CANBERRA – Tony Abbott was sworn in as Australia’s new prime minister Wednesday and immediately ordered the scrapping of the nation’s carbon tax and the halting of boats carrying asylum seekers.
The 55-year-old conservative pledged to knuckle down immediately after the ceremony at Government House in Canberra where his Liberal-National government officially brought six years of Labor rule to a close.
“Today is not just a ceremonial day, it’s an action day,” Abbott said in a statement. “The Australian people expect us to get straight down to business and that’s exactly what this government will do.”
In presenting his Cabinet to Governor General Quentin Bryce, he added: “We will be a problem-solving government based on values, not ideology. We hope to be judged by what we have done, rather than by what we have said we would do.”
While Abbott has kept a low profile since the polls, he has already come under flak for naming just one woman to his 19-member Cabinet — incoming Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The previous Labor government had six women in its Cabinet.
Other ministers sworn in included Joe Hockey as treasurer, George Brandis as attorney general, and National Party leader Warren Truss as deputy prime minister.
Topping Abbott’s to-do list is axing the unpopular carbon tax, which charges the country’s biggest polluters for their emissions at a fixed price. Abbott, who once said that evidence blaming mankind for climate change was “absolute crap,” said he would immediately instruct officials “to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation.”
Another central plank of his election campaign was stopping asylum-seeker boats. His policy of using the navy to tow them back to Indonesia, their typical point of transit, came into effect Wednesday, and could prove to be an early test of his mettle.
“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.