Australia’s Labour party is celebrating the end of 11 years in the political wilderness after an emphatic general election victory. Counting’s still going on but Labour, led by Kevin Rudd, are on course for a clear majority in parliament for the first time since 1996. A jubilant Rudd spoke of a new era. “Let us be the generation that seizes the opportunities of today to invest in the Australia of tomorrow. That’s the mission statement we have as the next government of this country, but I want to do it by us all working together as one. Tomorrow, and I say this to the team, we roll up our sleeves, we are ready for hard work, we are ready for the long haul. You can have a strong cup of tea in the meantime.”
Rudd may not be Washington’s cup of tea. He has promised to pull Australia’s troops out of Iraq and to sign up ot the Kyoto protocol on climate change. The result is the final curtain for Prime Minister, John Howard. The Liberal leader is expected to bow out after dominating Australian politics for more than a decade.
He had urged voters to consider his government’s solid economic record and proposed generous income tax cuts. But analysts say he offered few new policies. But the opposition appears to have cashed in on anger over labour laws and rising interest rates, which put homeowner under heavy financial pressure.
The new era spoken of by Rudd will begin next month when he leads his country into international climate change talks in Bali. It is expected he will emphasise Australia’s intentions to take a lead role in combating global warming.