Polls close in Australian elections

SYDNEY - Polls closed in Australia's most populous states where Saturday's national elections are expected to be won or lost, with conservative challenger Tony Abbott set for a big victory.

Voting stations in the crucial states of Queensland and New South Wales shut at 6:00 pm (0800 GMT), along with Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, while those on the west coast close two hours later.

Early exit polls taken before voting ended pointed to Abbott's Liberal/National coalition gaining a massive 25 seats to sweep 97 of the 150 seats in the lower House of Representatives.

The survey, carried out by Newspoll, forecast Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor Party would lose 21 to be left with just 51. The independents would have two seats.

On a two-party basis, the conservatives would take 53 per cent of the vote to Labor's 47 per cent.