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Howard, John Winston, 1939–, Australian political leader, prime minister (1996–). A graduate of Sydney Univ., a conservative lawyer, and a member of the Liberal party, he was elected to parliament in 1974 and served as minister for business and consumer affairs (1975–77) and treasurer (1977–83) in the government of Malcolm Fraser. As head of the party (1985–89; 1995–), he has been a major Liberal advocate of economic deregulation, smaller government, and other free-market reforms. He became prime minister in 1996, leading a Liberal-National party coalition and promising sweeping economic and labor reforms. He retained power with a reduced majority after the Oct., 1998, elections. He strongly supported retention of the British monarch as head of state in the 1999 referendum.