OUTSPOKEN AUSSIE NEW OPPOSITION LEADER

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec.3) - The newly elected leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, has outlined his vision for the job and promised a positive approach from the opposition.

Labor's federal caucus elected Mr Latham as leader on Tuesday morning in a 47 to 45 vote over former leader, Kim Beazley.

Mr Latham says his victory marks a new era for the Labor Party, and has urged his colleagues to move forward together and unite behind his leadership.

The new opposition leader says he wants to focus on health, education and child care and not "be here in opposition for opposition's sake".

"I believe in an upwardly mobile society where people can climb the rungs of opportunity, climbing the ladder of opportunity to a better life for themselves and their family," he said.

While Labor MPs who backed Mr Beazley have vowed to support their new leader, the prime minister, John Howard, says Mr Latham's narrow victory in the ballot demonstrates that the Labor Party has never been less fit to govern.

"Not only is the Labor Party bitterly divided over policy, but now it's bitterly divided over personality and leadership," he said.

However, Mr Howard has welcomed Mr Latham's promise to be a positive leader.

"I cautiously welcome this as a break from seven-and-a-half years of negativity from the Australian Labor Party," he said.

Mr Latham, who is well known for his colorful language, has told Australia's Channel Nine he will modify his language in future to avoid causing offence.

"I want everyone to be able to relate to me in the way I communicate, and for that reason, I've got to cut out the crudity, no more of that," he said. "I hope that people can warm to the approach that I take."

The new Labor leader says he will also try to appeal to voters by pushing issues like affordable education and universal health care as he leads the party to next year's federal election.

"Coalition forces returned fire to defeat the enemy while the currency exchange was executed."

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, is threatening to terminate loan commitments from the country's donor and development partners if funds promised to support the budget are not released.

Sir Michael has singled out the Asian Development bank for not honoring a promise of US$35 million towards the government's US$50 million financing gap.

"Since December 2002, we have been waiting for these partners to honour their commitments, while meeting all the requirements of the draw downs," he said. "By the first quarter of 2004, it these partners fail to deliver, we will have to terminate the arrangements," he said.

The prime minister says he is confident of finding alternative means of raising an extra US$50 million to close the financing gap.

December 3, 2003

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

 

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