Greg Ansley: Stability will be top of Abbott's to-do list

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By the time Tony Abbott arrived to lodge his vote at Sydney's Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club yesterday morning - minus his infamous red budgie-smugglers - the die was cast.

Accompanied by his wife and daughters, Abbott was still campaigning hard, braving scuffling protesters to hammer his message home.

Late last night, voting trends appeared to confirm that he would become Australia's 28th prime minister.

It will be an all-migrant affair: Abbott was born in London, his wife in New Zealand. He is only the seventh foreign-born prime minister.

Once considered almost unelectable (and, former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke said, underrated by his rivals) Abbott arrives in his new job with great authority after crushing the Government's hopes of a Kevin Rudd-led resurrection.

Voters overwhelmingly wanted to get rid of the chaotic years of Rudd and ousted nemesis Julia Gillard in an election that saw a record number of voters turning up early and waiting in queues at many booths.

But Abbott will have to meet high expectations and earn new trust from a nation that has little time for backsliding, reneging or fudging commitments.

At the top of his list must be a return to political and economic stability. Voters trusted him above Rudd to keep living costs under control and workers in their jobs.

If Abbott lets them down, he will be punished.

And keeping his word might be much harder than he hoped.

The economy is bound to global fortunes outside his control and all he can realistically achieve, for the moment at least, is to do as well as Labor.

The final shape of the Senate could take some time to emerge as scrutineers count the votes from 1m-long ballot papers jammed with a multitude of small parties and independent candidates.

Abbott will not control the Senate. The most he can hope for is that the Greens lose the balance of power and he has a sufficient number of sympathetic Upper House minnows to get his legislation through.

But if the Greens still hold the whip hand some of his key policies - including the planned axing of the carbon tax - will fail.

That might send the nation back to the polls for a double-dissolution election, an option Abbott has already said he ready to consider.

- Herald on Sunday

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