Liberal National Party leader Tony Abbott with his daughters Louise and Bridget after he claimed victory in the Australian elections in Sydney. (Reuters)
Sydney/Canberra, Sept. 7 (Reuters): Australia’s conservative leader Tony Abbott swept into office in national elections today as voters punished the outgoing Labour government for six years of turbulent rule and for failing to maximise the benefits of a now fading mining boom.
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.
“From today I declare that Australia is under new management and Australia is once more open for business,” Abbott told jubilant supporters in Sydney.
It was frustration with Labour’s leadership turmoil that cost the government dearly at the polls.
Labour dumped Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010, for Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard, only to reinstate Rudd as leader in June 2013 in a desperate bid to stay in power.
“It is the people of Australia to determine the government and the Prime Minister of this country and you will punish anyone who takes you for granted,” said Abbott.
Rudd was given a rousing welcome from dejected Labour party supporters in his hometown of Brisbane, conceding defeat and announcing he would step down as party leader.
“I know that Labour hearts are heavy across the nation tonight. I gave it my all. But it was not enough to win,” Rudd said, supported by his wife and family.
Labour’s overall vote was its worst since 2004, when then conservative Prime Minister John Howard won his fourth and final term, but was not as bad as the party had feared. Labour held on to all of its close seats in Rudd’s home state of Queensland, and held onto several marginal seats in western Sydney.
Election officials said with about 80 per cent of the vote counted, Abbott’s Liberal-National Party coalition had won around 52.6 per cent of the national vote, and projected it would win at least 88 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
Abbott could end up with a majority of around 30 seats, ending the country’s first minority government since World War II. Labour had relied upon independent and Greens support for the past three years. “This was an election that was lost by the government more than one that was won by the opposition,” former Labour Prime Minister Bob Hawke told Sky News.