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Liberal Nationals crush Labor coalition in Queensland

SYDNEY -- Australia's fragile ruling Labor coalition government suffered an embarrassing blow on Saturday when the party was crushed by the Liberal Nationals in Queensland elections.

Labor had ruled in the state for 14 years but Premier Anna Bligh was dealt a devastating defeat at the hands of Campbell Newman, a former lord mayor of the Queensland capital Brisbane.

There was a massive swing against the party with the Liberals taking 75 seats to Labor's six by late Saturday evening.

State broadcaster ABC projected the Liberals would win 77 of the 89 seats in Parliament to just eight for Labor when all votes were counted with minor parties claiming the rest. Forty-five were needed for victory.

The defeat has compounded the problems for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Labor which is lagging in national opinion polls and still reeling from a damaging leadership ballot which split the party.

“It's clear tonight that the people of Queensland have spoken with the strongest possible voice and they have voted for a change of government,” Bligh said in conceding defeat.

She pointed to her government's leadership during the state's deadly floods and cyclones last year as its finest moment.

In his victory speech Newman told the electorate: “You have spoken decisively and emphatically and delivered a strong government so that we can deliver for you and get this great state back on track.

“I pledge to you that we will conduct ourselves with humility, grace and dignity.”

When Labor took federal office in 2007 it controlled all the state Parliaments, but since then New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and now Queensland have fallen to the Liberals.

It now only holds power in the smaller states of South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

This makes it more difficult for Gillard's party to push through its agenda nationally with Labor holding fewer seats in the lower house of Parliament.

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