Australia has a new Prime Minister-elect. Kevin Rudd claimed victory after a phone call and concession speech by John Howard. As the first Labor Prime Minister for 11 years, Kevin Rudd has become a hero to his party.
Both leaders have displayed graciousness - they're obviously not in Parliamentary Question Time - and are to be congratulated for that.
John Howard could well lose his seat, Bennelong, which he held since 1974. As the Liberal and National Party, which also lost seats, began preparing for life in opposition, there came another blow. Just hours after ex-Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer was reported saying that "the best thing the Liberal Party can do now is get behind Peter Costello as leader", Peter Costello issued a statement saying he will NOT contest the leadership of the Liberal Party! Dear Alexander, did you not call Peter first?! Peter Costello is the Liberal Party's best performer in Parliament. There are few other worthwhile candidates: they will probably have to choose between Brendan Nelson (of marginal competence as a Minister), Malcolm Turnbull (known to leak Cabinet discussions, and waver under political pressure), or 'mad-monk' Tony Abbott.
Even if he retains his seat - a big IF - John Howard will not lead the Liberal Party. Peter Costello's decision not to lead them will leave the Liberal Party floundering, probably for some time, simply because there is no-one with the same political strength to replace John Howard. That was crushed by Howard's iron fist in the Cabinet and Party Room. Disunity and internal mistrust could be the characteristics of the new opposition. None will want to face Parliamentary questions on on WorkChoices, Iraq, Health and education funding, Federal-State relationships, or the Nationalist principles John Howard wanted.