Australia ‘open for business’, says Abbott after landslide victory
New PM says scrapping unpopular carbon tax will be a key priority
An unidentified man is bustled off the stage by security staff after Australia’s conservative leader Tony Abbott poses for pictures with his family after his victory speech in Sydney. Photograph: Reuters/Rob Griffith
Australia’s new prime minister Tony Abbott has declared the country ‘‘is under new management and . . . once more open for business’’ after a national swing of 3.5 per cent saw him sweep to power.
The Liberal-National coalition won a landslide victory in Saturday’s election and is likely to have a majority of 28 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.
Mr Abbott, who is a fitness enthusiast, began his first full day as prime minister with a bike ride near his home in Sydney’s northern beaches region.
“This is essentially a working day,” he said. “People expect that, the day after an election, an incoming government will be getting down to business. And that’s what I’ll be doing.”
He subsequently held meetings with the heads of the various government departments, including finance and treasury. He also received a briefing on the situation in Syria.
In his victory speech, Mr Abbott alluded to the fact that the former Labor government twice changed prime ministers without an election – in 2010 when Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd, and again in June this year when Mr Rudd returned to power by replacing Ms Gillard.
“It is the people of Australia who determine the government and the prime ministership of this country, and you will punish anyone who takes you for granted,” Mr Abbott said.
Delivering on commitments
‘‘I now look forward to forming a government that is competent, that is trustworthy, and which purposefully and steadfastly and methodically sets about delivering on our commitments to you, the Australian people.’’
Prime among those commitments is the repeal of Australia’s carbon tax. In order to do so the legislation must pass the senate as well as the lower house, but the newly elected senators do not take their seats until next July.
The only way to repeal the carbon tax in the meantime is if Labor supports it. Mr Abbott has threatened another election if it does not, but Labor seems willing to call his bluff.
Victorian MP Bill Shorten, who may become Labor’s next leader following Kevin Rudd’s resignation on Saturday night, suggested his party is not about to give up on the carbon tax. “I can say now, Labor believes in the science of climate change,” Mr Shorten said. “We believe there should be a price on carbon pollution.”
Mr Abbott is on record as having dismissed climate change as “crap”.
Even when the senate changes hands next year, the coalition will not have a majority and will have to horse-trade with up to six minor party senators to pass new laws. These include single-issue members from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party and the Sports Party, and also former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus, who was known as “the brick with eyes” in his playing days.
Labor’s Irish MPs had mixed fortunes. Wicklow-born Ursula Stephens, Belfast-born Laura Smyth and former Sydney Rose of Tralee Deborah O’Neill, whose parents were born in Cork and Kilkenny, all lost their seats.
But Brendan O’Connor, who was raised in Tralee, and David Feeney, whose father is from Belfast, both won their seats.
In a rare bright moment for the Labor Party in the election, Nova Peris, who won a gold medal for hockey in the 1996 Olympics, became the first Aboriginal woman elected to federal parliament after winning a seat in the Northern Territory.
The WikiLeaks Party did not pick up any seats, but founder Julian Assange says he is still pleased with its performance in the election. “The party was registered exactly three months ago and we are the second largest vote count for the new parties,” he said.