately searching for anything, a scrap of inspiration, a mind-rocking explosion of clarity, anything, that can help them to reshape Howard's message on a variety of essential issues, and knock the more disagreeable edges off his public image. Before it's too late. If it's not too late already. And it probably is.
It's a remarkably feisty, honest and eye-opening collection of opinions, statements, accusations, insults and direct pleas that will probably tell you more about what the younger generations of Australians are thinking and feeling about their country, and its leader, than a hundred pontificating editorials from uninspired, burnt-out columnists and bloggers...well, some bloggers.
News.com.au has posted a summary of sorts of the commentary from the public, providing a general overview, though the selection of comments used are clearly tilted heavily in favour of Howard staying on, and the summary highlights comments that attack those who think it's time for Kevin Rudd to lead the country. Presumably this overview was written only a few dozen comments into the massive outpouring of Australian views and opinion.
But flipping through the 14 plus of pages of comments, it's clear the majority of younger Australians are in favour of tossing Howard out of office, despite how good a job he may done with the economy. However, many facing mortgage and debt pressures find it hard to see how the "sterling economy" is benefiting them.
There is much talk of barely being able to get by despite working long hours, of disgust with Howard's whiplash changes in policy depending on the polls and lingering distrust and bitterness over the lies that led to the War On Iraq, the Truth Overboard scandal, the AWB scandal, the introduction of the GST, the attacks on the rights of gun owners, the divisive nature of Howard's dealing with immigrant and gay rights issues and the David Hicks fiasco.
There are dozens of comments attacking Howard for allowing himself to be seen on the world stage as "Bush's puppet" and for allowing Australian to be presented as a war-mongering appendage of the American military machine.
Generally, the 710 comments are not a good look for the prime minister. Some people like him, but they don't want him to still be the PM come 2008. They may think he's done a good job, but every one has to pack it in eventually. The desire for generational change amongst the commenters chimes like a dozen belltowers over a midnight country town, loud and impossible to ignore.
Don't take it personally, prime minister, but the younger generations of Australians just want you to go away.
Some comments of interest :
"If you have to ask the question, you already know the aswer. Howard has had a pretty good run, and we now need to see what the future of the party will be. I’ll bet the trump card lies with Malcom Turnbull."
"There’s only so many lies you can tell before people stop paying attention. I suspect people believe that many of the accomodations made by the PM in response to the poor polling will be reversed as soon as he reclaims office, just like last time."
"don’t think anything is wrong with John Howard. I love his laugh. I love his smile. I love his confidence.I love his eyebrows"
"you are still here and contaminate the very air i breathe""Howard needs to wake up to the fact that the gay population has rights as Asutralians. I agree he has done some good for the country but as a gay man he has let me down big time. Why can’t he allow basic human rights?"
"Australia use to be the world leader in solar tech before Howard cut funding in 1996."
"howard is out of touch with the common person , he is living in a dream world ,where as we have to cope with rising petrol costs, food & general day to day living expenses , he has none of that because its all paid for by the government"
"Howard only takes action when the polls begin to suffer, as demonstrated recently by his sudden sympathy for David Hicks and his knee-jerk climate change announcement. The public are beginning to see through the lies..."
"He did some good work tackling hard issues. But it’s time for Australia to become more decent, tolerant and less divided. He is no longer what people want."
"I can’t respect someone who blatantly lies about things."I can’t respect someone who changes his policies on such important issues, simply for the votes. I can’t respect a leader, who actually only leads for the people he deems are fit to be led.""The damage is done. You’re great for the economy, but we’ve finally got an opponent who will be as well. There’s no reason to keep you. You had a good run, but the bad is now starting to out-weigh the good"
"I hope that when you lose office you will take the time to reflect on how you let down the people of Australia. Also, I hope you address your deficiencies in character and realise the damage these have caused.Unfortunately any attempts to try and redeem yourself before the election will fail as you have lost credibility. The people have been lied to on too many occaisons and this will not be forgiven or forgotten."
"The cost of living is surreal despite announcing the economy is all time high and the unemployment rate is all time low."
"How about the fact that you don’t care about anyone who earns under 60k a year? As a father and sole money earner on less than 40k, your government does everything it can to keep people like me from getting ahead in life. Instead, you spend offensive amounts of money on yourself and your other silverspooned cohorts.""Dear John, Liberal Party is only worried about making sure a few hundred people in the biggest businesses are happy. You use the Governments Purse as if it was your own personal petty cash tin. The mere fact you don’t know why people hate the Liberals so much, just means you are so out of touch with the very people who voted for you it’s not even funny anymore. The problem with Howard is the fact that he thinks all Australians are stupid, and unfortunately it seems some people of this board give him this notion"
"Because he’s a compulsive liar who is destroying the middle class in Australia and only cares about public opinion when election time rolls around."
"Mr Howard, You lost me when you called me “un-Australian” for marching in protest against your decision to send Australian troops to war in Iraq. How dare you. I think you are un-Australian when you leave people in detention centres, fail to protect the elderly in nursing home debacles, and allow oil companies free reign on my tight household budget."
Having read through all the comments, we've pulled together a list of twelve repeating issues and clarion calls for change that we think will see some obvious and swift rethinks in the way Howard goes about his electioneering.
We'll tick them off as we move closer, and then into, the election.
If Howard hasn't taken a few hours out of his evening to go through the majority of these comments, instead of waiting for "a report" from his advisers, or yet another "briefing", he doesn't deserve to even run for re-election.
News.com.au has given Howard a remarkably honest, unfiltered insight into how Australians are feeling today. It would be amazing to think that Howard & Co might learn nothing from all this.