Australia’s conservative Coalition led by Tony Abbott swept to power in the country’s federal election yesterday, bringing an end to six years of Labor rule.
Abbott, a Rhodes scholar who once trained to be a priest, has said he intends to start work today on stopping the flow of boats of asylum seekers and dismantling the country’s carbon pricing scheme.
The latest seat estimate for the 150-seat House of Representatives gives the Coalition 88 seats to Labor’s 57. Two seats are yet to be determined while Katter’s Australia Party and Independents took one seat each and The Greens retained the seat of Melbourne.
Eccentric businessman Clive Palmer looks on track to secure the seat of Fairfax in Queensland. Palmer, known for grand announcements such as his plan to build a replica of the Titanic and his assembly of the world’s biggest collection of life-size dinosaurs – and telling journalists “I’ve got more money than you could ever dream of” – will bring an element of unpredictability to the capital.
The election brings to a close a tumultuous parliamentary term, which included three leadership challenges against prime minister Julia Gillard, culminating in Kevin Rudd’s restoration as Labor leader in June.
Two MPs at the centre of major scandals in the last parliamentary term were comprehensively rejected by their electorates.
Craig Thomson, the former Labor MP turned independent who was investigated over claims he used a union credit card to pay for prostitutes, got just 4% of the vote in Dobell.
Peter Slipper, who defected from the Coalition to be installed as Speaker in the House of Representatives by the government only to be subject to a sexual harassment claim and allegations that he misused parliamentary privileges, secured 1.4% of the vote in his electorate of Fisher.
The Coalition is on track to increase its 73 seats won in the last election by at least 15 seats. Kevin Rudd delivered somewhat incongruous concession speech last night that was upbeat, particularly when he said the Labor party had managed held on to all its seats in Queensland – where some had been fearing a wipeout. (The count in one Queensland seat, Capricornia, remains on knife-edge.)
The ALP also managed to hold on to seats in western Sydney, another area where some believed the party utterly doomed. Treasurer Chris Bowen held on in Macarthur while Jason Clare held on in Blaxland and Michelle Rowland defeated the coalition’s Jaymes Diaz, whose campaign spectacularly imploded over his failure to describe a six-point plan to deal with border protection.
However, former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke says he is amazed at any jubilation in the Labor party. As he puts it: “This was the lowest primary vote since Alfred Deakin was in short pants.”
The bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro in NSW, which has gone with the government in every election since 1972, is also still in doubt this morning. At 8am the Liberals’ Peter Hendy was marginally ahead of Labor incumbent Mike Kelly.
Julian Assange and his Wikileaks Party were virtual non-starters. Despite claiming they would claim one-fifth or more of the vote just weeks ago, their national first-preference vote was around 0.6%. The most they gained was 1.2% of the first-preference Senate vote in Victoria.
Overall in the Senate, it appears that when the new members take their seats next year that the Coalition, despite having a robust majority in the Lower House, will be relying on an array of minor parties to pass legislation.
It will take some time to work out the exact numbers because of the complex web of preference votes that need to be counted, but it’s unlikely that Labor and The Greens will be able to combine to block Coalition legislation on their own.
The Greens look set to hold around 10 seats in the new Senate.
Nick Xenophon, the independent senator from South Australia, looks set to be joined by an associate in the Nick Xenophon Group in the upper house. There may also be a representative from the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, which amongst other things advocates for the rights of off-road leisure drivers.
Early counting suggested Pauline Hanson, the former leader of the right-wing One Nation party, could be on track to secure a NSW Senate seat thanks to preferences from the Shooters and Fishers Party. However, the prospect of a Hanson return to national politics – which had many political figures aghast last night – appears to have receded.