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Australians voted Saturday to retain Prime Minister Paul Keating's Labor Party government despite the worst recession in 60 years.

It was the fifth straight national victory for Labor, which has held power for a decade.Opposition leader John Hewson, a former economics professor whose populist campaign style was compared to President Clinton's, and his Liberal-National coalition led in public opinion polls when the five-week campaign began.

Australia is wracked by near-record 11.1 percent unemployment. But Keating chipped away by lambasting the opposition's controversial economic reform plan to impose a 15 percent tax on most goods and services, and said his conservative economic policies were akin to Reaganism and Thatcherism.

With 80 percent of the vote counted, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. predicted Labor would increase its seven-seat majority in the 147-member House of Representatives to 11. The vote breakdown was not immediately available.

Under Australia's system, the party with a House majority leads the government for three years and chooses the prime minister.

"This is the sweetest victory of all," Keating told hundreds of cheering supporters in his home constituency outside Sydney. "This is very much a victory of Australian values."

Hewson conceded defeat about 15 minutes later, saying, "The probability is that the government will win."

Opposition officials said the opposition coalition had clinched 65 House seats with 15 or 16 constituencies still up for grabs.

Counting for undecided House seats plus 40 in the 76-member Senate will continue Sunday. Neither of the main parties was expected to dominate the Senate.

In addition to attacking Hewson's tax proposal, Keating also criticized opposition plans to limit government-sponsored health care and dismantle pro-union labor laws. He said the opposition's economic programs would hurt low-income families and others in need.

Keating, 49, became prime minister in late 1991.