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CHOGM Off, Election Announcement Expected Soon

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled for next week, has been postponed, clearing the way for the calling of the federal election.

CHOGMAn announcement from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, this morning confirmed speculation in recent days that the meeting would be cancelled because of the attacks on the United States on September 11.

Preparations for attacks on Afghanistan and its Taliban government continue. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has recalled the House of Commons next week.

The visit by Queen Elizabeth II has also been cancelled.

With football finals on this weekend, an election announcement is possible on Sunday. The Governor-General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth, will be in residence at Yarralumla and would be able to see the Prime Minister, John Howard. A dissolution of the House of Representatives could take place with an election to be held at the earliest on Saturday November 7.

Alternatively, the Prime Minister could wait a week, given that next Monday is a public holiday in NSW. In this case, an election could be held on November 17 or 24.

It is most likely that the election will be sooner, rather than later, given the record high approval ratings for the PM and the government in recent opinion polls.

Full text of the announcement of the postponement of the CHOGM meeting:

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place in Brisbane, Australia, from 6 to 9 October 2001 has been postponed.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said today that he had been in consultation with leaders across the Commonwealth. These included Jean Chrétien of Canada, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India, P J Patterson of Jamaica, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, as well as the host, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. The decision to postpone the summit was taken in the light of the likely absence of a significant number of leaders, due to unforeseen circumstances.

“It is with a huge feeling of disappointment that I announce this decision, a feeling that I know will be shared right across the Commonwealth and beyond,” Mr McKinnon said. “CHOGM has been deferred purely for practical reasons. In these uncertain times it is easy to understand the desire of political leaders to be with their own people, in their own countries.

“Prime Minister Howard has told me that the Government of Australia is keen to host this meeting in Brisbane early next year and will be consulting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, in relation to the exact timing. Naturally, I will also consult with other Commonwealth leaders,” Mr McKinnon added.

“I wish to thank the Australian Government and people for the enormous effort and resources invested in CHOGM; I am sure that this will not go to waste. I will shortly be discussing with Prime Minister Howard and others the rescheduling of the meeting.”

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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