October 06, 2003


Despised by many in the media, the Prime Minister still enjoys a close rapport with the public. The Age's Mark Baker explains why:

They met in the corner of a hotel reception room crowded with grief, the Prime Minister and the Gold Coast cleaning contractor. After an awkward embrace, John Howard spoke quietly with Phil Burchett for more than 10 minutes, offering his sympathy and support.

A few days earlier, Burchett's stepson, Jared Gane, had been drinking with friends on the rooftop of Paddy's bar behind Bali's Kuta Beach when an explosion ripped through the ground floor, followed moments later by the eruption of a huge car bomb in front of the Sari Club on the other side of busy Legian Road. The 27-year-old backpacker was killed along with 201 others, 88 of them Australians.

Before he moved on to the next of the many grieving families gathered in the hotel room that day, Howard paused, looked Burchett in the eye and made a brave promise: "We'll get the bastards who did this."

UPDATE. And this is how they were got. Terrific reporting here from Mark Forbes and John Silvester.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 6, 2003 03:51 AM

That's the Bush appeal too, with (most of) the public; a connection that really can't be measured through polls.

Once they lose that, they're in trouble.

The public here (generally) thinks that if we have another attack, the first thing Bush will do, a la Howard, is say, "Let's get those bastards." The first thing a Democrat would do is, "Let's get together with our allies, have a meeting, and come up with a response."

Story: Two liberals are walking down the street. They come across a man who has just been robbed. His clothes are torn, he's disheveled, his wallet has been stolen, he's bleeding.

One of the liberals turns to the other and says: "Oh my God, we must find the people who did this! They clearly need our help."


Posted by: SteveMG at October 6, 2003 at 05:09 AM

My more sophisticated friends don't get the Bush appeal either. They bitch about the fact that he is a lousy public speaker (in their view), as opposed to Clinton, who apparently could charm the birds out of the trees with his mellifluous voice. I don't know -- I never listen to political speeches. I'm more interested in what people do versus what they say (or how they say it).

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 6, 2003 at 06:20 AM

Compared to Alison Broinoski(or however you spell it) anyone would be fairly appealing.

Posted by: gaz at October 6, 2003 at 06:39 AM

If it were Alison Broinowski talking to Burchett, she'd be telling him his stepson's death was the guy's own fault - for drinking beer, being an Ocker and probably because he wasn't a Moslem as well. Alison would say he deserved to die.

Posted by: Freddyboy at October 6, 2003 at 09:06 AM

Now I remember where I know John Howard from: he's the reincarnation of Prince Hal, aka Henry V. A man who can speak with blokes that "have fewer words than a parrot" yet lead a nation through trying times with a steady hand. You Aussies are fortunate indeed.

Posted by: Jeffersonian at October 6, 2003 at 10:18 AM

I don't want to spoil your love affair with Howard Tim, and I don't want to deny Howard some semblance of human emotion, but I suspect he learnt some of his 'personal' appeal from Sir William Deane.

Posted by: saint at October 6, 2003 at 12:30 PM

When is Australias next PM election????Is Howard eligible to run again? If so, do you think he will? How long are the PM terms.? Any term limits?

Posted by: debbie at October 6, 2003 at 12:36 PM

Debbie, the Aussie system is like the British one. There is no sepearate election for PM - instead, the PM is the person who can get a majority of support in the lower house of Parliament. In reality, the party system throws up a choice of two candidates - the leaders of the two main political parties - and most Australians are really voting for the Government they want when they cast their vote for their local member of the House of Representatives.

There's no time limit on how long you could be PM - you can stay for as long as the voters and (more to the point) your party are prepared to put up with you!

It's very different ot the US system but we like it. The top people in executive government - the Ministers - are drawn from supporters (usually party members) in parliament too and have to face Question Time on a regular basis. Most of the big decisions of executive government have to be taken by the Cabinet, ie the Ministers collectively.

Potted outline of the parliamentary system!

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at October 6, 2003 at 12:56 PM

Thanks, Bob!

Posted by: debbie at October 6, 2003 at 01:45 PM

Hey saint,

sorry to rain on your parade . . . Bill Deane would've been great at offering a hug and a sprig of wattle, but I couldn't imagine him telling the bereaved that "we'll get the bastards who did this".

Posted by: steve at October 6, 2003 at 03:21 PM

Perhaps that's because Bill Deane was a Christian?

Posted by: William at October 6, 2003 at 05:16 PM

Howard's a christian too. The difference has something to do with Deane's bleeding heart.

Posted by: Steve Edwards at October 6, 2003 at 07:50 PM

Guys guys guys, people in public life are also performers. Or perhaps my long term memory is better than yours?
As to whether Howard or Deane are christians - who knows. I can certainly tell you that many of our guys and girls who got the bastards are.

Posted by: saint at October 6, 2003 at 08:24 PM

I'm all in favor of muscular Christianity. You know, the kind that doesn't take any sh*t and has standards vs the kind we seem to have now -- the touchy-feely, all enclusive, all accepting type.

Posted by: rabidfox at October 7, 2003 at 12:58 AM

Er, it's "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

NOT "Do unto others as they have done to you."

And did the great man *really* spend ten minutes out of his important day with the greiving father? Or did he spend ten minutes with the grieving father and a bunch of cameramen and journalists recording every murmur of this very private moment?

Yeah, Tim, terrific reporting.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at October 7, 2003 at 08:29 AM

Can you imagine Paul Keating spending ten minutes with someoine who wasn't famous or politically important? Not he. Unlike John Howard, Keating doesn't really know about walking with Kings (hasn't got the breeding) or keeping the common touch. He's just stuck in the middle with the "Yartz community" and the rest of the pseuds.

Posted by: Toryhere at October 7, 2003 at 10:18 AM

MD, you’re a loathsome idiot. Here’s an earlier report (from only a few days after the bombing) referring to the PM’s meeting with Burchett:

On Friday he spent 20 minutes in a private meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, who hugged him and told him the government was doing all it could to identify the victims and find the culprits.

"He told me 'We'll get the bastards who did this'," Mr Burchett said. "I really appreciated that he came here to try to help the families. I felt a bit more at ease after that. They are doing all they possibly can."

There you have it, MD. No cameramen. No journalists. The source of the quote is the only man who heard it. Oh, that feeling you're experiencing right now? It's called shame!

Posted by: tim at October 7, 2003 at 03:28 PM

Gee tim, I'm loathsome? AND an idiot? Still I feel no shame, knowing full well that journalist Baker and victim Burchett didn;t just come across eachother by chance.

Enter stage right, a PM's press secretary.

Oh, and here's the circumstances of that "private" meeting - in a hotel reception room crowded with grief":. "

"They met in the corner of a hotel reception room crowded with grief, the prime minister and the Gold Coast cleaning contractor. After an awkward embrace, John Howard spoke quietly with Phil Burchett for more than 10 minutes, offering his sympathy and support."

No, I feel no shame at all before such shameless media manipulation by a cynical politician.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at October 8, 2003 at 10:51 PM