Australia's conservatives thrilled by Labor's election loss

The Australian Labor Party on Sunday looked certain to lose office in Western Australia after a state election upset that has rattled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's federal government, reported dpa.

Labor had a monopoly on power at both the state and federal level before a big swing against it in Saturday's poll, the most likely outcome of which is for the Liberal and National parties to cobble together a unity state government that would see Labor's Alan Carpenter replaced by Liberal leader Colin Barnett.

"It was a clear expression through the ballot box that people wanted a change of government," Barnett said. "I believe that both National and Liberal Party voters want to see a new government and they want to see a Liberal-National arrangement of some sort."

A coalition would mean Labor's ban on uranium mining at the state's eight major deposits would end and a scramble for an essential ingredient in nuclear energy would begin.

Rudd, who established coast-to-coast Labor dominance with a win against John Howard's conservatives in the November federal election, tried to paint Labor's loss as reflective of local rather than national sentiment.

"We've got a hung parliament in Western Australia and I look forward to working with either Mr Carpenter or Mr Barnett, whoever ends up being premier, to reform the federation," Rudd said.

Rudd supports uranium mining - there are three mines in operation - but licensing is a state prerogative and Carpenter had declared his state off limits.

A sharp economic downturn has wiped the sheen off the popular Rudd government. But dissension in the conservative coalition means the opposition has failed to capitalize on the money worries of voters.

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