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Former prime minister John Howard comments on Scott Morrison controversy and has advice for Anthony Albanese

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It hasn’t been a good week for the Liberal Party, with revelations Scott Morrison assigned himself senior ministerial portfolios while he was prime minister.

He’s since apologised, but there are lingering questions about how much damage has been done to the Coalition off the back of an electoral defeat.

Watch: Natalie Barr’s one-on-one with John Howard in the video above

Watch Sunrise on Channel 7 and stream it for free on 7plus >>

One person who knows what the pressure is like at the top is former prime minister John Howard, who led the Liberals to four consecutive victories at the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004 federal elections.

He sat down with Sunrise host Natalie Barr for a breakfast TV exclusive as he prepares to launch his next book, A Sense of Balance.

Natalie Barr: Were you surprised when you heard that Scott Morrison had sworn himself in to all these ministries and barely told anyone?

John Howard: No, nothing shocks me in politics.

NB: You’ve been around too long?

JH: Something like that, Natalie.

NB: Barely anyone knew about it? What do you think?

JH: Well, that’s for him to deal with. I didn’t know about it until it emerged in the papers, and he really has to explain why he did it.

John Howard sits down with Sunrise co-host Natalie Barr. Credit: Sunrise

NB: Is this an abuse of power, in your opinion?

JH: No. I think it’s something that Scott Morrison must contextualise, which he’s done … I can’t, on the face of it, see anything illegal about what occurred … but can I give a bit of perhaps gratuitous advice to the new prime minister? Don’t get carried away with it. Stop behaving like an opposition leader. He’s now the prime minister. You should understand how important it is to make the transition. He’s no longer attacking Scott Morrison. He’s now got to explain to the Australian people what he’s doing, what he stands for, and I think Anthony Albanese, you will make a big mistake if he thinks he can get a huge political advantage out of this. It’s the past.

John Howard has urged Anthony Albanese to move on from Scott Morrison’s actions, saying they’re in the past. Credit: Sunrise

NB: One of the things the country is still dissecting and talking about is the last election, and you touch on why Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party may have lost in the book. What’s your take on that because people say If you look back at your mistakes, that’s how you learn.

JH: You can always learn from mistakes. I thought Scott Morrison did a terrific job in holding the party together when he took over … and did a fantastic job winning the 2019 election. I think he did a very good job in handling the pandemic. A lot of the criticism of him over that is unfair. On the other hand, obviously there are reasons why we lost. I think one of the main reasons is, apart from the fact that was a nine-year-old government – after a while, people do get tired of you, I think it would have been much better if he’d have had a longer-range plan for the future.

Natalie Barr during her interview with former prime minister John Howard. Credit: Sunrise

NB: So if you’re leading the party today, how do you rebuild from that?

JH: You rebuild the Liberal brand around its fundamentals, which is free enterprise, individual aspiration, the centrality of the family is the safe harbour for all of us. They are the sort of things we build our revival around, and I think Peter Dutton understands that.

NB: Can he do it?

JH: I think Peter Dutton is a very able, common sense man. I’ve known him a long time.

John Howard says Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is a ‘very able common sense man’. Credit: Sunrise

NB: Your new book, A Sense Of Balance, tell us what that means.

JH: Well, one of the things that I think Australia has done very well is to avoid really polarising debates on issues. Countries like the United States are still arguing about some fundamentals … we’ve shown a maturity in a sense of balance. I think one of the great things about our European origins was that we inherited wonderful institutions and practices from the British like parliamentary democracy, free press, all that sort of thing. But we didn’t inherit the bad things like the aristocracy or class distinction. So we’ve been pretty clever, and I think keeping that sense of balance is very important for our future.

John Howard new book, A Sense Of Balance. Credit: Sunrise

John Howard’s new book A Sense Of Balance is released today.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.


It hasn’t been a good week for the Liberal Party, with revelations Scott Morrison assigned himself senior ministerial portfolios while he was prime minister.

He’s since apologised, but there are lingering questions about how much damage has been done to the Coalition off the back of an electoral defeat.

Watch: Natalie Barr’s one-on-one with John Howard in the video above

Watch Sunrise on Channel 7 and stream it for free on 7plus >>

One person who knows what the pressure is like at the top is former prime minister John Howard, who led the Liberals to four consecutive victories at the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004 federal elections.

He sat down with Sunrise host Natalie Barr for a breakfast TV exclusive as he prepares to launch his next book, A Sense of Balance.

Natalie Barr: Were you surprised when you heard that Scott Morrison had sworn himself in to all these ministries and barely told anyone?

John Howard: No, nothing shocks me in politics.

NB: You’ve been around too long?

JH: Something like that, Natalie.

NB: Barely anyone knew about it? What do you think?

JH: Well, that’s for him to deal with. I didn’t know about it until it emerged in the papers, and he really has to explain why he did it.

John Howard sits down with Sunrise co-host Natalie Barr. Credit: Sunrise

NB: Is this an abuse of power, in your opinion?

JH: No. I think it’s something that Scott Morrison must contextualise, which he’s done … I can’t, on the face of it, see anything illegal about what occurred … but can I give a bit of perhaps gratuitous advice to the new prime minister? Don’t get carried away with it. Stop behaving like an opposition leader. He’s now the prime minister. You should understand how important it is to make the transition. He’s no longer attacking Scott Morrison. He’s now got to explain to the Australian people what he’s doing, what he stands for, and I think Anthony Albanese, you will make a big mistake if he thinks he can get a huge political advantage out of this. It’s the past.

John Howard has urged Anthony Albanese to move on from Scott Morrison’s actions, saying they’re in the past. Credit: Sunrise

NB: One of the things the country is still dissecting and talking about is the last election, and you touch on why Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party may have lost in the book. What’s your take on that because people say If you look back at your mistakes, that’s how you learn.

JH: You can always learn from mistakes. I thought Scott Morrison did a terrific job in holding the party together when he took over … and did a fantastic job winning the 2019 election. I think he did a very good job in handling the pandemic. A lot of the criticism of him over that is unfair. On the other hand, obviously there are reasons why we lost. I think one of the main reasons is, apart from the fact that was a nine-year-old government – after a while, people do get tired of you, I think it would have been much better if he’d have had a longer-range plan for the future.

Natalie Barr during her interview with former prime minister John Howard. Credit: Sunrise

NB: So if you’re leading the party today, how do you rebuild from that?

JH: You rebuild the Liberal brand around its fundamentals, which is free enterprise, individual aspiration, the centrality of the family is the safe harbour for all of us. They are the sort of things we build our revival around, and I think Peter Dutton understands that.

NB: Can he do it?

JH: I think Peter Dutton is a very able, common sense man. I’ve known him a long time.

John Howard says Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is a ‘very able common sense man’. Credit: Sunrise

NB: Your new book, A Sense Of Balance, tell us what that means.

JH: Well, one of the things that I think Australia has done very well is to avoid really polarising debates on issues. Countries like the United States are still arguing about some fundamentals … we’ve shown a maturity in a sense of balance. I think one of the great things about our European origins was that we inherited wonderful institutions and practices from the British like parliamentary democracy, free press, all that sort of thing. But we didn’t inherit the bad things like the aristocracy or class distinction. So we’ve been pretty clever, and I think keeping that sense of balance is very important for our future.

John Howard new book, A Sense Of Balance. Credit: Sunrise

John Howard’s new book A Sense Of Balance is released today.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

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