1996 - 2007

The Howard Government guided Australia through one of the most successful periods in the country’s history, helping to take Australia to the forefront of the world’s leading economies.

Its economic policies rebuilt Australian prosperity after yet another period of Labor economic mismanagement (under the Hawke/Keating government), which had resulted in the worst recession (and highest unemployment) for 60 years.

The Howard government’s policies enabled Australia to resist the impact of the Asian economic downturn, and restored effective full employment. The prudential supervision of the financial system put in place by the Howard government meant that Australia had no domestic sub-prime crisis. Strong financial institutions underpinned the economy when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008.

The Howard Government’s policy success was based on its firm commitment to Liberal values, and a commonsense approach to dealing with problems. John Howard described his philosophy as a combination of economic liberalism and social conservatism.The economic prosperity achieved by the Howard Government meant that people had more money to invest in savings for the future.

Australia’s strong position also allowed the government to invest in new roads and rail, as well as in environmental projects throughout the country.

Some of the features of the Howard era included:

  • A focus on strong economic management with a commitment to surplus budgets and zero government debt

  • The strengthening of Australia’s national security through an increase in defence spending and a substantial boost to defence-ready troop numbers

  • Record low levels of unemployment achieved by a freeing up of labour markets, a massive expansion in opportunities to acquire skills, and greatly improved job placement assistance for the unemployed – allowing workers to become less reliant on unions

  • Record federal government funding into the education and health sectors

  • A major effort to overcome educational disadvantage (illiteracy and innumeracy), to increase school accountability, and strengthen the ability of parents to choose the best school for their child

  • Encouraging one of the highest levels of private investment in education and training in the world

  • Low interest rates, strong economic growth and lower taxation

  • Unprecedented commitment to restoring and protecting Australian land, waters, vegetation and biodiversity

  • Major improvements in protection of Australia’s national heritage

  • Fostering pride in Australia’s achievements and resistance to the ‘black armband’ view of Australian history.

John Howard

John Howard

Prime Minister from 11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

John Howard became Australia's 25th prime minister when the Liberal Party won office, replacing the Labor government led by Paul Keating.

John Howard digested lessons from his many years in parliament to become a highly disciplined and professional politician who left nothing to chance. Howard’s skilled use of rhetoric helped him communicate his vision of economic prosperity and social conservatism and become Australia’s most electorally successful prime minister since Menzies.

Learn More