What happened
Australia’s outgoing prime minister, John Howard, began clearing out his office on Monday after his center-right coalition was trounced by the Labor Party in weekend parliamentary elections. (Melbourne, Australia, Herald Sun) Howard had been a staunch ally of President Bush, and his replacement, Kevin Rudd, is expected to change his country’s policies by pushing for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the withdrawal of Australia’s 550 troops in Iraq. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
The change in Australia “holds lessons for Democrats” in the U.S., said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post (free registration). Rudd, 50, won a mandate for change—even though the 58-year-old Howard “presided over record prosperity”—by casting the election as a chance to “move beyond the tired “ideological categories of the past” and “end a long conservative era. Sound familiar?”

“For America this change is tinged with regret,” said National Review Online in an editorial. “Howard was an usually generous and outspoken ally.” But Rudd won’t abandon his country’s “pro-American disposition.” He only won by “soothing away fears” among voters who still respect Howard that “his government would be a change too far.”

Howard’s big problems was that he was “seen as out of touch on environmental issues,” said The Seattle Times in an editorial. Rudd’s promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol showed that he recognized the need to do something. Voters “were motivated by a government report that said spending a bit more now on controlling emissions would avoid making much-larger investments later.”