13 Jun 2018
By Samantha Hutchinson
It was the biggest speech of John Howard's career, and he wasn't going to let his speechwriter's notes get in the way.
The former prime minister was en route to Bali in 2002 after 88 Australians were killed in twin bombings in Kuta when he decided to shelve his notes.
"I knew it was something that I was just going to have to deliver from the heart," he said.
"People want to actually know what you think, rather than something someone may have written down for you."
Mr Howard shed light on some of his memorable speeches last night as he launched a book of his speeches, John Howard: the Art of Persuasion, in Melbourne.
He confessed he was a "terrible reader of speeches" but defended the style as it gave him more latitude to connect with voters.
He praised former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, US president Ronald Reagan and Sir Robert Menzies for delivering some of the most evocative speeches he had heard in his 40-year political career, singling out Mr Keating's speech at the entombment of the Unknown Soldier as one of the most "beautiful" pieces of prose ever delivered.
He declared Reagan's order to Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" was one of the single most powerful speeches ever delivered, while noting Winston Churchill's capacity to corral and galvanise disenchanted civilians as inimitable and unrepeated since.
He singled out former prime and conservative icon Menzies as the most influential orator of his career. "He was the absolute apex as far as I was concerned," Mr Howard said.
"He had a beautifully cultivated voice, but it wasn't posh.
And he could connect with every section of the Australian community.
"He could go down well in the western districts of Victoria and the highways and byways of South Australia, and he could do just as well in rural Queensland and in Western Australia, and in fact he just had a great capacity.
"I never felt prouder, in my younger life I suppose, to be an Australian."
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg welcomed Mr Howard, whom he praised for his defence of Australian ideals and Judeo-Christian culture, in front of an audience thick with former and current Liberal stalwarts, including Kevin Andrews, Nick Minchin, David Kemp, Rod Kemp, Richard Alston, and Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger, and donors including Hugh Morgan.
Senators Jane Hume and James Paterson also attended the event, along with a slew of Victorian MPs, including frontbenchers Georgie Crozier, Inga Peulich and Tim Smith.
Caption Text: AARON FRANCIS - Former prime minister John Howard at the launch of Howard: the Art of Persuasion in Melbourne last night (and speaking Georgie Crozier to the right.)
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