what a great day :)

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    Howard to reach extraordinary milestone
    07:46 AEDT Tue Dec 21 2004

    John Howard will move closer to emulating his hero Sir Robert Menzies on Tuesday as he becomes Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister.

    Mr Howard has been prime minister for 3,207 days - or eight years, nine months and 11 days - second only to Sir Robert, who was in the job 16 years, one month and eight days.

    He now eclipses the term of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.

    While refusing to say if he plans to aim for the Menzies record, Mr Howard, 65, is showing no signs of handing the reins over to Treasurer Peter Costello any time soon.

    Mr Howard had been planning to reassess his position on his 64th birthday but ended up signalling his intention last year to stay in the job indefinitely, thwarting his ambitious deputy Mr Costello.

    Mr Howard uses a well-worn line that he will remain as prime minister as long as the Liberal Party and the Australian people want him to remain.

    Mr Costello congratulated his boss on a job well done.

    But in a back-handed compliment, the treasurer made it clear Mr Howard had a way to go before being considered Australia's best prime minister.

    "It's a wonderful achievement to be the second-longest-serving prime minister, second only to Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's greatest prime minister," Mr Costello said.

    "(It makes Mr Howard) Australia's second-greatest prime minister.

    "It is a wonderful milestone, thoroughly deserved after four election victories and I hope he celebrates it very happily with his family."

    Since winning office on March 11, 1996, Mr Howard has taken the country to war, broken the control of the unions on the waterfront, defeated a move to a republic and weathered the political pain of tough gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre.

    The energetic 65-year-old is expected to begin his day with his usual early morning power walk from Kirribilli House.

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