Labor Party wins big in Australia
Labor Party wins big in Australia
By ROHAN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer 25 minutes
SYDNEY, Australia - Conservative Prime Minister John
Howard suffered a humiliating defeat Saturday at the
hands of the left-leaning opposition, whose leader has
promised to immediately sign the Kyoto Protocol on
global warming and withdraw Australia's combat troops
Labor Party head Kevin Rudd's pledges on global
warming and Iraq move Australia sharply away from
policies that had made Howard one of President Bush's
Rudd has named global warming as his top priority, and
his signing of the Kyoto Protocol will leave the U.S.
as the only industrialized country not to have joined
Rudd said he would withdraw Australia's 550 combat
troops from Iraq, leaving twice that number in mostly
security roles. Howard had said all the troops will
stay as long as needed.
Official figures from the Australian Electoral
Commission showed Labor far in front after more than
70 percent of the ballots had been counted with 53
percent of the vote compared to 46.7 percent for
Using those figures, an Australian Broadcasting Corp.
analysis showed that Labor would get at least 81
places in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament a
It was an embarrassing end to the career of Howard,
Australia's second-longest serving leader.
As little as a year ago, Howard had appeared almost
unassailable. But on Saturday he was in real danger of
becoming only the second sitting prime minister in 106
years of federal government to lose his own seat in
Howard took full blame for the drubbing handed to his
"I accept full responsibility for the Liberal Party
campaign, and I therefore accept full responsibility
for the coalition's defeat in this election campaign,"
Howard said in his concession speech in Sydney.
A new government is unlikely to mean a fundamental
change in Australia's close alliance with the United
States its most important security partner or its
growing economic and political ties with Asia.
At home, Rudd has pledged to govern as an "economic
conservative," while pouring money into schools and
universities. He will curtail sweeping industrial
reforms laws that were perceived to hand bosses too
much power, turning many working voters against
"Today Australia has looked to the future," Rudd said
in a nationally televised victory speech, to wild
cheers from supporters. "Today the Australian people
have decided that we as a nation will move forward ...
to embrace the future, together to write a new page in
our nation's history."
In his concession speech, Howard announced he had
phoned Rudd to congratulate him on "a very emphatic
The change from Howard to Rudd also marks a
generational shift for Australia.
Rudd, a 50-year-old former diplomat who speaks fluent
Chinese, urged voters to support him because Howard,
68, was out of touch with modern Australia and
ill-equipped to deal with new-age issues such as
Howard campaigned on his economic management, arguing
that his government was mostly responsible for 17
years of unbroken growth, fueled by China's and
India's hunger for Australia's coal and other
minerals, and that Rudd could not be trusted to
maintain prosperous times.
Labor has been out of power for more than a decade,
and few in Rudd's team including him has any
government experience at federal level. His team
includes a former rock star Midnight Oil singer
Peter Garrett a television journalist and former
But analysts say his foreign policy credentials are
impeccable, and that he has shown discipline and
political skill since his election as Labor leader 11
Rudd's election as Labor leader marked the start of
Howard's decline in opinion polls, from which he never
Howard's four straight election victories since 1996
made him one of Australia's most successful
politicians. He refused to stand down before this
election even after being urged to do by some party colleagues.
Not to the Aussies I know, and certainly not from the perspective of American foreign policy. We have lost a great ally in John Howard, and the world's safety from terrorism will be the worse for it.
Ram Lau wrote:
Good riddance. John Howard has been a major embarrassment of the
Aussies for way too long.