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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 04:29 GMT 05:29 UK
Australian election date set
John Howard
Howard: Ready to go to the country
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that the country will hold a general election on 10 November.

It will be, as all elections are, a very important election for the future of the nation and the Australian people

John Howard
Earlier on Friday he had visited Governor-General Peter Hollingworth to seek approval for the date, and ask that parliament be dissolved.

The conservative prime minister will be seeking a third consecutive term in office.

Mr Howard has seen his popularity rise considerably since he took a tough stand over a group of Afghan immigrants seeking to claim asylum in Australia.

Mr Howard had until 12 January to call an election.

Re-election hopes

Mr Howard - who heads a coalition of his Liberal party and the rural-based National party - had been under pressure from the opposition Labor party earlier in the year.

Refugees wash outside tent
A tough line on refugees has paid off for Howard
Labor leader Kim Beazley had gained ground on issues such as taxation and high fuel prices.

But when Mr Howard refused to allow a boatload of Afghan asylum-seekers land on the Australian outpost of Christmas Island, he saw his ratings rise dramatically.

A subsequent deal saw the group taken to Nauru and New Zealand, with Australia paying the costs of processing their asylum applications.

Australia also gave Nauru about $10m in aid.

Mr Howard now has a double-digit lead over Labor in opinion polls.

Security issues

As well as immigration, Mr Howard said he would campaign on his clear support for the United States' response to the 11 September terrorist attacks.

"I think stability and strength and predictability in the face of great economic and security challenges to the whole country" will the major issues, he said.

Up to 1,000 Australian military personnel have been committed to the US effort against terrorism, and Mr Howard has warned that there could be casualties in the coming months. "You can't roll over to this kind of assault on the way we go about our daily lives and we can't leave the Americans on their own," said Mr Howard.

Labor is expected to press its domestic agenda, on which it believes it has the best chance of defeating Mr Howard.

Labor needs a swing of just 0.8% to oust Mr Howard's government.

The BBC's Red Harrison
"The opposition Labour Party needs a swing of less than 1% to topple John Howard's government"
See also:

15 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
New setback for Afghan boat people
10 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nauru accepts 200 more migrants
09 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia talks tough on migrants
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia ships out Afghan refugees
01 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pacific states step into the breach
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Nauru
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nauru
21 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Howard's refugee gamble paying off
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