John Winston Howard, OM AC SSI, (born 26 July 1939) is an Australian politician who served as 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 House of Representatives from 1974 to 2007, representing the Division of Bennelong, New South Wales. He served as Treasurer in the Fraser government 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, after Stanley Bruce in 1929, to do so.
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 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.
In December 1977, at the age of 38, Howard was appointed Treasurer. 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. Policies included low protection, decentralisation of wage fixation, financial deregulation, a broadly-based indirect tax, and the rejection of counter-cyclical fiscal policy.
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 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.
With the support of many traditionally Labor voters—dubbed "Howard battlers"—Howard and the Liberal-National Coalition swept to power on the back of a 29-seat swing. This was the second-worst defeat of an incumbent government since Federation. With a 45-seat majority—the second-biggest majority in Australian history (behind only Fraser's 55-seat majority in 1975)--Howard came into office in a strong position.
By this time, as he put it, he had "very clear views on where I wanted to take the country". At the age of 56, he was sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 March 1996, ending a record 13 years of Coalition opposition. Howard departed from tradition and made his primary residence Kirribilli House in Sydney rather than The Lodge in Canberra.
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 – and was even described as a "revolutionary" in his opposition to unionism. 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. Howard chaired APEC Australia 2007, culminating in the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Sydney during September.
The meeting was at times overshadowed by further leadership speculation following continued poor poll results.
In January 2008, 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.
The Australian and New Zealand cricket boards jointly nominated Howard as their candidate for president of the International Cricket Council. However, his nomination was rejected by the ICC's executive board in Singapore after members from six countries signalled their intention to block the appointment. Howard is currently the chairman of the International Democrat Union, a body of international conservative political parties, and in 2008 was appointed a Director of the Foundation established to preserve the legacy of Donald Bradman.
As a result of an anaphylactic reaction to an anaesthetic used during dental surgery, Howard was rushed to hospital in 2009 and spent two nights under observation in the hospital before being released. Howard's autobiography Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography was released on 26 October 2010.
September 17, 2010