Abbot set for historic victory in Australian elections
Tony Abbott (below), Australia's opposition leader, is on the verge of a historic win in today's general election, declaring that he was "conscious of being on a great threshold".
He pledged to be "a leader for everyone" as polls showed his conservative Liberal-National coalition was heading for a landslide victory to end six years of shaky Labour rule.
"If it happens, I will be extraordinarily conscious of the heavy burden of responsibility, of the duties, the extraordinary duties, that will have descended upon my shoulders," he said.
Kevin Rudd, the prime minister and Labour leader, remained defiant, refusing to admit defeat or speculate on his post-election future.
"There is fight in the old dog yet," he said. "I believe we can do it. This is not wishful thinking – it's a matter of looking at the maths."
But the final polls before the election showed that Mr Abbott's strong lead was only increasing.
A Fairfax Media poll released late yesterday showed the coalition was headed for a convincing 54 to 46pc win.
Mr Abbott (55), a conservative and monarchist, has run a disciplined campaign and presented himself as a stable alternative to Labour, which has been racked by leadership dramas.
Although he is prone to gaffes, the former boxer and Rhodes Scholar has gained momentum during the campaign and appears to have allayed long-running fears – even among his own party – that he was unelectable.
Bob Hawke, the popular former Australian Labour prime minister, said his party's six years in power have been a "bloody mixed bag" but that they had underestimated Mr Abbott.
Mr Abbott, a father of three and a fitness fanatic, said that if he won he would still go for his Sunday morning cycle ride with friends.
But he would then head to the office for briefings "because you can't muck around with something as important as the future of our country".
He added: "A successful national leader understands that you've got to be a leader for everyone, even the people who don't necessarily support you, even the people who won't ever vote for you."
Mr Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, was first elected in 2007, deposed by Julia Gillard in 2010 and returned to the leadership three months ago after ousting Ms Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister.
His return gave Labour a short-term boost, but the polls turned against the government as the election drew closer.
Polls now show that Mr Rudd may struggle to hold his own seat in Brisbane. (© Daily Telegraph, London)