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Brown says Australian military presence satis -

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Brown says Australian military presence satisfactory

The World Today - Friday, 12 September , 2008 12:34:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

ELEANOR HALL: The new NATO leader in Afghanistan this week called for coalition countries to send
15,000 more soldiers to the war effort.

But the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown says he's satisfied with Australia's contribution and
is not disappointed by the Rudd Government's decision not to boost its troop numbers.

The unpopular Labor MP made the comments at the launch of a $2-billion package of measures which is
designed as much to save his party from electoral oblivion as it is to help Britons save money on
their energy bills.

In London, Europe correspondent Emma Alberici reports.

EMMA ALBERICI: Vote for Britain's next prime minister won't come for at least another 12 months but
already there's a discernible whiff of an election in the air around Westminster.

Each day a new headline grabbing policy appealing to the working class, those most often
represented in polls suggesting voters have given up on Labor.

So there's been a housing affordability package, and a scheme to limit the number of unskilled
migrants arriving from outside the European Union.

But overnight came the announcement that the Government has spent most of the summer roaring about
it's $2-billion grab bag of measures to tackle fuel poverty, a term in the UK attached to
households that spend more than 10 per cent of their incomes on energy bills.

By the end of the year, it's expected to apply to more than a quarter of all British households.

GORDON BROWN: So today our objective is nothing less than sea change in energy efficiency and
consumption, at the same time as helping the most vulnerable families this winter.

EMMA ALBERICI: In the past 12 months, energy bills in the UK have risen 40 per cent to an average
of $3,000 a year.

It's estimated that 20,000 pensioners will die this year from cold-related illnesses because they
simply can't afford to stay warm.

Gordon Brown's efforts to sell his new scheme as a way of making energy companies pay more, were
undermined by the words of Mark Owen-Lloyd, a senior executive at major gas company E. On.

When asked what were the implications of gas and oil prices staying high this winter, he said,
"More money for us."

GORODON BROWN: These were totally inappropriate remarks, I think that everybody is aghast at people
making remarks like that, and I'm pleased that there has now been a full and comprehensive apology.

EMMA ALBERICI: And there was more bad news for the Government today with the death of another
British soldier in Afghanistan. It was the 118th British national killed there since 2001.

Discussion at Gordon Brown's monthly press conference soon turned to the so-called war on terror,
and calls from NATO for a surge in troop numbers seven years after the first lot went in.

GORDON BROWN: We are increasing our own troops in Afghanistan at the moment. Everybody recognises
that this is a long-term challenge, there are 40 countries involved. I visited Afghanistan a few
days ago, I saw at first hand the bravery and the courage and the professionalism of our troops.

It's clear that we need a fair sharing of the burden in Afghanistan, and that's why the French have
agreed to put 800 extras troops in, that's why the Americans have now said they will put extra
troops in. But that's why we're asking other countries to contribute, not just in troops but in
equipment as well.

EMMA ALBERICI: Hello, Emma Alberici from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Our Prime
Minister, Kevin Rudd, in the last week has said he will not increase troop numbers to Afghanistan.
Have you sought a dialogue with him or do you intend to, to address this?

GORDON BROWN: I talk very regularly with Kevin Rudd, I talked to him only a few days ago, last
weekend about some of the common challenges we face. Australia makes a contribution in Afghanistan,
there are 41 countries making a contribution. There are some countries that we are talking to who
are prepared to do more in providing equipment for Afghanistan, where they are not able to provide
more troops.

And part of our role in the future in Afghanistan, and I know Australia wants to help in this, is
training the Afghan army up and training the Afghan police, and we've now got about 75,000 of the
Afghan army being trained, we want to raise the Afghan army to 120,00. I think our defence forces
think that that is even too small for a country the size of Afghanistan.

EMMA ALBERICIE: The sign stuck to the podium read "Save money, save energy" but fighting fuel
poverty is as much about saving Gordon Brown's job. Summed up in the Chancellor Alistair Darling's
words, people are pissed off.

On most readings, the UK economy is in or about to be in recession; and the latest polls show Labor
is supported by just 26 per cent of the electorate, while only 23 per cent believe Gordon Brown is
a good prime minister.

As the party conference season kicks off, many are looking to Gordon Brown's speech in a
fortnight's time as make or break for Labor.

In London this is Emma Alberici for The World Today.