Australian Prime Minister John Howard fended off speculation yesterday about the threat of a leadership challenge by his heir apparent, vowing to stay in his job as long as the Liberal Party wants him.
Treasurer Peter Costello initiated the speculation himself by refusing last week to rule out a challenge after opinion polls showed Howard's conservative government trailing a resurgent Labor opposition in the run-up to elections late this year. He refused to rule out a challenge again yesterday, saying he and Howard were "very good friends and colleagues, I can assure you of that."
A prominent Costello supporter, government parliamentary secretary Christopher Pyne, contributed to the controversy by telling a TV program a succession plan between Howard and Costello had been agreed upon.
Howard yesterday described the speculation as ridiculous, saying he had not discussed the leadership with Costello since announcing last year that he had decided against early retirement.
"My position last June when I indicated that I would continue as the party leader, was that I would remain the leader of the Liberal Party for so long as the party wanted me to and while it remained in the party's interest that I should," he told Channel Nine.
"That was my position last June, it's my position now, it will be my position when the election campaign starts, it will be my position on election day and I don't intend to alter in any way that because it's the truth," he said.
However, Howard admitted the dynamics had changed in the four months since new Labor leader Mark Latham was elected. He said he had no problem with Costello's responses to questions about leadership, and had never required people to rule out "having a go."
In other developments, Howard yesterday condemned a law passed by the nation's capital to allow gay couples to adopt children, signalling that his government may consider overturning the move.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which administers Canberra, passed a law last month that allows homosexual and lesbian couples to adopt.
Howard did not rule out the possibility his government would block the law, expected to take effect next month.
"I'm against gay adoption, just as I'm against gay marriage," Howard told a Sydney radio station.
Howard was reported to be considering using his government's little-used power over the nation's two territories -- the ACT and the Northern Territory -- to block the newly-passed law.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete