Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Breaking news: Howard plays down ‘early’ retirement talk

Prime Minister John Howard, speaking today at the Holsworthy Army base in Western Sudney, played down speculation that he might retire only a year into his fourth term.

‘All this talk of retirement is highly premature,’ the Prime Minister said, ‘I still have much to contribute to Australia’s future.’

Howard posed with members of the Seventh Royal Australian Regiment while joking that they should be renamed ‘the Green Howards’, a reference to a British Army unit of long standing. ‘Or maybe just the Howards,’ he said, laughing with the soldiers, ‘that would be my preference.’

Although Mr Howard gave national security and economic management as the focuses of his incoming Government, he denied that his administration was in danger of becoming stale.

‘I totally refute the suggestion that I am not open to new ideas,’ he said, ‘for example, I feel I am having a change of heart on the Republic issue.’

Mr Howard said that he could see ‘considerable merit in the notion that the Australian Head of State should be born in Canterbury-Bankstown or anywhere else in Australia for that matter.’

‘I hold the Queen in high esteem, very high esteem, as you all know, but she has a lot on her plate. I will therefore be pressing ahead with a referendum for a President so that I can again give the Australian people more of what they want.’

Mr Howard would not address speculation that he might run for the Presidency of an Australian Republic.

‘Look, I’ve won four elections now. I can’t see that a fifth victory would add anything. No one has a better idea of the wants and needs of the Australian people than me.’ He said.

‘I intend to serve up a cocktail of greater security, lower interest rates and more prisons, with much less of the kind of ugly parliamentary squabbles that people are so tired of seeing on television.’

Mr Howard finished his tour of the base with a visit to the officer’s mess, the child care centre and the quartermaster where he accepted the gift of a field-marshal’s uniform before leaving for Canberra at the head of a column of armored personnel carriers.

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