Party-pooper of century
From ROGER MAYNARD in Sydney
IT promises to be the party of the millennium.
All over the world champagne corks will be popping at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, but not in Australia if Prime Minister John Howard has his way.
In a gesture that promises to earn him the title of party-pooper of the century, the Liberal leader has told Parliament Australia will officially usher in the third millennium 12 months later, on January 1, 2001.
The declaration has sent shock waves through a hedonistic society which, while rarely needing an excuse for a party, saw the turn of the century as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on the biggest and most drunken of celebrations.
But Mr Howard has deemed otherwise and Australia will be seeing in the new millennium with a cup of cocoa.
While few people will agree with the decision, the fact is Mr Howard is probably right, basing his view on simple mathematical logic.
Was it not a fact that a child didn't celebrate his first birthday until 12 months after it is born, Labour Party president Barry Jones pointed out.
'This millennium would only be 999 years long if the start of the third millennium and the 21st century was celebrated in 2000,' he added.
While Mr Jones and the Prime Minister might have logic on their side, they clearly haven't considered the degree of emotional attachment most people feel towards the year 2000.
Sydney socialite Lady Susan Renouf, said: 'It's crazy - all around the world the celebration is being planned for the end of 1999 into the year 2000.' Lord Mayor Frank Sartor pointed out the Gregorian calendar was 'arbitrary anyway - so 2000 was as good as 2001' to celebrate the new millennium.
City councillor Katherine Greiner - showing an understanding of the Australian character - remarked: 'I'm sure we'll celebrate both dates with gusto.' With Sydney's top harbourside hotels already fully booked for the 2000 celebrations, most Australians will almost certainly ignore the Prime Minister's declarations, and it seems Mr Howard and Mr Jones could be in for a lonely evening at home on December 31, 1999.