Knives already out as Labor gears for big loss Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is shortly expected to concede that Labor has lost the federal election from Brisbane.
Fairfax Media understands Mr Rudd has drafted his concession speech, although it it not known whether he intends to stay on as Labor leader.
As the Coalition heads towards a convincing win – putting Tony Abbott into the prime ministership, Mr Rudd will address the party faithful at the Gabba.
Despite a poor showing for Labor at the polls, Fairfax Media understand the mood in Rudd’s camp in Brisbane is upbeat about the night’s results – with losses in Western Sydney not as bad as expected, and Labor yet to lose a seat in Queensland.
Mr Rudd also comfortably leads Coalition challenger Bill Glasson with more than 60 per cent of first preferences counted.
Rudd backer and Treasurer Chris Bowen, who has held on to his seat of McMahon, said that Labor had done better than expected.
”Across the board it’s a difficult night for the Labor Party, but compared to what we may have faced, 6 or 12 months ago, it’s a result which I think will stand us in good stead for the next three years,” he told ABC TV.
Former Labor minister Greg Combet also said that the results for his party were not as bad as expected.
”The outcome seats-wise doesn’t look quite as bad for us as had been anticipated,” he told ABC TV.
Early Labor-held seats to fall to the Coalition are La Trobe and Corangamite in Victoria and Bass, Braddon and Lyons in Tasmania, but Labor retained Franklin in that state. The central coast NSW seat of Robertson is also a loss for Labor to the Coalition, as is the NSW seats of Page and Lindsay.
Also lost for Labor are the Victorian seat of Deakin, the South Australian seat of Hindmarsh and the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari.
Coalition candidates have also won in the formerly independent-held seats of New England and Lyne. Barnaby Joyce has successfully moved from the Senate to the lower house, taking New England, the seat formerly held by Tony Windsor.
The Nationals have also held off a challenge from the Liberals in the Victorian seat of Mallee.
High-profile candidate Clive Palmer is in with a chance to win the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax held by retiring Coalition MP Alex Somlyay.
Mr Palmer had attracted close to 29 per cent of the vote, with more than 55 per cent of the votes counted.
Former speaker Peter Slipper has conceded the Queensland seat of Fisher, with former Howard government minister Mal Brough set to return to Parliament.
Independent Andrew Wilkie has held his seat of Denison in Tasmania with a strong swing to him despite a concerted campaign by Labor. Greens MP Adam Bandt will retain Melbourne despite the Liberal party directly preferences away from the Greens.
In some good news for Labor Rudd supporter Ed Husic has retained his western Sydney seat of Chifley as did Michelle Rowland in Greenway against a challenge from Jaymes Diaz.
Kate Ellis has retained her seat of Adelaide in South Australia.
Matt Thistlewaite has successfully moved from the Senate to retain the Sydney seat of Kingsford-Smith for Labor.
He stood for the seats after former education minister Peter Garrett resigned from politics when Kevin Rudd was returned to the Labor leadership.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard has tweeted her congratulations to her successor, Joanne Ryan, in the western Melbourne seat of Lalor.
Ms Gillard tweeted: ”Congratulations to Joanne Ryan on her election as Member for Lalor. She’ll be a strong and articulate voice for a proud community we both love. JG”
Recriminations begin within Labor
Within five minutes of the first stations closing, senior Labor figures were publicly conceding defeat.
At 6.04pm former defence minister Stephen Smith told ABC TV that Labor had already lost and that the result could be worse than 1996, when Paul Keating lost in a landslide to John Howard.
Former prime minister Bob Hawke told Sky News the election was “lost by the government” rather than won by the opposition.
”All the evidence shows that the electorate is not madly keen about him [Tony Abbott],” Mr Hawke told Sky News.
”The personal manipulations and pursuits of interest have dominated more than they should and in the process the concentration on values have slipped.”
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told ABC TV that it is clear the Coalition has won the day.
”I am a cautious person by nature, but I think it’s pretty clear. It’s a matter of the size of the victory.”
Labor’s public recriminations have already begun, with outgoing Northern Territory senator Trish Crossin blaming national secretary George Wright for a poorly run campaign.
”If we see a massive defeat tonight then George Wright has to go,” Senator Crossin wrote on Facebook.
”Worst national Secretary we have had . . . can’t be [sic] believe the media don’t look at this more closely.”
Senator Crossin was dumped from her senate seat in January by former prime minister Julia Gillard, who installed former Olympic athlete Nova Peris in the hope of her becoming federal Labor’s first indigenous representative.
Exit polls indicate strong Coalition victory.
Early exit polls mirrored national polling that predicted a thumping Coalition victory.
A Newspoll-Sky News exit poll taken on Saturday afternoon tipped Labor to lose 21 seats this election, with the new Parliament containing 97 Coalition seats, 51 Labor seats and two for independents.
Across the key marginal seats of Queensland and New South Wales, the Coalition was ahead of Labor 53 per cent to 47 per cent on the two party vote, according to the poll.
Another exit poll, published by Roy Morgan and Channel 10 had the Coalition beating Labor 52 per cent to 48 per cent on the two-party preferred vote, which is in line with predictions.
The poll, taken at 5pm from a sample of 4911 Australian voters, showed the Coalition ahead of Labor 43 per cent to 33.5 per cent on primary votes.
The Greens party had a primary vote of 11 per cent, with ”others” taking in 7.5 per cent.
Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer’s party was winning 9 per cent of primary votes in Queensland and 5 per cent in NSW and Western Australia, according to the Roy Morgan-Channel 10 exit poll.
Given the Palmer United Party is giving 65 per cent of its preferences to the Coalition, Roy Morgan Research predicted that if Palmer voters follow the how-to-vote card, the Coalition should expect about a 1.5 per cent bump in its two-party preferred vote, taking it to 53.5 per cent compared with Labor’s 46.5 per cent.