Australia's Prime Minister Howard marks 10 years in power

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

John Howard, who celebrates 10 years as Prime Minister of Australia

Today will mark Australian Prime Minister John Howard's 10th anniversary holding what is arguably the most powerful office in Australia. John Howard is Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister, behind Sir Robert Menzies.

Howard celebrated his decade in office last night at a gala dinner at Australian Parliament House in Canberra. Around 700 conservative supporters and business figures were present at the dinner.

Mr Howard gave a speech to his delegates, saying he was grateful to Australians for their support and promised to try not to abuse their trust.

"I am deeply conscious of the trust that you have put in us and I am deeply grateful... for the privilege that has come our way," Mr Howard said.

"We have tried not to abuse it and we will try in the future never to abuse it, because public life is the ultimate in terms of serving a nation and serving a community,” he said.

Peter Costello, Mr Howard's most likely successor gave a brief speech to the delegation saying "It's not just a wonderful 10th anniversary for the coalition government."

"There is another 10th anniversary that we ought to acknowledge tonight - it's the 10th anniversary of Labor in opposition," he said.

Despite many political commentators believing that Howard (now aged 66) will soon retire and hand the reins over to Peter Costello, Mr Howard told ABC radio, "I will remain in the position as long as my party wants me to."

Mr Howard also showed his support for his likely successor saying "If I were to go under a bus, the person who would and should become the leader of the Liberal party is Peter Costello. I am very careful crossing roads."

Little to celebrate - Opposition

The opposition has used the occasion to attack the government on its performance over the last ten years. Opposition leader, Kim Beazley told a press conference on Wednesday that "On this 10th anniversary of the Howard government we find record foreign debt - more than twice what it was that John Howard inherited."

Wayne Swan, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, said the government's celebrations come at a time when Australians are paying too much tax. "Sadly, for the Australian people 10 years of the highest taxing Government in our history has given all of those taxpayers a much bigger hangover," he said

A turbulent political career

John Howard has had a turbulent political career, since first becoming elected as a Member of Parliament in 1974. He was treasurer under the Malcolm Fraser government from 1977 until 1983, when it was defeated by Bob Hawke.

Following the resignation of Fraser, Howard contested the Liberal Party leadership but was defeated by Andrew Peacock. Despite being defeated as leader, Howard stayed on as deputy leader.

After being defeated by the incumbent Labor Party government of Bob Hawke, Peacock became nervous and attempted to protect his leadership by removing Howard from the deputy position. Howard restood for the position and won, putting Peacock in an uncomfortable position and prompting his resignation. This allowed Howard to succeed to the leadership unopposed.

Howard held the Liberal Party leadership from 1985 until 1989, when he was defeated in a leadership challenge by Peacock. Howard's support was weakend following a speech in which he claimed that the rate of Asian immigration into Australia was too high. Following his defeat Howard was relegated to the backbench for a short time before taking a position on the front bench again. When Peacock lost the 1990 election, the Liberal Party began to look for a young leader - electing John Hewson. It was at this time that Howard conceded it unlikely he would ever be leader again. Howard himself compared the possibility of a political comeback to "Lazarus with a triple bypass".

After Hewson lost the 1993 election to Hawke's successor Paul Keating, the Liberal Party again appointed a new leader, this time current foreign minister, Alexander Downer. When Downer resigned in 1995, with deputy leader Peter Costello unwilling to step up, Howard was elected to power for the second time.

Howard's coalition government swept to power in 1996, holding 96 of the 148 seats in the House of Representatives ending 13 years of Australian Labor Party governance. Howard led his government to comfortable victories in 1998, 2001 and 2004.


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