The Prime Minister, John Howard, has confirmed that a general election will be held on Saturday, November 10, 2001.
Howard said this is not the time to abandoned a tried and tested team for obscurity and confusion. He said it’s a time to choose strength, certainty and stability.
He said he sought a mandate on the basis of his government’s stewardship over the past five and a half years.
Howard said the economy had been given a “strength and resilience” to withstand the “shocks” that had reverberated around the world since September 11.
He claimed the government’s work in reducing the budget deficit and reforms in industrial relations were reasons why he “respectfully asked the Australian people” to re-elect them.
Howard attacked the Opposition for not having clear policies. He instanced “vacillation and chopping and changing” over the asylum-seekers legislation last month.
Listen to Howard’s announcement (29m)
Listen to Kim Beazley’s response (29m)
Howard claimed the “national interest” required his presence at the APEC leaders meeting in Shanghai, China, later this month. He condemned Beazley for criticising his intention to attend this meeting.
Howard also talked of challenges to be faced in the future, including that of an ageing population and environmental problems such as water supply.
He said the next 5 weeks would be a chance to assess not only the coalition parties but the ALP. He said he entered the campaign with no sense of hubris or complaceny: “a sober recognition that this election is taking place in sombre circumstances”. He said it would be require intense emotional and physical commitment from himself, but that he had not lost his zeal for the task.
Howard said he would go into caretaker mode at 12 noon on Monday, following the dissolution of the Parliament.
One of the first questions Howard faced from the assembled journalists at Parliament House was about his third term agenda and whether there were any big issues he intended dealing with. He responded that these would be announced during the campaign.