Former Secretary to the Treasury and Federal Senator John Stone has followed up on his March Quadrant Article “ Howard: Australia’s Greatest Prime Minister” (currently unavailable online) with a detailed economic analysis of the Howard years.
In the March Article, whilst broad in scope, he stated:
“… for years now I have been increasingly critical of certain aspects of the Howard government’s fiscal policies—particularly its persistence in squirrelling away, year by year, huge surpluses in successive budgets rather than cutting taxes. While his Treasurer, Peter Costello, has been the chief culprit, Howard must also bear his share of the blame for having allowed this situation to persist.
“Such sins notwithstanding, however, the fact is that Australia under Howard has enjoyed twelve years of unparalleled prosperity. While in part that has resulted from the emergence of Chinese demand for our commodity exports, it is also fair to say that, on a broader view, the government must receive its due share of the credit.”
This month’s article focuses purely on the economic polices of the Howard Government and analyzes to what extent they contributed to the unprecedented prosperity of the last decade. Rather unsurprisingly, he finds that sound government policy, particularly freeing the labor market, balancing the budget, and “giving people choice” – NOT external factors – were the cause.
“As one would expect from an almost twelve-year period presided over by a single prime minister, and for a policy area as complex and wide-ranging as the economy, the record of the Howard years is not without blemish. Nevertheless, the strong growth in real incomes, the huge growth in jobs, and the widely disseminated burgeoning of prosperity, however measured, can lead to only one (fair-minded) conclusion. These were good years for Australia. To judge by present portents, it may be some time before we see their like again.”