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Live from Tony Abbott’s private suite: his election victory, as it happened.

7 September 2013

1:59 PM

7 September 2013

1:59 PM

Tom Switzer, editor of the Spectator Australia in Sydney, from Tony Abbott’s private suite:

3.20am (Sydney) 6.20pm (London)

Off home to call it quits. I’ll probably have a slight hangover, but at least I know that, for a clear majority of voters, it will be morning again in Australia. Which happens to be the Spectator’s cover and a variation of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign motto (‘It’s morning again in America.’)

At this stage, it’s the conservative Coalition 53.2 per cent (91 house seats) to 46.8 percent Labor (54 seats) with two undecided seats and three independent seats. It should be stressed that margins and seats could change with postal voting counted in come days, but the message is clear: an emphatic victory for conservatives tonight, but perhaps not as big as many of us had expected.

The senate, meanwhile, remains uncertain, but it’s safe to say the Coalition won’t control it.

10.27pm (Sydney) 1.27pm (London)

I know I’m a Conservative and a Speccie editor, but it’s really clear that Abbott’s speech is far more dignified and decent than his predecessor’s concession speech a few moments ago. ‘A government of no surprises’ is the mantra. Dabbled with some Sir Robert Menzies. And policy: carbon tax will repealed, boats will be stopped, — and frankly normal programming has been resumed.

Now for more drinks with the new PM! Let the party well and truly begin.


Left-to-right: Spectator Australia, its editor Tom Switzer and Australia’s new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott

10.20pm (Sydney) 1.20pm (London)

And now Tony Abbott’s victory speech before a very excited crowd. The Labor party’s primary vote, he says, is at the lowest level in more than 100 years.

10.09pm (Sydney) 1.09pm (London)

Victoria — which is bit like Wales and Scotland in that it is a stronghold of the Labor party — has seen a swing of more than 8 per cent against labor. That’s unprecedented. Even in the Howard landslide of 1996, Victoria remained static in net seat terms.

10.01pm (Sydney) 1.01pm (London)

Rudd announces he won’t re-contest the leadership after all, but will he leave parliament?

9.55pm (Sydney) 12.55pm (London)

Warren Mundine — a leading indigenous figure, former Labor president and now Tony Abbott confidante — just told me that Rudd’s concession speech sounds like it could be his first opposition leader speech. Wow! Perhaps Rudd really does think he’s the next Menzies (Australia’s longest serving prime minister 1939-41 and 1949-66 who lost his premiership in 1941 who bounced back from oblivion).

Btw this is a dreadful concession speech. Forced, unnatural and at times a little nasty (he rebuked his LNP opponent: ‘eat your heart out’) and typically long and boring. Sounds like the Speccie will need to put a number on this bloke (again).

9.48pm (Sydney) 12.48pm (London)

Rudd: ‘I know that Labor hearts are heavy.’ But he’s taking solace in knowing that every cabinet minister has been returned (that is, the ones who have not resigned since he toppled Gillard) and that Labor has not lost any seats in Queensland. (To be confirmed).

9.45pm (Sydney) 12.45pm (London)

Now for Rudd’s concession speech. I have known Rudd about as long as I have known Abbott: since mid 1999. I have always had mixed feelings about the bloke: he is highly ambitious, disciplined and well read. But he is also, as many of his Labor colleagues know all too well, a complete and utter fraud.

When Rudd returned to the Labor leadership in June, the media consensus was that he would turn around Labor’s fortunes. He may even beat Abbott, some people said. But we at the Spectator always knew that Rudd would crash and burn. See our editorial which attracted a record number of hits.

Vindication is sweet.

9.26pm (Sydney) 12.26pm (London)

At last, the man in the moment arrives at the hotel. He will soon be here to greet family and close friends, before giving his speech before finally letting his hair down. Photos to come.

9.21pm (Sydney) 12.21pm (London)

The drinks are flowing. Just been chatting to close tony Abbott friends Greg Sheridan, warren Mundine and Peter Coleman (a Speccie columnist). A consensus is emerging that this will be a victory with a vengeance, but not the kind of Fraser vs Whitlam 1975 or Holt vs Calwell 1966 landslide many of us had hoped. Perhaps Kevin Rudd has avoided the kind of defeat that his predecessor Julia Gillard would have delivered. To the extent this is true, then the transition from Gillard to Rudd has worked….

Mr Abbott, Tony’s dad, just told Janet Albrechtsen, 46, that my wife Sarah, 37, must be her daughter!

9.10pm (Sydney) 12.10pm (London)

Former Spectator columnist Chris Bowen appears safe in his western Sydney seat of McMahon. Chris left the magazine in late June after Kevin Rudd toppled Julia Gillard and made him treasurer. Chris is a personal friend and a future leader. A real talent. I’m happy for him, but I dare not say so in front of this highly partisan Liberal gathering!

8.35pm (Sydney) 11.35am (London)

A Liberal win, but the talk about a thumping may have been overstated. Still, it is already clear Australians are delivering a rebuke to the ruling Labor party by 53-47.

It was widely anticipated that the state of NSW would be a disaster for Labor. Already, we’ve witnessed Coalition gains in the two regional seats vacated by discredited Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Tony Windsor, who stupidly gave their support to Julia Gillard’s minority government. (I say stupidly, because both represented conservative electorates, which had no truck for Australian Labor Party.) Gone. Gone.

Then there are the two central coast seats of Dobell and Robinson. At this stage: Gone. Gone.

And now there are the seats around western Sydney, once the Labor heartland. It is now home to an increasingly aspirational and mobile electorate that is mortgaged to the hilt. Tough border protection and the economy are the two main issues here; and the Coalition leads Labor as better manager on both red-hot issues by double digit figures.

Lindsay – the Labor seat that was challenged by Liberal Fiona Scott, whom Abbott drew international gasps when he said she had ‘political sex appeal’. At the time, the metropolitan sophisticates ranted and railed at Abbott’s ‘misogynist’ remark. (Who would have thought it was sexist to admire a lady’s looks?) But the ‘gaffe’ hardly upset the good people of the western suburbs of Sydney, who have voted for the local gal in huge numbers!

8.11pm (Sydney) 11.11am (London):

Here is our cover for this week. We’ve long been calling it for Abbott.

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 11.09.24

See our latest issue on our new app or in news agents around Australia Monday morning.

7.45pm (Sydney) 10.45am (London):

Just been chatting to the lovely Mrs Abbott, who is naturally very proud of her son. She’s also a fan of the Speccie, which has run — how shall I put it — two sympathetic cover portraits of her son on our cover in the past week. We pay tribute to Christopher Pearson, a friend and mentor of Tony’s who died only three months ago. Somewhere, he is smiling. Meanwhile, Tony and his immediate family are still in transit.

7.20pm (Sydney) 10.20am (London):

The polls have been closed on the east coast of Australia for more than an hour and the counting has been well underway. The swing is on! As The Spectator Australia has consistently predicted since Julia Gillard’s backflip on the carbon tax in early 2011 — and as the opinion polls and betting markets have indicated in recent weeks — tonight the Australian people will sweep aside the six-year Labor government and install Tony Abbott and his conservatives into government.

That means the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition will gain more than enough seats in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, to form a working majority in government.

But two questions remain unanswered. First, to what extent will the Coalition win the House of Representatives? Will it be a gain of merely 10 seats? Or a gain of 20 or more seats? A landslide in Australia’s two-party preferential system of voting would amount to around a 54-46 per cent result and a 20-or-more seat gain in the House.

Second, will the Coalition gain enough seats to control the Senate, the upper house of government, which determines the outcome of a government’s legislative agenda. This is crucial: Abbott’s victory tonight may be soured if his coalition parties don’t win enough senate seats in order to pass his legislation, such as repealing the widely unpopular carbon tax. He will rightly claim a mandate, but will he be able to pass his legislation if the senate’s balance of power is controlled by minor parties?

7pm Sydney (10am London):

I’m about to start writing from inside Tony Abbott’s private suite at the Four Seasons Hotel near Sydney Harbour, home of the centre-right Liberal Party’s post-election party. The man widely dubbed as the prime minister-in-waiting kindly invited me to join him, his family and close friends to watch the Australian federal election returns tonight and hopefully celebrate the dawn of a new era in Australian politics. I am deeply honoured. As we joke this morning, it will be a ‘gathering of the clan.’

The Speccie is Abbott’s favourite magazine. He reads us every week. He has been a loyal reader of The Spectator since he was an Oxford boxing blue 30 years ago. He has penned many features, diaries and book reviews for The Spectator Australia since our creation five years ago. And whenever he is in London, he always wants to say ‘g’day’ to our editor Fraser Nelson and team!

Abbott and I have known each other well since the late columnist Christopher Pearson introduced us in the late 1990s. And notwithstanding a few policy disagreements (paid paternity leave, Iraq, Afghanistan all of which I’ve opposed), I have long thought Abbott would emerge as the best bet for the Liberal future.

I guess Abbott’s invitation to join him tonight on this very special occasion is his way of thanking me for my support, especially during the dark days. After the inglorious downfall of John Howard in late 2007, I took a depressed Abbott to a couple of pub lunches to boost his spirits. And in the lead-up to the party-room showdown over the then-leader Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to support Labor’s emissions trading scheme in late 2009, I encouraged Abbott to both oppose the legislation and run for the Liberal leadership.

Remember these were the days when the high priests and priestesses of the media (Oakes, Hartcher, Grattan, Bongiorno, Cassidy, Kelly et al) had marked Abbott as an apostate. The ‘mad monk’, we were told, was ‘unelectable’ and his ‘crazy,’ ‘stupid’ and ‘ill-advised’ opposition to carbon taxes would destroy the Opposition and the conservative cause down under. As it happens, however, the Liberal party’s decision to oppose Labor’s climate regulations was a political godsend and Abbott, as we will soon find out, is very electable.

So I’m in like-minded company here. And some of us are already drinking beers, wine, champagne (but not Bloody Marys).

Let’s get started.

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