The Howard Government refers to the former federal Executive Government of Australia led by Prime Minister John Howard until 24 November 2007. It was made up of members of the Liberal–National Coalition, which won a majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives at four successive elections. The Howard Government commenced following victory over the Keating Government at the 1996 federal election. It concluded with its defeat at the 2007 federal election by the Australian Labor Party, whose leader Kevin Rudd formed the Rudd Government. It was the second-longest government under a single Prime Minister, with the longest having been the second Menzies Government (1949–1966).
Two senior ministers served in single roles for the duration of the Government; Peter Costello as Treasurer and Alexander Downer as Minister for Foreign Affairs. The leader of the National Party served as Deputy Prime Minister. Three men served in this capacity during the Howard government: Tim Fischer until July 1999, followed by John Anderson until July 2005 and then Mark Vaile. Decisions of the Executive were made either by the Cabinet or by the appropriate Minister.
For the first three terms of government, and part of the fourth term, the Howard Government did not have control of the Senate. Legislation needed the support of the Opposition or minor parties for that legislation to be passed and become law. In the 2004 election, the Coalition won control of the Senate for all but the first nine months of its fourth term, and was able to pass legislation without the support of minor parties. The government also faced internal problems and tension, with the loss of numerous ministers during its first term due to the introduction of a ministerial code of conduct and ongoing leadership rivalry between John Howard and Peter Costello.
Significant issues for the Howard government included implementation of substantial spending cuts in its first term of office and completely paying off government debt, gun control, the popularity of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party, industrial relations reforms including the 1998 waterfront dispute and the introduction of WorkChoices, the 1999 Australian republic referendum, reconciliation and native title, the introduction of a goods and services tax, the 1999 Australian-led intervention in East Timor, managing asylum seekers, the “War on Terror”, the intervention in Northern Territory Indigenous communities, and an economy that experienced sustained growth throughout the government's term of office.
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