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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: John Howard

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The Honourable
John Winston Howard
John Howard

25th Prime Minister of Australia
Elections: 1987, 1996—2007
In office
11 March 1996 – 3 December 2007
Deputy Tim Fischer
John Anderson
Mark Vaile
Preceded by Paul Keating
Succeeded by Kevin Rudd

29th Treasurer of Australia
In office
19 November 1977 – 11 March 1983
Preceded by Phillip Lynch
Succeeded by Paul Keating

Member of the Australian Parliament
for Bennelong
In office
18 May 1974 – 24 November 2007
Preceded by John Cramer
Succeeded by Maxine McKew

Born 26 July 1939 (1939-07-26) (age 68)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political party LPA
Spouse Janette Howard
Alma mater University of Sydney
Profession Solicitor

John Winston Howard (born 26 July 1939) was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He is the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies, and was leader of the Liberal Party of Australia for over 16 years.

Howard was a member of the Australian House of Representatives from 1974 to 2007, representing the Division of Bennelong, New South Wales. He served as Treasurer in the government of Malcolm Fraser from 1977–1983. He was Leader of the Liberal Party and Coalition Opposition from 1985–1989, which included the 1987 federal election against Bob Hawke. He was re-elected as Leader of the Opposition in 1995.

Howard led the Liberal-National Coalition to victory at the 1996 federal election, defeating Paul Keating’s Labor government and ending a record 13 years of Coalition opposition. Howard was sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 March 1996. Howard’s government was re-elected at the 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections but was defeated at the 2007 election by the Labor opposition led by Kevin Rudd. Howard was also defeated in his electorate of Bennelong by Labor’s Maxine McKew, making him the second Australian Prime Minister, after Stanley Bruce in 1929, to lose his own seat.


Early life

John Howard as a boy

John Howard as a boy

John Howard is the fourth son of Lyall Howard and Mona (née Kell). His parents were married in 1925. His eldest brother Stanley was born in 1926, followed by Walter in 1929, and Robert (Bob) in 1936.

Howard grew up in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood. His mother had been an office worker until her marriage. His father and his paternal grandfather, Walter Howard, were both veterans of the First AIF in World War I. They also ran two Dulwich Hill petrol stations where John Howard worked as a boy.[1] Lyall Howard died in 1955 when John was sixteen, leaving his mother to take care of John[2] (or “Jack” as he was also known).[3]

Howard suffered a hearing impairment in his youth, leaving him with a slight speech impediment.[4] It also influenced him in subtle ways, limiting his early academic performance; encouraging a reliance on an excellent memory; and in his mind ruling out becoming a barrister as a likely career.[5]

Canterbury Boys' High School Cricket Team. John Howard is in the front row, 2nd from right

Canterbury Boys’ High School Cricket Team. John Howard is in the front row, 2nd from right

Howard attended the publicly funded state schools Earlwood Primary School and Canterbury Boys’ High School.[6] Howard won a citizenship prize in his final year at Earlwood (presented by local politician Eric Willis), and subsequently represented his secondary school at debating as well as cricket and rugby.[7] In his final year at school he took part in a radio show hosted by Jack Davey, Give It a Go broadcast on the commercial radio station, 2GB, and a recording of the show survives.[8] After gaining his Leaving Certificate, he studied law at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1961,[6] and subsequently practising as a solicitor for twelve years.[9]

Howard married fellow Liberal Party member Janette Parker in 1971, with whom he had three children: Melanie (1974), Tim (1977) and Richard (1980).[10]

Entry into politics

Howard joined the Liberal Party in 1957. He held office in the New South Wales Liberal Party on the State Executive and served as President of the Young Liberals (1962–64), the party youth organisation.[11] Howard supported Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, although has since said there were “aspects of it that could have been handled and explained differently”.[12]

At the 1963 federal election, Howard acted as campaign manager in his local seat of Parkes for the successful candidacy of Tom Hughes who defeated the 20 year Labor incumbent.

In 1967 with the support of party power brokers, John Carrick and Eric Willis, he was endorsed as candidate for the marginal suburban state seat of Drummoyne, held by the ALP. Howard’s mother sold the family home in Earlwood and rented a house with him at Five Dock, a suburb within the electorate. At the election in February 1968, in which the incumbent state Liberal government was returned to office, Howard failed to defeat the sitting member, despite campaigning vigorously.[13] Howard and his mother subsequently returned to Earlwood, moving to a house on the same street where he grew up.

Member of Parliament

At the 1974 federal election, Howard successfully contested the Sydney suburban seat of Bennelong and became a Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives. When Malcolm Fraser’s government came to power in December 1975, Howard was appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, a position in which he served until 1977.[9]

Federal Treasurer (1977–1983)

In December 1977, at the age of 38, Howard was appointed Treasurer, for which he became known as “the boy Treasurer”.[9] In this role, he was a strong adherent of monetarism and favoured cuts to personal income tax and business tax, lower government spending, the dismantling of the centralised wage-fixing system, the abolition of compulsory trade unionism, and the privatisation of government-owned enterprises.

In 1979, Treasurer Howard established a committee of inquiry, the Campbell Committee, to investigate financial system reforms. The process of reform began before the Committee reported 2 1/2 years later, with the introduction of the tender system for the sale of Treasury notes in 1979, and Treasury bonds in 1982. Ian Macfarlane (Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia 1996-2006) described these reforms as “second only in importance to the float of the Australian dollar in 1983.” [1]

In April 1982, Howard was elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.

During Howard’s tenure as Treasurer, the 90-day cash rate peaked at 21% on 8 April 1982, while home loan mortage rates were capped at 13.5%, and inflation peaked at 12.5% in September 1982.[14] Peter Costello commented, in 2007, that “The Howard treasurership was not a success in terms of interest rates and inflation… he had not been a great reformer.”[15]

Opposition years (1983-1996)

Following the 1983 defeat of the Fraser government and Fraser’s subsequent resignation from parliament, Howard contested the Liberal leadership but was defeated by Andrew Peacock. Remaining Deputy Leader of the parliamentary party, Howard became Deputy Leader of the Opposition. After electoral defeat by Hawke and Labor at the 1984 election, Peacock sought, in September 1985, to replace Howard with John Moore as Deputy Leader. The party room re-elected Howard to the position. Peacock resigned and Howard became Opposition Leader unopposed on 3 September.[16]

Howard came to be known as an economic liberal – in his own words, an “economic radical” – yet an avowed social conservative.[17] He opposed “political correctness” and the promotion of multiculturalism at the expense of a shared national identity. In July 1986, Howard famously said that “The times will suit me”.[18] However, his chances of unseating Hawke at the 1987 election were ruined when the arch-conservative Premier of Queensland Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen launched a populist “Joh for Canberra” campaign that divided the federal conservative political movement and saw Hawke comfortably re-elected.

On 22 August 1988, from Opposition, Howard named and launched a new immigration and ethnic affairs policy, titled One Australia. The policy detailed a vision of “one nation and one future”, including opposition to multiculturalism and rejection of Aboriginal land rights.[19] Howard’s comments that same month about Asian immigration led to controversy and divisions within the Liberal Party:

“I do believe that if it is – in the eyes of some in the community – that it’s too great, it would be in our immediate-term interest and supporting of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so the capacity of the community to absorb it was greater”.[20]

Other members of Howard’s coalition, including Shadow Finance Minister John Stone and Deputy Opposition Leader Ian Sinclair also spoke out about Asian immigration, suggesting it must be reduced. [17] [21]

On 25 August 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke responded by introducing a parliamentary motion stating that no Australian government would use race or ethnic origin as a criterion for immigration. Four members of the Liberal Party crossed the floor of parliament to vote with Labor: Hon Dr Peter Baume (Senator), Steele Hall, Ian Macphee and Philip Ruddock. Two others, Ian Wilson and Michael MacKellar abstained from the vote.[22]

In September 1988, Howard elaborated his opposition to multiculturalism by saying “To me, multiculturalism suggests that we can’t make up our minds who we are or what we believe in.”[19] He rejected the idea of an Aboriginal treaty as “repugnant to the ideals of One Australia”[19] and commented “I don’t think it is wrong, racist, immoral or anything, for a country to say ‘we will decide what the cultural identity and the cultural destiny of this country will be and nobody else'”.[23]}}

Dissent within the Liberal Party over Asian immigration was believed by some political commentators to have weakened Howard’s leadership.[22] In February 1989, John Elliott approached Andrew Peacock and encouraged Peacock to launch a leadership challenge against Howard.[22] In May 1989, Andrew Peacock launched a surprise leadership coup, ousting Howard as Liberal leader.

After a brief stint on the backbench, Howard returned to the Coalition front bench, but his leadership career seemed to be over, particularly when Peacock lost the 1990 election and the Liberals turned to a new younger leader, former Howard staffer Dr. John Hewson. Asked whether he would try again to attain the Liberal leadership, Howard likened the possibility of his political comeback to “Lazarus with a triple bypass”.[24]

Howard was an enthusiastic supporter of Hewson’s economic program, with a Goods and Services Tax (GST) as its centrepiece. After Hewson lost the “unloseable” 1993 election to Paul Keating, Howard unsuccessfully challenged Hewson for the leadership. In 1994, he was again passed over for the leadership, which went to Alexander Downer. Downer failed to dent Keating’s dominance and, in January 1995, he resigned as leader. Peter Costello, deputy party leader, did not challenge for the leadership, over a decade later citing an agreement between the pair that allowed Howard to become leader for a second time unopposed. Howard said no deal had ever been made. [25]

Prime Minister

See also: Australian federal election, 1996

As Opposition Leader for the second time, Howard adopted a more pragmatic position than he had done during his first term. He revised his earlier statements against Medicare and Asian immigration.[20] During the campaign Howard outlined his vision of Australia in 2000 to the ABC:

I want to see an Australian society that sees this country as a unique intersection of Europe, North America and Asia. Australia is incredibly lucky to have a European heritage, deep connections with North America, but to be geographically cast in the Asian/Pacific region and if we think of ourselves as that strategic intersection, then I think we have a remarkable opportunity to carve a special niche for ourselves in … in the history of the next century.[12]

Soon after Howard became Opposition Leader, the Coalition surged to a large lead over Labor in nearly all polls. More ominously for Labor, Howard quickly overtook Keating as preferred Prime Minister–a rare feat for an Opposition Leader.

When asked whether he would follow the failed John Hewson tax model and introduce a Goods and Services Tax (GST), Howard replied:

There’s no way that GST will ever be part of our policy…. Never ever. It’s dead. It was killed by the voters in the last election.[26]

In a “small target” strategy, he attacked the “arrogance” and the “elitist” nature of Keating’s “big picture” politics—issues like foreign relations with Asia, Australian republicanism, multiculturalism and reconciliation with indigenous Australians—which, Howard believed, were irrelevant to ordinary voters. He also promised workers would be no worse off under industrial relations changes.[27]

Winning over many traditional Labor voters, a group termed the “Howard battlers”, Howard won a sweeping victory at the 1996 elections, with a 26-seat swing–the second-largest defeat of an incumbent government since Federation. At the age of 56, he was sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 March 1996, ending a record 13 years of Coalition opposition.[9]

In the run-up to the election, Pauline Hanson, the Liberal candidate for Oxley in Queensland was disendorsed because of comments she made to The Queensland Times. Howard said:

Well, I certainly believe in her right to say what she said. I thought some of the things she said were an accurate reflection of what people feel.[28]

First term: 1996–1998

John Howard in the USA in 1997

John Howard in the USA in 1997

Heralded by the prompt announcement that a $10-billion “budget black hole” left by the previous Labor government would necessitate considerable reduction in many areas of government expenditure, prudent economic management became a major emphasis of Howard’s government.[29] Training and education programs developed under the Keating government were scrapped, infrastructure investment was scaled down, funding for indigenous bodies was reduced, and a “work for the dole” system was introduced that required able-bodied social security recipients to seek work. Thus began a trend of budget surpluses which would be maintained most years (excepting the 2001-2002 financial year where a cash deficit of $1.3 Billion was recorded).[30]

Following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996, Howard coordinated action by the state governments to restrict the private ownership of semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns and raised the prospect of a referendum on gun control. May 10 that year he structured a “National Firearms Agreement” covering related matters such as uniform firearms licensing, although this was never fully implemented.

The Howard government did not have a majority in the Senate at this time, and instead faced a situation where legislation had to be negotiated with either the Australian Democrats or with the Independents. The Senate modified much of the Government’s more controversial legislation, including the partial privatisation of the government-owned telecommunications company, Telstra; the modification of industrial relations laws to promulgate individual contracts; increases in university fees; large funding cuts in the 1996 and 1997 budgets; a 30% private health insurance rebate; and the Wik 10 Point Plan, giving extinguishment of native title on pastoral leases.

Howard had come to office promising to improve standards of integrity among ministers and politicians, introducing a strict “Code of Ministerial Conduct”[31] at the start of his term. The strictness of his code was enforced when a succession of seven of his ministers (Jim Short, Geoff Prosser, John Sharp, David Jull, Brian Gibson, Bob Woods, and Peter McGauran) were required to resign following breaches of the code, concerning a variety of “travel rorts” (misuse of the ministerial travel allowance) and conflicts of interest between ministerial responsibilities and share ownership. Prosser reportedly had improper business dealings and another two ministers (John Moore and Warwick Parer) were found to have breached the code.

See also: Australian federal election, 1998

The 1998 election campaign was dominated by two issues. One was reform of the tax system, including the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST; a broad-based value-added tax).[32] At the October 1998 election, the Liberal-National Coalition, suffered a large swing largely driven by an opposition campaign against the Goods and Services Tax. Labor leader Kim Beazley won 51% of the national two-party preferred vote, but the Liberals ran an effective marginal electorate campaign and were returned with a comfortable majority in parliament. During the campaign, Howard changed the Coalition’s preferencing policy. The coalition had been criticised for placing One Nation ahead of Labor on its how-to-vote cards at the Queensland election earlier in the year. Critics charged that this meant Howard was tacitly approving One Nation’s policies towards Aborigines and immigration, which they viewed as xenophobic. From the federal election onwards, One Nation was placed last on Coalition voting cards.

Second term: 1998–2001

Foreign affairs were significant in Howard’s second term when the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in a United Nations sponsored referendum. Pro-Indonesia militia, covertly backed by elements of the Indonesian military, began a brutal campaign of repression. Australia led a peacekeeping/policing force to protect the inhabitants against pro-Indonesian militias, attracting praise domestically and in several countries, but angering some Indonesians and Islamists. A side effect of these actions was that Osama Bin Laden later called Australia a “crusader force”, and that the Bali bombings were retribution for leading the action.[33]

As recommended in the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, John Howard’s government also considered the issue of a national apology to Indigenous Australians, in recognition of the treatment by previous governments following the European settlement of the country. In the face of a growing movement in favour of a national apology, Howard was resolute in his refusal to do this, although all state and territory governments issued their own. Instead, on 26 August 1999 John Howard personally expressed “deep sorrow” while maintaining that “Australians of this generation should not be required to accept guilt and blame for past actions and policies.”[34] In February 2008, after Howard failed to win a fifth term, incoming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an apology on behalf of the federal parliament, which received bipartisan support. Howard was the only former Prime Minister who declined to attend.[35]

Howard’s second term saw the implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST), replacing a range of taxes on specific goods with a flat rate on almost all goods and services. In accordance with an Intergovernmental Agreement, the Australian Government would administer the GST on behalf of the states and territories, to whom all GST revenue is paid. This was intended to give the states and territories responsibility for their own finances and end annual funding squabbles between them and the federal government. The federal government determines the share of GST revenue received by each using a formula recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Howard was able to pass the GST legislation through the Senate after making a deal with Australian Democrats’ leader Senator Meg Lees to exclude a number of items from the GST, most notably fresh food such as fruit and vegetables. As a partial offset for the GST, a $7,000 “first home buyers grant” was introduced in 2000.[36]

Enforcement of the Code of Ministerial Conduct, introduced during the prior term, was less stringent this term and hereafter, with Howard said to take a “rather more relaxed attitude to … apparent breaches or misdemeanours and … far fewer sackings”.[37]

The Howard government was trailing in the polls in 2001. It lost a by-election in the normally safe electorate of Ryan in Queensland and Labor governments were elected in all the states and territories except South Australia (which fell to Labor in 2002). In response, a number of policy changes were made, including the abandonment of petrol excise indexation and increased government benefits to self-funded retirees.

The 2001 election campaign

See also: Australian federal election, 2001

In August 2001, the government refused permission for the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, carrying a group of asylum seekers picked up in international waters, to enter Australian waters.[38] When the Tampa entered Australian waters, Howard ordered the ship be boarded by Australian special forces. This brought censure from the government of Norway for Australia’s failure to meet obligations to distressed mariners under international law at the United Nations.[39]

The government introduced “border protection” legislation. Kim Beazley and the Labor opposition offered half-hearted support to the legislation while opposing it on specific points. The issue, along with the shock of the recent September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, saw the Howard government portray itself as “tough” on border protection and national security. The Howard government subsequently received a big lift in the polls[40] and many commentators cite the MV Tampa as the decisive issue in the 2001 election.[41]

For the 2001 election campaign, Howard used the slogan:

“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”[42]

Earlier that month, comments by Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock about a recent maritime incident involving a boatload of asylum seekers had sparked the Children Overboard Affair. Ruddock said that children had been thrown into the sea. Howard and Defence Minister Peter Reith repeated and defended the claim. After the election, naval and intelligence sources refuted the claim while two senate inquiries found the claim to be untrue and that the government knew this prior to the election.

At the November 2001 elections, the Coalition was re-elected with a larger majority than in 1998 and achieved the biggest swing to an incumbent government since 1966.

Third term: 2001–2004

In the two years after the 2001 election the Howard government continued its tough line on national security and “border protection” issues, while seeking to further its agenda of conservative social policies and pro-business economic reforms. Despite its victory in 2001, the government did not have a Senate majority, and its ability to pass planned legislation was restricted.

Howard faced a difficult issue in the allegations that his choice as Governor General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth, in his previous vocation as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, had not investigated Anglican priests who were accused of paedophilia in various churches. Hollingworth resigned the governor-generalship amidst controversy that threatened to damage the credibility of his office.

The seat of Bennelong became home to many Asian immigrants, and in May 2002, Howard retracted his 1988 comments about Asian immigration:

My instinct is that Asian-Australians are very much part of the community now. I think it (their integration) has been quicker. I just don’t hear people talking about it now, even as much as they did five years ago, and I have an electorate which is very Asian.[20]

In April 2002 changes where made to Australian nationality law. These change meant that an Australian citizen who acquires another citizenship from this date forward will no longer lose their Australian Citizenship.

Howard retained a clear political advantage over his opponents. Throughout 2002 and 2003 he kept his lead in the opinion polls over the then Labor leader, Simon Crean. Following the October 2002 Bali bombing, Howard placed a renewed emphasis on his government’s approach to national security.

In March 2003, Howard joined 40 countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, in sending troops and naval units to support in the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. He told parliament:

Full disclosure by Iraq of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and immediate and total cooperation by Iraq with the provisions of resolution 1441 of the Security Council will remove the need for military action.[43]

Australian opinion was deeply divided on the war and large public protests against the war occurred.[44] Several senior figures from the Liberal party, including John Valder, a former president of the Liberal Party, and Howard’s former friend and colleague, former Opposition Leader John Hewson and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser publicly criticised Howard over Iraq.[45] John Valder’s criticism was particularly strong, claiming that Howard should be tried and punished as a war criminal.[46]

On Anzac Day 2004, Howard made a surprise visit to Australian defence personnel in Iraq. This came amid a bitter debate in Australia over the war following opposition leader Mark Latham’s promise to return Australian troops by Christmas. Howard portrayed Latham as a threat to the U.S.-Australia alliance.

On 6 May 2004, Howard convened a meeting with a group of energy industry representatives called the Lower Emissions Technology Advisory Group (LETAG). Although it met with the renewable energy sector separately, the Government was later criticised for not inviting them to this meeting. According to leaked minutes from the meeting, Howard would conclude that technology would be the long-term solution to greenhouse issues and his focus should be on ways to accelerate introduction of technology for reducing greenhouse gases, but that he was not looking for the establishment of public policy. Concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the current Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets (MRET) were also raised.[47]

In May 2004, and with the help of the Australian Democrats,[48] the Howard Government amended Australia’s superannuation law to allow same-sex couples to inherit their partners’ private sector superannuation.[49] Announcing the May 2004 proposal, Howard said:

“The changes we are announcing today will provide greater certainty for the payment of super death benefits for those involved in interdependency relationships including, of course, members of same sex relationships”[50]

The changes did not extend to members in Commonwealth superannuation schemes.[49]

On 13 August 2004, the Senate passed the Howard Government’s[51] Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill[52] which incorporated the common law definition of marriage—”the union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others”—into the Marriage Act and the Family Law Act.[53] The amendment, was opposed by the The Greens and Democrats.[54]

See also: Australian federal election, 2004

On 29 August 2004, Howard called an election for 9 October. The Labor opposition, after the resignation of Simon Crean and the election of Mark Latham as leader in December 2003, had established a large lead in some opinion polls by March 2004, and the government entered the election campaign behind Labor in all published national opinion polls. Howard himself still had a large lead over Latham as preferred Prime Minister in those same polls and most commentators regarded the result as being too close to call.

During the campaign, Howard attacked Latham’s economic record as Mayor of Liverpool City Council. Howard also attacked Labor’s economic history.

It is an historic fact that interest rates have always gone up under Labor governments over the last 30 years, because Labor governments spend more than they collect and drive budgets into deficit … So it will be with a Latham Labor government… I will guarantee that interest rates are always going to be lower under a Coalition government.[55]

In the closing period of the election campaign, Howard promised a large spending program on health, education, small business and family payments with the aim of trumping Labor’s policy strengths.

The election result was an increased Coalition majority in the House of Representatives and the first, albeit slim, government majority in the Senate since 1981. On a two party preferred basis, the Coalition achieved 52.74% of the vote to Labor’s 47.26%. However, for the second time since becoming Prime Minister, Howard himself had to go to preferences in order to win another term in his own seat. He took 49.9 percent of the first count and was only assured of reelection on the third count. Ultimately, Howard won 53.3 percent of the two-party preferred vote.[56]

Fourth term: 2004–2007

John Howard, Janette Howard, and U.S. President George W. Bush at the Sydney Opera House

John Howard, Janette Howard, and U.S. President George W. Bush at the Sydney Opera House

On 21 December 2004, Howard became the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies.[57]

The new Senate came into effect on 1 July 2005, giving the Howard government control of both houses for the first time. Not since Fraser had a government been able to pass legislation without approval from other parties. However, due to the slenderness of its Senate majority, internal Coalition discipline and dissent significantly influenced legislative outcomes on certain issues.

The Howard government revisited and secured the passage of previously blocked legislation, including industrial relations changes, the abolition of compulsory university student union fees and liberalisation of media ownership laws (by lowering restrictions on media companies owning multiple different media). It also instructed the Governor-General to disallow a legislation, the ACT Civil Unions Act.[58]

Howard chaired APEC Australia 2007, culminating in the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Sydney during September.[59] The meeting was at times overshadowed by leadership speculation following further poor poll results[60] and public criticism of security arrangements.[61]

The Coalition trailed Labor in opinion polls from mid-2006 onward, but Howard still consistently led Labor leader Kim Beazley on the question of preferred Prime Minister. In December 2006, after Kevin Rudd became Labor leader, the two-party preferred deficit widened even further and Rudd swiftly overtook Howard as preferred Prime Minister.

See also: Economy of Australia

In April 2006, the government announced it had completely paid off the last of $96 billion of Commonwealth net debt inherited when it came to power in 1996.[62] Economists generally welcomed the news, while cautioning that some level of debt was not necessarily bad, and that some of the debt had been transferred to the private sector.[63][verification needed] Howard often cited the economic management of his government as a point in its favour, but came under heavy criticism toward the end of 2007 in the lead up to the Federal election. It was alleged by opposition leader Kevin Rudd during their single leadership debate that Howard had no plan to deal with inflationary pressures on the economy, and would not be able to handle future interest rate rises.

Industrial relations
Main article: WorkChoices

In 2005, Howard announced significant changes to industrial relations laws. These became the subject of a national publicity campaign by the government and pronounced opposition from community groups, the union movement and state Labor governments. On 15 November 2005, public rallies were held to protest against the industrial relations changes. An estimated 100,000-175,000 people attended rallies in Melbourne and around 300 other meetings and rallies, held concurrently around the country, were also well attended.[64] These meetings were organised by various unions and community organisations with the help of Labor and the Greens. Due to the Coalition’s slim majority in the Senate, the passage of the proposed laws was put in doubt following criticisms from Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce, although he later voted in support of the legislation. The industrial relations laws were passed without substantial change.

More troops sent to Iraq
John Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in May 2006.

John Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in May 2006.

On 22 February 2005 Howard announced that Australia would increase its military commitment to Iraq with an additional 450 troops, telling John Laws, “I’m openly saying that some small adjustment at the margin might happen”.[65]

Anti-terrorism measures

In mid 2005, John Howard and his cabinet began discussions of new anti-terror legislation which includes modification to the Crimes Act 1914. In particular, sections relating to sedition are to be modified. On 14 October 2005, Jon Stanhope (Chief Minister of the ACT) took the controversial step of publishing the confidential draft of the Federal Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 on his website.[66] This action was both praised and criticised.[67] Citing concerns about civil rights raised by the Australian National University as well as concerns over the speed of the legislation’s passage through parliament, he later refused to sign off on a revised version of the legislation, becoming the only State and Territorial leader not to sign.[68] The House of Representatives passed the anti-terrorism legislation which was debated in the Senate before its final implementation in December 2005.

On 2 November 2005 Howard held a press conference to announce that he had received information from police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) that indicated an imminent terrorist attack in Australia. Within a week, on 8 November, anti-terrorist raids were held across Melbourne and Sydney, with 17 suspected terrorists arrested, including Abdul Nacer Benbrika. These raids, according to Howard, demonstrated the need for his Anti-Terrorism Bill.[69] According to the Greens and Democrats, the raids demonstrated that no further legislation was needed as even the current legislation was sufficient to allow ASIO and the Australian Federal Police to act in some cases. Critics have also said that the press conference was held on the same day as the changes to industrial relations laws were introduced to Parliament.

Since Mohamed Haneef spent 12 days in jail without charges (he was suspected to have supported the perpetrators of the foiled terror attacks in London and Glasgow in July 2007), the anti-terrorism bill and its impact for the separation of powers in a democracy became more publicly discussed. When a judge found insufficient evidence for the charges against Haneef, Minister of Immigration Kevin Andrews withdrew his working visa. While the Howard government unequivocally backed Kevin Andrew’s decision, members of the judicial community in Australia raised their concern about the interference of the government in judicial proceedings.[70]

Mandatory detention policy
Main article: Mandatory detention in Australia

Throughout the first half of 2005, the Howard government faced pressure regarding the controversial mandatory detention program, introduced in 1992 by the Keating ALP government.

It was revealed in February that a mentally ill German citizen and Australian resident, Cornelia Rau, had been held in detention for nine months. The government then established the closed non-judicial Palmer Inquiry promising that the findings would be made public. In May, it was revealed that another Australian, subsequently identified as Vivian Solon, had been deported from Australia and that the department responsible was unable to locate her. By late May, it was revealed that an additional 200 cases of possible wrongful detention had been referred to the Palmer Inquiry.[71] Also at this time Howard faced backbench revolt from small numbers of his own party demanding that reforms be made.[72] On 9 June Australia’s longest serving detainee, Peter Qasim, was moved to a psychiatric hospital.[73]

In June, 2005, several backbenchers including Petro Georgiou challenged the Howard government’s holding of asylum-seeker children in immigration detention centres. [74] Over 2000 asylum-seeker children were held in detention centres during previous years. The longest period a child was detained was 5 years.[75] Under the agreement between Howard and the MPs, legislation was introduced to “soften” the detention system enacted in 1992. Detained families with children were moved out of detention centres and placed in “community detention”, and people detained over two years received an ombudsman review. [76] Questioned as to why the government had not acted sooner, Howard was quoted as saying: “We have to confess that was one of the many failings of this Government.”[76]

Environment and energy
John Howard meeting Maroondah residents, 31 August 2007

John Howard meeting Maroondah residents, 31 August 2007

On 6 June 2006, Howard announced a task force to conduct the “Uranium Mining, Processing, and Nuclear Energy Review”, the terms of reference of which include “the extent to which nuclear energy will make a contribution to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions”.[77] Howard announced on 10 December 2006 the formation of a Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading.[78] On 3 February 2007, the Australian government announced that it could not by itself have a significant effect on mitigation of global warming, though it would continue to make efforts to cut greenhouse gases; it would be necessary for Australia to find means of adaptation.[79] On 4 June 2007, Howard announced a new Carbon Trading Scheme to be in place in Australia by 2012. Only four months earlier, Howard rejected such a scheme by the states, claiming “knee-jerk reactions that are going to destroy the jobs of coalminers”.[80]

Northern Territory intervention

In August 2007, the Howard government announced the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. This package of welfare reform, law enforcement and other measures was advanced as a plan for addressing child abuse in Aboriginal Northern Territory communities that had been highlighted by the “Little Children are Sacred” report in mid-June.

The plan drew criticism from the report’s authors and others for not incorporating any of the report’s numerous recommendations.[citation needed] Other critics expressed skepticism about the plan’s true intention, saying it was instead an attempt to remove land rights from Aboriginal communities.[81] Howard had been a long-time opponent of indigenous Native Title in Australia. Key components of the intervention included seizure by the Federal Government of local community land leases for a five year period and removal of the permit system that had allowed aboriginal communities to control access to their land.

Some aboriginal activists such as Noel Pearson provided qualified support for the intervention, as it provided the first sign of the Howard government taking any significant interest in aboriginal affairs. Commentators noted the approaching November federal election, suggesting that the intervention was an attempt at “wedge politics” and an appeal to middle class non-Aboriginal voters concerned with child abuse and racial issues. Most of the government discussion regarding the intervention involved appeals to emotion, without attempting to address the specific criticisms put forward by opponents of the plan.[citation needed]

Leadership and retirement doubts
John Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush wave to the public in a Sydney street after leaving the Commonwealth Parliament Offices and walking to the InterContinental Hotel at APEC in September 2007

John Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush wave to the public in a Sydney street after leaving the Commonwealth Parliament Offices and walking to the InterContinental Hotel at APEC in September 2007

In the lead up to the 2001 election, Howard did not commit to serving a full term if he won the election. Instead, he said he would consider the question of retirement when he turned 64, which would be in July 2003.[82] When July 2003 came, he announced that the party was strongly in favour of him continuing, so he stayed on.[83]

In the lead up to the 2004 election, Howard again did not commit to serving a full term.[84] In 2006, there was mounting speculation that he would retire that year.

In July 2006, it was alleged that a deal had been struck with Peter Costello in 1994 with Ian McLachlan present, that if the Liberal party were to win the next election, Howard would serve one and a half terms of office and then allow Costello to take over. Howard denied that this constituted a deal, yet Costello and McLachlan insisted it did;[85] and there were calls for Costello to either challenge or quit.[86]

The impasse was resolved at the end of July when Howard, again citing strong party room support for him as leader, stated that he would remain to contest the next election, and that he and Costello would remain in their current roles.[87] Costello declared that he would not be seeking the top position in the Liberal Party while Howard was standing as its leader, saying on The 7.30 Report he would be handing down the 2007 Budget.[88] On 12 September 2007 John Howard told 7.30 Report host Kerry O’Brien that if re-elected he would “form the view, well into my term, that it makes sense for me to retire and in those circumstances I would expect – although it would be a matter for the party to determine – that Peter would take over.”[89]

Early in September 2007, coinciding with the APEC Conference in Sydney, speculation broke out about Cabinet support for Howard’s leadership. Following a series of negative polls, senior ministers such as Alexander Downer, Nick Minchin and Malcolm Turnbull were reported to have doubts about his capacity to win the election.[90] Peter Costello, regarded by many as the leader in waiting, indicated that he would only take over the leadership if Howard voluntarily stood down. However, Howard stated that he would not step aside and warned he would fight any challenger, and the party restated their support for him as leader.[91] On 12 September 2007, during an ABC television interview, John Howard announced that he would step down from the Prime Ministership “well into the next term” if he is re-elected.[92]

The 2007 election campaign

Main article: Australian federal election, 2007
Electioneering balloons from the Liberal and Labor parties in Bennelong during the 2007 federal election.

Electioneering balloons from the Liberal and Labor parties in Bennelong during the 2007 federal election.

On 14 October, Howard announced a 24 November election, saying the country “does not need new leadership, it does not need old leadership. It needs the right leadership”.[93] By the time election writs were issued, the Coalition was running well behind Labor in all polls. Most pundits predicted a large Labor victory. ABC election analyst Antony Green noted the Coalition’s numbers were similar to what Labor had polled before losing power in 1996.

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd called for a minimum of three debates between himself and John Howard over the campaign period. Howard, who had been rated poorly by studio audiences at past leadership debates, pressed for a single debate “whether [Rudd] was there or not”. On 21 October, Howard and Rudd took part in a live nationally televised leaders’ debate. Although Howard had pressed for the Nine Network to abandon its use of “the worm” — an on-screen graphic depicting studio audience sentiment — it still featured in Nine’s debate coverage.[94] Commentators widely reported Rudd as the victor in the debate.[95]

An Epping polling booth within Howard's seat of Bennelong.

An Epping polling booth within Howard’s seat of Bennelong.

In the 24 November election, Howard and his Coalition government were defeated, losing 23 seats — the fourth-worst defeat of an incumbent government since Federation. Late that night, Howard conceded that Labor had won government and the likelihood that he had lost Bennelong to former journalist Maxine McKew. Howard had been 206 votes ahead of McKew on the first count, and finished 2.8 percentage points behind McKew on the estimated two-party vote.[96] While the ABC and other media outlets projected on election night that Howard had been unseated, McKew declined to claim victory at first, saying that the seat was on “a knife edge.”[97] On 1 December, McKew claimed victory.[98] Counting was incomplete but it was expected that Howard would not achieve the sufficient majority of postal and absentee ballots required for him to win.[99][100][101][102]

On 12 December, the Electoral Commission formally declared McKew the winner by 44,685 votes (51.4 percent) to Howard’s 42,251 (48.6 percent). Howard formally conceded defeat. The final tally showed that Howard lost on the 14th count due to a large flow of Green preferences to McKew. He’d been ahead by thin margins for most of the night, never leading by more than 0.2 percentage points.[103] Howard confided in a former colleague that losing Bennelong was a “silver lining in the thunder cloud of defeat” as it spared him the ignominy of opposition.[104] He is the second Australian Prime Minister, after Stanley Bruce, to lose his own seat.[105]

Howard remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister until the formal swearing in of Rudd’s government on 3 December.[106] Federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane said “it was the failure of Kim Beazley’s leadership that had masked voter concerns about Howard”.[107]

After politics

In January 2008, John Howard signed with a prominent speaking agency called the Washington Speakers Bureau, joining Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and others. He will be available for two speeches, Leadership in the New Century and The Global Economic Future.[108] In February 2008, John Howard gave a speech to the Nigerian parliament on how to achieve economic prosperity. [109] In early 2008 it was speculated that Howard could be appointed as a member of the British Order of the Garter,[110] as two of the 24 positions in the Order were vacant. The positions were eventually filled by Lord Luce and Sir Thomas Dunne.[111]

In an address to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC in March 2008, Howard was critical of Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations policy and the withdrawal of troops from the Iraq War, and defended the WorkChoices policy.[112] He also criticised the national apology to the stolen generations.[113][114][115]


Bust of John Howard by political cartoonist, caricaturist and sculptor Peter Nicholson located in the Prime Minister's Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Bust of John Howard by political cartoonist, caricaturist and sculptor Peter Nicholson located in the Prime Minister’s Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

  • Centenary Medal in January 2001
  • The Star of the Solomon Islands together with Helen Clark as Prime Minister of New Zealand on 15 June 2005 for their respective roles in restoring law and order in the Solomon Islands.[116]
  • Irving Kristol Award, the highest award of the American Enterprise Institute, 3 January 2008 [117]
  • Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service in Government, 6 April 2008 [118]

See also

  • First Howard Ministry
  • Second Howard Ministry
  • Third Howard Ministry
  • Fourth Howard Ministry

Further reading

  • Barnett, David; Goward, Pru (1997). John Howard, Prime Minister. Viking. ISBN 0-670-87389-6.
  • Cater, Nick (2006). The Howard Factor. Melbourne University Publishing. ISBN 0-522-85284-X.
  • Errington, Wayne; Van Onselen, Peter (2007). John Winston Howard: The Biography. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 9780522853346
  • Kevin, Tony (2004). A Certain Maritime Incident the sinking of SIEV X. Scribe Publications. ISBN 1-920769-21-8.
  • Kingston, Margo (June 2004). Not Happy, John! defending Australia’s democracy. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-300258-9.
  • Maddox, Marion (February 2005). God Under Howard: The rise of the religious right in Australian politics. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-568-6.
  • Marr, David; Wilkinson, Marian (August 2005). Dark Victory. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-447-7.
  • Wilkie, Andrew (October 2004). Axis of deceit (Black Inc. Agenda). Melbourne: Schwarz Publishing. ISBN 0-9750769-2-2.
  • Howard’s speech to parliament in which he puts forward his claims of threat from Iraq as reasons for Australian support of the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hansard of the Parliament of Australia (2003-02-04). Retrieved on 2006-07-08.
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