Howard claims victory

“My fellow Australians, can I say first of all that I am truly humbled by this extraordinary expression of confidence in the leadership of this great nation by the coalition,” he said.

“In accepting their charge to lead the nation I rededicate myself and all of my colleagues to the service of the Australian people.”

Mr Howard thanked Opposition Leader Mark Latham, whom he said had rung him before his speech conceding defeat.

“I do warmly thank him for the gracious things that he said,” Mr Howard said,

“Ours is a great democracy, there can only be one winner when an election is held. You face that great moment of electoral judgment and electoral truth. We are happy, we are joyful that the verdict has been given by the Australian people but never forget the fact that governments are elected to govern not only for the people who voted for them, but also for the people who voted against them.”

He said it is the first time since the 1960s that an incumbent government has increased its majority on two successive occasions.

“That is an extraordinary achievement and when I look around the nation there is a wonderful story to be told of achievement in each of the different states of our nation.”

The leader thanked all his colleagues for their loyalty and support, singling out Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and Treasurer Peter Costello for praise.

“There is no finer human being in public life than John Anderson and the loyalty that he’s displayed towards me, the leadership of his own party, the way in which he represents the interest of country Australians is a source of continued inspiration and help to me,” he said.

“To John I say thank you for the friendship and the loyalty of these past years. And the deputy leader of my own party, Peter Costello, the treasurer, whose stewardship has given us one of the strongest economies in the western world and also the strongest economic conditions that this country arguably has experienced since the end of World War II.”

He used his speech to remind Australians that Afghanistan also had its first taste of democracy, with elections held on the same day.

“That election has been made possible by reason of the fact that a number of countries, including Australia, were prepared to take a stand for democracy and to take a stand against terrorism.”

Mr Howard said he had declared at the start of the campaign the election outcome was about trust.

“The Australian people have given their answer, we thank them for that, and we start work immediately to justify and fulfil the trust that they have given to all of us tonight,” he said.

“I cannot muster words adequate enough to express my sense of gratitude and humility at the great honour that you have again given me to lead this nation.

“To be the prime minister of Australia is undoubtedly the greatest privilege that can come the way of any person.”

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