Also important: Remind people of your successes. Thanks to Howard and Costello, Australia is today one of the freest economies in the world. It is not only one of the lowest taxed, but one of the lowest in terms of the inequality of income and wealth. Many credit this to Howard’s Goods and Services Tax, implemented in 2000, which followed a major tax overhaul involving deep cuts in taxes on income, wholesale transactions, banking, and some fuel sales — combined with rigorous means-testing for government social-welfare programs. Others credit Australia’s burgeoning export trade during the Howard years, from iron and coal to wheat and wool; it is today worth $90 billion more than all the trade between the United States and Japan. What some worry about as a surrender of sovereignty Howard sees as an example of free trade lifting all boats — but also a valuable lesson in how to remain a partner rather than a vassal of the Chinese dragon.
Value-added taxes are not popular in Washington at this moment, and for good reason. Still, Howard’s achievement shouldn’t be overlooked — especially because of what hasn’t happened in Australia: no bursting real-estate bubble; no banking crisis or financial meltdown; above all, no imploding welfare state or deficit avalanche.