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Australia

Morrison’s a ‘hero’, says Howard

Former Prime Minister John Howard has lavished praise on Scott Morrison on the one-year anniversary of Mr Morrison’s leadership.

Describing Mr Morrison’s performance as ‘amazing”, Mr Howard has credited the prime minister with restoring credibility and leadership to the party room in an exclusive interview with Simon Benson in the Weekend Australian.

Speaking from London, Mr Howard cast aside assertions that Mr Morrison had undermined former PM Malcolm Turnbull to take the top job a year ago.

“I don’t believe it and most people don’t believe it,” he said. “He has done a remarkable job. Many people in the party were angry that Malcolm had been kicked out … just as many were angry when Tony [Abbott] was kicked out. (Morrison) took over in very difficult circumstances. The loss of Wentworth was a very big setback.”

Mr Howard said Mr Morrison had done extraordinarily well to win the election when no one thought he would and to go on to stabilise the fractured Liberal party.

“For the first time in a number of years the parliamentary party is very stable … there are no fault lines,” he said.

“Secondly, he has quickly established a rapport with the public. He identified a winning strategy and knew what was going to advantage us and he stuck to it. The parliamentary party is in better shape than it has been since we lost in 2007.”

Mr Howard noted that Mr Morrison has had his work cut out for him uniting the party in light of the turbulent conditions in which he became Prime Minister and increasing factionism within the party. “But he has been able to present a broad church. He has managed to hold that all together,” he said.

Mr Morrison has implemented many of his election promises since taking the top job, including the ­Coalition’s $158 billion income tax cuts package, establishing a $5 billion Future Drought Fund, reducing deeming rates for seniors, passing laws reforming the financial sector and introducing tough ­national security legislation.

But Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers says that the economy’s growth under Mr Morrison is the slowest since the global financial crisis. “One year in, it’s clear that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are in dangerous denial about the nature of these homegrown economic weaknesses,” he said.

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