Australia: new government, but little change
Australia's election delivers a new government, but little change
The opinion polls, which have indicated for some time that Labor would win the election comfortably, didn't lie. Australians have changed the party of government for the first time since 1996, and for only the sixth time in the last 60 years.
Labor won Saturday's election with 43.5% of the popular vote, and 53.4% of the two-party preferred vote (i.e. after the distribution of minor party preferences), its highest ever share. This delivered Labor a massive swing of 22 seats; Labor needed a net swing of 16 seats to form a government. This is the third largest swing for an opposition party since WWII.
Counting continues, but it looks like Labor will hold 88 seats in the new parliament (up from 60 in the old house), the Coalition will have 60 seats (down from 87 ), and independents 2 seats (down from 3). That gives Labor a working majority of 26 seats.
Labor leader Kevin Rudd, who has been opposition leader for less than a year, therefore, becomes Australia's 26th Prime Minister. Former PM John Howard looks likely to lose his seat - this will be only the second time ever that a sitting PM has lost his seat - and will leave politics immediately after the Rudd government is sworn in this week.
In the near term, the only material policy changes will be in industrial relations and the environment, where Labor will deliver on its pledge to reverse some of the Coalition's workplace reforms, and sign the Kyoto agreement.