Tony Abbott has won government with a decisive majority but the Labor party has avoided the rout that it had feared.
A victorious Abbott told the Liberal faithful “Australia is under new management; Australia is once more open for business”.
He promised that he and the new Coalition government would not let down the hundreds of thousands of Australians who had voted for the Coalition for the first time in their lives. He promises a government of no surprises.
Abbott pledged that “in three years time, the carbon tax will be gone, the boats will be stopped, the budget will be on track for a believable surplus, and the roads of the 21st century will be well underway”.
Kevin Rudd declared in his concession speech that he would not recontest the leadership, after saying he was proud to have kept the parliamentary Labor party as a “fighting force for the future”.
“The Australian people, I believe, deserve a fresh start with our leadership,” adding that “the time has come for renewal” of the party.
The government suffered a two-party swing of 3.6% with the Coalition getting a two party vote of 53.5% to Labor’s 46.5%.The ALP primary vote fell by 4.6% to about 34%, an historic low.
Labor has lost at least 15 seats and the Coalition has gained at least 17. Last night with some seats still in doubt the Coalition had about 88, and Labor about 54.
In Melbourne Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has been returned and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie has also survived.
Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party (PUP) polled strongly, with Palmer himself a good prospect for the Queensland seat of Fairfax. Barnaby Joyce, former Nationals Senate leader who has won New England, warned that it would be pandemonium in parliament if Clive Palmer won Fairfax.
In New South Wales Labor has lost Banks, Lindsay – where the Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury is a casualty - Reid, Page and Robertson. The losses were fewer than predicted.
But the ALP has retained the highly marginal seat of Greenway, where the Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz embarrassingly floundered when questioned on Liberal asylum seeker policy and later had to be hidden away from the media.
All but two ALP seats in Queensland have been retained, with Petrie and Capricornia falling. Former premier Peter Beattie failed in his bid to win the Liberal seat of Forde.
In Victoria the ALP has lost Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe.
Three Tasmanian seats have gone from Labor - Bass, Braddon and Lyons. In South Australia the ALP has lost Hindmarsh.
Possibilities for the Labor leadership are Bill Shorten, outgoing Treasurer Chris Bowen and deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese but last night no one had declared an intention to stand.
Labor figures blamed the divisions of the past for the defeat and called for the party to unite.
Former minister Greg Combet, who retired at the election and had been a strong supporter of Julia Gillard, lashed out at the leadership destabilisation that took place and said it was “important that Labor has a very, very good look at itself”. He said a party could not have two people vying over the leadership for a long period.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said: “I don’t think the division and pain was justified at any stage. What I hope [everyone in Labor] has learned from tonight is that we don’t tolerate division.”
Bowen, a strong Rudd supporter, said it was a difficult night for Labor, but better than had been expected some months ago.
He said the party now needed to “commit to unity” for the next three years, take time for reflection and build on its record in government. “We need to have a… new spirit of unity and common purpose.”
He said Labor had come back from a long way behind in just two or three months. “The party owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin for making himself available,” he said.
Immigration Minister Tony Burke said Labor had “always underestimated” Tony Abbott, and paid tribute to the professionalism of Abbott’s campaign.
Beattie said the key reason in the election defeat was “leadership divisions over the last six years… people frankly thought it had gone on too long”.
Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella has had a close call in Indi but ABC election analyst Antony Green was predicting last night that she would hold off the challenge from independent Cathy McGowan.
Bob Katter has retained his Queensland seat of Kennedy but his party has polled poorly compared with Palmer’s party, which is in line a Senate spot.
Rudd told his supporters: “We have known defeat before but I say this to you, throughout our 122 year history we have always, always risen from defeat.”
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was deposed by Rudd in June, tweeted: “A tough night for Labor. But a spirited fight by Kevin, Albo, George + the whole team. My thoughts are with you all. JG”