Howard's Way

By Briggs, Jamie | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Howard's Way


Briggs, Jamie, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


HOWARD'S WAY Jamie Briggs reviews Lazarus Rising By John Howard (HarperCollins, 2010, 512 pages)

John Winston Howard is Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister and the twelfth longest serving member of the House of Representatives.

Lauded by his admirers as a ?conviction politician', Howard has arguably had more bile and abuse thrown at him by the Left, the media and at times even by members of his own tribe, than anyone in the history of our polity. But rather than achieve its intended purpose of forcing him to go away, the abuse only served to strengthen his resolve.

Lazarus Rising is a predictably considered account of his life. I say life because it is impossible to distinguish his public life from his private life. I say predictable because it was his opponent's constant underestimation of him that was always one of their greatest mistakes.

The 650-page autobiography takes a helicopter view of his upbringing, his pre-political career, the Fraser government, the opposition years and then his time as prime minister. Howard recalls the advice he was given by his Evidence lecturer, Len Badham, at Sydney University Law School in 1960-?human recollection is inherently frail, the more so with the distance of time.' It was a principle which Howard relied on for much of his career.

John Howard's love of family is well known and well documented in Lazarus . He was brought up in what he describes as a ?stable, lower-middle class home' as the youngest of four boys. He describes the influence of discussions of political matters as a ?source' of the decision to dedicate his life to public service. The book leaves you with the unmistakable impression that the influence of his mother, Mona, was very powerful in the formative years.

Lazarus also chronicles that Howard, the self-described ?cricket-tragic', was also ?enthralled' by boxing and as a young fan he could ?recite, in order, all of the heavyweight champions of the world from James J. Corbett onwards'. John Howard and boxing is not a combination that jumps readily to mind but maybe this is where he learnt the value of a tenacious spirit.

In John Howard's account, his family were typical of the aspirational Australia that as Prime Minister he sought to develop. He describes his parents as members of the ?Greatest Generation': they gave everything so that the lives of their children would be better than their own.

Quite obviously the death of a parent at a relative young age can have a major impact on the life of the children and this is indeed the case with John Howard. The death of his father not only saddened him but also, as he was youngest, brought him closer to his mother, who remained a dominant influence on his early years in politics.

University for John Howard was harder than for most. His poor hearing that plagued his youth made studying in university lecture theatres that much more difficult. Again the story relayed in Lazarus demonstrates just how singularly determined his personality is.

Following university John Howard moved into the legal profession and found a great influence from lawyer Myer Rosenblum. This was the beginning of his strong association with the Australian Jewish community. Far from the Labor myth about John Howard's early career in the law, he was much more than a ?suburban solicitor'. In fact he partnered a city based firm, but his growing love of politics took over.

It was at this time that he started to take the first steps into serious Liberal Party activities. It was also at this time that he made contact with his great political mentor John Carrick who was to be a long lasting influence on his career. Howard says Carrick always ?realised that politics was a battle of ideas-a philosophical contest-and not merely a public relations competition.' Amen to that.

Howard threw himself into the organisational arm of the Liberal Party, becoming President of the NSW Young Liberals and giving him his first exposure to Sir Robert Menzies during a cocktail party at the Lodge, where he says Menzies ? …

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