SYDNEY – Israel once again has a staunch ally in Australia following the election of Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott as prime minister.
The Labor government was swept from its six-year term in office on Saturday as the conservative Liberal Party won a convincing, and expected, victory.
Abbott – a surf life-saver, volunteer fire-fighter and one-time trainee Catholic priest – is expected to lead a government of more 90 seats against Labor’s expected 55 seats in the new parliament.
Several of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives are yet to be confirmed.
The news will be welcomed by officials in Jerusalem, who have experienced turbulent diplomatic relations under Kevin Rudd, including the expulsion of an Israeli agent from its embassy in Canberra following the 2010 Dubai passports affair.
Rudd stood down from the party leadership on conceding defeat.
All three Jewish lawmakers in federal parliament are expected to be returned, with Joshua Frydenberg becoming the first Liberal Jewish member of government since Peter Baume in the early 1980s.
Labor’s Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus – both of whom served in the cabinet of the Rudd government – will likely return to the opposition benches, though final ballots still need to be counted.
Labor’s Mike Kelly, who is married to a cousin of Ehud Olmert, is expected to hold his seat, but it was still too close to call on Saturday night.
Abbott has said he wants to return bilateral relations to the era of former Liberal leader John Howard, who was an unashamed and unapologetic supporter of Israel.
“I’d like to think that nowhere in the world [does Israel] have a stauncher friend than us,” Abbott told an Australia-Israel forum in Melbourne when he was first elected party leader in 2009.
The election was previously scheduled to clash with Yom Kippur but was brought forward one week when Rudd was reinstated leader six weeks ago in a last-ditch move by Labor to try and avoid the electoral wipeout predicted under Julia Gillard.