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Liberal MPs support Prime Minister's plans to retire sometime into his possible next term.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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PM

 

Thursday 13 September 2007

Liberal MPs support Prime Minister's plans to retire sometime into his possible next term

 

MARK COLVIN: After 11.5 years of the Howard Government, now we've ot he Howard-Costello administration. 

 

The Federal Government's spent the day trying pitch itself as a team with plans for the future. 

 

After the Prime Minister's surprise announcement last night that if he won the election, he'd serve most of a term before retiring and handing over to Peter Costello, the Liberals now hope they can draw a line under their leadership turmoil. 

 

But the election landscape has changed dramatically. 

 

Labor has a TV advertisement ready to go to air tonight, which paints a picture of a Government mired in confusion. 

 

From Canberra Peta Donald reports. 

 

PETA DONALD: It was a long time coming and it was offered reluctantly but last night on the 7.30 Report John Howard uttered one word, beginning with 'R', that Peter Costello has been longing to hear. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: I would probably, certainly form the view well into my term, that it would make sense for me to retire. 

 

PETA DONALD: It was offered voluntarily according to the man named again last night as the heir apparent, Peter Costello. He spoke to sky TV.  

 

TV JOURNALIST: Was there a deal done? That you would sit tight beyond the election if he gave you that commitment? 

 

PETER COSTELLO: No. We had a discussion about all of this last year as you know. I said then that I would go to the election as Deputy Leader and Treasurer, that's been my position ever since.  

 

He's made his announcement this week, which he decided to make. And bear in mind people had been asking him over and over and over to do it, so you can hardly complain when he does. 

 

PETA DONALD: It's only days since cabinet ministers were suggesting to John Howard it was time for him to go.  

 

Today they lined up to punch out the key words, that they are a team with a plan for the future. Alexander Downer and Helen Coonan among them. 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: This isn't a one-man show. This is a team effort. And that team can contrasts very dramatically with a Labor frontbench, 70 per cent of whom are former trade union officials. 

 

HELEN COONAN: We're thinking about the future, we're not trapped in the past. And we've got a good plan now with a very effective team to be able to address the very serious ongoing issues that Australia has as a nation. 

 

 

PETA DONALD: While the Government is hoping this is seen as generational change, while staying with economic managers you know, Labor is hoping it's simply confusing. 

 

It's wasted no time getting an attack ad together, to go to air on commercial TV tonight. 

 

(Extract from Labor Advertisement) 

 

"Confused? First of all we have a Prime Minister who says he'll stay as long as his Party wants him to. They tell him to go, but he says he'll stay. But now, he says he'll go, as long as you're kind enough to let him stay long enough to be Prime Minister one more time, then he says he'll go, and it's over to Mr Costello."  

 

"Huh? Let's try that one more time. We have a Prime Minister who says he'll stay, as long…" 

 

PETA DONALD: It's not the first time Labor has run attack ads against Peter Costello, this one went to air in 2001. 

 

(Extract from Labor Advertisement) 

 

"John Howard has not committed to serve as Prime Minister for a full term of government. So if you vote for John Howard, who will make the tough decisions? Oh no! No, not him!" 

 

PETA DONALD: The Liberals claimed it was a failure, with internal polling suggesting their support went up on the nights it went to air.  

 

And despite recent opinion polls showing the Treasurer is not favoured as Prime Minister, the Liberals are hoping that will change when he has a chance to broaden his image.  

 

When it came to question time, Labor wasn't playing the team, just the man himself. Trying to paint John Howard as a leader who is on the way out. 

 

KEVIN RUDD: I refer the Prime Minister to Labor's $450 million plan to give all Australian 4-year-olds 15 hours of pre-school eduction a week for 40 weeks a year delivered by a qualified teacher.  

 

Will the Prime Minister detail his plan for the future of Australian 4-year-olds? 

 

JOHN HOWARD: I think, I think the first thing that I would detail ... I thnk I would, the first and most important thing that we can do for the 4-year-olds of this country is to make sure their parents have a job. 

 

PETA DONALD: And on it went, with question after question to the Prime Minister on his plans or lack thereof for five-year-olds, hospitals and responding to climate change.  

 

It was a rowdy question time with seven Labor MP's thrown out of the House.  

 

The direct questions on the Prime Minister's retirement were left to Labor's Anthony Albanese. 

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Will the Prime Minister confirm that part of the Liberal Party's current political fix, was an agreement that he make a public statement, saying that if he wins the next election, he will retire during the next term? 

 

JOHN HOWARD: There are no secret deals Mr Speaker. We will not be living any lies like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Mr Speaker. We will level with the Australian people as I did last night. 

 

We will not live the lie of 1990. Let it always be remembered that my two predecessors, entered into a secret conclave and they lived a lie to the Australian people through the entirety of the 1990 election campaign. 

 

And it will ever be to the shame of the Australian Labor Party, that they were part of that miserable deception and that miserable conspiracy Mr Speaker. 

 

And I ask that further questions be placed on the notice … 

 

SPEAKER: Thank you Prime Minister. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Prime Minister John Howard in Parliament today.