Kevin Rudd leads Labor Party to emphatic victory as John Howard concedes defeat.
Rudd has promised his Labor party will:
– Withdraw 500 combat troops from Iraq
– Be more independent of the US on foreign policy
– Create a new US-style “Homeland Security” department
– Close Australia’s offshore refugee detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea
– Ratify the Kyoto Protocol
– Cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050
– Make income tax cuts of A$31bn
“President [Yudhoyono] invited Kevin Rudd to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. And we are sure that his attendance will have a symbolic meaning for the conference and also will change the political dynamic … because Australia has not signed the Kyoto Protocol.”
Chinese media carried reports on Sunday of Rudd greeting Hu Jintao, the president, in fluent Mandarin in September, as well of his posting to Australia’s embassy in Beijing, the capital, in the 1980s.
Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, sent a message to Rudd, congratulating him on his election victory.
But Rudd’s anticipated warmth towards China has reportedly worried Japan.
Local media have said that Rudd’s ties with China may weaken Tokyo’s ties with Canberra, which in recent years saw the start of talks for a free trade agreement and the signing of a joint defence pact.
“There are views there could be a setback in Australia-Japan relations under the new Rudd administration,” the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.
Rudd had also spoken to George Bush, the US president.
He said: “He [George Bush] kindly rang to congratulate me. I said and emphasised to President Bush the centrality of the US alliance in our approach to future foreign policy.”
John Howard, the former prime minister, was a close ally of Bush, and had made a commitment to keep Australian troops in Iraq if re-elected.
Rudd has said he will withdraw Australian soldiers from the country.
Dan Nolan, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Sydney, said that Howard will drift off into the political abyss.
He said: “He has learnt a painful lesson about hanging onto power for too long.”
Big business ‘happy’
Meanwhile, analysts said that Rudd’s Labor party has overcome fears that its election victory could set back the country’s economic boom.
Greig Gailey, the head of the Business Council of Australia, said that he had few concerns about the future government despite Rudd’s pledge to revoke his conservative predecessor’s disputed labour laws.
He said: “There’s an awful lot of alignment between where the business council is coming from and where that government we believe will come from.”
The labour laws, introduced by Howard, was a key election issue and contributed to the swing away from the government because of the perception they erode workers’ rights.