and counting

John Howard
23 September 2004

'Truth is absolute, truth is supreme, truth is never disposable in national political life' - Prime Minister John Howard to ABC radio, 25 August 1995. The Labor Party outlines the lies here.


John Howard Lie #1 "It is our policy, without qualification, to retain Medicare . . . Not only does Medicare stay but so does bulk billing . . . They are the fundamentals, the underpinnings of the policy." - John Howard, Health Policy launch of "A Healthy Future", 12 February 1996

The Truth: "No-one can guarantee bulk billing. No-one can guarantee bulk billing without conscripting the medical profession. Medicare has never been universal bulk billing-never . . ." - Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing, Meet the Press, 23 November 2003

John Howard Lie #2 "Medicare will be retained in its entirety." - John Howard, February 1996

The Truth: The Howard Government abolished the dental plan and bulk billing rates have declined by more than 12 percentage points since the Coalition took office in 1996.

John Howard Lie #3 During the 2001 Federal election campaign John Howard promised that his Government's policies would "lead to reduced premiums" for health insurance. - "Heading in the Right Direction", p151

The Truth: Since the election in 2001, the Government has approved increases in premiums totalling 21 per cent.


John Howard Lie #4 "I can guarantee we're not going to have $100,000 university degree courses." - John Howard, interview with Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW, 15 October 1999

The Truth: 16 different degrees now cost at least $100,000.

John Howard Lie #5 "We have no intention of introducing a loans scheme with a real or indeed any other rate of interest." - John Howard, in Parliament, 18 October 1999

The Truth: "Debts accrued under FEE-HELP will be indexed to the consumer price index . . . A loan fee of 20 per cent will apply to FEE-HELP loans for undergraduate courses of study only." - Higher Education Loan Programme, Department of Education, Science and Training Update, March 2004

John Howard Lie #6 "Well, it means that we'll not have deregulated fees. In other words, the Government will always maintain a control over what the level of the fee is." - John Howard, interview on Radio 3AW, 15 October 1999

The Truth: "We do need more money in our universities . . . and some of it should come outside the budget through a managed and sensible deregulation of the system." - John Howard in Parliament, 16 September 2003


John Howard Lie #7 John Howard: "No, there's no way that a GST will ever be part of our policy." Journalist: "Never ever?" John Howard: "Never ever. It's dead. It was killed by the voters in the last election". - John Howard, interview, Tweed Heads Civic Centre, 2 May 1995

The Truth: "The bills before the House will enact a broad based goods and services tax that will be levied at 10 per cent and will start in July 2000." - Peter Costello, Treasurer, A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Bill), Second Reading Speech, 2 December 1998

John Howard Lie #8 "The GST will not increase the price of petrol for the ordinary motorist . . ." - John Howard, Address to the Nation on the Tax Plan, 13 August 1998

The Truth: The price of automotive fuel rose 10.4 per cent in the September quarter following the introduction of the GSTon 1 July 2000, and was 23.6 per cent higher than at the same time the previous year. - Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS, Time Series Spreadsheets, Consumer Price Index 6401.0

John Howard Lie #9 "There'll be no more than a 1.9% rise in ordinary beer." - John Howard, John Laws Program, 23 September 1998

The Truth: The price of beer rose 4.8 per cent in the September quarter following the introduction of the GSTon 1 July 2000, and was 8.5 per cent higher than the same time the previous year. - Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS, Time Series Spreadsheets, Consumer Price Index 6401.0

<b>John Howard Lie #10 Journalist: "Will the number of pages in the Tax Act be reduced by the introduction of a GST?" Prime Minister: "Yes it will" - John Howard, interview Alan Jones Radio 2UE, 14 August 1998

The Truth: ". . . the Tax Act has grown from 3,000 to over 9,000 pages and an additional 2.5 million words have been inserted into the Tax Act, since 1 July 2000. Apart from these overwhelming changes foisted onto small businesses, we now have over 2 million businesses registered under the GST, compared to less than 17,000 under the former sales tax regime." - National Tax & Accountants' Association, 15 August 2002

John Howard Lie #11 Kerry O'Brien: "Okay. the pledge of no new taxes, no increase in existing taxes for the life of the next parliament. So for the next three years, not even a one cent increase on cigarettes or beer or wine or petrol, no other indirect tax increase, no tax increase of any kind?" John Howard: "That promise is quite explicit". - John Howard, ABC 7:30 Report, 1 February 1996

The Truth: By 30 September 2002, John Howard's Government had introduced legislation for 130 new taxes or tax increases during its terms of office. "Bills which imposed a new tax or increased an existing tax introduced during the 38th to 40th Parliaments" - Clerk of the Senate, 30 October 2002


John Howard Lie #12 Labor MP question to the Prime Minister: "Prime Minister, was the government contacted by the major Australian producer of ethanol or by any representative of his company or the Industry Association before its decision to impose fuel excise on ethanol?" John Howard: "Speaking for myself, I did not personally have any discussions, from recollection, with any of them." - John Howard, Question Time, 17 September 2002

The Truth: John Howard had met on 1 August the head of Manildra Group [Dick Honan], which makes 87 per cent of our ethanol, and they discussed how to help the Australian ethanol industry. - Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Official Record of Meeting, 1 August 2002 Aged Care and the Pension Clawback

John Howard Lie #13 Interviewer: "Well, if the Budget's in such good shape why persist with things like the pension claw back . . ." John Howard: "No, no . . . because Glenn there is no clawback. And what happened with those things is that they were paid in advance and we're not taking them back, we're just avoiding paying them twice . . ." - John Howard, interview with Glenn Milne, Sunday Sunrise, 4 March 2001

John Howard Lie #14 "There has been no clawback, there has been no deduction and there has been no deceit". - John Howard, Parliament, 5 March 2001

The Truth: "The indexation adjustments to pensions and adult allowance rates for 20 March 2001 will have the additional issue of clawback . . . Two per cent of the existing rate will be deducted from the normal CPI adjustment . . ." - Department of Family and Community Services, internal briefing paper, quoted in Parliament, 5 March 2001


John Howard Lie #15 "I can promise you that we will follow policies which will, over a period of time, bring down the foreign debt . . . our first priority in Government economically will be to tackle the current account deficit." - John Howard, Doorstop interview, Debt Truck Launch, 20 September 1995

The Truth: Foreign debt was $361 billion at the end of September 2003, an increase of 90 per cent on the September 1995 level. The current account deficit was $11.9 billion at the end of September 2003, an increase of 112.5 per cent on the September 1995 level. - Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS, Time Series Spreadsheets (Balance of Payments and Investment Position, Australia 5302.0, Reserve Bank of Australia (H) Bulletin, Current Account)


John Howard Lie #16 "Well, we're certainly going to maintain the existing level of funding for labour market programs". John Howard, Address to Youth, Macgregor, 20 February 1996

The Truth: Kerry O'Brien: "Okay. But on 20 February, you said very clearly 'We are certainly going to maintain the existing level of funding for labour market programs'. Now, for all the people on those labour market programs, I would suggest it to them that would have been a pretty core promise and you've broken it." John Howard: "Well, it is true that we are not spending as much money on labour market programs". - John Howard, interview on ABC 7:30 Report, 21 August 1996


John Howard Lie #17 "I don't want to see any further services, government service levels withdrawn from or taken away from the bush . . . I gave instructions for that this morning when I spoke to my office in Canberra, that in any future Government decisions that, in effect, a red light flashes if that Government decision involves a reduction in the delivery of an existing Commonwealth service." - John Howard, Nyngan Community Luncheon, 31 January 2000

The Truth: The Howard Government reduced the number of Job Network sites by 42 per cent, from 1710 to 986, and the number of outreach services by 65 per cent, from 404 to 140." Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Employment Services Contract 2003-2006, Aggregate Analysis, March 2003 - Job Network Conditional Offers, Aggregate Analysis, December 1999


John Howard Lie #18 "The Government's position remains that we were advised by Defence that children were thrown overboard, we made those allegations on the basis of that advice, and until I get Defence advice to the contrary I will maintain that position". - John Howard, Sunrise, Channel 7, 9 November 2001

The Truth: "I left him in no doubt that there was no evidence, that there were no children thrown overboard." - Mike Scrafton, ABC 7:30 Report, 16 August 2004

John Howard Lie #19 ". . . the behaviour of a number of these people, [on Siev 4] particularly those involving throwing their children overboard . . ." - John Howard, ABC Radio 3LO Melbourne, 9 October 2001

The Truth: "There is no indication that children were thrown overboard." - Defence Strategic Command chronology to Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, noon on 10 October (quoted in Investigation into advice provided to Ministers on 'SIEV 4', 21 January 2002)

John Howard Lie #20 "Nothing can alter the fact that I have in my possession an ONA report that states baldly . . . that children were thrown in the water." - John Howard, SBS Insight program, 8 November 2001

The Truth: ". . . fundamentally there was nothing to suggest that women and children had been thrown into the water." - Account of private conversation Acting Chief of the Defence Forces, Angus Houston, had with Peter Reith, Minister for Defence, on 7 November 2001, evidence given to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, 20 February 2002


John Howard Lie #21 "The Australian Government knows that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons." - John Howard, Speech to Parliament before the war in Iraq, 4 February 2003

The Truth: "I stand by the fact that before we entered the war, we had a very strong intelligence assessment that Iraq had a WMD capability." - John Howard, interview with Charles Wooly, 60 Minutes program, after the war in Iraq, 20 July 2003

John Howard Lie #22 "Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons-uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq; . . ." - John Howard, Ministerial Statement, before the war in Iraq, 4 February 2003 The Truth: ". . . an intelligence claim about Iraq's effort to acquire uranium from Africa proved to be erroneous." - Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Sydney Morning Herald, after the war in Iraq, 18 June 2003

John Howard Lie #23 "The Government has decided to commit Australian forces to action to disarm Iraq because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it's in Australia's national interest. We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, its chemical and biological weapons, which even in minute quantities are capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale." - John Howard, Address to the Nation, before the war in Iraq, 20 March 2003

The Truth: "We entered the war in Iraq based upon the failure of the Iraqi government at the time to comply with United Nations' resolutions . . ." - John Howard, Press Conference, after the war, 22 July 2003

John Howard Lie #24 Journalist: In your talks tomorrow, especially at the Pentagon, do you expect to lock in a possible role for Australia if, further down the track we do decide to join a coalition of the willing? Prime Minister: Look there have been contingency discussions going on between the American and the Australian military and it's always important in these situations to leave those sorts of things to the militaries of the two countries - John Howard, Press Conference, Washington, 9 February 2003

The Truth: Journalist: "Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the coalition of the willing?" President Bush: "Yes, I do". - George W Bush, President of the United States, Oval Office remarks with John Howard, Washington, the next day, 10 February 2003


John Howard Lie #25 ". . . we will ask the Auditor-General to draw up new guidelines on what is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money in this area. There is clearly a massive difference between necessary Government information for the community and blatant Government electoral propaganda. Propaganda should be paid for by political parties." - John Howard, Press Release, "Auditor-General to examine Government Advertising", 5 September 1995

The Truth: The Howard Government never asked the Auditor-general to examine Government Advertising and they completely ignored the advertising guidelines recommended by the Auditor-General in 1998. In the lead up to the 2004 election the government plans to spend at least $120 million on government advertising. "In relation to future government advertising, we will explain government policies where it is necessary. We make absolutely no apology for that . . . The truth of the matter is that all governments . . . from time to time have advertised and explained the features of new policies." - John Howard, Question Without Notice, Hansard, 22 June 2004


John Howard Lie #26 "Our plans . . . will involve not replacing . . . up to 2,500 positions over the first term of a Coalition Government-a process of natural attrition with no forced redundances." - Coalition Public Administration policy document Election Campaign February 1996

The Truth: In the first term of the Howard Government, 32,400 jobs were lost. - Budget Papers, 1997-1999 Savings Bonus

John Howard Lie #27 On a promised savings bonus: "You get the $1,000 savings bonus if you are 60 years or over." ". . . in addition to the pension increases, there's the saving bonus for everybody at sixty years or beyond of a thousand, an additional two thousand for self-funded retirees at pensioner age." - John Howard, Prime Minister, John Howard, interviews on Radio 5AA, 14 August 1998, and Sunday program, 16 August 1998

The Truth: "It was very clear that pensioners who had income from savings of up to $20,000 could be eligible for the $1,000 bonus and that from $20,000 to $30,000, depending on their income, the bonus would alter." - Larry Anthony, Minister for Community Services, Parliament, 28 June 2000 ". . . Almost 60 per cent of Australians have received the full $1,000 and nearly 75 per cent of those older Australians have received $500 or more . . ." - Larry Anthony, Minister for Community Services, Parliament, 29 November 2000


John Howard Lie #28 Journalist: "why won't it [private health insurance] create a two-tier health system? . . ." John Howard: "Well, it won't create a two-tiered health system . . ." - John Howard, interview on AM program, 5 February 1996

The Truth: "I think country voters are very strongly supportive of the two-tiered system." - John Anderson, Deputy Prime Minister, Press Conference, 23 August 2004

John Howard Lie #29 "I know the welfare sector is particularly anxious about the effect of welfare reform on the most vulnerable in our community. In response to that very natural concern, I want to re-state the assurances I have previously given . . . nobody's benefit will be cut as a result of changes to the social security system". - John Howard, address to ACOSS Congress, 25 October 2001

The Truth: In the 2002 Federal Budget the Howard Government announced that it would cut the pensions of 200,000 people with disabilities, and last year he cut the allowances of 30,000 parents caring for children with a disability.

John Howard Lie #30 "[The cycle of family debts] won't be repeated, and with the benefit of the information we now have we're going to be able to more closely target people." - John Howard, Sunday Program, 1 July 2001

The Truth: Data provided to Senate Estimates shows almost 2.4 million families accrued family and child care benefit overpayments over the last three years. Family Tax Benefit overpayments have hit 1.9 million families and child care overpayments have hit 500,000 families. John Howard Lie #31 "This ministerial Guide . . . sets out in summary form the main principles, conventions and rules by which government at the Commonwealth level is conducted . . . The emphasis in the Guide is on the necessity of adherence to high standards by people occupying positions of public trust . . . " - John Howard, Press Release, 2 April 1996 "The guidelines that were laid down in this document will be complied with in full." - John Howard, Parliament, 7 May 1996

The Truth: Seven Howard ministers resigned for breaches of the Guidelines, but nine further ministers did not comply with the Guidelines and did not resign.

John Howard Lie #32 "The Coalition will seek to invest the Speaker of the next parliament with greater independence, similar to his or her counterpart at Westminster. This will require the positive response of the Labor Party. For our part the commitment is genuine and on-going." - John Howard, Headland Speech, The Role of Government: a Liberal Approach, 6 June 1995

The Truth: Eight and a half years later, John Howard's commitment appears to be "on-going" but not genuine. The Speaker's position remains a partisan political appointment. The Prime Minister has never sought to change the role or sought Labor's support for changes to the Speaker's position to enhance its independence.

John Howard Lie #33 ". . . it would be the intention of the Coalition that Parliament sit for longer periods." - John Howard, Headland Speech, The Role of Government: a Liberal Approach, 6 June 1995

The Truth: Between 1997 and 2003, Parliament sat for an average of 18 weeks a year under John Howard--the same as the average sitting period for the Keating Government.

John Howard Lie #34 "The Coalition in government will also establish a stronger comprehensive committee system for parliamentary scrutiny of all government legislation" - John Howard, Headland Speech, The Role of Government: a Liberal Approach, 6 June 1995

The Truth: John Howard has introduced no reforms to establish a stronger comprehensive committee system for Parliamentary scrutiny of all government legislation.

John Howard Lie #35 "A coalition Government will provide in full the funds earmarked in the 1995/96 Budget to match compulsory employee contributions according to the proposed schedule; will deliver this Government contribution into superannuation or like savings . . . " - Coalition Superannuation Policy Document, January 1996

The Truth: "The Government has decided not to pursue the co-contribution proposal, . . . Instead, it will use part of the funds set aside in the forward estimates to introduce a broadly based savings rebate through the tax system." - Budget 1997/98, Budget Paper No


When confronted by this record of lies, Mr Howard ducked, dodged, and diverted attention.

He resorted to dense, lawyerly language.

He reached for the books to find an exception, a technicality, or a qualification that could get him off the hook.

In Mr Howard's response to the 27 lies on 23 August 2004:

       3 times, his excuse was that his comments were being read out of context.

       4 times, he passed the buck, claiming he wasn't told or had wrong advice.

       9 times, he avoided facing up to his lie--instead, diverting attention by talking about a different issue.

     11 times, he tried to wriggle out, with a slippery, evasive response, adding new qualifications and conditions that were never there in his original statement.

It was too hard for Mr Howard to talk straight to the Australian people about his 27 lies, he couldn't even explain these five:

The lie that he would retain Medicare. ". . . without qualification . . . Not only does Medicare stay but so does bulk billing . . ." Mr Howard avoided facing up to his lie. Medicare is a universal health care system, and he promised to retain it. Instead, he almost dismantled it, in favour of an increasingly complex, two-tier health system.

The lie that his policies would lead to reduced premiums for health insurance.

". . . lead to reduced premiums . . ."

Mr Howard avoided facing up to his lie. Instead, he reaching for the books and tried a diversion--by talking about the private health insurance rebate.

Premiums are up 21 per cent since Mr Howard's promise in the 2001 election.

The lie that there would be no $100,000 university fees.

"I can guarantee we're not going to have $100,000 university degree courses." Mr Howard pleads that he was quoted "out of context". But read the whole interview: his words were plain then. And the truth is plain now: there are 16 university degrees that now cost more than $100,000.

The lie that he wouldn't be increasing taxes.

"That promise is quite explicit."

Under siege as the highest taxing Prime Minister in history, Mr Howard went for the bigger lie: that he had "dramatically cut taxes". But Mr Howard kept increasing taxes for 8 years. When he left office the average taxpayer was then paying $10,300 more in tax than when he was elected. The lie that he wouldn't use taxpayers' money for blatant political propaganda.

"Blatant . . . government electoral propaganda should be paid for by political parties."

Mr Howard avoids facing up to his lies. He didn't say he was going to stick to the same rules as Labor--he said he would follow new guidelines. But instead, he reached deeper and deeper into taxpayers' pockets, vastly increasing spending on political ads at each election, to over $120 million in 2004.

Mr Howard lied his way through 8 years in office, and Australians are paying the price. Higher costs for going to the doctor and getting private health insurance. Higher costs for getting the kids through their study. Higher taxes all along the way, and a less secure Australia.

Ordinary Australians are still paying the price of John Howard's dishonesty and broken promises.