John Howard

Prime Minister of Australia (1996-2007)

Exclusively WSB

The Honourable John Winston Howard served as the 25th prime minister of Australia from March 1996 until November 2007. He has been Australia’s second longest serving prime minister. Howard led the center/right Liberal Party of Australia for a total of 16 years. He was a member of the House of Representatives for 33 years. Prior to becoming prime minister, Howard had extensive senior experience in both government and opposition. He served as treasurer (finance minister) in a previous government and led his party in opposition for a number of years.

A conservative on social policy, Howard pursued broadly pro market economic policies in his time as prime minister. During his period in office, Australia experienced continued economic growth averaging 3.6% per annum.

The federal government budget of Australia was in heavy deficit when Howard’s government came to power. That deficit was eliminated and 10 of the 12 annual budgets produced by the Howard government were in surplus. In that time $96 billion of federal government debt was repaid and the government was free of net debt when Howard’s government left office.

The Howard government undertook major reform of the Australian taxation system, through the introduction of a goods and services tax, accompanied by reductions in personal income tax and corporate tax rates. He also substantially reformed Australia’s labour laws delivering a freer and less regulated labour market. Australia’s unemployment rate had fallen to 3.9%, a 33 year low, by the time Howard left office.

In the field of foreign policy Australia, under Howard’s government, was both a strong and close ally of the United States as well as expanding links with Asian nations. A particular feature of the Howard government’s time in power was the development of the relationship with China, which is now Australia’s largest export market. Under Howard’s leadership Australian forces joined the coalition of the willing in Iraq in March 2003. Australia strongly supported the war against terrorism with her forces continuing to serve alongside American and other coalition forces in Afghanistan. Defense spending under the Howard government grew strongly, by some 47% in real terms between 1996 and 2007.

Howard was in Washington on an official visit at the time of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. He addressed a joint sitting of Congress in 2002. He currently serves as chairman of the International Democratic Union—an international grouping of center/right parties including the Republican Party.

His government undertook major reforms in social policy including measures to move people from welfare payments into paid work, the involvement of faith based and other non-government organizations in the provision of certain welfare services and a strengthening of Australia’s universal Medicare system.

Shortly after Howard came to power he responded to the massacre of 35 people by a lone gunman, at Port Arthur in Tasmania, with the implementation of national gun control laws which drastically curtailed the possession of many firearms.

Howard was born in Sydney, Australia on July 26, 1939, attending school at Earlwood Primary and Canterbury Boys’ High. He went on to the University of Sydney, graduated with a bachelor of laws in 1961 and was admitted as a solicitor of the NSW Supreme Court in July 1962. Prior to his election to Parliament, he was a partner in a Sydney firm of solicitors.

Howard is a keen follower of sports, particularly cricket and rugby. He plays golf regularly.

Howard married his wife Janette, a teacher by profession, on April 4, 1971. They have three children, Melanie, Tim and Richard. Howard and his wife currently live in Sydney.

On June 9, 2008 Mr Howard was appointed a companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

On January 13, 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in Washington. It is America’s highest civilian honour.

On the January 1, 2012 Queen Elizabeth II appointed him as a member of the Order of Merit.

Howard’s autobiography Lazarus Rising was published in October 2010. It has become the best-selling political memoir in Australian history.