Rupert Murdoch-backed leader of Australia's conservative 'Liberal Party' Tony Abbott was ushered in as new prime minister Saturday, signaling a further lurch to the right for the country and rejection of the Labor Party, which has sat at the helm of the Australian government for the last 6 years.
Abbott, a staunch monarchist and former boxer and priest-in-training, has come under fierce criticism for making degrading and prejudiced statements about women and Australian aboriginal and indigenous communities. He ran his campaign on promises to impose austerity, decrease Australia's national debt, crack down on immigrants and asylum seekers, and erode already-flimsy policies aimed at curbing global warming.
Rupert Murdoch, armed with his Australian media empire, gave strong backing to the far-right candidate, a move that critics slam as an undemocratic use of media power to influence elections and hijack public debate.
Murdoch gloated in Abbot's victory, releasing the following tweet Saturday:
Aust election public sick of public sector workers and phony welfare scroungers sucking life out of economy.Others nations to follow in time
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) September 7, 2013
Following his win, Abbot told a crowd of supporters in Sydney he would move quickly to toss out the country's carbon-trading program and impose a severe crackdown on asylum seekers, including warding off incoming boats. "From today I declare that Australia is under new management and Australia is once more open for business," he stated.
With the Liberal-National Party coalition winning 88 seats of the 150-seat parliament, the Labor Party suffered its worst election since 2004, signaling public dissatisfaction with a party that has seen a power struggle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, with Rudd most recently coming out on top as prime minister this June.
The Labor Party itself has been slammed for inaction in the face of global warming, imposition of harsh and punitive measures against refugees and immigrants, and failure to stand up to big business on behalf of poor and working class communities facing economic decline and unemployment.