John Winston Howard, OM, AC, SSI, (born 26 July 1939) was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies.
Howard was a member of the House of Representatives from 1974 to 2007, representing the Division of Bennelong, New South Wales. He served as Treasurer in the Fraser government of from 1977 to 1983. He was Leader of the Liberal Party and Coalition Opposition from 1985 to 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. The Howard Government was re-elected at the 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections, presiding over a period of strong economic growth and prosperity. Major issues for the Howard Government included taxation, industrial relations, immigration, the Iraq war, and Aboriginal relations. Howard's coalition government was defeated at the 2007 election by the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd. Howard also lost his own parliamentary seat at the election; he was the second Australian Prime Minister, afterStanley Bruce in 1929, to do so.
John Howard is the fourth son of Mona (née Kell) and Lyall Howard. 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 in a Methodist family. 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,and he continues to wear a hearing aid. 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 ascricket and rugby. Cricket remained a lifelong hobby. 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).
Early political career
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. 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".
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 ALP member Reg Coady. 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 narrowly lost to Coady, despite campaigning vigorously. Howard and his mother subsequently returned to Earlwood, moving to a house on the same street where he grew up.
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 during the Gough Whitlam-led Labor Government. Howard backed Malcolm Fraser for the leadership of the Liberal Party against Billy Snedden following the 1974 election. When Fraser won office in December 1975, Howard was appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, a position in which he served until 1977. At this stage, he followed theprotectionist and pro-regulation stance of Fraser and the Liberal Party.
Federal Treasurer (1977–1983)
In December 1977, at the age of 38, Howard was appointed Treasurer. During his five years in the position, he became an adherent of free-market economics, which was challenging economic orthodoxies in place for most of the century. He came to favour tax reform including broad-based taxation (later the GST), a freer industrial system including the dismantling of the centralised wage-fixing system, the abolition of compulsory trade unionism, privatisation and deregulation.
In 1978, the Fraser government instigated a committee of inquiry, the Campbell Committee, to investigate financial system reforms. The impetus for the commission came, not from Howard, but from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Howard supported the Campbell report, but adopted an incremental approach with Cabinet, as there was wide opposition to deregulation within the government and the treasury. The process of reform began before the committee reported 2½ 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 1981 he proposed a broad-based indirect tax with compensatory cuts in personal rates; however, cabinet rejected it citing both inflationary and political reasons. After the free-marketeers or "drys" of the Liberals challenged the protectionist policies of Minister for Industry and Commerce Phillip Lynch, they shifted their loyalties to Howard. Following an unsuccessful leadership challenge by Andrew Peacock to unseat Fraser as prime minister, Howard was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Party in April 1982. His election depended largely on the support of the "drys", and he became the champion of the growing free-market lobby in the party.
Fraser's negotiations with the ACTU saw him lose control of a wages explosion in 1982 just as the mining boom had ended. The economic crises of the early 1980s brought Howard into conflict with the economically conservative Fraser. As the economy headed towards the worst recession since the 1930s, Keynesian Fraser pushed an expansionary fiscal position much to Howard's and Treasury's horror. With his authority as treasurer being flouted, Howard considered resigning in July 1982, but, after discussions with his wife and senior advisor John Hewson (Liberal Party leader himself from 1990 to 1994), he decided to "tough it out". The 1982 wages explosion—wages rose 16 per cent across the country—resulted in stagflation; unemployment touched double-digits and inflation peaked at 12.5% (official interest rates peaked at 21%).
The Fraser Government with Howard as Treasurer lost the 1983 election to the Labor Party led by Bob Hawke. Over the course of the 1980s, the Liberal party came to accept the free-market policies that Fraser had resisted and Howard had espoused; namely low protection, decentralisation of wage fixation, financial deregulation, a broadly-based indirect tax, and the rejection of counter-cyclical fiscal policy.
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 and the Liberal Party were defeated by Hawke and Labor at the1984 election. In 1985, as Labor's position in opinion polls improved, Peacock's popularity sank, and Howard's profile rose, leadership speculation persisted. Peacock said he would no longer accept Howard as deputy unless he offered assurances that he would not challenge for the leadership. Following Howard's refusal to offer such an assurance, Peacock sought, in September 1985, to replace him with John Moore as Deputy Leader. The party room re-elected Howard as Deputy on 5 September (38 votes to 31), and, believing his position untenable, Peacock immediately resigned the leadership. With Peacock not contesting the ensuing Liberal Party leadership ballot, Howard defeated Jim Carlton 57 votes to 6, and became Leader of the Opposition.
- Leader of the opposition and new economic policy
Howard was in effect the Liberal party's first pro-market leader in the conservative coalition and spent the next two years working to revise Liberal policy away from that of Fraser's. In his own words he was an "economic radical" and a social conservative. Referring to the pro-market liberalism of the 1980s, Howard, famously said in July 1986 that "The times will suit me". That year the economy was seen to be in crisis with a 40% devaluation of the Australian dollar, a marked increase in the current account deficit and the loss of the Federal Government's triple A rating. In response to the economic circumstances, Howard persistently attacked the Labor government and offered his free-market reform agenda. Despite the economic news, support for the Labor Party and Hawke strengthened in 1985 and 1986. Howard's approval ratings dropped in the face of infighting between Howard and Peacock supporters, a "public manifestation of disunity" over policy positions, and questions over Howard's leadership.
To capitalise on Coalition disunity, Hawke called the 1987 election six months early. In addition to the Howard–Peacock rivalry, Queensland National Party criticism of the federal Liberal and National leadership led to a split in the Coalition whereby Nationals ran against Liberals, and culminated in the "Joh for Canberra" campaign. Keating successfully campaigned against John Howard's proposed tax changes forcing Howard to admit a double-counting in the proposal, and emphasising to the electorate that the package would mean at that stage undisclosed cuts to government services. The Hawke Government was re-elected with an increased majority.
- Howard's social agenda
In his social agenda, Howard promoted the traditional family and was antipathetic to the promotion of multiculturalism at the expense of a shared Australian identity. The immigration policy, One Australia, outlined a vision of "one nation and one future" and opposed multiculturalism. In a radio interview discussing multiculturalism Howard suggested that to support "social cohesion" the rate of Asian immigration be "slowed down a little". The comments divided opinion within the Coalition, and undermined Howard's standing amongst Liberal party figures including federal and state Ministers, intellectual opinion makers, business leaders, and within the Asia Pacific. Prime Minister Hawke moved a motion to affirm that race or ethnicity would not be used as immigrant selection criteria to which three Liberal MPs crossed the floor and two abstained. Many Liberals later nominated the issue as instrumental in Howard subsequently losing the leadership in 1989.
In line with "One Australia's" rejection of Aboriginal land rights, Howard said the idea of an Aboriginal treaty was "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."
- Loss of the leadership
As the country's economic position worsened in 1989, public opinion moved away from Labor, but Howard was unable to translate this into a firm opinion poll lead for himself and the Coalition. In February, Liberal Party president and prominent businessman, John Elliott, said confidentially to Andrew Peacock that he would support him in a leadership challenge against Howard. Following months of plotting by Elliot, Peacock and supporters, in May a surprise leadership coup was launched, 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. Declining Peacock's offer of Shadow Education, Howard went to the backbench and a new period of party disunity ensued. Howard served as Shadow Minister for Industry, Technology and Communications, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Public Service, Chairman of the Manpower and Labour Market Reform Group, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations and Manager of Opposition Business in the House.
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 aGoods 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. In a 7 January 1995 newspaper article (and in 2002 as Prime Minister), Howard recanted his 1988 remarks on curbing Asian immigration.
- Opposition leader again
In January 1995, leaked internal Liberal Party polling showed that with gaffe-prone Downer as leader, the Coalition had slim chance of holding its marginal seats in the next election, let alone of winning government. Media speculation of a leadership spill ended when, on 26 January 1995, Downer resigned as Liberal Leader and Howard was elected unopposed to replace him. The Coalition subsequently opened a large lead over Labor in most opinion polls, and Howard overtook his old nemesis Paul Keating as preferred Prime Minister.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of 1993, Howard revised his earlier statements against Medicare and Asian immigration, describing Australia as "a unique intersection between Europe, North America and Asia". This allowed Howard to focus on the economy and memory of the early 1990s recession, and on the longevity of the Labor government, which in 1996 had been in power for 13 years.