John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia since 1996, waited a long time to arrive at his post. For over 20 years, he had been in Parliament either as a Minister or Shadow Minister. To his credit, Howard has always been a formidable debater and a singularly resilient and tenacious politician, outlasting every Australian political leader of his time.
John Winston Howard was born in Earlwood, a Sydney suburb, on 26 July 1939. His father, a garage proprietor, was a driving influence towards his political and economic views, always impressing on him the importance of small business as an employment provider.
A law graduate at Sydney University in 1961, Howard became a solicitor for the next twelve years. Always a committed Liberal Party member, he joined the party’s New South Wales State Executive in 1963 and continued serving there until his election to the Commonwealth Parliament in May 1974.
John Howard entered the House of Representatives as Liberal member for the suburban Sydney seat of Bennelong at the general elections on 18 May 1974 and held the seat through the next nine elections.
In December 1975, Howard became a Minister following the election of the Fraser coalition government, taking the Business and Consumer Affairs portfolio, which he held until 1977. Howard was to hold more posts until the Fraser government lost office on the election of the Hawke Labor government on 5 March 1983.
During the 13 years of Labor government that followed, Howard occupied a series of key positions in the Shadow ministry. He was Shadow Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Party Leader 1983-85 before replacing Andrew Peacock as Opposition Leader on 5 September 1985. In July 1987, Howard led the Liberal-Country Party coalition to a narrow loss at the next federal elections. In May 1989, Peacock secured sufficient votes to regain the Liberal leadership from Howard.
Howard was to spend the next five years from 1989 to 1995 filling a series of Shadow Ministry portfolios and other Opposition positions. Following the resignation of Alexander Downer as Opposition Leader in 1995, Howard once again secured the position as leader for the second time. With little more than a year before the next federal elections, Howard set about his ambitions for Prime Minister by attacking the Keating Labor government, mainly on its record of economic management.
At the federal elections, on 2 March 1996, the Liberal-National Party coalition under Howard was swept back into power with an enormous House of Representatives majority.
Lessons In Career Leadership
A leader who has resilience to overcome personal misfortunes, discouragement, rejection and disappointment is the leader who will ultimately triumph. John Howard is a man who has shown that he is not afraid to take unpopular decisions by pushing through laws on gun control, aboriginal land ownership, compulsory trade unionism and welfare spending, all in the face of strong resistance. In doing so, he has gained respect and credibility.