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Labor Win Heralds New Political Era in Australia


President Bush and Britain's leader Gordon Brown have congratulated Australia's Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd after his stunning election win. Mr. Rudd's overwhelming victory has ended more than a decade of conservative government under John Howard. The former diplomat has promised a gradual withdrawal of Australian forces from Iraq and plans to sign the Kyoto Protocol, after he takes office later this week. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Hugs and cheers greeted Kevin Rudd as he attended a Sunday church service in his home state of Queensland.

Congratulations have poured in too from overseas. Speaking in Uganda, Britain's Gordon Brown praised Mr. Rudd's commitments on global warming. President Bush said he was keen to maintain the "historic relationship" between Canberra and Washington. Kevin Rudd's plans for a phased withdrawal of Australian troops from the Gulf may put those close ties to the test.

Labor does, however, support the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan. Mr. Rudd is expected to visit the United States early next year.

Australia's new leader has also spoken to Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The pair is expected to hold talks at a climate conference in Bali next month.

Kevin Rudd will be eager to maintain Australia's relations with its neighbors in Asia, especially China, and its allies in Britain and the United States.

Labor's overwhelming election victory was built upon its promises on domestic issues, including a responsible approach to economic management, the scrapping of controversial industrial reforms and the provision of more money for education and training.

In his victory speech, Mr. Rudd promised his supporters a more compassionate approach to government.

"I'm determined to honor the confidence which has been extended to us by the people of our great land, and I say to all of those who have voted for us today, I say to each and every one of them, that I will be a prime minister for all Australians," said Rudd. "A prime minister for Indigenous Australians, Australians who have been born here, and Australians who have come here from afar, and have contributed to the great diversity that is our nation, Australia."

It has been a disastrous weekend for John Howard.

The long-serving conservative leader has seen his government crumble and could yet lose his own seat.

In a further blow to Mr. Howard's party the man expected to succeed him, the former Treasurer Peter Costello, has said he has no desire to become leader of the opposition.

Australia's conservatives are wounded and fractured and analysts say it could take them years to recover.

For the first time there are Labor governments in every Australian state and territory as well as at federal level.

Labor's Julia Gillard has made history too. She is to become the country's first female deputy Prime Minister.

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