Australia's incoming conservative government promised to re-boot a stalled mining boom and revive an appetite for investment on Sunday after leader Tony Abbott swept into office on a platform to scrap a mining tax and run a stable administration. Abbott's Liberal-National Party coalition ended six years of often turbulent Labor Party rule and three years of minority government, winning a majority of more than 30 seats in the 150-seat parliament at Saturday's national elections. It was Labor's worst result since 1934.
Abbott, a former student boxer, Rhodes scholar and trainee priest, began his first day as prime minister elect with a dawn bike ride with friends around his home on Sydney's northern beaches, before meeting government and ministry officials. "People expect the day after an election an incoming government will be getting down to business. That's what I'll be doing today," Abbott told reporters. Abbott, who was backed by media owner Rupert Murdoch and his Australian newspapers, takes office as Australia's economy adjusts to the end of a mining investment boom, with slowing government revenues and rising unemployment.
But Abbott's finance spokesman Andrew Robb, who may become the trade minister in the new government, said Australia's economy and mining sector would receive a boost from the election result. "As of today, the mining boom will be rebooted," Robb told Australian television, adding Australia had become uncompetitive under the Labor government. "We will restore an appetite for risk and investment."
Analysts said the victory for Abbott should give him at least two three-year terms in office. "The only time we've ever had a one-term government is during the great depression. There is no real reason to expect they won't go beyond the three years," Monash University analyst Nick Economou told Reuters.
Despite his solid victory, Abbott's government will not have a majority in the upper house Senate, where he is likely to face a disparate range of minor parties and independents with the balance of power votes from July 2014. Labor and the Greens will control a Senate majority until next July. Abbott will need Senate approval to scrap the carbon and mining taxes, and to implement his landmark paid parental leave scheme which has upset big business and many in his own party.
The influential Business Council of Australia, which represents the nation's biggest listed companies, urged the Senate to recognise the government's mandate, but continued to express concerns about the taxpayer-funded leave scheme. Final Senate results could take several weeks to determine, due to the complex nature of the preferential voting system. Abbott may be forced to deal with independent Nick Xenophon, Victoria's Motoring Enthusiast Party, and anti-immigration firebrand Pauline Hanson might also win a Senate seat and return to parliament after a 15-year absence.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the election was the showing of start-up Palmer United Party, founded just five months ago by colourful mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, who could win a seat in both the Senate and the lower house. Palmer, who has interests in nickel, coal and iron ore, also plans to build a giant robot dinosaur park and a replica of the Titanic. His campaign was marked by 'twerking' on national radio and threats to sue both the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, whose wife he accused of being a Chinese spy.