Kevin Rudd beats Howard to become new Australian PM

Outgoing PM John Howard phones Rudd to concede defeat; newly elected Labor Party vows major changes on global warming and Iraq war.

howard loses 224 ap (photo credit: AP)
howard loses 224 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd won a sweeping victory in Australia's elections Saturday, ending an 11-year conservative era and promising major changes to policies on global warming and the Iraq war. The win handed outgoing Prime Minister John Howard a humiliating end to a career in which he became Australia's second-longest serving leader, and who had appeared almost unassailable as little as a year ago. Potentially adding insult to injury, Howard was among government lawmakers in danger of losing his seat in Parliament. He would be only the second sitting prime minister in 106 years of federal government to be dumped from the legislature. Official figures from the Australian Electoral Commission showed Labor far in front with more than 60 percent of the ballots counted. Using those figures, an Australian Broadcasting Corp. analysis showed that Labor would get at least 81 places in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament, a clear majority. "On the numbers we've seen tonight, Labor is going to form a government," deputy Labor leader Julia Gillard said on ABC television. Howard phoned Rudd to concede defeat. "My fellow Australians, a few moments ago I telephoned Kevin Rudd and I congratulated him and the Australian Labor Party on a very emphatic victory," Howard said in Sydney, in a nationally televised address. "This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr. Rudd well."