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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Howard's Way

John Howard, through Phil Ruddock, is pushing to ensure that drug addicts can be discriminated against lawfully in a way that those with "genuine disabilities" cannot (Liberal MP Peter Dutton's new concept, in The Age, 3/12). But who will determine the "genuineness" of cases? For example, is a quadraplegic still "genuine" if he acquired his disability through drunken horse-play? This notion of a moral test separating "genuine" from "non-genuine" disability goes to the heart of the Howard style of small-c conservatism: it is divisive scape-goating to undermine the capacity of our courts to defend the interests of the weakest members of our community.

John Howard has shown an increasing contempt and disdain for independent decision-making bodies on questions ranging from monetary policy, a Peace Prize, a foreign invasion, ABC programming, to courts hearing cases on issues as broad electoral fraud and asylum processing. Who reckons that Howard conceives of an independent authority determining the "genuineness" of cases against clear published standard? Not bloody likely. Under the Howard/Ruddock patrician model, it will hinge on whose birthday parties and fundraisers you attend.

Conservative political philosophy has an important role to play in modern Australian politics. At its best, Conservatism can be an ardent defender of the great civic institutions: the rule of law and individual (human) rights, the separation of powers, an independent public service and the cultural, educational and scientific pillars that support public life and personal prosperity. The petty, mean version Howard has peddled is getting stale fast. The Liberal backbencher revolt over his reversal of (genuine) conservative principles is only the begininning.


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