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PM Abbott sworn in on royal oath

Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott was sworn in as Australia’s new prime minister today pledging his allegiance to the Queen.

In taking his oath of office, Mr Abbott said: “I swear that I will well and truly serve the people of Australia” and “that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to her majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen Of Australia.”

Mr Abbott is the first Australian prime minister since John Howard to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Prime Minister Paul Keating changed the oath and affirmation of office in 1993. Ministers no longer promised to serve the Queen but to serve the Commonwealth of Australia.

When John Howard became Prime Minister in 1996, he also made changes to the oath and affirmation of office, reinstating the Queen.

When Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007, he changed the oath again.

He reinstated the Commonwealth of Australia, added the reference to “her people and her lands” and dropped allegiance to the sovereign.

In September 2010 Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dropped reference to “her land and her people” from the oath and affirmation.

Mr Abbott chose the same words as John Howard in today’s ceremony at Government House.

Mr Abbott, who was born in England, is a committed monarchist. During the 1999 referendum, when Australians voted on a model to replace the Queen as head of state with an Australian person chosen by the parliament, Mr Abbott played a key role in the successful “no” vote campaign.

Mr Abbott has promised immediate action to slow the stream of asylum seekers arriving by boats from Indonesia and to dismantle the previous administration’s clean energy policies.

He has been criticized for including only one woman in his 19-member Cabinet, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop _ who will be Australia’s first woman named to that post.

“Today is not just a ceremonial day, it’s an action day,” Abbott said in a statement. Abbott’s leadership team had already begun exercising control. Two days after the election, Bishop cancelled the previous government’s appointment of Steve Bracks, a former Labor state premier, to consul-general to New York.

Abbott also announced that Australia’s contentious new policy on asylum seekers that includes turning back their boats to Indonesia begins on Wednesday after the swearing in ceremony.

Australia has seen an increase in the number of such asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, many of whom pay smugglers up to $10,000 to get them to Australia from Indonesian ports

The incoming government announced on Tuesday that deputy army chief, Maj. Gen. Angus Campbell, had been appointed to lead Australia’s new border protection policy, Operation Sovereign Borders. Campbell will be promoted to lieutenant general in this new role. The new policy, which has been criticized by Indonesian officials, also includes buying fishing boats from Indonesian villages to prevent them falling into the hands of people smugglers.

Australian officials would also pay villages for information about people smugglers under another controversial aspect to the policy.

Acting opposition leader Chris Bowen on Wednesday said the plan would cause problems with the countries’ close relationship.

“Mr Abbott has told us he wants a Jakarta-based foreign policy at the same time as saying to Jakarta we don’t care what you think, this is what we’re doing,” Bowen told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“This is a recipe, frankly, for ongoing problems in relation to boats arriving in Australia _ it’s (a) recipe for ongoing dispute with Indonesia about this issue.” Also, refugees who arrive by boat will be given temporary protection visas from Wednesday instead of being permanently resettled in Australia.

Abbott plans to make his first international trip as prime minister to Indonesia on Sept 30 to discuss the plan and other issues.

On energy policy, Abbott plans to order officials to draft legislation that would repeal the unpopular carbon tax imposed on the country’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

From Wednesday, the Clean Energy Finance Corp, a 10 billion Australian dollar ($9.4 billion) government fund to finance low-pollution technologies, will be barred from making any further loans.

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