Hope Nights Graeme Burrill caught up for a chat with Former Prime Minister John Howard regarding the release of his new book A Sense of Balance, discussing his time spent with the late Queen Elizabeth II, Australia and his love of sport.
In a conversation that covered everything from a shared love of cricket and St George Illawarra Dragons, to paying tribute to the intelligence services of the United States, Britain and Australia in a post-September 11 world, former Prime Minister John Howard shares his reflection and perspective on a nation he led for 11 years (11 March 1996 until 3 December 2007), as our second-longest prime minister.
Listen to full interview in the player above.
Australia and politics
Mr Howard shared, “Well, I think the greatest thing about this country is that it’s free that it’s egalitarian and, if people work hard and are diligent, they can succeed”.
“…we are an open, tolerant society. We are very proud of our history, but we’re also open to people who want to come and live here… We’ve made our mistakes. I think in the past we probably didn’t handle some aspects of indigenous policy very well, but overall, it’s been a remarkably successful, tolerant, open society.”
In speaking to the changes that have occurred in the political landscape since Mr Howard was Prime Minister, “I hope it’s a good government for the sake of Australia. But what is good about this country is that when we have elections, people accept the outcome. They may not like it. I didn’t like the result of the last election, but it was properly conducted. The former government wasn’t robbed of office.”
“It’s not enough just to have a democracy. You’ve got to accept the consequences of it. And that, I think, is something that, uh, we do very well. In this country. We have seamless transfers and political power.”
Reflections on the late Queen Elizabeth II
“In the course of my political career, met Her Majesty on about 25 occasions. I met her on a number of occasions before I became prime minister and then fairly regularly. Whenever I was in Britain, I would always call on her, and naturally, if we met at international meetings when she came to Australia, I spent time with her. A remarkable individual. Tremendous, statecraft.”
“I think in many ways she was the most accomplished world leader I met in the time that I was prime minister. She was in the job for a long time. I’m now 83, I was 12 years of age when she came to the throne. I just started high school, so she was there for a long time.”
She had a great sense of humour and had a very lively interested in knowledge of Australia.
“I think the most remarkable thing about it was that she was faithful to the duties of office from the very beginning.
“She made a speech when she was 21 and in it she said that she would commit her life to serving the people that she ultimately became queen of, and she was doing that until two days before she died. Everybody’s aware that two days before she died at Balmoral Castle, she had received the resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister of Britain and had commissioned Liz Truss to succeed Mr Johnson. And that’s a very important constitutional role. And she was doing that just two days before she died. So it was emblematic of her extraordinary commitment and faithfulness to duty.”
Passion for sports
Hope Nights host Graeme Burrill and Mr Howard share a passion for Australian sports, and in commiserating a season that “has not been the best” for St George Illawarra Dragons, Mr Howards agreed, “no, but it’s a developing story. I think we showed on occasion Dragons occasions that were capable of turning in some terrific performances had some surprise wins, disappointing losses.
“My instinct is that next year will be even better and whether that will get us into the last stage… Too early to tell. But it’s certainly been a great year, of course, was in George’s celebrated 100 years of the club’s formation. And St George Club, that is.”
“…it’s a great club, great spirit. And they named the team of the Century only a few weeks ago, and it’s a wonderful team and just drove home to me how strong that St George team has been over the years. Quite remarkable.”
On their shared love of cricket, Mr Howard shared, “I just came from my family. I was the youngest of four boys in a family and a very early age, played cricket with a local church team, and, uh, I’m not a great player, but I enjoyed. It eventually seemed to be a given thing, and I played at school, so I’ve always loved the game.”
“I prefer traditional test cricket, but I don’t mind the other. I don’t go to the many T20 games. I still go out of the occasionally to 50 over game, but I think it’s a good thing to have different forms. It gets a wider participation. It appeals to people who might otherwise not be interested in the game and accepts the case. And that’s a good thing.”
“how our sense of balance has defined us as a nation and will safeguard our future.”
About the book: A Sense of Balance
“In the years that John Howard served in the national parliament he came to understand the special character of Australia; to appreciate its strengths and weaknesses; and most importantly to respect the sense of balance in the formulation of public policy that has long defined us as a nation and made Australia an attractive destination for people from across the world.”
“…Australia’s 25th and second longest serving prime minister has faith that no matter what challenges and extremes threaten to upset our sense of balance, the country’s institutions and people will remain robust into the foreseeable future.”
Find out more at harpercollins.com.au.