Economic dynamism. John Howard’s governments have helped to sustain what has become fifteen straight years of economic expansion. Some politicians are cake slicers but the Liberal Party’s finance minister – Peter Costello – is a big believer in ‘bigger cake economics’: where growing the economy matters more than redistributing the fruits of growth.
Opponent of vested interests. Despite Australia’s triennial system of elections John Howard has not shied away from bold and controversial reforms. His premiership has been associated with banning of semi-automatic guns, welfare reform, aboriginal land ownership changes and an end to trade union closed shops. He has also been a staunch opponent of illegal immigration.
Howard is the third man in the Anglosphere’s alliance against terror. Always a supporter of George W Bush’s rogue nation analysis, Howard became even more convinced of the need for action after 88 Australians were killed in the bombing of Bali in October 2002. He has presided over a major increase in Australian defence expenditure.
An opponent of Kyoto and signatory to the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development. He has ruthlessly opened divides in the Labor coalition of trade unions and environmentalists by campaigning against “extreme” green policies that kill blue collar jobs.
This environmental policy is consistent with his trademark commitment to Australia’s ‘strivers’. Strivers – or battlers – are those voters who can’t easily afford the taxes, regulations and public service failures that wealthier voters can, to a greater extent, absorb. Choosing to champion the strivers or to appease the twins of the supplicant state and civil service bureaucracy is one of the biggest choices facing today’s politicians.
Social conservatism. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to overturn pro-euthanasia legislation passed under Labor. At the last election – in a bid to win the family values vote – he opposed same-sex unions and promised an Aus$1.1bn programme for stay-at-home mums. During the last election campaign Peter Costello led an outreach programme to religious voters. Costello told an audience of 16,000 Christians at Sydney’s Hillsong Evangelical Church that “we need a return to faith and the values which have made our country strong.”
- Leader in The Australian: "After 10 years that have seen Mr Howard win often-contentious fights over issues ranging from GST to boatpeople to war with Iraq, the government seems to have lost its will to try out anything too new or controversial."
- Crikey: A psephological review of Howard’s record
- ABC: A look back at Howard’s ten years
- BBCi: ""I’ve got less hair and I’m older and uglier." That is how Australia’s veteran Prime Minister John Howard marked his 10th anniversary in office, on 2 March, in a newspaper interview."
- FT: "Pressed again in an interview with ABC radio on Thursday about his future, Mr Howard said: “I have always said that if I were to go under a bus the person who would and should lead the Liberal party is Peter Costello. Peter by reason of his position and by reason of his qualities (if I were to go under that bus and I’m very careful crossing the roads) he’s the logical person to take my place.”"