John Howard the Great Communicator: No, Really!

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education and Arts




Van Onselen, P., & Errington, W. (2006, July). John Howard the Great Communicator: No, Really!. In Australian & New Zealand Communication Association International Conference, University of Adelaide.


The rough and tumble of John Howard’s public school education left him with an electorally appealing ordinariness in a party renowned for a born to rule attitude. Howard was not brought up with the sense of noblesse oblige of an establishment figure such as Malcolm Fraser. His father owned a small petrol station and John Howard worked there on weekends while at school. Howard’s background may have made it more likely for him to accept the rhetoric of economic liberalism – self-reliance, markets and rising tides. It also helped shape his approach to political rhetoric. Howard’s rhetoric, while not especially inspirational, is well crafted. It has assisted in cultivating his image of ordinariness. Once classified as a poor public speaker, Howard has grown in the Prime Ministership to present a carefully nuanced image. This paper identifies why Howard’s rhetoric is successful: thorough preparation for an ‘on message’ delivery of information, his adept handling of interviews and his ability to present a compassionate persona in times of tragedy, such as following the Port Arthur shootings and Bali bombings. Howard’s political rhetoric is compared with other modern Australian leaders. While many Labor leaders have a penchant for stirring speeches, Howard has a record of electorally appealing prose.

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