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John Winston Howard (born July 26 1939), is an Australian politician and the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, coming to office on March 11, 1996 and winning re-election in 1998, 2001 and 2004. He is Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister, after his reputed political hero, Robert Menzies.
Howard became leader of the Liberal Party in January 1995, after having previously led the Liberal Party from 1985 to 1989. His victory in the 9 October 2004 federal election gave him a fourth term of office, with control of both houses of the Parliament, and made him the most successful Australian politician of recent times.
John Howard grew up in Earlwood, a middle-class suburb of Sydney. His father, Lyell Howard, ran a petrol station and mechanical workshop in Dulwich Hill, a suburb near Earlwood. Lyell Howard died while John Howard was a teenager, leaving his mother to take care of the three sons. John Howard attended Canterbury Boys' High School and went on to study law at the University of Sydney. In 1971 Howard married Janette Parker, with whom he had three children. Janette Howard has kept a low profile during Howard's prime ministership, a stance partly enforced by health problems, but she is reputed to be a shrewd and influential adviser behind the scenes.
After practising for some years as a solicitor and simultaneously holding office in the New South Wales Liberal Party, Howard was elected to the House of Representatives as MP for the Sydney suburban seat of Bennelong in May 1974. When the Fraser government came to power in December 1975, he was appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and in December 1977 he was appointed Treasurer at the age of 38: he was known as "the boy Treasurer." In April 1982 he was elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.
During his period as Treasurer Howard became a staunch adherent of the "dry" or "economic rationalist" theories associated with Margaret Thatcher, which derived ultimately from Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economists. Like Thatcher, he adopted the fiscal policies of neoliberalism without the more libertarian perspectives of the Chicago school on social issues. He favoured cuts to personal income tax and business tax, lower government spending, the dismantling of the centralised wage-fixing system, the abolition of compulsory unionism and privatising government-owned enterprises. These conservative views have dominated his subsequent career. He became frustrated that the more liberal and pragmatic Fraser -- who in fact had more in common with Menzies politically than does Howard -- would not embark on these radical steps. In 1982 he nearly resigned in protest at Fraser's big-spending pre-election budget.
Success, failure, success
After the Labor Party under Bob Hawke won government in 1983, Howard was strongly attacked by the Hawke government for allegedly concealing the size of the budget deficit that the incoming ALP inherited from the Fraser administration. Howard contested the Liberal leadership but was defeated by Andrew Peacock, and he became Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Peacock was defeated by Hawke at the 1984 election and, despite a better than expected performance during that election (most commentators believed that Peacock would lose in a landslide — he actually picked up seats), he began to worry that Howard was a potential leadership challenger. In May 1985 the insecure Peacock tried to remove Howard from the Deputy Leadership position, expecting him to challenge for the Leadership. The plan backfired when Howard merely stood again for the deputy's position, and won it. This put Peacock in an untenable position, and he resigned, leaving Howard to take the leadership uncontested.
Howard described himself as "the most conservative leader the Liberals have ever had," and said that "the times will suit me." During 1985 and 1986, with unemployment rising and the economy stagnant, Howard appeared to be making ground on the government. But his dour and humourless style was no match for the charismatic Hawke and his flamboyant Treasurer, Paul Keating. Howard's chances of winning the 1987 election were destroyed when the arch-conservative Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, launched a populist "Joh for Canberra" campaign. Hawke won the 1987 election comfortably.
In 1988 Howard's position was weakened by controversy following a speech in which he claimed that Australia was taking "too many" Asian immigrants. The Liberal Party has traditionally been unforgiving of failed leaders, and in May 1989 Peacock launched a surprise leadership coup against Howard. Although Howard remained on the Liberal frontbench, his leadership career seemed to be over, particularly when Peacock lost the 1990 elections and the Liberals turned to a new, younger leader, Dr John Hewson. When asked about the chances of his making a political comeback, he compared it to "Lazarus with a triple bypass".
Howard was an enthusiastic supporter of Hewson's economic program, with the Goods and Services Tax (Australia) or GST as its centrepiece. But when Hewson lost what was said to be the "unloseable" 1993 election to Keating, Howard was again passed over for the leadership, which in 1994 went to Alexander Downer. If Downer had succeeded in the job, Howard would never have become Prime Minister. But Downer failed to make any dent in Keating's dominance, and in January 1995 he resigned. With the Deputy Liberal leader Peter Costello unwilling to step up to the leadership, the Liberals, having no-one else to turn to, recalled Howard, who became leader for the second time.
As opposition leader Howard avoided overt ideology and promised that he would "never, ever" introduce a GST. The Liberals released many policies which moderated Hewson's previous platform, promising not to cut social welfare and to maintain environmental protection measures. Howard campaigned effectively against Keating's "arrogance" and the "elitist" nature of his "big picture" politics. Howard won many working-class and country town voters (the "Howard battlers") away from Labor with this kind of rhetoric, although it also encouraged some extremists such as Pauline Hanson onto the Liberal bandwagon. At the March 1996 election Howard had a sweeping victory over Keating and became Prime Minister, aged 56.
Howard as Prime Minister
First term: 1996–1998
Howard's first success in office occurred after the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, when he responded to public outcry by persuading the state governments to effectively prohibit the ownership of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Many of his own conservative supporters opposed these measures. A national buy-back scheme somewhat reduced the political damage which Howard might otherwise have suffered among (predominantly Coalition-voting) gun owners.
Howard and his cabinet used an apparent budget shortfall, for which they blamed the previous government, as the justification for implementing a series of massive cuts to education, health and social services funding. This violated (or appeared to violate) many of the pre-election pledges he had made. When the press accused him of having lied, he stated that some of these had been "core" promises. "Non-core" promises would not necessarily be honoured immediately (or at all). In following years, when the budget surplus re-appeared, the money was applied to other purposes, such as a private health insurance rebate, or income tax cuts for people on high salaries.
The Howard government did not have a majority in the Senate: the Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens together had a Senate majority. The Senate blocked or delayed much of the Government's legislation, including the partial privatisation of the state-owned telephone company Telstra, increases in university fees, large funding cuts in the 1996 and 1997 budgets, a 30% private health insurance rebate, and the extinguishment of native title on pastoral leases (following the High Court's Wik decision).
In 1997 Howard's conservative views on drugs and his government's strong adherence to the restrictive drug regime enforced by the United States government led to him intervening to stop the planned trial of an innovative heroin program in the Australian Capital Territory. The trial was strongly advocated by reformist ACT Chief Minister Kate Carnell, a former pharmacist. She sought to introduce a European-style system in which heroin addicts would be licenced and supplied with safe, medical-grade heroin and provided with safe injecting facilities. Howard's blocking of the heroin trial, which had been approved by all state Health Minsters, led to strong criticism from drug reform advocates.
Howard also had problems with conflicts of interest in his own government. He had tried to achieve a "clean governance" image by setting a strict ministerial code of conduct at the start of his term. This backfired, when a succession of five of his ministers (Jim Short , Geoff Prosser, John Sharp , David Jull and Peter McGauran) resigned following breaches of the code. Another two ministers (John Moore and Warwick Parer ) were saved because Howard stopped enforcing the code of conduct.
The 1998 election campaign was dominated by two issues. One was reform of the tax system, including a goods and services tax (a broad-based value-added tax); the other was the rise of One Nation, a right-wing party led by Pauline Hanson and widely perceived as racist or xenophobic. The environmental movement also ran a high-profile campaign against the government's support for the Jabiluka uranium mine.
Howard's public image in 1998 was relatively poor. Nevertheless the Liberal-National Coalition won the November 1998 election, despite losing 49% to 51% in the two-party preferred vote. Labor leader Kim Beazley won a majority of the national two-party vote, but the Liberals ran a more effective campaign in marginal electorates, aided by new campaigning techniques borrowed from the US Republican Party. Although One Nation polled strongly, they did not win any seats in the House of Representatives, and their second preferences mostly returned to government candidates.
Second term: 1998–2001
Despite Howard's essentially domestic focus, external issues intruded significantly into Howard's second term. The first occurred in 1998 and 1999 with events in East Timor. Following the referendum in which the people of East Timor voted for independence, Australia contributed a significant peacekeeping/policing force to protect the inhabitants against pro-Indonesian militias.
Another major issue during Howard's second term was the implementation of the GST on most items except fresh food. This raised major concerns among many small businesses, who were not fully equipped to handle the accounting requirements of the new tax, which effectively off-loaded much of the day-to-day work of taxation accounting from the Taxation Department to individual business people. However, the existing wholesale sales tax was removed, and the introduction of the GST was intended to introduce taxation reform. Howard was able to pass the GST legislation through the Senate after making a controversial deal with Senator Meg Lees , leader of the Australian Democrats, who at that time held the balance of power in the Senate.
During 2001 the Howard government seemed headed for certain defeat. The GST was proving unpopular and other economic issues were working against the government. In a leaked memo, the federal president of the Liberal Party said that Howard had a public image of deviousness and dishonesty. The government lost a by-election in the normally safe electorate of Ryan in Queensland, and Labor governments were elected in all the states and territories. In response to the declining position at this time a number of policy changes were made, including the abandonment of petrol excise indexation and increased government benefits to self-funded retirees.
A major change in Howard's political fortunes occurred in August and September 2001, when 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. The government's action was popular with many Australians who were hostile to illegal immigration and to what they saw as abuse of Australia's refugee program by "bogus" asylum-seekers. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, hostility towards asylum-seekers from Islamic countries increased, an a climate of domestic insecurity contributed to a rally of support for incumbent governments in Australia.
The government introduced tough "border protection" legislation, some elements of which (though not the whole bill) were opposed by Labor in the Parliament. Howard then effectively used this as a "wedge issue" to portray Labor as "weak on national security". Beazley and the Labor Party found themselves in a difficult political position. An electorally significant fraction of the ALP's working-class voters backed the Howard line on illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers, while the party's middle-class supporters were overwhelmingly opposed to it. At the November 2001 elections the Coalition was re-elected, with a more comfortable majority than in 1998.
Third term: 2001–2004
In the two years after the 2001 election the Howard government continued its policies of taking a 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 still did not have a Senate majority, and its ability to pass planned legislation was restricted.
Howard's reputation was damaged in what became known as the Children overboard affair, when it was demonstrated that one of his claims during the asylum-seeker debate, that asylum-seekers has "thrown their children overboard" in order to force the government to allow them to land in Australia, was untrue, and that the Defence Minister at the time, Peter Reith, had known this. Howard also faced a difficult issue in the allegations that Howard's choice as Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth, in his previous job as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, had refused to investigate Anglican priests accused of paedophilia in various churches: eventually Hollingworth was forced to resign amidst a storm of controversy that threatened to damage the credibility of his office.
John Howard was also criticised over his refusal to defend High Court Judge Michael Kirby against accusations of sexual misconduct from a Liberal Senator, Bill Heffernan (accusations shown to be unfounded), and over his statements of opposition to same-sex marriage: in 2004 he attempted to overturn a law in the Australian Capital Territory which would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.
In 2003 Howard was accused of having misled Parliament in September 2002, when he had been asked whether any communication had occurred between the government and any representative of ethanol producers prior to a granting Manildra with $20 million a year in subsidies to produce ethanol. Howard denied that any communication had taken place but it was subsequently revealed that he had met with Dick Honan, the chairman of the Manildra on the 1st of August, 2002.
So long as the issues of terrorism and national security were uppermost in the minds of voters, Howard retained a clear political advantage over his opponents, and 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 sent troops and naval units to support the United States and Britain in the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Howard spoke strongly about the need to rid Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction  which he maintained Saddam's regime possessed. Australian opinion was deeply divided on the war and large public protests occurred.  Several senior figures from the Liberal party, including former president of the Liberal Party and Howard's former friend and collegue,  John Valder, former opposition leader John Hewson  and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser  publicly criticised Howard over Iraq. John Valder's criticism was particularly strong, claiming that Howard should be tried and punished as a war criminal . Howard's credibility was damaged in the eyes of some when by the end of 2003 no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq. Despite these controversies, Howard maintained strong support from large sections of the population. No Australian military casualties occurred and many believed that Saddam's removal meant the war was vindicated overall.
During 2003-04 the Howard government was criticised for its alleged politicisation of the military and the public service, and for allegedly misleading Parliament over the war in Iraq. These criticisms came from figures such as former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and political commentator Robert Manne, as well as from within the intelligence community, the military, and the public service. On Anzac Day 2004 Howard made a visit to Australian defence personnel in Iraq. This came amid a bitter debate in Australia over the war following Latham's promise to return Australian troops by Christmas.
On 18 May, 2004, Howard marked the 30th anniversary of his election to the House of Representatives. At a function in Melbourne, leading Liberals paid tribute to his leadership and his tenacity and persistence over his long political career. The anniversary also served, however, to remind voters that Howard had been in politics a very long time, and some commentators said it would help foster a "time for a change" mood in the electorate. The government's 2004–05 budget contained increased family payments and tax cuts for middle income earners, and contributed to a recovery by the government in the opinion polls. Howard also successfully exploited what he called Latham's indecisiveness over withdrawing Australian forces from Iraq, portraying this as a threat to the U.S.-Australia alliance.
Fourth term: 2004–present
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 lead in some opinion polls by March 2004 and the Liberal / National Coalition, led by Howard, entered the election campaign behind Labor in all the 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, claiming that election of a Labor government would lead to higher interest rates. In the closing period of the election campaign, Howard unveiled a large spending program on health, education, small business and family payments with the aim of trumping Latham's policy strengths. It was generally agreed by media and political commentators that Latham had the better of Howard in the sole debate during the campaign, and some opinion polls continued to suggest a very close race until the last days of the campaign. However, Howard's emphasis on economic management issues, particularly interest rates, combined with his flood of spending promises on a wide range of social issues, gave the Coalition the edge in the outer suburban and regional marginal seats in which all Australian elections are decided.
In the closing days of the campaign and the aftermath of the terrorist bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta , Howard and Downer indicated that the government would be willing to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorist training camps in the Asia-Pacific region if they considered them a threat to national security. This engendered hostile reactions from the Opposition and several governments in the region.
The likelihood that he would soon retire in favour of his deputy, Peter Costello, immediately receded and the new situation in the Senate, which comes into effect in July 2005, will give the government the opportunity to pass all the legislation which had previously been blocked in the upper house including:
- Full privatisation of the 50.1% state-owned telecommunications company Telstra;
- Changes to industrial relations laws to exempt small businesses from unfair dismissal legislation; increase individual employment contracts; weaken the power of the trade unions and attempt to co-opt state industrial relations regimes;
- Revising media ownership laws so as to remove restrictions on media companies having control over multiple different media;
- In universities, the implementation of Voluntary Student Unionism and the reduction of the power of tertiary staff unions in negotiating employment conditions;
On the December 21, 2004 Howard became Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister having succesfully led the government against four Labor opposition leaders.
The Government response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was widely acclaimed in Australia and abroad, not least by the Opposition shadow foreign affairs spokesperson, Kevin Rudd, who said that an Australian Labor Party government could not have done more. (Labor leader, Mark Latham, remained silent while ill and on holidays.) Howard is also credited with suggesting the national day of mourning commemorations on 16 January 2005 with people using a sprig of Wattle for remembrance of those who died or were dispossessed.
On February 22, 2005 Howard announced that Australia would increase its military commitment to Iraq  with an additional 450 troops although he had made firm assurances before the election five months earlier that no such increases would occur.  On April 14, shortly after the Labor party had made much in the Reserve Bank of Australia's move to raise interest rates, another firm pre-election assurance was broken when it was announced that the Medicare saftey net policy presented to the electorate prior to the election, and statements by the Health Minister Tony Abbott that the policy was "an absolutely rock solid, iron-clad commitment", would now be adjusted to provide less benefits. Abbott faced pressure from the Opposition to resign, which he resisted.
- List of national leaders
- First Howard Ministry
- Second Howard Ministry
- Third Howard Ministry
- Fourth Howard Ministry
- David Barnett and Pru Goward , John Howard, Prime Minister, Viking, 1997
- Tony Kevin A Certain Maritime Incident the sinking of SIEV X, Scribe Publications, 2004. ISBN 1920769218.
- Margo Kingston Not Happy, John! defending Australia's democracy, Penguin, June 2004. ISBN 0143002589.
- Marion Maddox God Under Howard: The rise of the religious right in Australian politics, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, February 2005. ISBN 1741145686.
- David Marr & Marian Wilkinson Dark Victory. ISBN 0143002589
- Andrew Wilkie, Axis of deceit, Schwarz Publishing, Melbourne, 2004. In series Black Inc. Agenda. ISBN 09750769-2-2 ("the story of the intelligence officer who risked all to tell the truth about WMD and Iraq": cover)
- John Howard - Australia's Prime Ministers / National Archives of Australia
- Prime Minister of Australia | John Howard - official website
- John Howard Lies - Website listing alleged lies told by John Howard
- Hansard, 2003-02-04 : Howard's speech to parliament in which he puts forward his claims of imminent threat from Iraq as reasons for Australian support of the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003.
- Margo Kingston (2003-08-12 ), Howard meets Honan: You be the judge whether he lied about it, Sydney Morning Herald (Contains extract from Parliamentary transcripts of denial statements)
- Mark Riley (2003-08-14 ), Ethanol uproar engulfs Howard, Sydney Morning Herald
- Record of Meeting: Manildra Group, 2003-08-01 , Sydney Morning Herald
- Editorial (2003-08-14 ), PM has misled Parliament, Sydney Morning Herald
|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Andrew Peacock | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
1985–1989 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
|- style="text-align: center;"
| width="30%" |Preceded by:
Alexander Downer | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
1995–present | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
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