JOHN HOWARD’S GOVERNMENT CHANGES IN AUSTRALIA

JOHN HOWARD’S GOVERNMENT CHANGES

Introduction

John Howard became the Prime Minister of Australia on 11th of March 1996. His government was a coalition government and this had aimed at bringing major reforms in this country. various notable reforms were introduced in the different sectors of the country. He served Australia on this post till the end of 2007 December. He has been noted to systematically work in his government reign to bring the best outcomes for the country. His coalition government also took steps to address various issues faced by this country. His government led in introducing many significant foreign, economic, tax, and immigration policy reforms. He was the 25th Prime Minister of this country.[1]

Under his reign there were various programs which led to wide changes in the economics, foreign and industrial spheres of the country. For instance, he introduced cost-cutting measures in the public sector services and introduced the privatization of Telstra. Industrial relations were restructured to benefit the employees and allow for the direct employer-employee enterprise bargaining. Various tax reforms were incepted and a new tax system was established having a broad-based tax on consumption items or popularly known as the ‘goods and services tax’ (GST) in July 2000. Foreign policy was reformed by taking actions in the areas like domestic terrorism and efforts were taken to stabilize the East Timor. He supported strong traditional ties with Europe and Britain and maintain a good relationship with the Commonwealth nations. During his rule, the alliance of this country with United States improved. He also worked to enhance the Asia-Pacific trade and diplomatic relationships. He checked the possession of the gun in the national region by introducing the first nationwide gun control program. In this essay, the reforms taken by him during his reign under different areas of governance are explored.

Economic reforms took a center stage in his government. He created a new taxation system by introducing goods and services tax (GST). His government took steps which contributed to major economic reforms in the country.[2] But the introduction of GST was opposed by the Australian Democrats and they demanded modifications to the taxation laws, especially the GST legislative bill. However, his government realized that it was necessary to place this reform in order to reform the traditional taxation system of the country. The main objective of the introduction of the GST tax was to simplify and fix the existing sales tax regime. It was also aimed at correcting the other various types of territory and states taxes by a single slab of 10 percent tax. This implied that all the GST receipts obtained from the different states and territories of the country is to be then re-distributed by the federal government again to each of the territory and the state. The tax reforms proposed by this coalition government were meant to address the lacking areas of efficiencies in the system of at government revenue collection through taxation. His government noted serious deficiencies in the existing system of the prevailing tax system. It was found that reform is needed to allow for wide ranging community support and this must be designed to ensure a longer-term integrity of the country’s tax system. Moreover, health of the country’s was also an important priority for this government. Because of his economic reforms, the government was able to decrease the rate of unemployment from 8 percent to 5 percent during 2005. The tax reforms were made to check the inadequacies of the income-tax base for the governmental revenue[3]. The revenue from the different taxes were being directed to the state and territorial government. This replaces the local indirect taxes and was inclusive of the duties on bank accounts and sales taxes. A decrease in the income tax was an important part of the entire reform package. Another reform brought about his government is the overall health of the economy. He took efforts to check the unemployment rates in the country. Therefore with his government’s economic reforms, during his rule, the rates of unemployment fell from 8 percent in 1996 to 5 percent in 2005 in the country. Inflation rate was below 3 percent and the interest rates were also low.

 The reforms of this government were also introduced to boost the industries of this country by working on the industrial relations and hence checking the negative impacts of the industrial conflicts between the employer and the employees. Firstly, he eliminated the requirement for the union membership instead a system was created which allowed the direct employer-employee bbargaining process. It was achieved with the help of enactment of a new legislation which was known as the Workplace Relationships Act.[4] The industrial relation legislation as planned by his government was confronting the unions in the country. This legislation was meant to check the union bureaucracy. The industries in this country were mainly run with a capitalism outlook and this worked on the basis of mediating the class conflict at the workplace through conciliation and arbitration. But the base of any such conflict was the recognition by the employees and the state of the legality of the union bureaucracy in the process of industrial relations. The Howard government signaled that the existing system of capitalism and excessive control of the employers will be checked by the new industrial relations. The industrial relations were therefore, restructured for including the replacement of award wages with the direct employee-employer enterprise bargaining. This reform allowed for the simplification of the process of agreement-making between the employee and the employer. It allowed for the union collective agreement, the union greenfield agreement and the employer greenfield agreements by reducing the time period needed by the employers to provide notice to the employees. Hence with this legislation the agreements needed to only to be lodged rather than certified.  Secondly, Howard created a privatized and competitive market for service providers. During 1996 and 1999, 49% of the Telstra shares were sold in two shares[5]. This was made possible by replacing the Commonwealth Employment Service. However, this was not welcomed by opposing party as this move was cited to had been done to gain money so as to fund to the election campaign rather than to care for the shareholder’s interests[6]. His government also introduced the unfair dismissal legislation. This allowed the employee protection from any type of unfair termination of employment by their employers without giving any justified reason.

Foreign policies and international relations were also at focus of his governance. His government formed various foreign policies and rules for improving the country’s international relations and the national security and international relations. This government took steps to check the world terrorism incidents by responding to the 9/11 US terror attacks.[7] The terror attacks of 9/11September had major impacts on the domestic and international politics. During his government, the Australian committed troops for the international coalitions which was led by the United States for undertaking military actions the Iraq and Afghanistan. This country also took steps to fight the threat of Islamic extremism as demonstrated in the bombing attacks in Bali on 12th of October 2002. His government responded to the issue of immigration. The immigration reforms under his government allowed for the increase in the economic focus of the country towards immigration. His reform reduced the size of the family-reunion element, increased the integrity of the overall immigration policy and restricted the access of new migrants to the state welfare program. Howard’s government led to ban the entry of asylum seekers coming through boat and this was welcomed by the country. This move of his government led him to win another term in the government of this country. His government also took a strong stand on the border control and took efforts to limit the role of courts in specific cases. These responses were being developed for addressing the rising number of asylum-seeker individuals in the country during his reign. The illegal immigration had become a major issue for this country and therefore, steps have to be taken to check this issue in this country. Therefore, a strict immigration policy was developed by his government whereby the entry of the asylum seekers through boats was banned completely. This policy was established as these seekers for asylum were putting strain on the welfare system of the country.[8]

The Howard’s government gave response to the international terrorist issues like that which emerged in the East Timor, and this was involving the Indonesian groups. Under his rule, the country led a peace enforcement unit of the United Nations for restoring the law and order in the region of East Timor during September 1999. The military unit of the country took steps to achieve the peace and provided assistance for rebuilding the infrastructure which has been destroyed by the terrorist militia groups. Furthermore, Howard’s government established various foreign  policies which boosted the international trade and relations with the neighbouring countries. One such policy is the ‘Asia first’, and this had involved integrating foreign policy of the country. The Howard’s government stressed on the policy of Asia first but not Asia only for integrating all the segments of the foreign policy of the country in the 20th century. This diplomatic policy was aimed at strengthening the traditional ties with Europe and Britain. It helped in advancing the relationship of the independent countries from the British Commonwealth. It helped in establishing trade and defence partnerships with US. It also maintained post-1950s focus of the country on the diplomatic and trade relations within its neighbourhood of Asia-Pacific region. During the Iraq war of 2003, he had sent the Australian troops to fight alongside the US and British forces.[9] However, he was criticised to have entered into a war with a country only for maintaining alliances with the US government. This war raised the moral responsibility of Australia towards the Iraqi people and therefore, Howard’s government has to face criticism even after decades of war[10]. Additionally, his government also worked for the development of some environmental reforms to check the environmental degradation in this country. His government was able to fund the environmental policies by selling Telstra partially. The government introduced the ‘Carbon trading scheme’ which was a cap-and-trade emission trading plan for the greenhouse gases emission by the anthropogenic efforts. This will help in changing the energy policy of the country and will be helpful in lowering the emissions of greenhouse gases gradually[11]. However, his government was more focussed on the developmental activities rather than not using carbon fuel for its developmental activities. It was following his alliance with US counterparts when dealing with the environmental matters.

Howard’s government is criticized for fostering inequality in the country by promoting neoliberalism in its policies.[12] His government led to the creation of an investor state whch only gave advantages to those who have capital as they were able to save a lot and the community interests as a whole was ignored during his government. His governance moves have been able to create more socioeconomic inequality int the country since 2007 reforms. During his reign, the rich people were able to receive the major advantage and they have been able to save taxes by transferring their assets from the sources which were deemed to be taxable. Through the retirement scheme which was termed as regressive, the rich people of this country with extra cash accumulated tax-free capital and thereby ignoring the wider community benefits.[13] This also focused on making the wealthy richer by letting them have large sums of money saved for their retirement purposes and for the older lives instead of paying for the taxes.

Conclusion 

It is therefore concluded that the reforms introduced by his government has brought many changes in this country. The reforms introduced by his government also addressed the deficiencies in the traditional system and gave a new direction to the country. The government’s economic reforms led to the introduction of a new tax which addressed the inadequacies of the tax system in the country. Secondly, the reforms in the industrial relations in his government allows for the better bargaining between the employer and the employees. Thirdly, the efforts of the Howard’s government led to the improvement in the international relations. The immigration policies of the country were checked by banning the illegal immigrants. The national security of the country was strengthened national security by supporting the international relations. Hence, it is maintained that the governance of the Howard during the different terms had introduced many advantages and disadvantages for the citizens of this country. he has been criticized heavily for participating in the Iraq and Afghanistan war. It was stated that it was done only to maintain his alliance with the US. His government has to face criticism for fostering socioeconomic inequalities in the country by not taxing heavily the rich and wealthy and properly supporting the community development. His government is also not known to bring major reforms in the environmental protection either. Despite these his government moves have been most welcomed for the asylum seekers ban. This led him to win another term in the election as well. Therefore, Howard’s policies and regulations led to major reforms in the consumer, housing, and employment fields. 

Bibliography

Redden, Guy. “John Howard’s investor state: Neoliberalism and the rise of inequality in Australia.” Critical Sociology 45, no. 4-5 (2019): 713-728.

Rowse, Tim. “How John Howard positioned himself as indigenous Australia’s champion.” ANU Historical Journal II 2 (2020): 169-194.

Wallace, Chris. “The 2001 Cabinet papers in context.” National Archives of Australia (2021).


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