Landslide win in Australia for conservative Abbott

Voters punish outgoing Labor government for six years of turbulent rule

Australian prime minister-elect Tony Abbott is surrounded by his family after acknowledging his victory in the election today. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams-Pool/Getty Images

Australia's conservative leader Tony Abbott has swept into office today in a landslide election as voters punished the outgoing Labor government for six years of turbulent rule and for failing to maximise the benefits of a now fading mining boom.

"From today I declare that Australia is under new management and Australia is once more open for business," Mr Abbott told jubilant supporters in Sydney.

Mr Abbott, a former boxer, Rhodes scholar and trainee priest, promised to restore political stability, cut taxes and crack down on asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Outgoing Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd wife his wife Therese acknowledge supporters after conceding defeat in the election today. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

But it was frustration with Labor’s leadership turmoil that cost the government dearly at the polls.


Labor dumped prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010 for Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard - only to reinstate Mr Rudd as leader this June in a desperate bid to stay in power.

Mr Rudd conceded defeat, offering his congratulations to Mr Abbott.

With 80 per cent of votes counted, Australia’s electoral commission was projecting 81 seats for Mr Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition and 54 to Mr Rudd’s Labor party, with 12 seats undecided in the 150 seat lower house.

“I know that Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight. As your Labor leader I accept it as my responsibility,” said Mr Rudd, as his supporters chanted “Kevin, Kevin, Kevin”.

Former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke said on Sky News that this was "an election that was lost by the government more than one that was won by the opposition".

The election was pitched as a choice on who is best to lead the 1.5 trillion Australian dollars (€1.046 trillion) economy as it adjusts to an end to a prolonged mining investment boom, fuelled by China’s demand for its abundant natural resources.

Mr Abbott built up a strong opinion poll lead on the back of promises to rein in government spending, scrap an unpopular tax on carbon emissions, and stop the flow of refugee boats arriving in Australia’s northwest.

His campaign had support from media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his Australian newspapers, which have urged voters to reject Mr Rudd's Labor government. Australia's other major newspaper group Fairfax also called for a change of government.

"They (voters) wanted stability. What Tony Abbott did was put up a unified team. It was the accumulative effect of six years (of Labor disunity) that played into the idea it was time for change," Labor candidate Peter Beattie said.

Mr Rudd had painted Mr Abbott’s planned spending cuts as dangerous European-style austerity and said his government was best placed to manage an economy that is slowing but remains the envy of much of the developed world.

A record 1,717 candidates contested the election, including colourful mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Mr Palmer's start-up Palmer United Party was a big winner from the election, polling about 10 per cent of the vote in some areas. Mr Palmer was in strong contention to win his Queensland seat and his party might also win a seat in the upper house Senate.

While the exit polls point to an easy Abbott victory, much of the interest remains on the Senate, where the Greens, independents and fringe parties might still hold the balance of power and frustrate Mr Abbott's legislative agenda.

Final results in the Senate could take more than a week to determine, due to the complicated system of preferential voting and proportional representation.