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Politics

Tony Abbott sworn in as new Australian prime minister

Tony Abbott's term as Australia's newest premier has officially begun. The Liberal/National coalition head vowed to begin work on scrapping a carbon tax law and changing asylum policies on his first day in office.

Tony Abbott was sworn in as Australia's prime minister at a ceremony in the capital Canberra on Wednesday, attended by his family and Australian officials. Governor General Quentin Bryce administered the oath.

No sooner had Abbott begun his term than he announced his intentions of delivering on key campaign promises as soon as possible.

"Today is not just a ceremonial day, it's an action day," Australian 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," he added.

Abbott's Liberal/National coalition government is projected to dominate the 150-seat House of Representatives with roughly 90 seats against Labor's 55. It remains unclear how several minor parties expected to take seats in the Senate will affect the balance of power in the upper house.

An unpopular carbon tax and growing concerns surrounding refugees from Indonesia were the new prime minister's top priorities on his first day, he said.

Abbott vowed to order a draft legislation that would dismantle the tax on carbon emissions. Many consumers blame the 2010 legislation for price hikes by companies forced to pay it.

He also promised to take action against human smugglers in Indonesia who help refugees reach Australian shores. Thousands of asylum seekers attempt to make the ocean journey. Some 15,000 have reached Australia this year.

Abbott's plan includes buying fishing boats from Indonesian villages in order to keep them from falling into the hands of smugglers, as well as paying for information about suspected smugglers. While both parties had pledged to stem the flow of refugees, Abbott has proposed using the navy to turn back boats.

Prime Minister Abbott has already drawn criticism from across the political spectrum at home for appointing only one female cabinet member, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The acting leader of the Labor party, Chris Bowen, said Abbott's decision had resulted in Australia having fewer women in government than Afghanistan.

The Liberal/National victory on September 7 brought Australia's first minority government since World War II to an end, which had held onto power for about six years.

kms/mz (AP, AFP, dpa)