The government may lose the race but hasn’t lost the battle in the Brisbane seat of Griffith, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

Labor has claimed victory in the Griffith by-election but the coalition won’t be beaten.

Labor’s Terri Butler looks set to take the Brisbane seat of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, but Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson has not conceded with some 10,000 pre-poll and postal votes still to be counted.

Despite the standing, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has championed a fine result for Dr Glasson and a poor result for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

“On current indications (Dr Glasson) looks like producing a swing to the government – something that has not happened at a by-election since 1996,” Mr Abbott said in a statement issued on Sunday.

“In this respect, the Griffith by-election was a fine result for Bill Glasson and a poor result for Bill Shorten.”

The opposition leader said Labor has seen a good result in Griffith after campaigning on important federal issues.

“It’s good for Griffith and I think it’s a healthy sign in our democracy that people aren’t standing for Tony Abbott’s ruthless agenda of health and education cuts,” Mr Shorten said of the by-election result.