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POLITICS

Center-right Liberals win in Australia

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Australia

It's just reaching midnight Saturday in Australia, where the center-right coalition of the Liberal and National parties has won a big victory. They have won 87 seats in the 150-member lower chamber to 54 for the incumbent Australian Labor Party, and so Liberal Tony Abbott will replace Labor's Kevin Rudd as prime minister. The Green Party has retained its one seat (in central Melbourne). This interactive map shows the results in each constituency. Australia has mandatory voting, and voters can indicate a second-choice candidate; the second-choice votes for candidates who don't finish first or second are allocated to those candidates. Since most Green voters choose Labor as their second choice, Labor does better than just first choices indicate.

The map shows that the Liberals won in the vast majority of Australia's land area, but that is even more misleading than Republicans' carrying the vast majority of land area in the United States. Australia's population is heavily concentrated in just five metropolitan areas -- Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane in Queensland, Adelaide in South Australia and Perth in West Australia -- which together have more than 60 percent of the nation's population.

Tony Abbott has been a controversial figure in Australian politics -- a Christian conservative, as this blog post by the Telegraph's Tim Stanley notes. Now Australia joins its Anglosphere cousins Britain and Canada in having a center-right government.

This will not make for a significant difference in Australia's foreign policy. Australia has been a staunch ally of the United States, the only nation which has joined us in every major war of the last century. This has been true under both Labor and Liberal governments. Australians are aware, even though many Americans are not, that in World War II, when the Japanese were sweeping through Asia and the Pacific, conquering the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) just north of Australia, while most of Australia's troops were in the European theater, the United States came to its defense. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to escape the Philippines and go to Australia.

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