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Government of Australia

(Federal/State Govt. / Local Govt./Govt. Bodies) Canberra AUSTRALIA
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Australia's ruling party wins historic state vote    

Australia's ruling Labor party on Saturday fought off a conservative challenge in an historic state vote won by the country's first elected woman premier, early results showed.

Anna Bligh led Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's centre-left Labor party to a fifth consecutive victory in the resource-rich northeastern state of Queensland despite a swing to the opposition Liberal National Party.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg told reporters he had conceded defeat.

"About 15 minutes ago I phoned Premier Anna Bligh and congratulated her on her significant win this evening," Springborg said.

With almost 45 percent of the votes counted, Australian Broadcasting Corporation computer predictions gave more than 50 seats to the Labor Party, which needed only 45 to retain power.

Bligh took over as Queensland premier in September 2007 after the retirement of long-running Labor premier Peter Beatie, but is the first woman to win election to a premiership in her own right.

The election was fought largely on local issues, but Rudd will be encouraged by Bligh's victory in the face of the global economic downturn, which has hit the economy and slashed jobs.

"What has shone through here has been Anna Bligh's resilience... her campaign for jobs, her commitment to infrastructure in the face of the global recession," said Treasurer Wayne Swan who, like Rudd, is a Queenslander.

In her victory statement, Bligh vowed to protect jobs and "to stare the global financial crisis in the face and to bring Queensland out of it stronger, not weaker".

Bligh said she had been "very mindful" of the fact that her victory would be an historic one for women.

"I do want to say this to Queenslanders -- I grew up at a time when people regarded us as the backward state of Australia.

"And there is a time when nobody would have thought that we would be the first state in the country to elect a woman as our premier, and you have proved every one of them wrong and I thank you tonight."

Labor held power federally and in all eight state and territory governments until September last year, when the conservative Liberal-National coalition won elections in another resource-rich state, Western Australia.

Federally, the coalition has attacked Rudd's management of the economy in the face of the global crisis, saying his stimulus packages of more than 50 billion Australian dollars (32.5 billion US) would plunge the nation into debt.

Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop said earlier Saturday that a defeat for Labor in Queensland would send a strong message to Rudd that Australians wanted responsible economic management.

But while the opposition required a shift of more than eight percent to oust Labor, incomplete results pointed to a swing of only around 3.5 percent. 

Government of Australia 's City : Canberra
Government of Australia 's Country : AUSTRALIA
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