( AFP ) - Australia's new leader Kevin Rudd vowed Sunday to tackle climate change and Iraq war policy, a day after sweeping veteran prime minister John Howard from power in a stunning election landslide.
Rudd pledged to implement his campaign promises as a new era dawned for Australia after Saturday's poll ended nearly 12 years of conservative rule by US President George W. Bush's closest remaining ally in the war in Iraq.
Voters abandoned Howard, 68, who presided over a record economic boom and became Australia's second longest-serving leader, in a humiliating drubbing in which he is also likely to suffer the indignity of losing his parliamentary seat of 33 years.
As the campaign hubris dissipated, Rudd, 50, said his centre-left Labor Party would immediately begin work on fulfilling campaign pledges, which included tackling global warming and withdrawing combat troops from Iraq.
In his first press conference as leader, he also reached out to Australia's traditional allies, offered Bush an olive branch despite policy differences and called for unity at home following a bruising election campaign.
"This is a humbling experience, to be extended the trust and confidence of people right across the country," he said in his hometown of Brisbane, thanking voters and promising not to breach their trust.
"I would also say to those people that we will be a government for all Australians and that I will always govern in the national interest," he said.
Rudd revealed he had spoken to major world leaders on the telephone, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Bush.
"I emphasised to President Bush the centrality of the US alliance in our approach to future foreign policy," Rudd said, adding he planned to visit the United States next year and that Bush had welcomed the trip.
But Rudd refused to say if he had discussed his campaign pledge to withdraw Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq with Bush, a plan Howard and Bush insisted would be a signal that the "terrorists" were winning the conflict.
He also received a congratulatory message from China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese state media reported, although exactly what was said was not revealed.
Rudd campaigned on the mantra that the long-serving Howard was out of touch with his people on key issues such as the war, climate change and labour law reforms, and weary voters agreed it was time for a change.
Labor scored its biggest victory since World War II, achieving an estimated six percent swing in the vote that should give it 88 seats compared with 60 for Howard's Liberal-National coalition in the 150-seat parliament when all votes are counted, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
As Howard's reign was dramatically ended, his Sydney seat of Bennelong hung in the balance with former television newscaster Maxine McKew narrowly ahead in the count. The final result may not be available for days.
If Howard loses his seat he will become the first sitting prime minister in 78 years to do so.
Global warming became a top worry with Australians as the driest continent on earth suffered its worst drought in 100 years and even its record economic prosperity failed to offset voters' fears of over job security.
Rudd capitalised on Howard's dismantling of workers' protections in favour of employers and his refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, vowing to sign the UN pact and to roll back Howard's labour laws.
He stressed Sunday that his priority in government was "action and action now on climate change and water."
"Climate change therefore was a key focus of my conversations with the British prime minister and with President Yudhoyono," he said, as he prepared to head to the UN-sponsored climate change summit in Bali next month.
As Rudd prepared to unveil his first cabinet as early as Thursday following his expected swearing-in Monday, newspapers wrote his predecessor's political obituary.
"Rudd Landslide," the Sun-Herald newspaper proclaimed in a banner headline set against the backdrop of a cartoon depicting Rudd standing triumphant on the back of a prone Howard.
The ABC described the whitewash, which leaves Labor running the central government and all eight state and territory administrations, as a "Ruddslide."
"The verdict of the Australian people has been emphatic," said the Sunday Telegraph, once a firm supporter of Howard and his so-called Work Choices labour laws, which proved a key element in his undoing.
"John Howard should have gone last year and made way for (Treasurer) Peter Costello. Work Choices was his fatal obsession and climate change his historic oversight."