The good thing about these books is that they tend to be cheap and quick to read, but the bad thing about these books is that they become dated pretty quickly. Still, they are good because they correlate all of the so called lies and backflips that they have made up until the point that the book was published, especially when you have a prime minister that was been in as long as John Howard was. Also, like this book, they are usually publish before an election (and the publishing costs are probably paid for by the opposition). In short, they are an election strategy to attempt to get people to vote for the other side.
The thing is that politicians lie, all of them. It is not that they intentionally lie, but rather they make promises to get elected and then realise that they are unable (or unwilling) to keep those promises because the actual state of the government is kept hidden from them up until the point they are elected (though some, like one of our Prime Ministers, have no intention of ever keeping those promises). However, they can only use that excuse in the first year of their first term, and they certainly cannot use it when they get elected a second, or a third, time.
The thing about Howard is that he claimed that he never knew about a lot of the things that his subordiantes were doing, but them again it is not like they are aware of all of the indiscretions of their subordinates. It is like any manager of any company: they have subordinates to look after the areas that they cannot physically look after themselves. Even more so when you are in government, because everybody has such as public face, it is difficult to discipline people without raising questions from the public. However, there are ways that they do discipline them, such as encouraging ministers to step down (usually by saying they want to spend more time with their family) or by not contesting the next election.
The problem is that many of these people still go on to do wonderful things. Okay, Peter Reith may not have realised that his son was taking advantage of his phone card, but even politicians suspected of corruption still seem to be rewarded for their efforts. However, there are instances where people are technically not doing anything wrong (though locking up refugees in contravention of the Charter of Human Rights is ethically wrong) but just following party policy.
Mind you, when you see opposition politicians after they were defeated in an election being awarded plump overseas posts by the government in power you do wonder if there really isn't any backroom dealings occuring. That is one of the problems with trying to work with the opposition because it always seems to be the left leaning parties that offer to work and the right leaning parties then using that as an opportunity to drag the left leaning party over to their side. While it may seem to be conciliatory that both Rudd and Obama wanted to work with their political opponents, the truth be told these opponents don't actually want to work with them, they simply want to push through their right wing corporatist agenda.