By Edward Ferrin…
Today, Australian politics records the fifteenth anniversary of the 2007 federal election called by then Prime Minister John Howard. Howard had been Prime Minister since 1996, having defeated former Prime Minister Paul Keating in a landslide ending 13 years of Labor government. Howard aged 68, was seeking a fifth consecutive election victory having won elections in 1998, 2001 and 2004. His Liberal-National coalition government had overseen various policies and events over the previous 11 years – the introduction of the General Sales Tax (GST), the Bali terror attack, the decision to join the west in the Iraq War and reformed Australian gun laws in light of the Port Arthur massacre.
John Howard was praised for his response in light of the Bali bombing attack in 2002.
John Howard was Liberal leader between 1985 and 1989, losing the 1987 Federal Election to the long-time Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. He didn’t lift off with popular support among the Australian voters in the late 1980s and was removed from office by Andrew Peacock, who went on to lose the 1990 Federal Election.
The infamous “Mr. 18%” magazine cover which confirmed Howard’s removal as Liberal leader.
After the defeat for Labor in 1996, Kim Beazley, Simon Crean and Mark Latham all attempted to defeat the Howard government but failed. Outgoing Prime Minister Paul Keating led the party to a landslide defeat having defied expectations in 1993.
Paul Keating challenged Bob Hawke to serve as Prime Minister of Australia between 1991 and 1996.
Kim Beazley made a return to the leadership in 2005 but was removed by a challenge from Kevin Rudd in 2006, as Beazley trailed Howard in the opinion polls. Kevin Rudd proved much more popular with the voters, promising change for Australia – he was 18 years younger than Prime Minister Howard come the election.
Kim Beazley – former Deputy-Prime Minister under Paul Keating between 1991 and 1996.
The campaign began in earnest – Health Minister Tony Abbott was caught saying “that’s bullshit” to Labor’s Nicola Roxon in a campaign debate having arrived late to take part, sparking concerns as to whether the Howard government was able to understand the need for change in the following three-year term. The Reserve Bank intervened with an interest rate rise in June 2007, allowing Labor to claim that Howard couldn’t be trusted on the economy.
John Howard was persuaded by his family during the APEC events in Sydney to carry on for his fifth term amid considerable interest from backbench Coalition MPs for a handover to the Deputy-Prime Minister, Peter Costello as Labor took a double-digit lead in the opinion polls. He led the Liberal-National Coalition into the November election.
Peter Costello and Tony Abbott during Question Time in 2006.
John Howard’s coalition lost by 5.4% in the top-two preferred vote/TTP – a loss of 5.44% swing equalled a loss of 22 seats.
Prime Minister Howard lost his own seat in the riding of Bennelong to Labor candidate and former ABC journalist and Broadcaster Maxime McKew.
John Howard lost his seat in the House of Representatives after 33 years and 13 successful elections as an MP.
Kevin Rudd’s party won a majority of 16 seats in the House of Representatives.
John Howard is the last Prime Minister to have served more than two elected terms in office.
Unlike in the UK, the outgoing Prime Minister remains in post until the day the new Prime Minister meets the Governor-General to take the oath of office – in 2007, this period was 9 days.
Kevin Rudd was removed from office by his deputy, Julia Gillard in June 2010 before a close election later that year in August.
94.8% of the voting public voted in the 2007 federal election.