What had seemed a fantasy of the most ridiculous nature only a handful of years earlier had somehow become a reality when, in March 1996, John Winston Howard thumped his long time nemesis Paul Keating at the Federal ballot box. In doing so, Howard would resign Labor to almost 12 years in the political wilderness and become Australia’s second longest serving Prime Minister, behind only his hero Robert Menzies.

True to form, Howard’s time in office would become characterised by finding himself in deep, overwhelming troughs, only to pull himself and his Government back into the light. His first, and most traumatic, challenge would ring loudly and horrifically from the Apple Isle during the Port Arthur massacre, where 35 people lost their lives. Howard immediately put gun control on the national agenda by introducing strict gun control laws in a move that was hugely controversial at the time, only to be later lauded as one of the most important reforms to be introduced in this country.

1996 also saw:

– Rob Borbidge becomes the Premier of QLD after a by-election is held in the seat of Mundingburra that results in a hung Parliament and the decision of Independent MP Liz Cunningham to support the Coalition. Former Premier Wayne Goss resigns the Labor leadership to Peter Beattie and moves to the backbench

– Two army Blackhawk helicopters collide in Townsville, killing 18 servicemen

– US President Bill Clinton visits Australia and addresses both houses of Parliament

– the Brisbane Lions are born following a merger of AFL clubs Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy Lions

– Australia are defeated by Sri Lanka in the World Cup cricket final

– Bart Cummings wins his 10th Melbourne Cup with Saintly

– Richard Krajicek defeats Malavai Washington in the most unlikely Wimbledon final in decades

Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Scream, The English Patient, Sling Blade and Aussie classic Shine are released

Deaths: Gene Kelly (2 February ), George Burns (9 March), Ella Fitzgerald (15 June), Carl Sagan (20 December)