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Australia's economic reform challenge

On November 17 former Australian Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard OM AC delivered CEDA's 2015 Annual Dinner address discussing the political and economic environment in Australia.

As a Prime Minister, you should call the election when your opportunity for success is maximised, former Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard OM AC has told CEDA’s Annual Dinner in Sydney.

“My belief is that the next election will be called in September next year when it is due,” Mr Howard said.

“That’s the indication the Prime Minister has given.”

Mr Howard said when considering election timing, it is important to keep in mind the natural scepticism of the Australian public.

“Australians are very cynical about elections that are called without good reason ahead of time,” he said.

A second consideration is also the Senate’s fixed three year term which if the Federal Election is called early, a half Senate election will also have to happen, he said.

“You don’t want to bring back half senate elections, they’re a pain in the neck and a heaven send opportunity to vote against an incumbent government no matter how well it may be going,” he said.

Speaking on the state of Australian politics, Mr Howard said it has become increasingly volatile as demonstrated in the recent Queensland and Victorian elections.

“We used to think that every government was guaranteed at least a second term, that is no longer the case,” he said.

Mr Howard said rusted on support for both parties has decreased significantly.

“When I was first getting involved in politics, I used to think there was a 40-40-20 rule,” he said. 

“forty per cent of the population always voted labor and 40 per cent voted for us and the other 20 per cent sloshed around in the middle.”

Now it is more like a 30-30-40 rule making politics increasingly unpredictable, he said.

Discussing international politics in particular the current situation in Syria, Mr Howard said “I encourage the hope that there will be a political settlement of some kind in Syria.”

“If in fact (US President Barack) Obama and (Russian President Vladamir) Putin have had a meeting of minds on that, that is a good thing. I don’t know yet for sure whether they have,” he said.

“That solution has got to involve in the short term Bashar al-Assad,” he said.

“If it takes some kind of interim deal which leaves Bashar al-Assad in place for a period of time and some kind of arrangement about his future to bring peace in Syria, that is a price worth paying.

“You should never allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good when you bring about some kind of settlement.”

Speaking specifically about ISIS, Mr Howard said: “I’d like to say otherwise, but this is going to be with us for a long time and it is important that we tackle it on both military and political fronts.

“In the long run yes it can only be solved politically but in the short run you have to deny them battlefield successes to bring about the conditions for political change.”