John Howard

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John Howard in 2006

John Winston Howard (born 26 July 1939) is an Australian politician and was the Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 until 2007. He previously served as Treasurer from 1977 to 1983 and was Leader of the Liberal Party from 1985 until 1989, and again from 1995 to 2007.


  • I'm not in favour of going back to a White Australia policy. I do believe that, if it [non-European immigration] is in the eyes of some in the community, it's too great, it would be in our immediate term interest and supporting of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so the capacity of the community to absorb it was greater.
    • ABC radio interview (1 August 1988), as quoted in John Winston Howard: The Definitive Biography (2008)
  • I don't think it is wrong, racist, immoral or anything, for a country to say 'we will decide what the cultural identity and the cultural destiny of this country will be and nobody else'.
    • Quoted in "Howard reasserts right to decide cultural identity," The Age (20 September 1988)
  • Truth is absolute, truth is supreme, truth is never disposable in national political life.
  • There's no way that a GST will ever be part of our policy... never ever, it's dead it was killed by the voters in the last election.
    • Television interview in 1995
  • I've never believed in lower wages. Never. Never believed in lower wages, I've never believed in lower wages as an economic instrument.
  • By the year 2000 I would like to see an Australian nation that feels comfortable and relaxed about three things. I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about their history. I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the present and I'd also like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the future.
  • In a sense, it's always a sombre moment in a country where you ask the people who have done the right thing to put up with inconvenience because a limited number of people have done the wrong thing, but that is the nature of a democratic society.
  • The 'black armband' view of our history reflects a belief that most Australian history since 1788 has been little more than a disgraceful story of imperialism, exploitation, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. I take a very different view. I believe that the balance sheet of our history is one of heroic achievement and that we have achieved much more as a nation of which we can be proud of than which we should be ashamed.
  • The debate over Australian history .. risks being distorted if its focus is confined only to the shortcomings of previous generations. It risks being further distorted if highly selective views of Australian history are used as the basis for endless and agonised navel-gazing about who we are or, as seems to have happened over recent years, as part of a 'perpetual seminar' for elite opinion about our national identity. The current debate over Australian history would benefit from a more balanced approach, from a wider perspective and from less pre-ordained pessimism. In the broad balance sheet of our history, there is a story of great Australian achievement to be told.
  • Increasingly, modern government is about facing the challenge of very rapid change but also remembering that there are certain stabilisers in society that provide reassurance and support when a society is undergoing great change particularly of an economic character.
  • Part of the job of a Prime Minister in these contemporary times is, whilst enthusiastically embracing change and globalisation, he or she must also embrace what is secure - what people see as 'home' I suppose. I want to provide Australians with this security as we embrace, as we must and will, a new and vastly different future.
  • It is impossible as an Australian, as we come to the end of this century, not to feel an immense sense of surging excitement about the opportunities that lie in front of us. There is no nation on earth that has been gifted with the special combination of such assets. We are in every sense of the word a projection of Western civilisation in this part of the world. We have taken the good things from Europe, the liberal political traditions, the civility of our public life, and thankfully we have rejected the bad things of Europe, the stultifying class divisions built on tribal prejudice.
  • [O]ne of the philosophical principles that has been at the heart of the policies of our Government over the last two-and-a-half years, has been the principle of mutual obligation. And what that says is that as a decent, compassionate, caring community, we look after those who, through no fault of their own, can’t find a job or who can’t care for themselves. We are not a society that will allow people literally to beg in the streets for survival. That has never been the Australian way, and under the Coalition it will never in the future be the Australian way. But we also believe that if people are supported by their fellow Australians, and they are able to do so they should provide something in return for that support.
  • We are as you all know in a new and dangerous part of the world’s history. The tragic events of the 11th of September have changed our lives, they have caused us to take pause and think about the values we hold in common with the American people and free people around the world. That was an attack on Australia as much as it was an attack on the United States. It not only claimed the lives of Australians but it assaulted the very values that we hold dear and that we take for granted. So therefore a military response and wise diplomacy and a steady hand on the helm are needed to guide Australia through those very difficult circumstances. National Security is therefore about a proper response to terrorism. It's also about having a far sighted, strong, well thought out defence policy. It is also about having an uncompromising view about the fundamental right of this country to protect its borders. It's about this nation saying to the world we are a generous open hearted people, taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any nation except Canada, we have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.
    • 2001 Federal Election Campaign Launch Speech (28 October 2001)
  • I think history will judge him very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barack, which involved the Israelis agreeing to 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted.
  • When I became Prime Minister nine years ago, I believed that this nation was defining its place in the world too narrowly. My Government has rebalanced Australia's foreign policy to better reflect the unique intersection of history, geography, culture and economic opportunity that our country represents. Time has only strengthened my conviction that we do not face a choice between our history and our geography.
  • I accept that in a free society you have to justify reductions in people's liberties. I accept that, bearing in mind my starting point is that the most important human right is the right to life...
  • The most important civil liberty... is to stay alive and to be free from violence and death...
  • I think when people talk about civil liberties, they sometimes forget that action taken to protect the citizen against physical violence and physical attack is a blow in favour and not a blow against civil liberties.
  • There is much in American society which I admire, but I have long held the view that the absence of an effective safety net in that country means that too many needy citizens fall by the wayside. That is not the path that Australia will tread. Nor do we want the burdens of nanny state paternalism that now weigh down many economies in Europe.
  • For many years, it’s been the case that fewer than one-in-four senior secondary students in Australia take a history subject. And only a fraction of this study relates to Australian history. Real concerns also surround the teaching of Australian history in lower secondary and primary schools. Too often, Australian history has fallen victim in an ever more crowded curriculum to subjects deemed more ‘relevant’ to today. Too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of ‘themes’ and ‘issues’. And too often, history, along with other subjects in the humanities, has succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated. Part of preparing young Australians to be informed and active citizens is to teach them the central currents of our nation’s development. The subject matter should include indigenous history as part of the whole national inheritance. It should also cover the great and enduring heritage of Western civilisation, those nations that became the major tributaries of European settlement and in turn a sense of the original ways in which Australians from diverse backgrounds have created our own distinct history.
  • In the end, young people are at risk of being disinherited from their community if that community lacks the courage and confidence to teach its history.
  • I have never been persuaded by those who claim that the road to good government is via taking more and more decisions out of the hands of the people’s elected representatives. In our parliamentary democracy, politicians are elected to make decisions on behalf of the community. They are elected by the people and, ultimately, they are answerable to the people for the decisions they make. To draw these decisions away from the legislature and the executive and to invest them in the hands of the judiciary would irrevocably change our democracy. And it would hamper our ability to respond to changes in a way that reflects the realities we now face.
  • I accept that climate change is a challenge, I accept the broad theory about global warming. I am sceptical about a lot of the more gloomy predictions.
    • Interview with Four Corners', ABC TV (28 August 2006)
  • Leadership of the Liberal Party is a great honour, of which I remain profoundly conscious. It is, moreover, the unique gift of the party room.
  • We spent too much time in the first half of the nineties pondering whether we had to become less European so we could become more Asian, whether we had to become less British so we could become more multicultural. We had this perpetual seminar on our national identity, contributed to overwhelmingly by the cultural dietitians. I never thought Australians had any doubt as to what their identity was. And I think we’ve moved on from all of that.
  • If I were running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for [Barack] Obama but also for the Democrats.
    • Television interview on the Nine Network (11 February 2007)
  • A conservative is someone who does not think he is morally superior to his grandfather.
    • Quote from The Howard Era.

Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography (2010)[edit]

  • Uniquely, Australia is a product of Western civilisation, closely allied to the United States, but located cheek by jowl with the nations of Asia. Both history and geography have given us a rare opportunity; why should we be so foolish as to think that we must choose between the two?
  • I brought a philosophical road map to government. It was bitterly opposed by some but, for a long time, supported by more. Both supporters and critics knew what I stood for.
  • Australia wins respect in the world when we display who we are and not what self-appointed cultural dieticians would want us to become. Multiculturalism is not our national cement. Rather it is the Australian achievement, which has many components.

Quotes about Howard[edit]

  • Monday will be the 25th anniversary of one of the most prophetic speeches in Australian political history. Then prime minister Paul Keating told the National Press Club: "When the government changes, the country changes ... but what we've built in these years is, I think, so valuable - to change it and to lose it, is just a straight appalling loss for Australia." He was dead right. The legacy of John Howard's government is the opposite of the picture he painted on election night in 1996, when he restated that "united Australians were infinitely more important and more enduring than the things that divided Australians". Instead, he favoured the well-off, the strong and big business over the vulnerable, the less wealthy and wage and salary earners.
  • John Howard was prime minister and it was a hard time in the indigenous world; it was difficult to know how to deal with what was happening

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