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John Howard Comments On The 1983 Election Defeat And His Leadership Ambitions

The day after the Coalition’s defeat in the 1983 federal election, the outgoing Treasurer, John Howard, commented on his leadership ambitions in the Liberal Party.

Howard was 43 years old. He had entered parliament in 1974 and served as a minister throughout the seven years of the Fraser government, notably as Treasurer between 1977-83. His rivalry with Andrew Peacock was well-established in 1983, although the full scale of the competition was not yet evident.

Peacock succeeded Fraser as Liberal leader a few days after these remarks. Peacock led the party to defeat in the 1984 federal election. Howard supplanted him in a remarkable partyroom showdown in 1985. Peacock, in turn, replaced Howard in 1989 and led the party to another defeat in 1990. Howard returned to the leadership in 1995, won the 1996 election and went on to become Australia’s second longest-serving prime minister.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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