(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

John Howard took almost two decades from 1977 to 1996 to become John Howard. During that time, he was a treasurer easily pushed around by the bullying Malcolm Fraser, forced to break promises and roll out truly unpopular plans like one to tax paper boys.

He was one half of an internecine political war with Andrew Peacock, the great wets-versus-drys battle of the 1980s. Howard danced with anti-Asian populism and was outfoxed by Queensland’s Joh Bjelke-Petersen in a conservative disaster that gave Bob Hawke a relatively easy third election victory.