My following feature appears in US magazine The Nation and discusses the rise of Kevin Rudd to Prime Minister of Australia:
The political annihilation of Prime Minister John Howard in the November 24 election marks a milestone in Australian history. “From this day forth,” writes political columnist Glenn Milne, “no government can rely on the successful management of the economy to guarantee its re-election. The message from election 2007 is that long-serving governments must demonstrate the will to renew both their ideas and their leadership to survive in the modern electoral era.”
He is correct, but the election of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership may not necessarily represent a repudiation of the worst excesses of the past decade. An “It’s Time” factor became almost infectious as soon as Rudd assumed the Labor leadership in late 2006. Voters wanted change, a younger personality to replace the near 70-year-old Howard, and Rudd offered, in his cautious technocratic way, a sense of slight change without seriously challenging the fundamentals of relatively prosperous, conservative capitalism. No polls indicated intense dislike for Howard before the election, though he was accused, like so many global leaders before him, of not recognizing when it was time to retire. His Liberal Party is now out of power at every level of Australian government.
Booker Prize-winning author Thomas Keneally, a Sydney resident, wrote recently in the Sydney Sun-Herald that Howard belonged to a generation that has a “tendency to the dark prejudices of our childhood, to them-and-us thinking, to a narrowness and vengefulness…. He has a gift for spotting the opportunities to scapegoat to advantage. And his targets are…union bosses, asylum seekers and the Muslims to whom he extends one hand open and the other sheathed in [intelligence agency] ASIO’s steel mitt.”