Kevin Rudd will become Australia’s next prime minister after the Labor Party achieved a crushing victory in Saturday’s federal election.
A national 5.8% swing to Labor should see it hold around 86 seats to the Coalition’s 62 seats, delivering Labor a majority of around 22 seats in the House of Representatives.
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Labor’s gains came primarily from Rudd’s home state of Queensland, where it should pick up an additional 10 seats, and New South Wales, where it is expected to make a gain of 7 seats.
And in a double blow to the Coalition, John Howard appears likely to lose his suburban Sydney seat of Bennelong to Labor’s Maxine McKew. With more than 77% of the vote counted in Bennelong, McKew is leading 52% to 48% two-party preferred, but there is still a chance a strong postal vote could see Howard narrowly retain the seat.
Claiming victory just after 11pm on Saturday night, Rudd said he would govern in the national interest.
“I will be a Prime Minister for all Australians. A Prime Minister for Indigenous Australians. Australians who have been born here and Australians who have come here from afar, a Prime Minister for our cities and towns, a Prime Minister for rural Australia, for our men and women in uniform, for all our states and territories,” Rudd said.
A crucial issue for the future Rudd government will be the make-up of the Senate. Results are still being counted, but it remains possible that the Coalition will retain the ability to block the passage of legislation through the upper house.
Both parties will now start looking to the future. For the Coalition, this is likely to fall to Peter Costello, who was last night endorsed by John Howard as the best person to become the next leader of the Liberal Party.
The task of rebuilding for the Liberal Party will be made all the harder by the fact that it is now in opposition in all of Australia’s states and territories. The loss of several former ministers – including former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough, Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton and Special Minister of State Gary Nairn – will also make the task more difficult.
Kevin Rudd’s first task will be to decide the composition of his new cabinet and ministry. High profile new additions to the Labor caucus such as Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and, if she wins, Maxine McKew, will all lay claim to a place in the ministry.
Rudd is expected to make an initial statement of his plans later this afternoon.