Political leaders bestow Christmas wishes to Australian people

11:10, December 25, 2010      

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Australia's political leaders on Saturday bestowed their Christmas wishes to the Australian people.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a declared atheist, said Christmas was a time for tradition in her family and she hoped Australians were able to share their own special traditions with their loved ones.

"Whether that's time in church, or with your family, or at the cricket or on the beach, or helping others, I hope this Christmas is a special one," Gillard told Australia Associated Press on Saturday.

The prime minister wished drought-stricken farmers rain and thanked the nation's emergency services, nurses and troops abroad for their work on Christmas Day, saying that so many people sacrifice their Christmas Day to make life better for others, and it is hard to think of a more generous Christmas present than that.

Meanwhile, Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott used their Christmas messages to urge Australians to think of the soldiers serving in Afghanistan this holiday season.

Gillard paid tribute to the 10 Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan this year, as well as more than 60 who have been injured, but she said Australians should remember that 2010 brought joy as well as tragedy.

Abbott also paid tribute to Defense personnel in his Christmas message.

"I hope we will think of those less fortunate than ourselves," he told ABC News on Saturday.

"I hope we will especially think of all of those people who make our country safer, stronger and more prosperous - they do a good job and we should think of them at Christmas time."

Abbott said he hoped all Australians would draw closer to their loved ones at Christmas, an important family time.

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