Abbott jostled by protesters in Sydney
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been jostled by angry protesters at a school in southern Sydney.
The Newspoll of all Newspolls
The Australian’s editor Clive Mathieson and Newspoll CEO Martin O’Shannessy dissect the final polling numbers, which indicate big seat gain…
Tony Abbott surrounded by candidates’ posters in Arncliffe in Sydney. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: TheAustralian
EAST coast voters have delivered their verdict on six turbulent years of Labor government, with an exit poll suggesting Australians are ready to place their trust in Tony Abbott.
At the close of polling in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, Labor was on track for a landslide defeat, losing an estimated 21 seats while the Coalition stands to gain at least 25.
A Sky News/Newspoll exit poll put the two-party preferred vote at 53-47, compared to 52-48 when the election was called, suggesting Kevin Rudd’s erratic campaign has cost Labor votes.
It predicts the Coalition will 97 seats, Labor 51 and independents two.
Less than 10 minutes after east coast booths closed, cabinet minister Stephen Smith declared Labor had lost the election.
He told the ABC the result could be worse than 1996, when Labor was reduced to 49 seats.
“This is a night where regrettably we will see the defeat of a Labor Government,” Mr Smith said.
Former prime minister Bob Hawke also conceded Labor had lost. He said it was “sad” to see the once-proud party in the state it had found itself.
He said many of the standards and values he and others had fought for had been lost, with the party overtaken by personal squabbles.
As Labor began to acknowledge the looming defeat, dumped Northern Territory Labor senator and Rudd supporter Trish Crossin tweeted “if we see a massive defeat tonight then (ALP national secretary) George Wright has to go.”
State-by-state exit polling suggested Labor is headed for a bloodbath in NSW, where the Coalition is tipped to pick up 14 seats, and Queensland, where it stands to gain seven.
Mr Rudd is also facing the loss of his own Brisbane seat of Griffith, where Newspoll suggests he is neck-and-neck with Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson.
LNP Senator George Brandis predicted that based on the exit poll results, Dr Glasson would defeat the Prime Minister, with postal votes heavily favouring the challenger.
In Victoria, Newspoll predicts Labor will cede three seats to the Coalition, but pick up one from the Greens’ Adam Bandt. The Coalition is also tipped to pick up the Western Australian seat of Brand from Labor’s Gary Gray.
Newspoll interviews with 500 voters in marginal seats in NSW and Queensland revealed a 6.3 per cent swing against the government, on a two-party preferred basis.
The chaos of the Rudd campaign continued until the end, with embarrassing scenes when he went to cast his vote.
Polling officials at St Paul’s Anglican Church, in East Brisbane, were unprepared for Mr Rudd’s arrival just after 1pm, and initially unwilling to allow him entry with his trailing press pack.
Mr Rudd was forced to negotiate their entry, in a final humiliation for the under-siege Prime Minister.
He was also confronted by protesters – as Mr Abbott was in Sydney – upset at his hard-line stance on refugees.
While in danger of losing his own seat, Mr Rudd opted for a final virtual campaign push involving television interviews and a “telephone town hall”, in which he took calls from around the nation.
The Prime Minister also emailed supporters, encouraging them to “elect a Labor government who will invest in a brighter future for our country and protect jobs” and to forward the email to five friends.
In an interview with Seven’s Sunrise program, Mr Rudd conceded Labor had got “stacks of things wrong” in government but said: “Name me one government over the years which hasn’t got things wrong.”
The Opposition Leader voted shortly after the polls opened in his seat of Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches, before making a barnstorming tour of marginal Labor seats in Sydney.
He implored voters to snub independents and minor parties in favour of a “strong majority government”.
Mr Abbott played down suggestions he was headed for an easy victory, declaring: “I don’t believe the polls”.
“I think it is still very close. It is the last minute of the grand final and one try could swing it,” Mr Abbott said.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne cast her vote at Hobart’s City Hall with Denison candidate Anna Reynolds.
Senator Milne said the realisation among voters that Mr Abbott was likely to be elected prime minister would favour the Greens.
“I don’t think anyone in Australia would want to see Tony Abbott having absolute power,” she told reporters at the polling station.