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Howard's Conservative Government Defeated in Australian Election


Australia's Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, has swept into power in national elections, ending 11 years of conservative rule.

Rudd said Australia is looking toward the future and promised to be a prime minister for all Australians.

Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who has been in power since 1996, conceded defeat Saturday in a speech to supporters at a hotel in Sydney.

He also said it appeared very likely he will lose his own seat in parliament. The race for his district is very close and votes are still being counted.

If he loses his seat in parliament, he will be the first Australian leader to do so since 1929.

With more than three-fourths of the national vote counted, Labor has won more than 53 percent of the vote.

That would give the party more than 80 places in the 150 seat parliament -- a clear majority.

Rudd, has promised major changes in government policy when he takes office. Domestic concerns were the big issues in the campaign - with the economy on most voters' minds.

Mr. Rudd insisted the Howard government had become complacent and lazy. Howard argued his government deserved credit for large economic growth.

But other issues also played a role. Mr. Rudd has said he will withdraw Australia's 500 combat troops from Iraq and will sign the Kyoto climate treaty -- which Mr. Howard staunchly refused to support.

The outgoing prime minster is a close ally of U.S. President George Bush, and had pledged to keep Australian forces in Iraq until local troops can take care of their own security.

The White House congratulated Rudd on his victory and said President Bush looked forward to working with him. John Howard is Australia's second-longest serving prime minister.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and REUTERS.

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