John Howard and the politics of department: Kerry O’Brien seems again

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John Howard and the politics of division: Kerry O'Brien looks back


O’Brien discovered the response ordinary, for in his view he’d toned down in Thatcher’s favour this type of free-flowing, difficult interviewing taste he would pursue with Australian politicians, from Bob Hawke to Kevin Rudd and past.

And maximum particularly, John Howard.

John Howard with Kerry O'Brien ahead of an appearance on ABC's <i>The 7.30 Report</i> in 2007.

John Howard with Kerry O’Brien forward of an look on ABC’s The 7.30 Record in 2007. Credit score:Robert Pearce

O’Brien has been long gone from Australia’s tv displays since stepping down as host of ABC TV’s 4 Corners in past due 2015.

However now he’s again in print, between arduous covers.

To learn his extremely detailed account of his lifestyles and instances, Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir, is to be granted a studio-desk seat to lots of the maximum consequential moments in Australia’s postwar historical past.

It’s unimaginable right here to hide the immense sweep of the 834-page guide.

O'Brien (with green pen) and Howard prepare for an interview for <i>The 7.30 Report</i> on the 1996 budget.

O’Brien (with inexperienced pen) and Howard get ready for an interview for The 7.30 Record at the 1996 funds.Credit score:Fairfax Media

O’Brien’s a large number of interviews with John Howard for The 7.30 Record are worthy of a guide in themselves, even though they represent best 5 of this one’s 30 chapters.

The ones interviews, learn and re-interpreted years later, divulge with startling readability how influential Howard’s politics of department were in shaping Australian public lifestyles – and a blur of passing leaders – ever since.

“John Howard had develop into Australia’s 25th high minister 3 months after 7.30 went nationwide, and within the 11 years and 9 months he held administrative center he and I danced across the interview table on with regards to 100 events …” remembers O’Brien.

“Up to anything else the ones interviews mark the milestones of his high ministership, as a result of I interviewed him on each primary factor he handled.”

The survivor: Kerry O'Brien.

The survivor: Kerry O’Brien.Credit score:Jacky Ghossein

That didn’t imply Howard and his executive have been kindly disposed to O’Brien.

“Overdue one funds night time right through the Howard executive’s 3rd time period, out of doors the Canberra watering hollow the Holy Grail, its carpet sodden with spilt booze and the strange little bit of damaged glass crunching underfoot, Bronwyn Bishop pulled me excluding the small workforce of reporters I used to be with for a discreet chat,” writes O’Brien.

“I’d identified Bronwyn for greater than a decade and we had an inexpensive dating. ‘I simply sought after to shake your hand,’ she stated. ‘I’ve all the time admired survivors, and also you unquestionably qualify. Once we got here into executive you have been the #1 goal in our attractions. No person used to be extra hated than you.’

“She didn’t identify names and wouldn’t be drawn to any extent further. The huge statement didn’t come as a super revelation, however to be known as an unofficial public enemy primary did marvel me. If true, what a waste of power; what a silly obsession.”

September 2001: Asylum seekers prepare to be transferred by special forces between the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa and HMAS Manoora off Christmas Island.

September 2001: Asylum seekers get ready to be transferred by means of particular forces between the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa and HMAS Manoora off Christmas Island.Credit score:Andrew Meares

Given the war between nowadays’s executive and the ABC’s higher-profile reporters, not anything a lot turns out to have modified.

O’Brien, in go back, has recorded in withering focal point the unvarnished phrases of the high minister who pushed aside the proof of the brutal frontier wars by which Indigenous Australia used to be all however destroyed as “a black armband view of historical past”; who refused to apologise to the Stolen Generations; and who lit a fuse underneath Australian xenophobia by means of sending Particular Air Carrier forces out to confront asylum seekers rescued by means of the Norwegian freighter the MV Tampa.

Listed below are the accrued, on-the-spot arguments of the high minister who pleaded lack of awareness of the entire proof that confirmed refugee folks hadn’t thrown their very own youngsters overboard; who engineered the island detention regime he referred to as the Pacific Resolution; who administered a central authority that got down to assist spoil waterfront unions the use of balaclava-clad safety males with savage canine and all.

And listed below are the interviews with the PM who despatched Australia right into a warfare in Iraq in accordance with non-existent intelligence about guns of mass destruction … and who gained election after election via what O’Brien calls “astute, ruthless focal point”.

September 1999: A girl walks by a burning house in Dili, East Timor, two days before the arrival of Australian peacekeeping troops.

September 1999: A woman walks by means of a burning space in Dili, East Timor, two days earlier than the coming of Australian peacekeeping troops.Credit score:AP

O’Brien has taken the difficulty to match the outdated high minister’s spoken phrases about those problems with Howard’s personal next memoir, Lazarus Emerging, by which he in large part absolved himself of fault, or introduced selection narratives that forged his choices in a benign mild.

O’Brien’s paintings, in contrast, unearths common disconnections between fact and fantasy.

Howard, as an example, has lengthy expressed the view that amongst his maximum noble achievements used to be bringing to an finish the vicious cycle of killings and violence in East Timor after the East Timorese voted for independence in 1999.

O’Brien’s guide lays out, interview by means of interview, what he unearths to be a much less noble manner by means of Howard and his international minister, Alexander Downer, that left the East Timorese uncovered to predictable violence from Indonesian-backed militias for months whilst Howard’s executive sat again and blamed “rogue parts” in an try to not offend the Indonesians.

There are feasts right here for political historians, however John Howard, a voracious reader, turns out not likely to seek out himself additional enamoured of his outdated sparring spouse.

Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir is printed this week by means of Allen & Unwin.

Tony Wright is the affiliate editor and particular author for The Age and the Sydney Morning Usher in



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