UK & World News
Australia Election: Government Set For Defeat
Millions of Australians have voted in national elections, with opinion polls suggesting the government is set for an embarrassing defeat.
More than 14.7 million electors took part in the mandatory ballot across the country, where last-minute opinion polls showed the opposition leader of the Liberal National coalition, Tony Abbott, on track for a landslide win.
Polls have closed in Australia's most populous states where the election is expected to be won or lost.
During the five-week campaign, Mr Abbott has gradually overtaken once-popular Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Internal bickering in the ruling Labor Party saw Mr Rudd oust Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard a few weeks ago, something which she did to him three years earlier.
The feud, however, has not pleased voters who, according to analysts, are now wanting change.
Australian election expert Antony Green says the past few weeks have been "one of the more unusual election campaigns in Australian history".
"It is a minority government going into the election, it is a government well behind in opinion polls that has changed leader at the last minute, and therefore it has been a campaign where the government is trying to make up ground," he said.
Ms Gillard's three-year term was dogged by leadership speculation, party instability and rumours of Mr Rudd trying to engineer a return to the prime minister's office.
The leadership change provided an immediate opinion poll boost for Labor, but as the election campaign moved on Mr Rudd's popularity has slipped.
Sky News Australia's political correspondent Laura Jayes says the disruption within the Labor ranks has gone down badly with voters.
She said: "People don't like that at all.
"It's been chaotic inside the Labor camp for a good three years, but they are also a little concerned about Tony Abbott and what kind of man and prime minister he might be."
Mr Green says there are three major issues for voters - the state of the economy, strategies for controlling asylum-seeker arrivals and the recently introduced carbon tax.
"Australia's economy is doing well, but Australians don't perceive it is doing well because they're not comparing it with overseas," he said.
"There's the issue of asylum seekers and refugees arriving by boat, that's deeply unpopular in the electorate, and the current government has been responsible for surging those numbers and is blamed for it.
"The third issue would be the carbon tax and climate change. There is still a lot of unpopularity about the Gillard government introducing a carbon tax."
Mr Abbott, unpopular in opinion polls for months, has seen his credibility improve in recent weeks.
He has been in Parliament for almost two decades, and for a time was health minister.
He trained briefly as a priest, is a fitness fanatic famous for wearing tight swimming trunks and also volunteers for Australia's Rural Fire Service.
Deeply religious, some of his more conservative views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage have not pleased some.
Questions have also been asked about his attitude towards women, Julia Gillard famously labelling him a misogynist in a heart-felt speech in Parliament.
While Labor and the coalition are the only parties capable of winning a majority in the House of Representatives (lower house), a number of smaller parties could win seats and control the balance of power in the Senate (upper house).
The Greens currently hold the balance of power there, while the new WikiLeaks Party is also fielding Senate candidates in three states.