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Tony Abbott Becomes Australia's New Prime Minister

  • VOA News

Australia's conservative leader Tony Abbott gestures as he claims victory in Australia's federal election, Sept. 7, 2013.

Australia's conservative leader Tony Abbott gestures as he claims victory in Australia's federal election, Sept. 7, 2013.

Conservative lawmaker Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia's new prime minister, bringing an end to six years of Labor Party-led governments.

Abbott, who won September 7 elections over ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, took the oath of office in a ceremony Wednesday at the Government House in Canberra.

The 55-year-old head of the Liberal-National Coalition said in a statement that his first day in office is "not just ceremonial, it's an action day" and promised to "get straight down to business."

He said the first item on his agenda is repealing a carbon tax that punishes Australia's biggest polluters. Abbott, who has questioned the human impact on global climate change, prefers to instead pay companies to increase their energy efficiency.

The prime minister also said Australia's navy would immediately begin turning back boats of asylum seekers under a controversial new plan aimed at slowing the stream of immigrants arriving there.

The new policy includes a proposal to buy up fishing boats in Indonesia, which is where most of the boats originate, in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of people smugglers. It would also pay Indonesians for intelligence on those organizing the trips.

Some opposition lawmakers say the plan could damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia, where officials have expressed concern at the policy.

Australia's government has been under domestic pressure to stop the influx of asylum seekers from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Hundreds of people have drowned in recent years trying to make the dangerous journey to Australian territory.
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