For his leadership on gun law reform, foreign relations and economic policy, former Prime Minister John Howard OM AC accepted an honorary degree from the University of Sydney today.
“Mr Howard is a great example of an alumnus of the University who has shown outstanding leadership for and on behalf of our nation,” said Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Belinda Hutchinson AM.
“He remained true to his principles over the reform of gun control laws, and today we have a firearms law system that is the envy of the world. His strong economic policy and his diplomatic skill also left a lasting legacy for Australia.”
Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community or achieved exceptional academic or creative excellence. Mr Howard will receive a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa).
Mr Howard graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws in 1961.
I remain most grateful for the education I received at the University.
Early in his first term as Prime Minister and in response to the Port Arthur massacre, Mr Howard introduced a proposal for uniform gun laws throughout Australia, limiting the availability of firearms and incorporating a federally funded buy-back scheme. This decisive action, which was highly unpopular in sections of Prime Minister Howard’s political support base, is now seen throughout the world as one of the most successful examples of a gun-control system.
Over the course of his four terms in office, Mr Howard made a number of important contributions to Australian foreign affairs including his skilful response to the East Timor crisis in 1999, the restoration of relations with Indonesia and the development of a strong trade and pragmatic relationship with China.
The Howard Government established a reputation for strong economic policy, including the reformation of the Australian tax system through the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, which broadened the country’s tax base.
“I congratulate Mr Howard on his doctorate and the many achievements it commemorates. I am delighted to welcome Mr Howard into the eminent company of the many alumni and community members who have been honoured in this way,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.
“I am very touched that the University has conferred this special honour on me. I remain most grateful for the education I received at the University,” said Mr Howard.
Speaking at an event after the ceremony the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull commented:
“It’s an honour to be asked to pay tribute to a man that I admire so much, and wonderful to be back on the campus of the University that gave us both… such a great springboard into the world. We are always in debt to this University.”
He observed that Mr Howard “was instrumental in bringing back a style and a substance of government that is absolutely crucial to our continued success and prosperity.”
Since the first official honorary degree was awarded by the University in 1952, several former Australian prime ministers have been recognised with the accolade, including Robert Menzies, Gough Whitlam, Stanley Bruce and William Hughes.
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke will receive an honorary doctorate later this year.