John Howard

I don’t know if an opinion poll has ever been done, but a sizeable portion of Australians, perhaps a majority, recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had their land invaded by the British and experienced a systematic genocide.

The fact that this is widely recognised is reflected in the huge protests in response to threats to close remote Aboriginal communities and the response to Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance’s call-out for protests. Even back in 1988, there were 100,000 people protesting the so-called Bicentenary in Sydney.

Arguably, the University of Sydney’s decision to give former Prime Minister John Howard an honorary doctorate on September 30 has backfired badly. 

Academics and students spoke eloquently against the award before and during the ceremony, prompting some students who had just been given their degree to join in.

The university had cited Howard’s “world-leading gun law reform, leadership in East Timor and contribution to Australia’s economic reform” as reasons for the award. While many would question these, the elephant in the room was Iraq.

Following the release of the Chilcot Report in Britain, a new group, Chilcot Oz, formed in South Australia to advocate for a full inquiry into Australia's involvement in the Iraq war.

Chilcot Oz spokesperson, Mike Khizam, said the 100,000 people who marched for peace in Adelaide in February 2003 always knew that the Iraq War was unjustified. The Chilcot Report validates this and there are now a growing number of calls for a similar inquiry in Australia.

The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War has prompted calls for a similar inquiry into the Coalition government, then led by John Howard, taking Australia into war in 2003.

Andrew Wilkie, the only intelligence official from the US, Britain or Australia to dispute the official explanation for the Iraq War, said on July 7 there should be an investigation into the Howard government's decision to go to war.

About 200 unionists, refugee activists and students rallying in Melbourne on April 8 outside a Liberal Party fundraiser to celebrate 20 years since the election of the Howard government, were attacked by police on horses and the indiscriminate use of pepper spray.

The Construction Forestry and Mining Employees Union (CFMEU) has produced this short explanation of what the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is and what it will mean for Australian workers.

* * *

What is the ABCC?

The ABCC, or the Australian Building and Construction Commission, was created by John Howard in 2005. It was abolished in 2012, but now Malcolm Turnbull wants to bring it back — only it’s going to be bigger and more powerful.

What does it do?

I had a call from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks the other day. Rosalie is an elder of the Arrernte-Alyawarra people, who lives in Utopia, a vast and remote region in the "red heart" of Australia.

The nearest town is Alice Springs, more than 300 kilometres across an ancient landscape of spinifex and swirling skeins of red dust. The first Europeans who came here, perhaps demented by the heat, imagined a white utopia that was not theirs to imagine; for this is a sacred place, the homeland of the oldest, most continuous human presence on earth.

Why was John Dyson Heydon QC liberal prime minister Tony Abbott’s “captain's pick” to run the royal commission into the trade unions?

It could be from the shared solidarity that you’d expect of Rhodes scholars. Or perhaps it was just innocent association from the time former Prime Minister John Howard appointed Dyson Heydon to the High Court in 2003, a position he retired from under the compulsory age rule of 70 in 2013.

Today, thanks to the power of social media, I have come across this despicable act. I am so angry about it that I feel compelled to write something in the 20 minutes I have remaining in my lunch break.

The accompanying photo is of the so-called “Uluru bark petition”. It was presented to the federal government, much to the gleeful hand-rubbing of the Liberal Party and particularly anti-marriage equality campaigner Senator Eric Abetz.

Subscribe to John Howard