December 1949: The Howard family celebrates the defeat of the Chifley Government by burning the ration cards from their two petrol stations.

February 1968: Howard fails to win the marginal Labor seat of Drummoyne in the state election.

April 1971: Howard marries fellow conservative Janette Parker. They settle in Wollstonecraft, now in the seat of North Sydney.

May 1974: Howard is elected as Member for Bennelong. In his maiden speech, he rails against vertical fiscal imbalance.

December 1975: Howard becomes Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. He manages the portfolio in accordance with the interventionist orthodoxy of the day.

July 1977: Fraser promotes Howard to Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, and in November to Treasurer. John Hewson becomes Howard’s senior advisor.

August 1978: Election promises broken in the budget popularise the “Honest John” tag.

January 1979: Howard launches the Campbell review into the financial system.

August 1980: Howard’s entire budget is leaked to Laurie Oakes of the Melbourne Sun.

November 1981: Campbell recommends sweeping deregulation of the financial system. Nothing happens.

March 1983: After Hawke’s victory over Fraser, Howard is overlooked for the leadership.

December 1984: Howard is disappointed at Peacock’s good showing at the 1984 election.

September 1985: The gnawing of ‘the Rodent’ pays dividends. Howard becomes Liberal Party leader. The leaks start at the first cabinet meeting.

February 1985: Peter Costello becomes a founding member of the pro-labour market reform H.R. Nicholls society. Howard wavers in his support, contributing to Gerard Henderson’s decision to leave his position as Howard’s chief of staff.

July 1986: “The times will suit me,” Howard tells Anne Summers. Eventually, they did.

July 1987: A $500 million double counting error in the Liberal tax policy finishes off any hope of Howard defeating Hawke. Howard’s chances had already been cruelled by the surreal Joh for PM campaign.

July 1988: With Margaret Thatcher looking over his shoulder, Howard refuses to back down over his comments about Asian immigration. The release of Future Directions, as close as Howard ever got to a blueprint for his governing philosophy, comes too late to save him.

May 1989: Peacock’s coup is quickly followed by the conspirators boasting of their deceptive behaviour on Four Corners.

December 1989: Howard earns Peacock’s ire by contradicting the leader’s view that interest rates would be lower under the Coalition.

March 1993: While Hewson’s loss is usually put down to the GST, Howard blames the Coalition’s opposition to Medicare.

January 1995: Howard engineers a smooth leadership transition after Alexander Downer’s “Things that Batter” gaffe. Howard leaves Costello with the impression that they have a deal for a leadership handover.

March 2006: Howard leads the Coalition to a landslide win over Labor. Howard’s small target campaign strategy and the rise of Pauline Hanson mean that Howard struggles to set the agenda during his first term.

September 1997: The loss of a brace of ministers, plus Howard’s chief of staff Grahame Morris, for trivial offences prompts Howard to redefine ministerial responsibility out of existence.

October 1998: Howard snatches the 1998 election by polarising the electorate around his GST package. He survives with a minority of the two-party preferred vote.

September 1999: In his finest hour, Howard commits Australian troops to the United Nations-supervised transition to independence in East Timor.

November 1999: Malcolm Turnbull accuses Howard of breaking the nation’s heart by defeating the republic referendum.

August 2001: A rescue at sea turns into a political fiasco. To save face, Howard conjures the Pacific Solution. Election problems solved.

September 2001: Howard is in Washington on S11, forging a bond with George W Bush that envelops Australia in protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

October 2004: “Who do you trust to keep interest rates low?” Who indeed.

October 2005: Work Choices reduces the security of tenure of Australian workers, not least that of government MPs.

24 November 2007: The parliamentary Liberal Party being less decisive than voters in their judgements about political leadership, Howard makes it to election night and gives a dignified concession speech.

Peter Fray

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