Abbott to lead Australia after thumping victory
Australia's Conservative challenger Tony Abbott was swept to power today with a thumping mandate for his coalition in national polls, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd conceded defeat, ending Labor Party's six-year rule.
With 88 per cent of the vote counted, the Australian Electoral Commission said Abbott's Liberal/National coalition was heading for a landslide win, leading in 89 seats in the 150-strong House of Representatives, to Labor's 56.
"I declare that Australia is under new management and is once again open for business," 55-year-old Abbott told cheering supporters in Sydney.
"I now look forward to forming a government that is competent, that is trustworthy....I can inform you that the government of Australia has changed. For just the seventh time in 60 years the government of Australia has changed.
"I can inform you that the Australian Labor Party vote is at the lowest level in more than 100 years," Abbott, a former trainee Catholic priest, boxing enthusiast and monarchist, said.
The Prime Minister-elect said that in a "week or so" Governor-General Quentin Bryce would swear in the new government.
The dramatic change of fortune for 55-year-old Rudd came months after he ousted Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and Labor leader.
Rudd had called for elections after defeating Gillard in a leadership challenge in June, amid dismal polling figures that showed Labor on course for a wipe-out.
Earlier, outgoing Prime Minister Rudd conceded defeat and announced that he would not re-contest the leadership of the Labor Party, saying it was "time for renewal".
Rudd said that he had called Abbott to congratulate him on his victory. "I gave it my all but it was not enough for us to win," Rudd told a crowd of cheering Labor Party supporters in Brisbane.
Rudd said he was proud he had helped preserve Labor as a "viable fighting force" for the future.
Abbott acknowledged the services of Rudd, saying, "He has been the prime minister of this country not once but twice so I acknowledge his service to the nation of Australia."
"Today the people of Australia have declared that the right to govern this country does not belong to Rudd or to me or to his party or to ours but it belongs to you, the people of Australia," he said to the cheering audience.
"You will punish anyone who takes you for granted," Abbott said. The Prime Minister-elect said his government would be purposeful, steadfast and methodical in setting about delivering on its commitments to the Australian people.
Abbott noted that hundreds of thousands of people had voted for the coalition for the first time in their lives.
"I give you all this assurance, we will not let you down. A good government is one that governs for all Australians, including those who haven't voted for it," he said.
"A good government is one with a duty to help everyone to help maximise his or her potential, indigenous people, people with disability and our forgotten families as well as those who Menzies described as lifters not leaners. We will not leave anyone behind," he said.
"I'm both proud and humble as I shoulder the duties of government," he added.
Rudd, conceding defeat, earlier said he has decided "with a heavy heart" to make way for a new Labor leader.
"I have been honoured to serve as your prime minister and as your party's leader," he told supporters. "But there comes a time when you know you've given it your all and a time for the party to further renew its leadership for the future....For me that time is now. So I will not be re-contesting the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party," he said.
"The Australian people, I believe, deserve a fresh start with our leadership," the outgoing Prime Minister said.
Abbott said his government would fulfil its election promises and in "three years time" the carbon tax would be gone, the asylum seeker boats would be stopped, the budget would be on track for surplus, and the roads of the 21st century be under construction.
Meanwhile, Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, quietly exited politics today, congratulating the woman who has taken over her constituency.