John Howard

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John Winston Howard
John Howard

25th Prime Minister of Australia
Assumed office 
11 March 1996
Preceded by Paul Keating
Succeeded by Incumbent

Born 26 July 1939
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Liberal
Spouse Janette Howard
Religion Anglican (Christianity)

John Winston Howard (born 26 July 1939), an Australian politician, is currently the Prime Minister of Australia. He is the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies. He previously served as Treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's government from 1977–1983 and was Leader of the Liberal Party from 1985–1989. Elected again as Leader in 1995, Howard became the 25th Prime Minister of Australia after defeating incumbent Paul Keating in the election of 2 March 1996. His government has been subsequently re-elected in the elections of 1998, 2001 and 2004. After his victory in 2004, his government gained control of both houses of the Parliament from July 2005.

Early life

Howard grew up in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood. His father, Lyell Howard, and his paternal grandfather, Walter Howard, were both veterans of the First AIF in World War I. They later ran a petrol station and mechanical workshop in Dulwich Hill, where John Howard worked as a boy. Lyell Howard died during John's teenage years, leaving his mother to take care of John (or "Jack" as he was known in the family) and his three brothers.

Howard suffered from a hearing impairment in his youth, and this has left him with a slight speech impediment, something that he shares with namesake Winston Churchill.

Howard attended the publicly funded state schools Earlwood Public School and Canterbury Boys' High School. 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. Howard joined the Liberal Party in 1957.

Rising politician

Howard practised for some years as a solicitor and simultaneously held office in the New South Wales Liberal Party on the State Executive and as President of the Young Liberals (1962–64), the party youth organisation.

During this period Howard was (and remains) a supporter of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.

In 1967 he was endorsed as candidate for the suburban state seat of Drummoyne which at the time was held by the ALP. Howard's mother sold the family home in Earlwood and took up residence with him in a house within the electorate. At the election in February 1968, Howard was defeated by the ALP candidate although the incumbent state Liberal government was returned to office for a second term.

Howard continued living at home until 1971 when he married fellow Liberal Party member Janette Parker, with whom he has three children. Although Janette has maintained a low profile during her husband's prime ministership — possibly in part due to health problemsbut also to her own expressed preference —she is widely seen as having a major influence on his decision making.

Howard's next attempt to enter parliament was at a Federal level and was successful. He was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member of Parliament for the Sydney suburban seat of Bennelong at the Federal election in May 1974. When Malcolm Fraser's government came to power in December 1975, Howard was appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and in December 1977 he was appointed Treasurer at the age of 38, for which appointment he became known as "the boy Treasurer". In April 1982 he was elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.

During his period as Treasurer, Howard became a staunch adherent of Thatcherism (usually known as " economic rationalism" in Australia). Like Thatcher, he embraced the fiscal policies of neoliberalism without the more " libertarian" perspectives of the Chicago school on social issues. 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 privatization of government-owned enterprises, views that have dominated his subsequent career. He became frustrated with the more moderate and pragmatic Fraser, who would not embark on these steps. In 1982 Howard nearly resigned in protest at Fraser's big-spending pre-election budget. As Federal Treasurer, John Howard presided over a period of very high interest rates, peaking at 22% on 8 April 1982 (see: RBA: Bulletin Statistical Tables). After the 1983 defeat of the Fraser Government, Howard was attacked by the incoming Hawke government for supposedly lying to Parliament about the size of the budget deficit left by the outgoing Fraser government.

Success, failure, success

Following Fraser's resignation, Howard contested the Liberal leadership, but was defeated by Andrew Peacock. He remained Deputy Leader and became Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Peacock was defeated by Hawke at the 1984 election and although he had lost by less than most commentators expected, Peacock began to worry that Howard was planning to challenge for the leadership. In May 1985 he tried to remove Howard from the Deputy Leadership position, expecting him to challenge for the Leadership. The plan backfired when Howard stood again for the deputy's position, and won. This put Peacock in an untenable position and he resigned, leaving Howard to take the leadership unopposed.

Howard said that "the times will suit me." In addition to his economic views, he became known as a strong social conservative, supporting the nuclear family against the so-called "permissive society", and was also sceptical of the promotion of multiculturalism at the expense of a shared national identity. Howard is strongly opposed to gay marriage, or recognising "watered down" same sex civil unions. In 1985, in an interview he gave with The Age published on July 30, Howard stated that he (like many other conservatives at the time) was opposed to economic sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa.

During 1985 and 1986, with unemployment rising and the economy stagnant, Howard appeared to be making ground on the government. However, Howard's chances of winning the 1987 election were destroyed when the arch-conservative Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, launched a populist " Joh for Canberra" campaign, temporarily splitting and discrediting the conservative forces. Hawke won the 1987 election comfortably.

In 1988, Howard's position was weakened by controversy following a speech in which he claimed that the rate of Asian immigration into Australia was too high. In May 1989 Peacock launched a surprise leadership coup against Howard. After a brief stint on the backbench, Howard returned to the Coalition front bench, but his leadership career seemed to be over, particularly when Peacock lost the 1990 election and the Liberals turned to a new, younger leader, Dr. John Hewson. Howard himself compared the possibility of a political comeback to " Lazarus with a triple bypass".

Howard was an enthusiastic supporter of Hewson's economic program, with a Goods and Services Tax (GST) as its centrepiece. When Hewson lost the "unloseable" 1993 election to Paul Keating, Howard 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. The party's Deputy Leader, Peter Costello was unwilling to step up to the leadership, and Howard became leader for the second time.

As Opposition Leader, Howard adopted a more pragmatic position than he had done during his first term in the leadership. He repudiated his earlier statements against Medicare and in favour of a GST. In a "small target" strategy, he attacked the "arrogance" and the "elitist" nature of Keating's "big picture" politics—issues like foreign relations with Asia, Australian republicanism, multiculturalism and reconciliation with indigenous Australians—which, Howard believed, were irrelevant to ordinary voters.

Howard's principal pollster in each of his successful election campaigns has been Mark Textor.

Prime Minister

The 1996 election campaign

Howard won over many traditional Labor voters, sometimes called the "Howard battlers" (roughly equivalent to the American Reagan Democrats), and scored a sweeping victory at the 1996 elections over Keating to become Prime Minister of Australia at the age of 56.

In the lead up to the 1996 election, Pauline Hanson, the Liberal candidate for Oxley in Queensland was disendorsed because of comments she made to The Queensland Times. Howard was slow to express views on Hanson; his initial public reaction was to comment that he thought it was good that the years of " political correctness" were finally over. Howard's lukewarm response was variously interpreted as either indicating tacit support for Hanson's sentiments, or as a disingenuous attempt to harness their popularity among certain segments of the electorate. Hanson was elected as an independent member and used her first speech to Parliament to attack multiculturalism and reconciliation, alleging that "we are in danger of being swamped by Asians". She later formed the One Nation political party.

First term: 1996–1998

John Howard in the USA in 1997
John Howard in the USA in 1997

Howard and his cabinet immediately announced the previous government had left behind a "budget black hole" that necessitated considerable reduction in almost all areas of government expenditure. Training and education programs developed under the Keating government were scrapped, infrastructure investment was scaled down, funding for indigenous bodies was reduced, and a system of " work for the dole" requiring social security seekers to engage in work was introduced. Prudent economic management remained the government's strongest claim throughout its term, and a prolonged period of economic growth (which some observers have claimed was simply the payoff from Keating's earlier reforms), combined with strong budget surpluses, remain an essential element in its popularity.

In 1996, Australia was stunned when 35 people were killed by Martin Bryant in the Port Arthur massacre. Howard responded by coordinating action by the state governments to heavily restrict the private ownership of semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns. This action and an accompanying "gun buy-back scheme" were popular with the general population but not with predominantly Coalition-voting gun owners.

The Howard government did not have a majority in the Senate, instead facing a situation where legislation had to be negotiated past either the Australian Democrats or the Greens. The Senate blocked or delayed much of the Government's more controversial legislation, including the partial privatisation of the government-owned telecommunications company, Telstra; the modification of industrial relations laws to promulgate individual contracts; increases in university fees; large funding cuts in the 1996 and 1997 budgets; a 30% private health insurance rebate; and the extinguishment of native title on pastoral leases (following the High Court's Wik decision).

Howard had come to office promising to improve standards of integrity among ministers and politicians, introducing a strict "Code of Ministerial Conduct" at the start of his term. The strictness of his code backfired when a succession of seven of his ministers ( Jim Short, Geoff Prosser, John Sharp, David Jull, Brian Gibson, Bob Woods, and Peter McGauran) were required to resign following breaches of the code, concerning a variety of "travel rorts" (misuse of the ministerial travel allowance) and conflicts of interest between ministerial responsibilities and share ownership. Prosser had attempted to use his ministerial office to further his own business interests. Another two ministers ( John Moore and Warwick Parer) were discovered to have breached the code, but at that point Howard opted to ignore it, rather than lose more of his front bench.

The 1998 election campaign

The 1998 election campaign was dominated by two issues. One was reform of the tax system, including the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST; a broad-based value-added tax), which Howard had several years earlier said he would "never, ever" introduce; the other was One Nation.

At the October 1998 election, the Liberal-National Coalition, suffered a large swing, largely driven by a scare campaign against the Goods and Services Tax. Labor leader Kim Beazley won 51% of the national two-party preferred vote, but the Liberals ran an effective marginal electorate campaign and were returned with a comfortable majority in parliament.

Although One Nation had previously surprised commentators with a resounding performance in the Queensland state election, its national campaign was poorly administered and One Nation failed to win any House of Representatives seats. An electoral redistribution had rendered Pauline Hanson's seat of Oxley unwinnable. She stood in neighbouring electorate Blair but was defeated.

Second term: 1998–2001

Despite Howard's essentially domestic focus, external issues intruded significantly into Howard's second term when the people of East Timor voted for independence in a United Nations sponsored referendum. Indonesian militia, covertly backed by Indonesian troops, began a brutal campaign of repression. After enormous public pressure, Howard broke with the previous bi-partisan policy of unquestioning support for Indonesia, and Australia contributed a significant peacekeeping/policing force to protect the inhabitants against pro-Indonesian militias, attracting praise domestically and in several countries, but angering some Indonesians and Islamists.

The other major issue during Howard's second term was the implementation of the GST, replacing a range of taxes on specific goods with a flat rate on almost all goods and services. All GST revenue is distributed to the states. This was intended to give the States responsibility for their own finances and end the annual funding squabble between the States and the Federal Government. The Federal Government continues to determine the share of GST revenue received by each state.

Howard was only able to pass the GST legislation through the Senate after making a deal with Australian Democrats' leader Senator Meg Lees to exclude a number of items from the GST, most notably fresh food such as fruit and vegetables. This increased the complexity of the GST, which had already increased the frequency and detail of reporting required by small businesses.

As a partial offset for the GST, a $7,000 "first home buyers grant" was introduced in 2000. The grant was paid at settlement, and Australian banks chose to count it towards a buyer's deposit, increasing the borrowing limit of applicants by approximately $70,000 and feeding a housing boom already sparked by world-wide low interest rates.

Most of the resentment for the GST fell on the Democrats, but the Howard government was trailing in the polls in 2001. The government lost a by-election in the normally safe electorate of Ryan in Queensland, and Labor governments were elected in all the states and territories (except South Australia, which fell to Labor in 2002). In response to the declining position at this time, a number of policy changes were made, including the abandonment of petrol excise indexation and increased government benefits to self-funded retirees.

John Howard's government also considered the issue of a national apology to Aboriginal Australians for their treatment by previous generations following the European settlement of the country.

Howard refrained from making a national apology (although all State and Territory Governments did so) and instead 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."

The 2001 election campaign

A major change in Howard's political fortunes occurred in August and September 2001, when the government refused permission for the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, carrying a group of asylum seekers picked up in international waters, to enter Australian waters. Howard ordered the ship be boarded by Australian special forces and spoke strongly of the need for Australia to "decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come". This brought censure from the government of Norway at the United Nations as failure to meet obligations to distressed mariners under international law. The September 11 terrorist attacks further increased hostility towards asylum-seekers fleeing Islamic countries.

The government introduced tough "border protection" legislation. Kim Beazley and the Labor opposition found themselves in a difficult political position. An electorally significant fraction of the ALP's working-class voters backed the Howard line on asylum-seekers, while the party's middle-class supporters were overwhelmingly opposed to it. Wedged between the two camps, Beazley offered half-hearted support to Howard's legislation, infuriating the middle class without winning back any of the anti-immigration vote from Howard.

At the November 2001 elections the Coalition was re-elected, with a larger majority than in 1998.

Third term: 2001–2004

In the two years after the 2001 election the Howard government continued its tough line on national security and "border protection" issues, while seeking to further its agenda of conservative social policies and pro-business economic reforms. Despite its victory in 2001, the government did not have a Senate majority, and its ability to pass planned legislation was restricted.

Howard's reputation was damaged in what became known as the children overboard affair, when it was demonstrated that one of his claims during the asylum-seeker debate, that asylum-seekers had "thrown their children overboard" in order to force the government to allow them to land in Australia, was untrue and that he had most likely been aware of this during the election campaign. Howard also faced a difficult issue in the allegations that Howard's choice as Governor General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth, in his previous job as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, had refused to investigate Anglican priests accused of paedophilia in various churches: eventually Hollingworth was forced to resign the governor-generalship amidst a storm of controversy that threatened to damage the credibility of his office.

So long as the issue of national security was prominent in the minds of voters and the Australian economy remained strong, Howard retained a clear political advantage over his opponents. Throughout 2002 and 2003 he kept his lead in the opinion polls over the then Labor leader, Simon Crean. Following the October 2002 Bali bombing, Howard placed a renewed emphasis on his government's approach to national security.

In March 2003, Howard joined the United Kingdom in sending troops and naval units to support the United States in the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Howard spoke strongly about the need to rid Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction, which he said he had evidence that Saddam's regime possessed.

Australian opinion was deeply divided on the war and large public protests against the war occurred. Several senior figures from the Liberal party, including John Valder, a former president of the Liberal Party, and Howard's former friend and colleague, former Opposition Leader John Hewson and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser publicly criticised Howard over Iraq. John Valder's criticism was particularly strong, claiming that Howard should be tried and punished as a war criminal. Howard's credibility and due diligence was questioned when no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq.

On Anzac Day 2004, Howard made a surprise visit to Australian defence personnel in Iraq. This came amid a bitter debate in Australia over the war following opposition leader Mark Latham's promise to return Australian troops by Christmas. Howard portrayed Latham as a threat to the U.S.-Australia alliance. After the 2004 federal election, it was revealed that Latham believed the ANZUS alliance was a legacy of the White Australia Policy.

The 2004– 05 budget increased family payments and tax cuts for middle income earners, and contributed to a recovery by the government in the opinion polls.

In August 2004, Howard's proposed amendment to the Marriage Act—to ban foreign and domestic same-sex unions from being recognised as marriages within Australia—was passed with the support of the Australian Labor Party, although several Labor Left MPs had expressed their opposition to the amendment, including the Premier of Western Australia Dr. Geoff Gallop. The Greens and Democrats opposed the amendment.

The 2004 election campaign

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 the 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.

During the campaign, Howard strongly attacked Latham's economic record as Mayor of Liverpool City Council, persuading the electorate that election of a Labor government could see a rise in interest rates. This was a significant threat, because total borrowing by home owners had risen when rates had dropped, meaning that even though rates were historically low, loan repayments as a proportion of household income were higher than at the peak of interest rates during the 1980s.

A notable aspect of the campaign was the absence of retaliatory "mudslinging" from the Labor Party against the various attacks on Latham's credibility, due to his rather notorious past, possibly to help promote the image of Latham as a reformed and professional man. Due to this approach they severely lost credibility in the campaign, which was compounded by Latham's publicity stunt of signing a guarantee stating that interest rates would not rise under a Latham government, when it was common knowledge at the time that monetary policy was controlled by the Reserve Bank.

In the closing period of the election campaign, Howard promised a large spending program on health, education, small business and family payments with the aim of trumping Latham's policy strengths. Some economists criticised Howard for the scale of his election spending promises, saying the Thatcherite small government man of the 1980s and the 1996 budget had mutated into a pure political pragmatist, willing to spend big on "middle class welfare" to win votes, but failing to tackle long-term issues such as infrastructure constraints, climate change and a national skills shortage.

The election resulted in an increased Coalition majority in the House of Representatives and also a government majority in the Senate, the first government majority in that chamber since the 1977 election. The strength of the Australian economy under Howard's leadership may have helped him to retain the "battler" vote which, combined with his strong conservative base, gave the Coalition a comfortable election victory of 52.74% of the vote on a two party preferred basis against Labor's result of 47.26%. Howard's social conservatism also helped him to win vital preferences from the socially conservative party Family First.

Fourth term: 2004–present

John Howard with U.S. President George W. Bush on 16 May 2006, during Howard's seventh official visit to the White House as Prime Minister. From left to right: the Prime Minister's wife Janette Howard, U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, Howard, and Bush.
John Howard with U.S. President George W. Bush on 16 May 2006, during Howard's seventh official visit to the White House as Prime Minister. From left to right: the Prime Minister's wife Janette Howard, U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, Howard, and Bush.

On 21 December 2004 Howard became Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister, having led the government against three Labor opposition leaders, Beazley, Crean and Latham.

The Government response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was widely acclaimed in Australia and abroad, including the Opposition shadow foreign affairs spokesperson, Kevin Rudd, who said that an Australian Labor Party government could not have done more.

On 1 July 2005 the new Senate came into effect, giving the Government control of both houses. This is the first Australian government since the days of the Fraser government that is able to pass any legislation it wishes, without having to first gain the approval of another party or hold a double dissolution election.

Legislation which had previously been blocked and has now been passed includes:

  • Full privatisation of the 51.8% government-owned telecommunications company Telstra;
  • Industrial relations reforms;
  • Voluntary Student Unionism which removed compulsory union fees at universities.

Overruled Legislation:

  • ACT Civil Unions Act, on the grounds that the same-sex civil unions undermined the Marriage Act.

Other legislation which had previously been blocked in the Senate includes:

  • Revising media ownership laws so as to remove restrictions on media companies having control over multiple different media.

In 2005, Howard announced fundamental and wide-ranging changes to industrial relations laws which have since been the subject of a national campaign by the union movement and state Labor governments.

Despite the coalition's majority in the Senate, a number of the proposed laws were in doubt, due to the opposition that has been voiced by Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce who had threatened to vote against the sale of Telstra. Joyce raised concerns in relation to the industrial relations announcements but eventually supported the legislation.

On 22 February 2005 Howard announced that Australia would increase its military commitment to Iraq with an additional 450 troops, when he had anticipated that no such increases would occur. On 14 April another firm pre-election assurance was broken when it was announced that the Medicare safety net policy presented to the electorate prior to the election, and statements by the Health Minister Tony Abbott that the policy was "an absolutely rock solid, iron-clad commitment", would now be adjusted to provide fewer benefits.

In October 2005, the Volcker Inquiry into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme revealed that Australian company AWB Ltd had paid the single largest illicit "kickback" to the Iraq regime. Howard, resisting calls for a Royal Commission, subsequently established a Commission of Inquiry under Terence Cole QC to determine if Australian companies had broken the law. Howard rejected criticisms that the Inquiry Terms of Reference were too narrow (i.e. did not permit adequate investigation into the role played by Government Ministers and their delegates).

As of 2 March 2006, Howard has been in office 10 years. In this time his popularity has been seemingly undented. His approval rating, though showing slight ups and downs, remain steadily above 50%. Howard explains this through his frequently repeated quote, "My proof is in my record. This has seen Australia with low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, higher wages and a total elimination of government debt". As a testament to the Howard government's perceived economic credentials, Australian Treasurer Peter Costello was asked in June 2006 to be the special guest of the G8 Finance Minister's Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia—though Australia is not part of the G8—to advise these nations on good governance and public finance.

Throughout the first half of 2005, the Howard government faced increasing pressure regarding the controversial mandatory detention program. It was revealed in February that a mentally ill German citizen and Australian resident, Cornelia Rau, had been held in detention for nine months. The government then established the closed non-judicial Palmer Inquiry promising that the findings would be made public. In May, it was revealed that another Australian, subsequently identified as Vivian Alvarez, had been deported from Australia and that the department responsible was unable to locate her. By late May, it was revealed that an additional 200 cases of possible wrongful detention had been referred to the Palmer Inquiry. Also at this time Howard faced backbench revolt from small numbers of his own party demanding that reforms be made. On 2 June it was revealed that Cornelia Rau had been identified by the department as an Australian citizen three months prior to her final release from detention. On 9 June Australia's longest serving detainee, Peter Qasim, was moved to a psychiatric hospital.

In mid 2005, John Howard and his cabinet began private discussions of new anti-terror legislation which includes modification to the Crimes Act 1914. In particular, sections relating to sedition are to be modified. On 14 October 2005, Jon Stanhope (Chief Minister of the ACT) took the controversial step of publishing the confidential draft of the Federal Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 on his website. This action was both praised and criticised. Citing concerns about civil rights raised by the Australian National University as well as concerns over the speed of the legislation's passage through parliament , he later refused to sign off on a revised version of the legislation, becoming the only State and Territorial leader not to sign. The House of Representatives passed the anti-terrorism legislation which was debated in the Senate before its final implementation in December 2005.

On 2 November 2005 Howard held a press conference to announce that he had received information from police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) that indicated an imminent terrorist attack in Australia. Within a week, on 8 November, anti-terrorist raids were held across Melbourne and Sydney, with 17 suspected terrorists arrested, including Abdul Nacer Benbrika. These raids, according to Howard, demonstrated the need for his Anti-Terrorism Bill. According to the Greens and Democrats, the raids demonstrated that no further legislation was needed as even the current legislation was sufficient to allow ASIO and the Australian Federal Police to act in some cases. Critics have also said that the press conference was held on the same day as the changes to industrial relations laws were introduced to Parliament, even though much of the intelligence was not new, suggesting it was an attempt to divert attention away from the IR law changes.

On Tuesday 15 November protest rallies were held to protest against the work relations laws around the country, in opposition to the Howard government’s planned changes to industrial relations laws. Approximately 560,000 people turned out at the protests, largely organised by various unions and concerned community organisations with the help of Labor and the Greens. These laws were passed without substantial change.

Unfinished business

In late 2006, with a federal election on the horizon, some of the issues facing the Howard government are the AWB Iraq bribes scandal, Australia's response to global warming, a national skills shortage and his govenment's Work Choices industrial relations legislation.


In the leadup to the 2001 election, Howard did not commit to serving a full term if he won the election. Instead, he said he would consider the question of retirement when he turned 64, which would be in July 2003. When July 2003 came, he announced that the party was strongly in favour of him continuing, so he stayed on.

In the leadup to the 2004 election, Howard again did not commit to serving a full term. In 2006, there was mounting speculation that he would retire that year.

In July 2006, as part of a redistribution of New South Wales electoral divisions, a proposal was made to change the boundaries of Howard's electorate of Bennelong on Sydney's Lower North Shore. It has been suggested that these changes may make Bennelong one of the most marginal seats in the state with only a 3% majority , however these figures have been disputed by political commentators such as Malcolm Mackerras , and also Shane Easson of the NSW Labor Party , who argue that the impact of the changes will be minimal.

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. Mr. McLachlan's version of the conversation is that Mr Howard said something like, "I can't guarantee this to you Peter, but my intention is not to hang around forever. If I win, I'll serve two terms and hand over to you." 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.

The impasse was resolved at the end of July when Howard, again citing strong party room support for him as leader, stated that he would remain to contest the 2007/2008 election, and that he and Costello would remain in their current roles. Costello declared that he would not be seeking the top position in the Liberal Party while Howard was standing as its leader, saying on The 7.30 Report he would be handing down the 2007 Budget.


  • Centenary Medal In January 2001
  • The Star of the Solomon Islands together with Helen Clark as Prime Minister of New Zealand on 15th of June 2005 for their respective roles in restoring law and order in the Solomon Islands.

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