John Howard's 2001 federal election speech

John Howard, Australian Prime Minister 1996-2007, delivered his Liberal Party election campaign launch speech in a post-September 11 world. It included tough language on national security and border protection.

His statements were aimed particularly at asylum seekers arriving on boats in Australian waters – at this time Australia was refusing the Norwegian freighter Tampa permission to deposit rescued asylum seeks on Australian soil.


Watch this video with a transcript.

What was your response to John Howard’s election speech? Did you agree with Howard’s tough stance on border security? Did it impact on how you felt as an Australian citizen? 

I suspect it's people like me John Howard means when he says ‘we decide who comes here’ but I don't want to be part of his 'we'. I side with the ones who admit that harm was done, is being done, and would like to make things better. At least to try. Jenny Sinclair, Melbourne, 2006

As a nation we should be able to choose who we want to come here. Let’s bring in educated people with a similar culture to ours, people who will work hard and fit in to our society rather than these people who don't speak English and don't want to assimilate. Peter Ling, Manly, 2008

To share your response use the Comments Box at the bottom of this page. Selected written responses will be shown on our website and may be chosen to be shown in the exhibition.

Comments (11)

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Noel Hadjimichael 29 April, 2011 13:45
Australia has a proud record in mass migration. Successfull integration of millions of newcomers has come from public support and tolerance. Our free,democratic and secular society should not be intimidated by false accusations of racism or fear.
Chek Ling 16 August, 2011 21:00
Howard preyed on the intrinsic human propensity to feel threatened by "others" who look alien and unattractive on first sight. It was a calculated rejig of the "yellow peril" that was used to persecute the Chinese in 19th century terra nullius. In effect, Howard's personal success left a depraved legacy for us all. Too many of us seem to engage in barracking for the two political parties to show which has the upper hand at keeping the boat people out, as if it is a spectator sport. And it goes wider. We are always looking for scape goats:terrorists among the boat people one day, lawless ethnic youth gangs another day, and no doubt some other powerless minority tomorrow. Public life went down the slippery slope with that Howard campaign.
Peter Fielding 21 August, 2011 22:43
After 10 years of trying to strike anti-racial fear into the heart of Australians, it's hard to beleive Howard was suprised his bid for ICC Vice-Presidency would be rejected. I still can't beleive it took so long for Australian voters to do the same!
Stephen 20 May, 2012 19:13
John Howard was right. We should accept migrants irrespective of race and creed, but only migrants who come using official channels (as the vast majority do).
Anna 3 June, 2012 11:42
What I think of his speech? Beware of flying pigs and stop shovelling already. The likelihood of getting invaded by refugees is about the same as having little green men coming down to Earth in a round spaceship.
Helen 26 June, 2012 11:25
Yes well for me I think his speech was great. We should be able to choose who comes here. When broadcasting comments about the boat people fleeing from there country why make out we all care because theres a lot of Aussies true ones born and bred who could care less. The Aussie born and bred is discriminated against with housing, education, health and the list goes on. The labor govt which does'nt even deserve a capital letter have let this go on for too long and Aussie's are suffering we are discriminated against. I don't even acknowledge these creeps existence and never will. So stick that up your jumper any do-gooders out there take them into your homes and support them.
Alter Native 13 June, 2013 17:40
Helen your comments are explicitly ignorant. You ought to be grateful for the opportunities you have here in Australia and be willing to share those opportunities with less fortunate others. What makes you believe that you are more superior and more deserving than fellow human beings? Is it just dumb luck because you happened to be born here? I wonder how you would feel if the situation were reversed and you were a refugee.
shimla 15 August, 2013 21:08
yah first of all helen if it wasn't for migrants we wouldn't have the range of cuisine, the variety of alcohol, modern and old architecture, herbal remedies, sporting opportunities, fashion exposure, entertainment, new and improved technologies, hard working people, skilled and unskilled, businesses opportunities and much much more.. sure we Australians may have helped influence them but without immigrants we wouldn't have such a strong economy. we need them as much as they need us, don't forget that after ww2 Australia was extremely vulnerable as we had such a large land mass and very little population. we aren't superior and just think you are well of just because of the pure luck that you were born in a country like this. nobody can choose where they are born and where an individual is born shouldn't matter we should be happy that we are able to share some of the privileges we obtain
David 18 August, 2013 18:48
I feel like we should adopt an Anglo-Saxon migration policy for at least 10 years in order to restore the cultural balance. In order to have sustainable multiculturalism we need a dominant culture for new comers to assimilate into for the stability and cohesiveness of our communities. Beware the anti-racist - usually code word for anti-white.
Ole Hillestad 26 March, 2014 13:21
I am a former Norwegian sailor. I am proud of having the crew of ms Tampa as fellow countymen.They save a lot of lives, and did what any seamen is suppose to do, save humans that are in danger of loosing theyre life.
mate he is right 26 May, 2016 18:29
i believe he is right
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