Tony Abbott says job now is to keep public trust
Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott said Friday the time to savour victory was over, telling his party they had won the trust of Australia and their job now was to keep it.
The conservative ended six years of Labor rule last weekend, with the race to replace deposed leader Kevin Rudd now a two-man contest after former deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese announced his candidacy.
He will be up against ex-education minister Bill Shorten as Labor faces a rocky rebuilding from years of turmoil, with voters punishing them for the bitter in-fighting that saw two leadership coups in as many terms in office.
Abbott, who was rubberstamped as Liberal leader Friday at the first meeting of his party since toppling Rudd, told his colleagues they must deliver on their commitments.
“We have won the trust of the Australian people, our challenge now is to earn it and to keep it,” he said in some of his first comments since winning office as he adopts a lower-key approach after a frenetic, media-driven, election campaign.
“Our task is but briefly to savour the moment. Our task is to give a great country and a great people the better government that the people of Australia deserve.
“We will now move purposely, calmly, methodically to deliver on our election commitments to build a stronger economy for a stronger Australia.”
Abbott won the election on a pledge to quickly scrap taxes on corporate pollution and mining profits imposed under Labor, introduce a costly paid parental leave scheme, halt asylum-seeker boats and build roads for the 21st century.
He said he was confident he had the team to achieve all the goals.
“This is probably as well-prepared an opposition as ever has gone into government,” said Abbott, who is expected to be sworn in as new prime minister next week.
“But the task now is ahead of us, the challenges considerable - we must stop the boats, we must scrap the carbon tax, we must build the roads, we must get the budget back into the black.
Counting of postal votes from Saturday’s national polls is still ongoing.
But with Labor conceding defeat in another two lower house seats Friday, the conservatives are on track to win 93 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to Labor’s 53.
It gives Abbott a clear majority although the makeup of the upper house of parliament is not yet clear.
Up to seven minor party candidates could secure seats to hold the balance of power in the Senate thanks to voter dissatisfaction with the main parties -- complicating the new government’s legislative push.
Labor’s rebuilding could be a drawn out affair, with the battle to become the party’s new leader potentially dragging on for a month under new rules that Rudd put in place shortly before the election.
Now, Caucus members only get 50 per cent of the vote as opposed to all of them previously, with rank and file party members now having the other half.
The reforms could lead to a US primary-style contest that involves live televised debates to drum up support.
The changes were implemented after the tensions that saw Julia Gillard topple Rudd as prime minister in 2010 and Rudd return the favour in June.
Shorten, 46, a powerful and highly ambitious right-wing factional leader, is widely seen as having Caucus backing while Albanese, 50, a charismatic figure widely known as “Albo”, would likely romp the populist vote.
“In the coming weeks I will run for the Labor leadership on the same platform as I would run for Australia’s prime minister. We have to change, we have to do better for Australia and for Labor,” said Albanese.