Tony Abbott has immediately ordered the scrapping of Australia’s carbon tax and the halting of asylum-seeker boats after being sworn in as prime minister.
The 55-year-old conservative pledged to get down to work after a ceremony at Government House in Canberra on Wednesday, where his Liberal-National Coalition government officially brought six years of Labor rule to a close.
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“As soon as I return to Parliament House from the swearing-in ceremony, I will instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation,” said Abbott, who once famously said that evidence blaming mankind for climate change was “absolute crap”.
His new government instead favours a “direct action” plan that includes an emissions reduction fund to pay companies to increase their energy efficiency, and money for schemes to replenish soil carbon and plant 20 million trees.
Abbott was elected on September 7 on a pledge to quickly scrap taxes on corporate pollution and mining profits imposed under the Labor administration, introduce a costly paid parental leave scheme and a vow to build new roads across the vast nation.
Another central plank of Abbott’s election campaign was stopping asylum-seeker boats.
His policy of using the navy to tow them back to Indonesia, their typical point of transit, was to come into effect on Wednesday.
“It’s so important that we send a message to the people-smugglers that, from today, their business model is coming to an end,” Abbott said.
The military tow-back is part of Operation Sovereign Borders, which is widely expected to be led by Deputy Chief of Army Angus Campbell, a former SAS commander, reporting directly to Scott Morrison, the immigration minister.
It includes a proposal to embed Australian police in Indonesia, buy up fishing boats to keep them out of people-smugglers’ hands, and pay Indonesians for intelligence. The plans have received a cool reception in Jakarta.
Australia has struggled to manage the stream of asylum-seekers arriving on rickety, overloaded fishing boats with hundreds dying on the risky journey in recent years.
Counting of postal votes has begun after the election, but the conservatives are on track to win 90 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to Labor’s 55.
It gives Abbott a clear majority, although the make-up of the upper house of parliament is not yet apparent, with the likelihood that six to seven minor party candidates could secure seats to hold the balance of power.
Abbott and his key ministers were sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, 11 days after his overwhelming victory over Kevin Rudd and two days after unveiling his cabinet.
One woman in cabinet
He was criticised for naming just one woman in his 19-person front-bench: Julie Bishop as foreign minister.
Chris Bowen, the acting leader of the Labor party, which had six women in cabinet before it lost the election, said Australian had gone backwards.
“The cabinet of Afghanistan now has more women in it,” Bowen said, in reference to the three Afghan women with cabinet portfolios.
Abbott said there were some “very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet”.
“I am disappointed there are not more women in cabinet,” Abbott said.
He has also attracted criticism, including from his own party, for streamlining his ministry, with key portfolios such as water, climate change, science and aged care wrapped into other portfolios.
Other key ministers sworn in included Joe Hockey as treasurer, George Brandis as attorney-general, and Nationals leader Warren Truss as deputy prime minister.