Australia's opposition has crushed the governing Labour party in a general election that has returned the Liberal-National coalition to power for the first time in six years. The coalition was on course to win 88 seats, compared with 57 for Labour. Liberal leader Tony Abbott said he looked forward to forming a competent and trustworthy government.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier admitted defeat and said he would not stand again for the Labour leadership.
The main election issues were how to tackle an expected economic slow-down, whether to keep a tax on carbon emissions, and how to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
Mr Rudd called the election after defeating Julia Gillard in a leadership challenge in June, amid dismal polling figures that showed Labour on course for a wipe-out. Under Mr Rudd, Labour initially saw its figures improve. But Mr Abbott, who enjoyed the strident support of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, then widened the gap again.
From today I declare Australia is under new management and Australia is now open for business, Mr Abbott told a cheering crowd as he delivered a victory speech.
He said that he would put the budget back into surplus, and stop boats bringing migrants from Asia. He added that support for Labour was at its lowest ebb for 100 years, and said the results showed that the Australian people would punish anyone who took them for granted.
Mr Rudd said he had phoned Mr Abbott and wished him well. I gave it my all but it was not enough for us to win, he said. But he was pleased that Labour was preserved as a viable fighting force for the future.
Mr Rudd retained his seat in the Brisbane constituency of Griffith but said he would not re-contest the Labour party leadership because the Australian people deserve a fresh start.
I know that Labour hearts are heavy across the nation tonight. As your Labour leader I accept it as my responsibility, he said
With most of the votes counted, the Australian Election Commission predicted a large majority for the Liberal-National coalition. In the previous parliament, Labour relied on the support of independents and the Greens for its minority government, with 71 seats to the coalition's 72.
Mr Abbott took on the leadership of the flagging Liberal-National coalition in 2009.
A Rhodes scholar who once wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest, Mr Abbott has pledged to repeal both the mining and carbon taxes introduced by Labour. He has also promised a raft of budget cuts, including reducing the foreign aid budget by 4bn dollars. But he says he will fund an expanded paid parental leave scheme.
The economy has been at the heart of campaigning.
Mr Abbott will be charged with managing the transition as the mining and resources boom subsides, amid slowing demand from China and slumping commodity prices.
Ahead of the polls, his coalition highlighted bitter Labour infighting, seeking to portray itself as the more stable party. And former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke blamed the internal divisions for Labour's defeat.
I really believe this was an election that was lost by the government rather than one that was won by the opposition, he said.
More than 14 million people were expected to vote in Saturday's election. Voting is compulsory in Australia.