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Conservatives sweep to Australia election victory

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Saturday, September 7, 2013 - 10:05 am

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's conservative opposition swept to power Saturday, ending six years of Labor Party rule and winning over a disenchanted public by promising to end a hated tax on carbon emissions, boost a flagging economy and bring about political stability after years of Labor infighting.

"I know that Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight, and as your prime minister and as your parliamentary leader of the great Australian Labor Party, I accept responsibility," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a speech to supporters, after calling opposition leader Tony Abbott to concede defeat. "I gave it my all, but it was not enough for us to win."

A victory for the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition comes despite the relative unpopularity of Abbott, a 55-year-old former Roman Catholic seminarian and Rhodes scholar who has struggled to connect with women voters and was once dubbed "unelectable" by opponents and even some supporters.

But voters were largely fed up with Labor and Rudd, after a years-long power struggle between him and his former deputy, Julia Gillard. Gillard, who became the nation's first female prime minister after ousting Rudd in a party vote in 2010, ended up losing her job to Rudd three years later in a similar internal party coup.

The drama, combined with Labor reneging on an election promise by imposing a deeply unpopular tax on the nation's biggest carbon polluters, proved deadly for Labor's re-election chances.

In his concession speech, Rudd said he would be stepping down as party leader.