Former Prime Minister John Howard and I have a few disagreements. Large ones. Let me highlight two before moving on to an area where I passionately agree with him!
- I disliked his shameful promotion of fear-mongering about the ‘refugee crisis’ as a few boats dribbled down into Australia. Many European countries have a flood of refugees by comparison! His hysteria over the Tampa refugee crisis appealed, in a subtle unspoken way, to the xenophobes in Australian politics. I think the term is ‘dog-whistling’. Politicians sometimes appeal to a dark underbelly in society without actually saying words that will incriminate them later on. The message is there, but it is invisible in print and inaudible to the ear, much like a dog-whistle. It requires clever writers that can say the thing without saying it, that can stir up the required feelings and communicate the message, but with a dose of plausible deniability. “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” was spun out in the 2001 election, time and again, and the ‘dogs’ in society heard it loud and clear. Australian’s don’t want any of them foreigners around here, mate.
- I also (of course) disagreed with his whole climate Denial thing. It flies in the face of the best peer-reviewed science we have to date. Enough said.
I’ve basically accused John Howard of appealing to racists and anti-climate deniers: 2 huge crimes in my book. So how can I possibly agree with him on any policy?
Well, when I see wisdom at work in public policy, I just have to agree with it, whatever the source. I have to say I think he got this one thing pretty-much right. After the Port Arthur Massacre, John Howard reformed gun legislation. As the Gun Politics in Australia wiki says, “Australia today has arguably some of the most restrictive firearms legislation in the world.”
Lastly, just before I finish quoting John Howard in today’s ABC report, I again have to admit to being glad we do not have a Bill of Rights guaranteeing access to these murderous devices. For more on why I think Human Rights are best protected by a Parliamentary system, not a Bill, see here.
Now to the ABC.
“Certainly, shortcomings in treating mental illness and the harmful influence of violent video games and movies may have played a role.
“But nothing trumps easy access to a gun. It is easier to kill 10 people with a gun than with a knife.”
The Howard government instituted a national gun buy-back program that resulted in almost 700,000 guns being destroyed.
He says that is the equivalent of about 40 million guns in the United States.
Despite the strong opposition from some rural communities, Mr Howard says the new laws had majority support across Australia and they have been shown to be effective.
“There is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate,” Mr Howard wrote.
“In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres – each with more than four victims – causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.