How radical will Kevin Rudd turn out to be?

Australia's new Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may have made some faux pas in the run-up to the election, but that didn't stop him from sweeping to victory. The question now is: what next?

After a video revealing him nibbling his own ear wax and the revelation that he had paid a drunken visit to a strip club, some thought Kevin Rudd's chances of becoming prime minister "had been scuppered", says Richard Shears in the Daily Mail.

But this being Australia, which "revels in its laddish behaviour", the opposite proved true. Rudd, 50, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, won a sweeping general election victory for his Labour party at the weekend.

John Howard's defeat didn't come as a surprise, says Peter Smith in the FT. He refused to give up the leadership despite pressures from his cabinet and his own warning that his right-wing Liberal/National party coalition's poor polling meant annihilation' for the government.

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What was remarkable was the scale of his defeat, given the health of the country's economy. Australia is in its 17th year of uninterrupted growth and enjoying a "China-fuelled mining bonanza". He lost the election because he was John Howard and had been around for too long, says Simon Heffer on The Daily Telegraph. His commitment to the Iraq war and refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement are only "superficial" reasons for his defeat.

Not so, says The Independent. Howard was wrong to assume that environmental questions, particularly climate change, were the equivalent of a "political fetish of interest only to Sydney's chattering classes". Polls also revealed that his support of the war in Iraq was "deeply unpopular".

Rudd, who is nearly 20 years younger than Howard, has "scented the winds of change". No one can fault Howard's stewardship of the economy (wages are up, national debt has been wiped out and unemployment has fallen to 5%), which is why Rudd's economic pledges have been "relatively bland", but Rudd does take the environmental concerns of the younger generation seriously.

Initial policy pronouncements have included committing a Labour government to signing the Kyoto Protocol, withdrawing Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq, and attending next month's climate change summit in Bali. If the party continues to combine its business-friendly credentials with a green' agenda, it stands to satisfy the public's desire for change without imperilling its hard-won affluence.

In the land of "prosperous moderation", nothing much will change under Rudd, says Greg Craven in The Sunday Times. Australia might look "a little less dotingly upon Washington" and will talk, and maybe do, a little more about Asia. But domestically, Rudd will be "neither a fiscal or social radical". He is, however, likely to revive some of Labour's traditional agenda, rejigging industrial relations and even "gingerly pointing the republican rocket back towards Buckingham Palace".

Pandering to the unions and increasing social spending would mean higher taxes, and hence represent an economic setback for the country, says Simon Heffer. As for the matter of the republic, says The Daily Telegraph, it is "not for us to interfere", but we can hope that Rudd's ear "remains finely tuned" and that he realises that now is not the time to risk our highly valued relationship.