UPDATE 1-Conservative leader Abbott expected to win Australia election as polls open
polls open@ (Adds PM Rudd voting, protests)
SYDNEY, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Australia conservative leader Tony Abbott cast his vote at a Sydney surf club on Saturday, exuding confidence as polls pointed to a landslide victory over Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and an end to six years of Labor rule.
Abbott, who is often photographed in his swimming costume at his local beach, wore a suit to vote and was accompanied by his wife and daughters.
"I'm in a suit. I sort of wish I was out there on the waves. It's a nice wave for an elderly long boarder this morning," Abbott said, adding he did not trust the polls which pointed to an easy conservative win.
"Anything can happen today. I don't believe the polls, Kevin Rudd doesn't believe the polls. I think it's still very close."
Rudd's vote in his hometown of Brisbane in sub-tropical Queensland was disrupted by protests against tough new laws on asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, a hot button issue particularly in Labor's blue-collar suburban heartland.
Along with refugees, the election has been pitched as a choice on who is best to lead the resource-rich nation as it adjusts to an end to a prolonged mining investment boom, fuelled by China's demand for natural resources.
"If you are passionate about the future of the economy and jobs and job security and proper protection for pay and conditions, then I believe we would best to protect that in the future," Rudd earlier told undecided voters.
Last minute polls on Saturday predicted Abbott's Liberal-National Party coalition would win 54 percent of the national vote, compared to 46 percent for Rudd's Labor.
That would give Abbott an overwhelming majority of around 40 seats in the 150 seat parliament.
The super-fit Abbott, a keen cyclist who often exercises before dawn, has promised to restore government stability after three years of a hung parliament, with Labor relying on the support of the Greens and independent MPs.
Abbott later visited a southern Sydney polling booth to support one of his candidates, where he too was mobbed by angry refugee support protesters, forcing him to cut short his visit.
Abbott has built up a strong opinion poll lead on the back of promises to rein in government spending, scrap an unpopular tax on carbon emissions, and stop the flow of refugee boats arriving in Australia's northwest.
His campaign has had strong support from media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his Australian newspapers, which have urged voters to reject Rudd's Labor government.
Rudd, who replaced Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard in late June, has painted Abbott's planned spending cuts as dangerous European-style austerity and said his government is best placed to manage a slowing economy.
A record 1,717 candidates are contesting the election, including colourful mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Abbott, who has pledged not to share power, urged Australians to avoid another hung parliament.
"Even now I think a lot of people are toying with the idea of voting for independents and minor parties, the problem with that is we could end up with another hung parliament," he said.
(Writing by James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Michael Perry)