John Howard Bobs back to the top

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Managing editor Dave Donovan reflects on Malcolm's first year as PM, Abbott's resurgence and John Howard's Menzies documentaries.

“So far, so good!"

Those are the inspirational words of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who today celebrates a year in the top job. A year! Yup, it has been that long since he knifed Abbott in the back, smiled condescendingly, made a few robotic arm motions and then took a long, long nap.

Or, as he describes it:

"... a year of great achievement."

Yes, an exciting time to be alive, for sure.

Even more exciting for him now, what with the the new double act of former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard roaming the land, wreaking havoc like two escapees from Jurassic Park. Pronouncing upon such things as a proposed Treaty with our First Nations, marriage equality, Indigenous youth detention, gender equality, superannuation changes and donations reforms. And Menzies. But don't worry, we'll get to Bob in a minute.

Abbott undermining Turnbull is to be expected — losing the top job is still as raw to him as a delicious, unpeeled onion. Mind you, as Spectator editor Sideshow Bob said on Q&A on Monday night, this is not at all like Rudd undermining Gillard in the previous Labor Government. No, uncomplicated Abbott's relentless white-anting of Turnbull is completely right out in the open for all to see. Personally, I'm looking forward to Abbott regaining the top job — I'd like to see what the rest of the 1950s was like.

But it is the latest resurrection of Abbott's mentor, good ol' Lazarus with a triple bypass, which may be seen as somewhat more unanticipated. Or maybe not? As IA contributor Mungo MacCallum famously said, Howard is the “unflushable turd” of Australian politics.

Sky News has long being a fan of ardent eyebrow afficionado Howard, but lately he has been popping up there even more than usual.

Yet it is not them, but the ABC, who has given Howard a share of their meagre public resources to present a two-part documentary series on his boyhood idol Robert Menzies.

Yes, despite Howard being arguably a war-criminal, who lost his own seat in 2007, and being a vicious critic of the ABC, which he tried ceaselessly to underfund and undermine, the public broadcaster apparently thinks it's an excellent use of its scarce resources to allow Howard to continue his unfinished culture wars at the taxpayers' expense.

And why wouldn't they? What with the now professional journalist Howard taking us through a series of interviews with notable public figures to set the record straight on how Bob Menzies modernised the nation, bringing Australia right into the 18th Century. I mean, who better to present a biopic about a prime minister who took Australia into a needless and criminal war than another prime minister who took the country to a pointless and illegal war?

Yet, despite Howard little Johnny is about Menzies, you can be sure he will be forensically objective about his colossal man crush.

Howard will surely explain why "Pig Iron Bob" sold scrap metal to the Japanese in the lead up to World War II, only to have it shot back at Australian troops a couple of years later.

Similarly, Howard will doubtless discuss Menzies' appeasement of and admiration for genocidal Nazi maniac Adolf Hitler.

Such as in 1938, when Bob, as Federal Attorney-General, toured Germany, writing home:

"... it must be said that this modern abandonment by the Germans of individual liberty and of the easy and pleasant things of life has something rather magnificent about it .... The Germans may be pulling down the churches, but they have erected the State, with Hitler as its head, into a sort of religion which produces spiritual exaltation that one cannot but admire…”

Well, who couldn't but admire that?

To further show his admiration for Hitler's efforts, Menzies – ever the humanitarian – also saw fit to import thousands of Nazi war criminals to Australia after the Second World War.

And no doubt Howard will also talk about Menzies' sycophantic kowtowing to the British over nuclear testing in various parts of Australia during the 1950s and 1960s. He will surely mention that Menzies didn't even take to cabinet the decision to allow Britain to explode massive plutonium-239 filled nuclear warheads — ones that spread a plume of radiation over much of Australia, wiped out unknown numbers of Indigenous Australians and will leave a toxic legacy around Maralinga for only about, oh, the next 24,000 years.

Of course he will! I mean, they don't call him "Honest John" for nothing.

Howard will also, you can be assured, talk about how Menzies worked tirelessly, from 1949 to 1966, to keep Australia exactly as he found it — a stuffy post-war colonial mausoleum. It is this sort of legacy that, after all, inspires zealous progressive prime ministers like himself and Tony Abbott. And it is this sort of frenetic activity that provides the template for endlessly energetic prime ministers like Malcolm Turnbull. (Although he'll probably get a break soon.)

John Howard Bobs back to the top on the ABC on Sunday night. Be there and be square.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

Independent Australia supporters and members can also listen to managing editor Dave Donovan in his weekly podcasts in IA's exclusive Member's Only Area. In the most recent podcast, Dave recounts his accident and survival story.

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