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More honors for past rival embarrass Australian PM

04-10-2012 15:30 BJT

SYDNEY, April 10 (Xinhua) -- While Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is struggling to gain widespread enthusiasm for her Labor government's national strategy, her Liberal predecessor continues to steal the limelight, accepting another honorary award in Sydney Tuesday.

The former Liberal Coalition Prime Minister John Howard has accepted an honorary doctorate during a graduation ceremony at Macquarie University (MU) on Tuesday.

The Doctor of Letters was awarded for Howard's "contribution to Australian public life throughout his career".

"Whether or not you agree with his politics, it is difficult not to agree that John Howard served his country with unflagging commitment. He truly showed the value of persistence in achieving his goals," according to MU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Schwartz.

Gillard has faced down challenges from her former leader Kevin Rudd after assuming the Labor Leadership in her own 2009 showdown, yet has struggled to compare favorably with the shadow of John Howard, whose image as a decisive fiscal conservative contrasts grimly with Gillard's recent slew of tax impositions.

Labor's Carbon and Mining taxes, due to come into effect later this year have been a drain on local business confidence and effectively isolated the influential corporate voices that now refer to "The Howard Years" with a degree of nostalgia, despite Howard government's involvement in the deeply unpopular Anglo- American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Howard was delighted to accept the Macquarie University tribute, describing it as "a great honor".

Howard was born in Sydney in 1939 as Australia went to war. He graduated from the University of Sydney in 1961 with a law degree and famously progressed through the minefield of Australian right- wing politics becoming Leader of the Opposition twice before leading the Coalition to victory in 1996.

In fact Gillard's own leadership has been punctuated by a series of honors and dignitaries titles bestowed upon Howard, providing an uncomfortable contrast to what critics said are her own political weaknesses.

Gillard turned heads on her overseas visit at a United Nations meeting in Brussels, when she told reporters, "I'm just going to be really upfront about this -- foreign policy is not my passion. It's not what I've spent my life doing."

Howard meanwhile, despite leaving public life, received several honors and awards including the Companion of the Order of Australia, the Commonwealth Award of Distinguished Service in Government, the Star of the Solomon Islands, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Just two months ago, while Labor was imploding from the leadership spill initiated by then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Howard was making headlines after securing the rarely bestowed Order of Merit (OM), an honor granted at the discretion of the Queen of the British Commonwealth.

There are only 24 OMs bestowed at any one time, a fact Gillard - - a committed Republican -- would be acutely aware of after creating a scandal in Britain by refusing to curtsy to the Queen on an official visit in 2011.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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