John Howard delivers 2015 Sir Roland Wilson Oration

John Howard delivers 2015 Sir Roland Wilson Oration
7 May 2015

Former Prime Minister John Howard OM AC has delivered the University's 2015 Sir Roland Wilson Oration urging policy makers to continue to work on major economic reforms.

Mr Howard, Prime Minister from 1996 until 2007, said economic reform appears to have stalled at present compared to the past 30 years.

He said while some big reforms could take many years to be implemented, the Australian public would still accept change and had the capacity to support reforms that were both fair and in the public interest.

"I still believe the Australian public will accept the desirability of economic reform if two conditions are satisfied," Mr Howard said.

"The first condition is that the public must be persuaded that it is in the national interest.

"Australians still look to the national interest. Of course individual members of the public are rightly concerned about the wellbeing of themselves and their families, but they do have the capacity to look beyond that.

"The other condition is it must be seen fundamentally as fair and not imposing too hard a burden on any section of the community.

"If those two conditions can be satisfied, then I believe the public will embrace economic reform."

Mr Howard said the floating of the Australian dollar by the Hawke Labor government was the most important economic reform of his time in parliament.

He said his government's introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2000 was the most difficult reform, due to the political opposition.

Despite the challenges, Mr Howard said he remained optimistic that more reforms could still be achieved with public support.

"It stands without argument that we must return to taxation reform, and we must return to industrial relations reform. We should address some of the deficiencies of the federation," he said.

"I don't despair about the possibility of achieving further economic reform."

This lecture was presented by the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation at ANU.