The champion of Australian political journalism, Crispin Hull, this week reminded us of Paul Keating's famous comment in 1996: "When you change your government, you change the country".
Hull says the question now is, "whether Labor's PM, Anthony Albanese, can change it again, reversing the worst of the Howard changes which have had two decades of making the place worse, not better".
Hull added this rider: "With the exception of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Rudd-Gillard governments failed to change much".
Hull said Howard governments sure made changes, but all for the worst, and they are still there - the big three being education, health and tax.
So, based on these assessments alone, from the time John Howard took the PM's office in March 1996 until he got the sack from the good citizens of Bennelong electorate in December 2007, then recall the prior 12-13 years of reasonable competency for Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, and finally add on the nine years of untold failure from the Coalition's Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and the ultimate non-achiever, Scott Morrison, after Bill Shorten destroyed the Rudd-Gillard years, then it is worth considering this judgement by a FOMM supporter who wrote of Albanese's arrival in the May 21 national vote for change: "Isn't it wonderful, there is a sense of future and hope in the air, despite the power crisis and cost of living increases". Not to mention the mountain of other problems left by the smirking Morrison.
The suggestion by the still mesmerised, sulking and acrimonious Coalition MPs who have been asleep at the wheel while they continued to trot out Howard to beat the drum for them, and who now say Dutton is the answer, drew this comment from one of the highest ranking former public servants in the Riverina: "If Dutton is the answer, what was the question?"
Unfortunately, the wimpy mainstream Australian media has not told us much about any of the most atrocious ministerial decisions - most of them made by Howard, Abbott and Morrison appointments - and which have been virtually overlooked by their journalists. Firstly, if Dutton is the proposed answer for the Opposition, why did it in government find it so difficult, so hard, to resolve the Bilo Sri Lankan family's case, asks another reader?
Then we move to the appointment of Senator Michaelia Cash to Attorney-General and amongst her discredited decisions made and revealed by the ABC was the extension of plum jobs worth up to $500,000 a year to Liberal Party-linked individuals by the Morrison Government in its dying days after the announcement of the May 21 election.
Then there was the illegal bugging spying case from 2004 against our neighbour East Timor (authorised by the Howard Government); coverage of which was left largely to independent journalism companies like MichaelWestMedia and journalist Bernard Keane after the Morrison government's political prosecution of former ACT attorney-general, Bernard Collaery, for blowing the whistle on the then Coalition government.
In a recent ruling against Collaery, Keane writes the decision effectively liberates Australia's intelligence agencies from judicial oversight, which had sought to cloak the then government's persecution of Collaery in a blanket of secrecy and delay his trial as long as possible under the instructions of first, former attorney-general Christian Porter and then current attorney-general, Cash. As MichaelWestMedia put it, via journalist Callum Foote: "Former submariner (Independent Senator Rex Patrick), who it now seems will lose his South Australian Senate spot, has found time to stick a periscope up the collective clacker of the (former) Australian government over its cruel treatment of its poorest neighbour. Senator Patrick's battle with the bureaucracy reveals Australia's problem with transparency".
Keane again: "It's a shocking moment in the rotten history of independent oversight of Australia's intelligence agencies. Three years ago, before the 2019 election, the hope was that a change of government would see a new attorney-general revoke the authority for this malicious prosecution. Three years and endless vindictive days later, we're left with the same hope".
Acting Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers, with his swift handling of the Biloela family's case before the Albanese government was even sworn in, has shown new Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, the way to deal with the Collaery case and the then foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, who also had a big part to play in the East Timor case.
We expect better from our governments which makes it essential the new one takes the "change" message seriously and with speed. A federal ICAC, which is the message essentially from the Independents, is first cab off the rank to deal with the likes of those Coalition MPs mentioned today.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.