Australian ruling party looses to opposition

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has conceded defeat in the general election, as Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition swept to power.

With almost two-thirds of the votes counted, the opposition coalition has secured a parliamentary majority.

Labor leader Mr Rudd said he had phoned Mr Abbott and wished him well.

The campaign has been dramatic, with Kevin Rudd ousting Julia Gillard as prime minister and Labor leader weeks from the polls.

The economy, asylum and the carbon tax have been key election issues.

Mr Rudd called the election after defeating Julia Gillard in a leadership challenge in June, amid dismal polling figures that showed Labor on course for a wipe-out.

Under Mr Rudd, Labor initially saw its figures improve significantly. But Mr Abbott, who enjoyed the strident support of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, then broadened the gap again.

“I gave it my all but it was not enough for us to win,” Mr Rudd said. But he was pleased that Labor was preserved as a “viable fighting force for the future”.

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 Australians cast their ballot in Sydney's Bondi beach on 7 September 2013 Australians have cast their ballots in a general election that looks set to end six years of Labor government.

There has been no word yet from Mr Abbott, who took on the leadership of the coalition in 2009.

A Rhodes scholar who once wanted to be a priest, Mr Abbott has pledged to repeal both the mining and carbon taxes introduced by Labor.

He has also promised a raft of budget cuts – including reducing the foreign aid budget by A$4.5bn ($4bn, £2.6bn) – but says he will fund an expanded paid parental leave scheme.

The economy has been at the heart of campaigning. Australia’s next leader will be charged with managing the transition as the mining and resources boom subsides, amid slowing demand from China and slumping commodity prices.

oth parties have also announced tough asylum policies to stem the number of people reaching Australia’s shores by boat, an apparent cause of anxiety in some crucial swinging electorates.

The coalition, meanwhile, has highlighted bitter Labor infighting – seeking to portray itself as the more stable party.

Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke blamed the internal divisions for Labor’s apparent defeat.

“I really believe this was an election that was lost by the government rather than one that was won by the opposition.”

More than 14 million people were expected to vote in Saturday’s election. Voting is compulsory in Australia.

Polling closed in eastern states at 18:00 (08:00GMT) and in Western Australia two hours later.

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