(born July 26, 1939, Sydney, N.S.W., Austl.) Prime minister of Australia (1996–2007) and leader of the Liberal Party (1985–89, 1995–2007). Howard became a solicitor to the New South Wales Supreme Court in 1962. In 1974 he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party and served under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as minister for business and consumer affairs (1975–77) and as federal treasurer (1977–83). Howard became leader of the Liberal Party in 1985, but, after failing to unseat the Labor Party in 1987, he was defeated in his bid to retain leadership in 1989. He regained power in 1995 and engineered the defeat of Labor in the elections of March 1996. He was reelected in 1998, 2001, and 2004. In the 2007 general election, the Liberal Party was defeated by Labor, and Howard lost his seat in Parliament. Shortly thereafter, he stepped down as party leader.
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John Winston Howard AC (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.
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. Major issues for the Howard Government were taxation, industrial relations, immigration, the Iraq war, and aboriginal relations.
Howard was defeated at the 2007 election by Labor's Maxine McKew, making him the second Australian Prime Minister, after Stanley Bruce in 1929, to lose his own seat. The Coalition also lost government at the same election to the Australian Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd.
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. Lyall Howard was an admirer of Winston Churchill, and a sympathiser with the New Guard.
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. Lyall Howard died in 1955 when John was sixteen, leaving his mother to take care of John (or "Jack" as he was also known).
Howard suffered a hearing impairment in his youth, leaving him with a slight speech impediment. 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.
Howard attended the publicly funded state schools Earlwood Primary School and Canterbury Boys' High School. 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. 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. After gaining his Leaving Certificate, he studied law at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1961, and subsequently practising as a solicitor for twelve years.
Howard married fellow Liberal Party member Janette Parker in 1971, with whom he had three children: Melanie (1974), Tim (1977) and Richard (1980).
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. Howard and his mother subsequently returned to Earlwood, moving to a house on the same street where he grew up.
In December 1977, at the age of 38, Howard was appointed Treasurer, for which he became known as "the boy Treasurer". In this role, he was a strong adherent of monetarism, and 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 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."
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 mortgage rates were capped at 13.5%, and inflation peaked at 12.5% in September 1982. 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."
Howard came to be known as an economic liberal in his own words, an "economic radical" yet an avowed social conservative. 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". 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. Howard's comments that same month about Asian immigration led to controversy and divisions within the Liberal Party:
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: Steele Hall, Ian Macphee and Philip Ruddock. Two others, Ian Wilson and Michael MacKellar abstained from the vote. In the Senate, Peter Baume also crossed the floor.
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." He rejected the idea of an Aboriginal treaty as "repugnant to the ideals of One Australia" 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."
Dissent within the Liberal Party over Asian immigration was believed by some political commentators to have weakened Howard's leadership. In February 1989, John Elliott approached Andrew Peacock and encouraged Peacock to launch a leadership challenge against Howard. In May 1989, Peacock launched a surprise leadership coup, ousting Howard as Liberal leader. When asked that day whether he could become Liberal leader again, Howard famously likened it to "Lazarus with a triple bypass".
The loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Peacock deeply affected Howard, who admitted he would occasionally drink too much. After time on the backbench, Howard returned to the Coalition front bench. Following the Coalition's 1990 election loss, Peacock was replaced with former Howard staffer Dr. John Hewson.
Howard was a 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.
Following Howard's election to Opposition Leader, the Coalition opened a large lead over Labor in most opinion polls, and Howard overtook Keating as preferred Prime Minister. Referring to the failed John Hewson proposal for a Goods and Services Tax (GST), Howard said:
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.
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.
Throughout 2002 and 2003 he kept his lead in the opinion polls over Labor leader, Simon Crean.
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.
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.
On 21 December 2004, Howard became the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies. The new Senate came into effect on 1 July 2005, giving a government control of both houses for the first time since the Fraser government.
Howard chaired APEC Australia 2007, culminating in the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Sydney during September. The meeting was at times overshadowed by leadership speculation following further poor poll results and public criticism of security arrangements.
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.
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. 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..
In the lead up to the Federal election, Howard came under increasing criticism over growing inflationary, skills and productivity pressures in the national economy. His opponent Kevin Rudd contended during their leadership debate that Howard had no plan to deal with these pressures and would not be able to handle future interest rate rises.
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.
In response to the Australian participation in the invasion, there were large-scale protests in Australian cities during March 2003, and Prime Minister Howard was repeatedly heckled from the public gallery of Parliament House. Opinion polls showed that opposition to the war without UN backing was as high as 92 per cent in January 2003 (before the invasion) but this opposition dropped to 48 per cent in the week following the invasion. In September 2003, after it was discovered that the Iraqi government did not own weapons of mass destruction, 70% of Australians believed John Howard misled them on his case for war in Iraq, although two thirds of that 70% believed he did so unintentionally. Howard remained preferred prime-minister compared with the then leader of the opposition, Simon Crean, and Howard's approval rating had dropped only slightly since January and was at 59%.
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. However, 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." 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 living former Prime Minister who declined to attend.
In 2005, the Howard Government abolished the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the only federal body charged with formally representing indigenous Australians. This was done in response to concerns that its organisational structure was conducive to corrupt behaviour by its officers.
In August 2007, the Howard government announced the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. This package of revisions to welfare provisions, law enforcement and other measures was advanced as a plan for addressing child abuse in Aboriginal Northern Territory communities that had been highlighted in the June 2007 "Little Children are Sacred" report. The plan was criticized by the report's authors for not incorporating any of the report's numerous recommendations. Some aboriginal activists such as Noel Pearson provided qualified support for the intervention. 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.
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; and there were calls for Costello to either challenge or quit.
After losing government and his seat, John Howard anointed Costello as his successor. Costello however refused to accept the role of leader of the opposition, and Brendan Nelson was elected as leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party.
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". 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 was still featured in Nine's debate coverage. Commentators widely reported Rudd as the victor in the debate.
In the 24 November election, Howard and his Coalition government were soundly 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. 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." On 1 December, McKew claimed victory. Counting was incomplete at the time, with several postal and absentee ballots still outstanding. However, it was expected that Howard would not win enough of them to retain his seat.
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 later that day. The final tally showed that Howard lost on the 14th count due to a large flow of Green preferences to McKew. He had been ahead by thin margins for most of the night, never leading by more than 0.2 percentage points. Four other members of Howard's Cabinet were defeated.
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. He remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister until the formal swearing in of Rudd's government on 3 December. Howard is the second Australian Prime Minister, after Stanley Bruce, to lose his seat in an election.
Federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane said "it was the failure of Kim Beazley's leadership that had masked voter concerns about Howard". Media analysis of The Australian Election Study, a postal survey of 1873 voters during the 2007 poll, found that although respondents respected Howard and thought he had won the 6-week election campaign, Howard was considered "at odds with public opinion on cut-through issues", his opponent had achieved the highest "likeability" rating in the survey's 20-year history, and a majority had decided their voting intention prior to the election campaign.