- Howard, John Winston
born July 26, 1939, Sydney, N.S.W., Austl.Prime minister of Australia (from 1996) and leader of the Liberal Party.Howard became a solicitor to the New South Wales Supreme Court. In 1974 he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party and served under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as minister for business and consumer affairs (1975–77) and as federal treasurer (1977–83). Howard became leader of the Liberal Party in 1985, but, after failing to unseat the Labor Party in 1987, he was defeated in his bid to retain leadership in 1989. He regained power in 1995 and engineered the defeat of Labor in the elections of March 1996. He was reelected in 1998, 2001, and 2004.
* * *▪ 1997Prime Minister John Howard welcomed U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton to Australia in November 1996 with a heavy heart. Under considerable pressure from unexpectedly hostile public opinion, kept in the dark by the Australian army about potential radioactive debris from a Russian satellite that could crash in the outback, worried about his wife (who was recovering from a dangerous illness), and having just had his most recent flight to Tasmania aborted after his aircraft was struck by lightning, Howard was at a low ebb.The year had started well; Howard won a landslide election victory in March and began his term in office by stressing that the Australian people had voted his centre-right Liberal-National coalition into office with full knowledge that the conservatives were going to make changes to the industrial relations scene. One of the biggest debates was over the sale of one-third of Telstra, the state-owned telecommunications company. After months of wrangling, the deal was approved by the Senate in early December.Howard's initial battles over industrial reform were overshadowed, however, by an unforeseen debate over immigration levels and race relations in Australia. This was generated in September by the maiden speech of an independent MP, Pauline Hanson, in which she was critical of special programs for Aboriginal citizens, the rate of Asian immigration, and multiculturalism. Howard agreed that some of the comments by the outspoken MP were an accurate reflection of what people felt, and this response angered migrant, refugee, and Aboriginal groups, which accused him of turning a blind eye to racism.His critics concluded that Howard's refusal to confront racist observations from independent MPs was a sign that he was unwilling or unable to silence the rebels. "Howard's shameful silence" was how the Australian Financial Review saw it. Whether he was weak, misguided, or secretly sympathetic, his refusal to condemn the new right-wing racism undermined his early strong showing as a forceful and dominating leader, qualities displayed in his handling of the tragic massacre of 35 people by a lone gunman at Port Arthur, Tas., in April.Howard was born July 26, 1939, and studied law at the University of Sydney. After being admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1962, he took up a political career and was first elected to the parliament for Bennelong in 1974. His long political service included periods focused on industrial relations, manpower, trade negotiations, business, and consumer affairs. His chief accomplishment was as treasurer (1977-83) under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. In September 1985 Howard, then deputy head of the Liberal Party, became leader of the official opposition when he was unexpectedly chosen to replace the party's embattled leader, Andrew Peacock. (A.R.G. GRIFFITHS)
* * *▪ prime minister of Australiaborn July 26, 1939, Sydney, New South Wales, AustraliaAustralian politician who was prime minister of Australia (1996–2007) and leader of the Liberal Party (1985–89, 1995–2007).Howard earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Sydney in 1961 and the following year became a solicitor of the New South Wales Supreme Court. His interests soon turned to politics, and in 1974 he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party (Liberal Party of Australia). Under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (Fraser, Malcolm), he served as minister for business and consumer affairs (1975–77) and as federal treasurer (1977–83). Howard became deputy leader of the Liberal Party in 1982 and advanced to its leadership in 1985, heading an opposition coalition of the Liberals with the National Party. But the coalition failed to unseat the Australian Labor Party from power in elections held in 1987, and Howard was defeated in his bid to retain his leadership of the Liberals in 1989. In January 1995 he regained the leadership, and he subsequently led a Liberal-National coalition to a decisive victory over Labor in elections held in March 1996.During his first term in office, Howard faced a number of challenges, including the creation of a new political party, the One Nation Party, which tested his authority, and national debates on immigration quotas and race relations. He was reelected in 1998 by a narrow margin. In 1999 Howard's government sent troops to East Timor as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to end fighting between pro-Indonesian forces and island nationalists. In November 1999 a referendum was held to determine whether Australia would cut its historic ties to the United Kingdom and become a republic with a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of Parliament. The referendum failed to carry, and Howard, who had opposed it, was vindicated.Having promised major tax reform during his 1998 reelection campaign, Howard oversaw the implementation of a new taxation system in 2000. The centrepiece of the system was a goods-and-services tax, which was unpopular with the public. In the early 21st century, illegal immigration also became a key issue in Australia as an increasing number of foreigners sought asylum in the country. Howard's strict immigration policy, which included a ban on boat refugees, proved popular with Australians and played an important role in his reelection in 2001. In 2003 Howard contributed Australian troops to the U.S.- and British-led war in Iraq (see Iraq War). Amid growing opposition to the war and the discovery that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (weapon of mass destruction) (WMD), an investigation was launched to determine if Howard's government had deliberately misled the public about Iraq's WMD. A report was released in 2004 that criticized the prewar intelligence but cleared the government of any wrongdoing. Later that year Howard won a fourth successive term as prime minister.In 2006 Howard introduced several controversial labour-relations reforms, including the abolition of unfair dismissal laws in workplaces with up to 100 employees. That year Howard also suffered one of the biggest defeats of his prime ministership when he was forced to withdraw proposed laws that would have extended the offshore processing of asylum seekers. In October 2007 he called for a general election to take place the following month. His bid for a fifth term as prime minister was unsuccessful, however, as the Liberal Party was defeated by Kevin Rudd (Rudd, Kevin) and the Labor Party. In addition, Howard became only the second sitting Australian prime minister to lose his seat in Parliament. Shortly after the election, Howard was succeeded as Liberal Party leader by Brendan Nelson.
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