Abbott sweeps to power in Australia

Abbott sweeps to power in Australia
File photo of Tony Abbott.

Australia's conservative party leader Tony Abbott was elected as expected as the nation's new prime minister, declaring he was "proud and humbled" by his landslide victory over the Labor Party.

With more than 90 per cent of the vote counted, the Australian Electoral Commission said Mr Abbott's Liberal-National coalition was heading for a landslide win, leading in 91 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, to Labor's 54.

That would give it the biggest majority since Mr John Howard's coalition won office in 1996. Labor, punished for six years of turbulent rule and failing to maximise the benefits of a mining boom that is now fading, was on track to record its lowest national vote in more than a century.

The outcome is also a big contrast to the last elections which resulted in a hung Parliament and left Labor ruling by a thread - and a clear, strong victory for Mr Abbott.

The British-born Catholic, who opted for politics instead of the priesthood, defeated Mr Kevin Rudd, the Mandarin-speaking former diplomat whose Labor Party has governed since 2007.

In a solemn and restrained victory speech to a cheering crowd, Mr Abbott, 55, said he was ready to serve the nation and declared that "Australia is under new management and… once again open for business". "I can inform you that the government of Australia has changed," he said last night in Sydney.

"Something very significant has happened today… The time for campaigning has passed. The time for governing has arrived. I pledge myself to the service of our country." Mr Rudd, also 55, last night resigned as Labor leader after conceding defeat. Flanked by his wife and his two sons in his hometown of Brisbane, he expressed best wishes to Mr Abbott and took responsibility for the loss.

"Labor hearts are heavy across Australia," he said. "I gave it my all but it was not enough for us to win." The election is set to end three years of unstable minority government and boost the country's dispirited mood among businesses and consumers, despite Australia's strong economy and low unemployment.

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