PM says winning will be hard


Summary

Mr Howard also ruled out standing aside before the vote, expected to be held in November, as his conservative government continues to trail the opposition in opinion polls.

VIDEO: Howard pushes on

"We can win this election but it will be a mammoth effort," Mr Howard told Sky News.

The prime minister warned his cabinet Tuesday that his government risked "annihilation" after 11 years in power if surveys showing a strong lead for the centre-left Labor party were replicated at the polls.

In comments apparently designed to jolt the electorate from a prolonged honeymoon with Labor since its new leader Kevin Rudd took control last December, Mr Howard said he had no political rabbit to pull out of the hat.

He was speaking after a poll in the Australian newspaper showed the government had failed to make significant inroads into Mr Rudd's popularity, despite a big-spending budget complete with tax cuts.

Another poll Wednesday in the Bulletin magazine showed 53 percent of respondents believed Mr Howard should have retired last year, when his Treasurer Peter Costello was pushing for the top job.

No regrets

Mr Howard said he had no regrets about staying in the role he has held since 1996 and would continue as long as the Australian people wanted him to.

"I have no desire to do anything other than remain prime minister of my country and leader of my party for as long as the Australian people want that to be the case," Mr Howard said.

However, Wilson Tuckey, a backbencher in Howard's Liberal Party, said it was never too late to change a leader, pointing out that Bob Hawke took over the Labor leadership one month before a vote election and won four terms in office.

"He not only won, he stayed there for a long time," Mr Tuckey told reporters.

His comments had Mr Howard's colleagues scrambling to declare their loyalty, with Health Minister Tony Abbott saying "the longer he goes, the better he gets" and junior minister Andrew Robb ruling out any change.


Mr Howard also ruled out standing aside before the vote, expected to be held in November, as his conservative government continues to trail the opposition in opinion polls.

VIDEO: Howard pushes on

"We can win this election but it will be a mammoth effort," Mr Howard told Sky News.

The prime minister warned his cabinet Tuesday that his government risked "annihilation" after 11 years in power if surveys showing a strong lead for the centre-left Labor party were replicated at the polls.

In comments apparently designed to jolt the electorate from a prolonged honeymoon with Labor since its new leader Kevin Rudd took control last December, Mr Howard said he had no political rabbit to pull out of the hat.

He was speaking after a poll in the Australian newspaper showed the government had failed to make significant inroads into Mr Rudd's popularity, despite a big-spending budget complete with tax cuts.

Another poll Wednesday in the Bulletin magazine showed 53 percent of respondents believed Mr Howard should have retired last year, when his Treasurer Peter Costello was pushing for the top job.

No regrets

Mr Howard said he had no regrets about staying in the role he has held since 1996 and would continue as long as the Australian people wanted him to.

"I have no desire to do anything other than remain prime minister of my country and leader of my party for as long as the Australian people want that to be the case," Mr Howard said.

However, Wilson Tuckey, a backbencher in Howard's Liberal Party, said it was never too late to change a leader, pointing out that Bob Hawke took over the Labor leadership one month before a vote election and won four terms in office.

"He not only won, he stayed there for a long time," Mr Tuckey told reporters.

His comments had Mr Howard's colleagues scrambling to declare their loyalty, with Health Minister Tony Abbott saying "the longer he goes, the better he gets" and junior minister Andrew Robb ruling out any change.