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Howard wins a fourth term
21:05 AEST Sat Oct 9 2004
Prime Minister John Howard won an historic fourth term after Labor's vote collapsed in Tasmania and the ALP failed to make ground in key marginal seats.
The result could leave the ALP in a worse position than after the 2001 election, with predictions Mr Howard could increase his majority.
Former Labor leader Kim Beazley conceded defeat less than three hours after the polls closed in the eastern states.
"We haven't won," Mr Beazley told ABC television.
"The election's over, gone, finished.
"But we're in striking distance for the next election."
Nationally, the government achieved an overall swing of 2.13 per cent on a two-party basis.
On early figures, the swing was strongest in Tasmania where there was a 3.6 per cent two-party swing to the government.
The pro-government swing was weakest in South Australia, where it gained 0.4 per cent support.
Even the Nationals, who had been expected to fare badly, were on track to hold all of their seats and even pick up a Senate seat in NSW.
Labor's challenge collapsed early in Tasmania, where a voter backlash against Opposition Leader Mark Latham's promise to save the old-growth forests handed two seats - Bass and Braddon - to the Liberals.
At the same time, the ALP was struggling to make significant ground in marginal mainland seats.
Labor needed to win 12 seats to win power. But the losses in Tasmania made the task that much more difficult.
There were some gains.
In the Sydney seat of Parramatta, Labor was on track to defeat Liberal MP and self-confessed adulterer Ross Cameron.
Labor could also pick up the New South Wales seat of Richmond.
In South Australia, Labor could pick up two seats but lose one, with ALP frontbencher David Cox in trouble in Kingston.
The ALP was on track to pick up the marginal Adelaide seat of Hindmarsh, where Labor candidate Steve Georganas was ahead by 1.2 per cent with almost 40 per cent of the vote counted.
But in the nearby Adelaide seat of Makin, sitting Liberal Trish Draper was holding on to a narrow 0.7 per cent lead with almost 30 per cent of the vote counted.
In the nation's most marginal seat of Solomon, based around Darwin, the Country-Liberal Party's sitting MP David Tollner was ahead by five percentage points with half of the vote counted.
In Dobell in New South Wales, sitting Liberal member Ken Ticehurst was almost 10 points ahead with half the vote counted.
The results point to a solid victory for Mr Howard.
Finance Minister Nick Minchin said Mr Howard had achieved an extraordinary victory with a pro-government swing in the election.
"This is an extraordinary feat for Prime Minister John Howard, who clearly will be re-elected," Senator Minchin told ABC television.
"At his fourth election we've got a swing to the government - this is almost unprecedented.
"Indeed, Mark Latham is clearly doing worse than Kim Beazley did at the last election, which must make the Labor Party wonder why they went to Mark Latham."
The victory ensures Mr Howard will become Australia's second-longest serving prime minister, surpassing Labor's Bob Hawke later this year.
It also guarantees Mr Howard can secure a decade in power unless he retires before the middle of the next term and hands over to Treasurer Peter Costello.