Australia

Abbott sworn in, takes aim at asylum seekers

Abbott sworn in, takes aim at asylum seekers
Photo: AP
Australian PM promises to deliver on campaign pledges; first overseas trip is to Indonesia
Published: September 19, 4:02 AM
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CANBERRA — Mr Tony Abbott was sworn in as Australia’s new Prime Minister yesterday and he promised immediate action to slow the stream of asylum seekers arriving by boats from Indonesia and to repeal an unpopular carbon tax levied by the previous administration.

He was the first of 42 government executives to be sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce at a ceremony at the Government House in the capital, Canberra.

“We are determined to honour our commitments to scrap the carbon tax, to stop the boats, to get the budget under control and to build the roads of the 21st century,” Mr Abbott said at the ceremony, referring to an election pledge to increase spending on road construction.

“We aim to be a calm, measured, steady and purposeful government that says what it means and does what it says,” he added.

He announced that Australia’s contentious new policy on asylum seekers, which includes turning back their boats to Indonesia, would begin immediately.

Australia has seen an increase in the number of such asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam and other countries, many of whom pay smugglers up to US$10,000 (S$12,600) to get them to Australia from Indonesian ports.

The new border protection policy, Operation Sovereign Borders, 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.

Also, refugees who arrive by boat will be given temporary protection visas instead of being permanently resettled in Australia.

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

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