Rudd sets new Australian agenda

Other News Materials 25 November 2007 10:01 (UTC +04:00)

Australia's Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd has outlined his priorities after winning a sweeping general election victory over outgoing PM John Howard.

Mr Rudd said he would overturn a number of his predecessor's policies, signing the Kyoto Protocol and withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq.

He also promised to attend next month's UN climate change summit in Bali.

Meanwhile, Peter Costello - nominated by Mr Howard to succeed him as conservative leader - refused the post.

The BBC 's Phil Mercer in Sydney says that Australia's conservatives are wounded and fractured and it could take them years to recover from this election defeat.

With just over 75% of ballots counted, Mr Rudd's Labor has 53% of the vote and Mr Howard's conservative coalition 46.5%.

Mr Howard is seriously in danger of losing his own seat of Bennelong in the suburbs of Sydney.

Mr Rudd, a former diplomat, is almost 20 years younger than Mr Howard.

In his first news conference since his election, Mr Rudd promised "action and action now" on climate change.

He said he looked forward to meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after receiving his invitation to the Bali conference.

Mr Rudd promised to name his new cabinet by the end of the week, with one of his key appointments expected to be Julia Gillard as Deputy Prime Minister.

If appointed, Ms Gillard will be the first woman ever to hold the position.

In his victory speech on Saturday, the Labor leader said: "Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward."

"To plan for the future, to prepare for the future, to embrace the future and together as Australians to unite and write a new page in our nation's history."

The swing to Labor is so far more than 6% and analysts say the party is on course for a clear majority in the 150-seat parliament for the first time since it lost to Mr Howard in 1996.

Our correspondent says this is a humiliating defeat for Mr Howard and a day Labor has waited many years to see.

Its supporters are hoping Australia will become more compassionate under Kevin Rudd, he says.

Labor's environment spokesman, Peter Garrett, told the BBC Australia was on the brink of fundamental change.

"Australians have decided that they are going to throw out a government that has been delinquent on climate change, that has tried to recast our industrial relations laws, and which hasn't shown any capacity to measure up to the challenges of the 21st Century."

The pledge to pull 550 combat troops from Iraq in a phased withdrawal will concern the US, although the White House congratulated Mr Rudd on his victory.

"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship," its statement read.

Mr Rudd stressed Australia would retain its close alliance with the US. However correspondents say relations may turn cooler.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also congratulated Mr Rudd and welcomed the incoming prime minister's pledge to sign up to Kyoto.

In his concession speech, Mr Howard said: "This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr Rudd well.

"We bequeath to him a nation that is stronger and prouder and more prosperous than it was eleven and a half years ago."

There were few moments of cheer for the Liberals.

Former political journalist, Maxine McKew, is close to removing Mr Howard from Bennelong and make him the first sitting PM to lose his seat for 78 years.

Voters in Bennelong have elected Mr Howard in 13 consecutive elections over 33 years.

Mr Rudd is expected to be sworn in as prime minister next week.