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John Howard: ‘don’t give up on reform, public will embrace national interest’

Former Prime Minister John Howard says economic reform appears to have stalled compared the past 30 years, but urged policy makers to continue the work. The comments were made in the 2015 Sir Roland Wilson Oration at the Australian National University last week.

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.

“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.”

He said his government’s introduction of the GST in 2000 was the most difficult reform.

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.

“I don’t despair about the possibility of achieving further economic reform.”

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The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.