Australia takes a turn to the right: Tony Abbott wins general election

Conservative Coalition brings an end to six years of Labor rule

Australia’s prime minister-elect, Tony Abbott, declared the country “under new management” today after his conservative Coalition won a resounding victory in elections that ended six years of Labor rule and delivered the party’s worst result since the 1930s.

With three-quarters of votes counted, the Liberal-National Coalition was on course to win 89 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives, compared with 57 for Labor. Final results in the Senate will not be known for days, but the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – who had campaigned from his bolt-hole in the Ecuadorian embassy in London – now looks unlikely to win a seat in Victoria.

However, another of the election’s colourful characters, the mining tycoon Clive Palmer, looked set to win a seat in the lower house against all odds and expectations. Mr Palmer, who last week declared Rupert Murdoch’s estranged wife, Wendi Deng, a Chinese spy, is building a replica of the Titanic and installing life-size dinosaur models on the golf course of his five-star resort on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

While Labor held on to some of the seats it was predicted to lose –including the Sydney constituency where the Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz disappeared from public view after a humiliating TV interview – its primary vote fell to a historic low of 34 per cent. “I gave it my all, but it was not enough for us to win,” said the outgoing Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who announced he was stepping down as party leader.

A former boxer, Rhodes scholar and Catholic seminarian, Mr Abbott, 55, was greeted by ecstatic cries of “Tony! Tony! We love you, Tony” from Liberal Party supporters as he entered the ballroom at Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel. The start of his victory speech, in which he said Australia was “once more open for business”, was almost drowned out by cheers and applause.

Earlier, Mr Rudd received an equally rapturous reception from Labor supporters gathered at the “Gabba” cricket ground in Brisbane, his home city. In fact, so loud were the shouts of “Kevin! Kevin!” that his first remark was: “Jeez, I thought we’d lost.”

In a gracious speech conceding defeat (but omitting any mention of his predecessor, Julia Gillard, whom he deposed in June), he wished Mr Abbott well “in coping with the stresses and strains of high office”. Mr Rudd, who held his own seat against the forecasts of some polls, said he was quitting the leadership, because “the Australian people, I believe, deserve a fresh start”.

That move finally drew a line under the long-running feud between Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard, which had poisoned Labor politics for the past three years, and contributed in no small measure to the election loss.

Ms Gillard, who has left parliament, tweeted: “A tough night for Labor. But a spirited fight by Kevin … + the whole team. My thoughts are with you all. JG.”

Mr Abbott – who was accompanied at the Four Seasons by his wife, Margie, and three daughters, Louise, Frances and Bridget – has promised to abolish an unpopular carbon tax, stem the flow of asylum-seeker boats, cut public service jobs and build new motorways.

In a much-criticised move, he will also slash billions of dollars from the foreign aid budget. Foreign policy barely rated a mention during the campaign, but – like just about every Australian government – the Coalition can be expected to maintain good relations with the US while cultivating relationships with its major trading partners in Asia. Julie Bishop, who will be the new foreign minister, is to visit Indonesia soon to discuss action on asylum-seekers. Indonesia is the main transit country.

A social conservative who once called abortion “the easy way out” and spoke of the impact of rising electricity prices on “the housewives of Australia”, Mr Abbott was accused by Ms Gillard in a celebrated speech to parliament last year of rampant sexism and misogyny. His wife sprang to his defence, calling him a “feminist” and “softie” who cried at the movies.

The prime minister-elect – he will be sworn in by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, next week – is a climate change sceptic who has described the science as “absolute crap”. A fitness fanatic who runs marathons and competes in triathlons, he also volunteers as a firefighter and surf lifesaver.

If Mr Palmer, leader of the newly formed Palmer United Party, does win the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, he is certain to liven up lower house proceedings. The Wendi Deng assertion was just the latest in a series of outrageous claims, including that the Australian Greens party is funded by the CIA.

“Clive Palmer and parliamentary privilege promises to be a fascinating combination,” tweeted Michael Rowland, an ABC TV journalist.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit