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Australians flock to polls to choose new PM

About 15 million voters taking part in mandatory ballot, with opinion polls showing big win for conservative opposition.

Last Modified: 07 Sep 2013 05:34
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Abbott, whose family has often been by his side in the campaign, called his daughters his "best asset" [Getty Images]

Millions of Australians have voted in a national election that is expected to see the Labor Party ousted from government after six years in power.

Polls opened on Saturday at 8:00am Australian Eastern Standard Time  (2200 GMT) with about 14.7 million electors taking  part in a mandatory ballot across the huge country.

The polls were set to close 10 hours later, with western states voting another two hours beyond that because of the time zones.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott seemed on track to guide his Liberal Party-led coalition to a victory in Saturday's election. Opinion polls have given the party a commanding lead over the ruling Labor Party.

A Newspoll published in The Australian on Saturday put his Liberal-National Coalition ahead 54 to 46 percent on a two-party basis, the same as a Nielson poll in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Abbott, a volunteer lifeguard, is often depicted by cartoonists wearing nothing but the red-and-yellow cap of an Australian lifeguard and Speedos, known in Australia as ``budgie smugglers'' - a reference to the budgerigar, a small Australian parrot.

Large swing forecast

 

"I'm down here at Freshie Surf Club and you'll be pleased to see ... I'm in a suit, not in the budgie smugglers,'' Abbott told Nine Network television.

"I sort of wish I was out there on the waves ... but Australia has a democratic duty to do today.''

Newspoll has correctly picked the result of all 56 Australian federal and state elections since 1985.

If its prediction is correct, it represents a four percentage point swing since the last election in 2010.

The latest predictions have Labor losing anything from 14 to 32 seats in the 150-member lower House of Representatives with the Conservatives set to claim a comfortable majority of more than 90 seats.

Photo opportunity chaos

The fortunes of Kevin Rudd, the incumbent Prime Minister, showed no signs of improving when he went to vote in his Brisbane electorate of Griffith - and a key photo opportunity descended into chaos.

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) officials blocked the media from entering, indicating that they did not have authority to let them in to cover the event.

The clash was live streamed on the internet, as Rudd suggested the journalists and camera crews left the church hall until the AEC gave the all-clear.

The media crews were able to enter the church 10 minutes later, according to News Limited.

Speculation has already begun on who will replace Rudd if he leads Labor to the predicted landslide loss.

Labor stalwart Bob Hawke, who was prime minister from 1983-1991, said the party had underestimated opposition leader Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the election.

"Tony has historically been capable of some awful gaffes, as people will tell you," Hawke told Sky News Australia.

"But he's shown considerable discipline in his campaign."

Hawke tipped Bill Shorten, a former Labor powerbroke who helped initially topple Rudd and then Julia Gillard, his successor, to take the Labor leadership.

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Source:
Agencies
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