SYDNEY - Tony Abbott celebrated his election triumph with an early morning bike ride Sunday, vowing to “get down to business” and be prime minister for all Australians after a divisive campaign that ended six years of tumultuous Labor rule.
Led by outgoing premier Kevin Rudd, Labor suffered a resounding defeat in Saturday’s polls as voters punished it for bitter in-fighting that saw Rudd oust Julia Gillard as party leader in June, three years after she did the same to him.
The election commission resumed counting votes after an overnight break, and with more than 90 percent tallied Abbott’s conservative coalition led in 88 seats and Labor was on 57 in the 150-seat House of Representatives. Just hours after declaring Australia was “under new management and... open for business,” Abbott donned his sky blue and purple Lycra shorts and yellow helmet for a ride with his mates in Sydney.
“It was a very big night but this is just the start of another normal day and there’s going to be a fair bit of solid work this morning,” the prime minister-elect told reporters.
“People expect that the day after an election, an incoming government will be getting down to business and that’s what I’ll be doing today,” said Abbott, who is due to meet with his new ministers in the afternoon.
“I’ll be working on building a better future for a great country, building a strong Australia, a better Australia in the months and years ahead.”
The election outcome was a convincing win for the conservatives but Labor escaped the total rout pollsters had predicted. All cabinet ministers in the outgoing government held their seats despite a 3.5 percent swing to the coalition.
Half the seats in the Senate or upper house were also at stake in Saturday’s ballot, but final results were expected to take days to tally, with fringe parties likely to have secured several seats and complicate the new government’s legislative push.
Among early victors was former Olympian Nova Peris who became the first Aboriginal woman elected to parliament, a welcome achievement for centre-left Labor.
Peris, who won gold in field hockey at the 1996 Atlanta Games before switching to athletics to win gold in the 200m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, will represent the Northern Territory in the Senate.
In what the Herald Sun billed as his first interview, Abbott said he was ready to take on the responsibility that he had been preparing for “my whole life”.
He pledged to forge ahead with his agenda to stop asylum-seeker boats — an issue that dominated the campaign — and abolish the carbon tax from “day one” and added that he wanted to govern for all Australians.
“I am very conscious of the fact that opposition leaders are tribal chiefs but prime ministers have to be national leaders,” Abbott said.
“You have to govern for everyone including the people that didn’t vote for you and the people who probably won’t ever support you. That’s the nature of the job.
“While I certainly can’t promise that everyone is going to agree with everything an incoming government does, I certainly intend to be a consultative, collegiate prime minister.”
Abbott was expected to be sworn in officially by Governor General Quentin Bryce next week.
Labor’s defeat led Rudd to announce he was standing down as party leader — a role he lost to Gillard in 2010 before ousting her in turn in June. Senior members of his government have said the turmoil and infighting within Labor had contributed to the election loss.
Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten was emerging as an early favourite to take over as the party seeks to heals internal divisions, but he remained cautious Sunday over his prospects.
“I’m certainly not resolved about what should happen,” he told ABC television. “I’m genuinely undecided.”
Others cited as possible Labor leaders are deputy leader Anthony Albanese, Treasurer Chris Bowen, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Immigration Minister Tony Burke.