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The Day After 1: ALP Dream

Beazley Storms To Victory in Historic Election; Hanson Defeated; Costello To Contest Liberal Leadership; Libs Blame Kennett

Kim Beazley claimed victory last night as the Federal election produced one of the most dramatic results in over 60 years.

BeazleyAt the close of counting the ALP looked certain to take at least 31 seats from the coalition and was holding its own in at least 5 more. It is likely to have at least 79 seats in the 148 member House of Representatives. The ALP registered a national swing of 4.9% against the coalition, although this is not evenly distributed across the nation. In the Senate, the Australian Democrats look set to regain the balance of power, winning at least 5 seats, including one in the ACT. Two ministers lost their seats in the rout and one more is uncertain.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, conceded defeat at 10.40pm before a crowd of subdued and shocked Liberal supporters in Sydney. Howard said that it was his clear that his “great adventure” had been soundly rejected by the people. “Whilst I am disappointed that the electorate has not had the confidence to embrace taxation reform, I accept their decision,” Howard said. He then announced that he would be stepping down from the party leadership immediately.

The ALP polled strongly in all states, especially in Victoria, where it gained 10 seats from the Liberals: Aston, Ballarat, Bendigo, Chisholm, Deakin, La Trobe, Dunkley, McEwen, McMillan and Casey. The party’s win in Casey, ousting Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge, was an unexpected bonus. There was an 8% swing against Dr. Wooldridge that party officials attributed to resentment over his attempt to escape from the more marginal electorate of Chisholm.

In Tasmania, the ALP picked up the seat of Bass from Family Services Minister, Warwick Smith, in a massive 12% swing. Labor officials attributed the swing to the minister’s savaging over the nursing homes debacle. The ALP candidate in Braddon, Peter Sidebottom, is polling strongly against Chris Miles, but the result is too close to call.

In South Australia and Western Australia, the ALP won the seats of Makin, Kingston, Adelaide, Canning, Cowan, Swan and Stirling. It also picked up the Northern Territory. In Queensland, the Liberals lost 5 seats: Bowman, Dickson, Griffith, Lilley and Petrie. The ALP also won the Ipswich electorate of Oxley, formerly held by Pauline Hanson.

As expected, the swing in New South Wales was patchy, although stronger than polls had predicted. The Liberals retained the marginal seat of Robertson, following a strong performance by the One Nation candidate who directed his preferences to the Liberal, despite an undertaking to issue a split ticket. However, the ALP made comfortable gains in Hughes, Lowe, Paterson, Eden-Monaro and Macquarie. A surprise gain was the remote electorate of Parkes, held previously by the National Party’s Michael Cobb.

In the remote Western Australian electorate of Kalgoorlie, the independent member, Graeme Campbell, lost to the Liberals. The two independent Liberals, Paul Filing in Moore and Alan Rocher in Curtin, both retained their seats.

In his victory speech, Kim Beazley said that the GST was now dead and buried. He received a rousing ovation when he declared that Australia would “never, ever” have a GST. The Prime Minister-elect praised John Howard for a civilised campaign and paid tribute to his opponent’s tenacity and determination throughout his long political career. But, said Beazley, the time had come for the ALP to take the nation into the new century and to re-focus the national government on jobs and security. He pledged to work towards Australia becoming a republic by the time of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Hanson Defeated in Blair; Oldfield Fails In Senate Bid

Pauline Hanson conceded defeat last night in the Queensland seat of Blair.

OutA distraught Hanson appeared before the throng of media, some from as far away as Japan, and acknowledged that the seat had been won by the Liberal Party. In the neighbouring electorate of Oxley, formerly held by Hanson, the Labor candidate, Bernie Ripoll, claimed victory.

Hanson supporters wept as the One Nation leader sought to explain the dramatic decline in her party’s vote since the Queensland state election in June. One Nation polled 7% of the primary vote nationwide. Whilst it secured around 30% in a number of Queensland seats, including Dawson, Maranoa and Wide Bay, this was insufficient for the party to win.

New South Wales One Nation Senate candidate, David Oldfield walked out of a press conference last night after reporters asked him how he felt about losing to the Democrats and Aboriginal candidate, Aden Ridgeway.

Reith Losing in Flinders; Attacks Costello

Outgoing Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith, last night made a savage attack on Treasurer Peter Costello and condemned any moves to install him in the Liberal leadership.

ReithReith, appearing on Channel 9’s election coverage, launched a bitter critique of Costello’s role in formulating the GST package and ridiculed the Treasurer’s campaign efforts.

Final figures in Reith’s seat of Flinders show that the former deputy leader of the party is unlikely to return to Parliament. Reith was 100 hundred votes behind his Labor opponent, John Armitage, at the close of counting. Scrutineers reported that preferences were flowing to the ALP by about 54%. The One Nation candidate was polling strongly.

Ironically, Flinders was lost by the then conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, in 1929, following an election waged on the issue of industrial relations.

Gude Stalks Kennett

Senior Liberal Party sources in Victoria claimed last night that the time had come for Education Minister Phil Gude to challenge Jeff Kennett.

Speaking off the record, a senior government minister said that much of the blame for the Liberal Party’s savaging in Victoria should be laid at the feet of the Premier. At the close of counting, the Liberal Party looked set to lose at least 10 seats to the Labor Party, including that of Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge. Senior Liberals blamed Victorian Government policies in education and health for the losses. They were critical of the Premier’s cavalier attitude to the gas crisis that has afflicted the state for the past week.

“It’s time for Jeff to go,” one minister said. “I’ll certainly be backing Phil Gude in the future.”

Senior party sources predicted a leadership challenge as early as this Tuesday.

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