|Appointed PM:||March 11, 1996|
|Date of Birth:||July 26, 1939|
|Place of Birth:||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
|Political Party:||Liberal Party of Australia|
John Winston Howard (born July 26, 1939) is the current (twenty-fifth) Prime Minister of Australia. He came to power on March 11, 1996. He is the leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, which is in a Coalition government with the National Party of Australia.
John Howard is one of the longest serving members of Australia's lower house of Federal Parliament (the House of Representatives) with his Minister for Immigration Phillip Ruddock being the longest and current holder of the title "Father of the House".
John Howard was elected to the inner-suburban Sydney electoral seat of Bennelong in the election of 1974. He served as a minister from the commencement of the Fraser government, and as Treasurer from 1977-1983. After the Australian Labor Party (ALP) won government in 1983, he became Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but in 1985 successfully challenged Andrew Peacock[?] for the leadership of the Liberal party (and thus the title of Opposition Leader). Howard lead the Liberals unsuccessfuly at the 1987 election (see also Joh Bjelke-Petersen[?]). His position was weakened by a speech in which he claimed that Australia was taking "too many" Asian immigrants, and in 1989 Peacock replaced him. Finally, Howard returned to the Liberal Party leadership in 1995 and won the subsequent 1996, 1998 and 2001 elections.
1996 election. Although the Liberals had once been the "natural party of governance" in Australia, ruling for all but three years from 1949-1983, they had at that point lost five successive elections. When Howard regained the helm in 1995, he was their third leader in two years.
The strategy for the 1996 election was to moderate the harsh image which had harmed the Liberals at the previous (1993) election. They released policies and pledges which were significanctly more environment- and welfare- friendly than their previous election platforms. The incumbent Prime Minister Paul Keating, was perceived as lacking empathy with the broader public with his intellectualised "big-picture" approach to politics and combination of harsh political tactics and perceived elitist tastes.
Although pre-election polls were read by many as showing a tight race, in part based on comparisons with a previous election won by the Australian Labor Party, the combination of a more centrist policy platform and Keating's personal unpopularity, gave Howard an unexpectedly strong victory.
Key events in John Howard's first term included:
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.
The Liberal-National Coalition won the election, despite losing 49% to 51% in the two-party prefered vote. This result may have occurred because they raised approximately twice as much money as the ALP, and ran a more effective campaign in marginal electorates[?] ([confirm?] the Liberals had databases on the opinions of most voters in marginal seats, the ALP did not?).
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, where Australia led pressure on Indonesia to uphold that country's offer to East Timor of a referendum on independence, and later contributed a significant peacekeeping/policing force to protect the inhabitants against pro-Indonesian militias. Most Australians and the rest of the Western world viewed this as a moral, principled stand, but it came at the cost of antagonising Indonesia and was probably the main factor in the fall of the Habibe government there. In doing so, Howard reversed a decades-old bi-partisan foreign policy of appeasement towards Indonesia which had been largely created by the Australian Labor Party and followed by governments of both persuasions until Howard.
Another major issue during Howard's second term was the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax [expand].
In late 2001, Howard made a bold move that, some people assert, stretched international law to its limit in a change of policy on asylum-seekers attempting to reach Australia from Indonesia. This involved an incident with the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, requested by an Australian Government agency to rescue a group of asylum seekers, mostly Afghans, whose ship had sunk. Although the Tampa was within Indonesia's "zone of responsibility" for sea rescue, as agreed in 1990 between Indonesia and Australia, some of the asylum seekers threatened the captain that they would harm themselves if he took them back to Indonesia (and, by some reports, they threatened the ship). The captain decided to head for the nearest port, Christmas Island, on Australian territory, despite the fact that the ship was refused permission to enter Australian waters. An extraordinary standoff developed with the Tampa holding off-shore from that island for some days. The situation was eventually broken when Australian Special Air Service (SAS) officers (on Howard's orders) forcibly took control of the ship. The captain of the Tampa, Arne Rinnan, was later to say in a Norwegian documentary: "We asked for doctors, and they sent us commandos." The people on the MV Tampa were transferred to an Australian troop ship, the HMAS Manoohra, and then taken to the tiny Pacific Island of Nauru, with some being taken by New Zealand. This action without recent precedent was hugely popular in Australia, where distrust of asylum-seekers from Asian countries was already high, and increased with the 11th of September terrorist attacks in New York (which occurred only days after the Tampa incident). However, it is viewed by a minority of Australians and some liberal writers around the world as immoral and legally dubious.
The Australian Labor Party, the government parties' chief political opponent, found during the "Tampa Incident" that many of its working class voter core also backed the Howard line on illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers. The party was split between its left wing which supported the old policy and its right which favoured supporting the new one devised by Howard. This split (and the fact that a mood of insecurity naturally favours conservative governments) contributed to the Liberal Party's re-election in 2001.
[ Is it worth mentioning a few scandals relating to paedophilia in various churches, or moments of doubt about stem cell research and joining the ICC? ]
As the self-proclaimed "most conservative leader the Liberal Party has ever had", Howard's political vision combines a laissez-faire economic policy with generally conservative social views. His government has emphasised a tight rein on many aspects of government spending and tight restrictions on welfare, examples of which include:
Later, Howard's Government was pressured but refused to adopt mandatory sentencing laws inspired by California's "three strikes" laws, despite heavy pressure to do so from outside his party and within it. The Howard government has used its customs powers to prevent state governments from trialling the prescription of heroin by doctors as a treatment for drug addicts.
Howard has expressed opposition to an Australian republic (Australia, although an independent country, remains constitutionally linked to Queen Elizabeth II as 'Queen of Australia'. ) He campaigned against the 1999 Australian republic referendum[?], a campaign in which some republicans blamed Howard for the controversial form of republic put to the electorate, and which the electorate rejected. He has been heavily criticised for his political positions with regard to Australia's indigenous people, and particularly for his refusals to apologise formally for the Stolen Generation or to create a formal treaty with the indigenous population. (A landmark court case in 1992 entitled Mabo ruled that the doctrine of Terra Nullius ("empty land") did not apply to the land of the Meriam[?] people. By precedent, it created a common law doctrine of Native Title, which was soon extended in the Wik Decision).
Previous Australian Prime Minister: Paul Keating
Next Australian Prime Minister: not applicable (John Howard is the current office-holder)