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Australia has sworn in new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, after Tony Abbott was ousted by his party in a leadership challenge.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was communications minister under Tony Abbott, is the fourth prime minister since 2013.

After taking the oath of office, Malcolm Turnbull attended his first Question Time in parliament as prime minister.

Tony Abbott on September 15 said his removal was “tough” but promised not to undermine the new government.

In his first public comments since his removal by the Liberal party late on Monday, Tony Abbott said it had been “a tough day, but when you join the game, you accept the rules”.

Tony Abbott said he was proud of what his government had achieved, while also taking swipes at party members who had leaked to the media and carried out “a sour, bitter character assassination”.Malcolm Turnbull sworn in as Australia prime minister

He did not say if he would remain on the backbench or eventually resign from politics.

Tony Abbott’s removal followed weeks of tumbling polls ratings and speculation about a challenge to his leadership.

In a move led by Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Tony Abbott was voted out by the Liberal party by 54 votes to 44.

In his first Question Time session in parliament, Malcolm Turnbull paid tribute to Tony Abbott, and said these are “the most exciting times to be an Australian”.

“The future is one of great opportunities and that requires confidence and leadership and it will be lost if we embrace the politics of fear and scaremongering.”

He said policies would “change in the light of changed conditions”, but did not signal any immediate amendments to contentious issues including same sex marriage and climate policy.

Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten said Tony Abbott had been “a formidable fighter” in office, and praised his “generous and personal” nature.

Malcolm Turnbull is not expected to announce a new cabinet line-up until the end of the week.

Following his fierce criticism of Tony Abbott’s economic leadership, there has been speculation that Joe Hockey might lose the Treasury portfolio.

Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday night the government would serve a full term, meaning a general election is likely in mid-2016.

The first real test of how the public has taken the news will be on September 19 in a by-election for the seat of Canning in Western Australia.

The seat is held by the Liberal Party. Opinion polling done before Monday night’s ballot suggested the Liberals would retain the seat but at a reduced majority.

Malcolm Turnbull has become Australia’s new prime minister after Tony Abbott was ousted as leader of the centre-right Liberal Party.

In the dramatic late night party leadership ballot, Tony Abbott, who had been plagued by poor opinion polls, received 44 votes to Malcolm Turnbull’s 54.

Malcolm Turnbull said he assumed that parliament would serve its full term, implying no snap general election.

The new leader will be Australia’s fourth prime minister since 2013.

The prime minister-elect is expected to be sworn in after Tony Abbott writes to Australia’s governor general and resigns.

On September 14, Tony Abbott had dismissed rumors of a leadership challenge as “Canberra gossip”.Malcolm Turnbull becomes Australia prime minister

They also voted for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to remain deputy leader of the party.

Speaking after the result was announced, Malcolm Turnbull praised his predecessor for his “formidable achievements” as prime minister.

The new party leader said Australia needed to have “the economic vision, a leadership, that explains the great challenges and opportunities we face”.

Malcolm Turnball said he would lead “a thoroughly Liberal government, committed to freedom, the individual and the market”.

Ahead of the vote, Malcolm Turnbull had said if Tony Abbott remained as leader, the coalition government would lose the next election, which is likely to take place in 2016.

He said he had not taken the decision to launch a leadership challenge lightly, but that it was “clear enough that the government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need”.

Julie Bishop had supported his bid to become party leader.

The last Australian prime minister to serve a full term was John Howard, who left power in 2007.

Labor PM Julia Gillard was ousted by rival Kevin Rudd in a leadership vote in June 2013 – months before a general election won by Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party and its coalition partners the National Party.

Julia Gillard herself had ousted Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010.

Malcolm Turnbull had previously been leader of the Liberals while in opposition, but was ousted by Tom Abbott in 2009.

Under the Australian system, as in the UK, the prime minister is not directly elected by voters but is the leader of the party or coalition that can command a majority in parliament.


Australia’s PM Tony Abbot was filmed drinking a large glass of beer in only 7 seconds.

Tony Abbott was at a bar in east Sydney on April 18 along with players from the UTS Bats Australian Rules football team.

Some members of the team shouted chants encouraging the prime minister to finish his drink in one move.

Tony Abbott finished the schooner – around two-thirds of a pint – in a little more than 7 seconds.Tony Abbott drinking beer

One of the team’s coaches, Simon Carrodus, told Australian Women’s Weekly: “He proceeds to reach down and grab a schooner and he drank from head-to-toe the entire schooner, dribbling little bits on his shirt.

“He was proud as punch.”

One of Tony Abbott’s predecessors, Bob Hawke, boasted of breaking a world record by drinking two-and-a-half pints of beer in only 11 seconds.

In 2012, at the age of 82, Bob Hawke was filmed drinking a large beer in seconds at a cricket match.

Tony Abbott said last year he enjoyed “a drink on social occasions” but warned of the perils of binge drinking.

The prime minister wrote: “There’s a world of difference between having two or three drinks a night and occasionally a bit more on a Saturday night and this new binge culture.”

After the footage was posted, Tony Abbott came in for some criticism.

One Twitter user said: “Whoop dee doo Abbott chugged a beer. Still can’t run a government.”

Many of the responses were congratulatory. Ben Cubby, the deputy editor of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, wrote on Twitter: “Say what you like, but Abbott did well with that beer.”

The first inquiry into the deadly Sydney cafe siege has been released on February 20, with its findings to shape PM Tony Abbott’s address on national security this week.

Australia’s security hotline received 18 calls about self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis just days before his deadly attack on Lindt Café in Sydney – but none suggested an imminent attack, the report says.

The report says the calls last December related to offensive Facebook posts by Man Haron Monis, who later took hostages at the Lindt cafe.

Two hostages were killed along with the gunman after a stand-off with police.

“Plainly, the system has let us down,” PM Tony Abbott said.

He said he would consider changes to the legal and immigration systems in response to the siege.

“Plainly, this monster should not have been in our community.”

Tony Abbott said Australia would have to reconsider the line between individual freedoms and the safety of the community may have to be “redrawn”.

His comments came as he released the 90-page report conducted by officials from the federal government and the government of New South Wales.

The document says that the 18 calls to the national security hotline were made between December 9 and 12 – three days before the cafe siege.

It says Australia’s security service and police considered that the Facebook posts by Man Haron Monis “contained no indications of an imminent threat”.

“On the basis of the information available at the time, he fell well outside the threshold to be included in the 400 highest priority counter-terrorism investigations,” the review says.

It adds that Iranian-born Man Haron Monis – who first came to Australia as a refugee in 1996 and was granted citizenship in 2004 – was “the subject of many law enforcement and security investigations” in the country before the attack.

He had a history of religiously-motivated activism and called himself a cleric, but officials have said there is as yet no evidence his actions were linked to international Islamist militant networks.

Man Haron Monis was on bail after being charged with dozens of assault charges and with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed to death and set alight.


Sydney cafe hostage-taker Man Haron Monis was not on Australia’s terror watch list.

Australia’s PM Tony Abbott said the government would examine why Man Haron Monis had been on bail.

The prime minister paid tribute to the two hostages who died in Monday’s siege, describing them as “good people”.

The two hostages and Man Haron Monis died as police commandos stormed the cafe in Martin Place early on Tuesday morning, ending the 16-hour siege.

An investigation has been launched into the police operation.

Police are also investigating the motives of Man Haron Monis – an Iranian refugee who was a known extremist and faced multiple criminal charges – and how he got a gun.

At a press conference, PM Tony Abbott said: “How can someone who has had such a long and chequered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community.

“These are questions that we need to look at carefully and calmly and methodically.”

However, Tony Abbott added that it was “possible” that the siege would have taken place even if Man Haron Monis had been on a watch list.

“The level of control that would be necessary to prevent people from going about their daily life would be very, very high indeed,” he said.Man Haron Monis

The victims have been named as cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34 and Sydney lawyer Katrina Dawson, 38.

Tony Abbott described the victims as “decent, good people” who were “caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual”.

In Martin Place, people have been arriving to sign condolence books and leave flowers in their memory.

Central Sydney was put in lockdown on Monday morning as the gunman entered the Lindt Chocolat Cafe and seized 17 hostages.

Five hostages managed to sprint to safety on Monday afternoon. Several more escaped in the early hours of Tuesday, as commandos stormed the cafe.

At a press conference on Tuesday, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn would not say whether Man Haron Monis shot the two hostages himself.

Nor would she confirm media reports that cafe manager Tori Johnson was shot when he grappled with Man Haron Monis. But she said that “every single one of those hostages acted courageously”.

Asked if police stormed the cafe because of something they saw or heard from within the cafe, Commissioner Catherine Burn would say only that “shots were heard and an emergency action plan was activated”.

She said it was “extremely important that I do not say a great deal about the events of the past 24 hours” while the investigation is under way.

The investigation – standard practice when police are involved in a fatal incident – is being led by New South Wales Homicide Squad detectives on behalf of the state’s coroner, and could take weeks or months.

A policeman who was hit in the face by shotgun pellets during the raid has since been discharged from hospital. Three others who suffered gunshot wounds are in a stable condition, NSW Police said in a statement.

Two of the hostages who were pregnant were uninjured but taken to hospital for “health and welfare purposes”, NSW police said.

An exclusion zone remains in place for several blocks around the crime scene, along with some road closures. Police have promised more police on the streets over the holiday period.

During the siege Man Haron Monis apparently forced hostages to hold up a flag showing the Islamic creed in the cafe window.

A church service was held at St Mary Cathedral, near the Lindt Cafe, on December 16 to mourn the victims.

The G20 summit in Brisbane has been closed by Australia’s PM Tony Abbott who detailed economic pledges agreed by world leaders.

The leaders agreed to boost their economies by at least 2.1% by 2018, adding $2 trillion to global economies.

Much of the summit focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the crisis in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin faced fierce criticism and left the meeting before it ended, but said the summit was “constructive”.

He said he was leaving before the release of the official communiqué, citing the long flight to home to Russia and the need for sleep.

Australia, as host of the meeting, had sought to keep the focus on economic issues, but the issues of climate change and the conflict in Ukraine attracted significant attention.

President Barack Obama met European leaders on November 16 to discuss a co-ordinated response to what they see as Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine.

Barack Obama told reporters Vladimir Putin was “violating international law, providing heavy arms to the separatists in Ukraine” and violating the Minsk agreement.

He said the “economic isolation” of Russia would continue unless Vladimir Putin changed course.

In a television interview on November 15, Vladimir Putin called for an end to sanctions against Russia, saying they harmed the world economy as well as Russia.

The Kremlin denies sending military forces or heavy weapons to pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine.

During the summit, Canadian PM Stephen Harper and British PM David Cameron also sharply criticized Vladimir Putin.

World leaders agreed to plans drawn up by finance ministers from G20 countries in February, known as the Brisbane Action Plan, to boost their collective GDP growth by at least 2%.

The statement also agreed to take strong, effective action on climate change, following pressure from the US and European leaders.

G20 leaders also released a statement in which they vowed to do all they could to “extinguish” the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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The Australian Senate has voted to repeal the carbon tax, a levy on the biggest polluters passed by the previous Labor government.

PM Tony Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition beat Labor in an election last year, had made the repeal a central aim of his government.

Politicians have been locked in a fierce row about the tax for years.

Labor says it helps to combat climate change, but the Liberals claim it penalizes legitimate businesses.

Australia’s Senate voted 39 to 32 to repeal the tax.

The Australian Senate has voted to repeal the carbon tax

The Australian Senate has voted to repeal the carbon tax

Introduced in July 2012, it charges the 348 highest polluters A$23 ($22.60) for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.

Australia is the developed world’s worst polluter per head of population. But critics, including Tony Abbott, said that the tax cost jobs and forced energy prices up.

There were widespread protests against the introduction of the tax in Australia and its repeal formed a major part of Tony Abbott’s election manifesto.

He says he plans to replace it with a A$2.55 billion taxpayer-funded plan under which industries will be paid to reduce emissions and use cleaner energy.

Tony Abbott’s coalition does not hold a majority in the Senate but the repeal went through with the support of senators from mining tycoon Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party.

Labor and the Greens voted against the repeal, with Greens leader Christine Milne describing the vote as an “appalling day for Australia”.

Labor accused Tony Abbott of “taking Australia backwards while the rest of the world is moving forward”.

The Climate Institute think-tank said in a statement that the move left Australia “bereft of credible climate policy”.

Australia has promised to reduce its emissions levels by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020.

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Australia’s PM Tony Abbott said signals in remote seas thought to be from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are “rapidly fading” and finding the jet will be a “massive, massive task”.

Tony Abbott said he was confident “pings” detected by search teams were from the aircraft’s black boxes.

But no new signals have been confirmed in the search area since Tuesday.

“No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us,” Tony Abbott warned.

Correspondents say Tony Abbott appeared to be couching his comments from Friday, in which he said he was “very confident” that signals heard by an Australian search ship were from the missing Boeing 777.

Speaking during a visit to China, Tony Abbott said teams were hoping to track further signals in a section of the southern Indian Ocean before shifting the search operation to the seabed.

Australian PM Tony Abbott said he was confident pings detected by search teams were from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane's black boxes

Australian PM Tony Abbott said he was confident pings detected by search teams were from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane’s black boxes

“Trying to locate anything 4,500 metres [15,000 feet] beneath the surface of the ocean, about a 1,000km [620 miles] from land is a massive, massive task,” Tony Abbott said.

“Given that the signal from the black box is rapidly fading, what we are now doing is trying to get as many detections as we can so that we can narrow the search area down to as small an area as possible.”

Tony Abbott said a submersible drone would be sent to conduct a sonar search of the seabed once search teams were confident with the area identified – but he refused to say when that might be.

After analyzing satellite data, officials believe Malaysia Airlines plane with 239 people aboard flew off course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.

Those leading the search fear that time is running out because the batteries that power the pings from the black box only last about a month, and that window has already passed.

Two sounds heard a week ago by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, towing the ping locator, were determined to be consistent with the signals emitted from the black boxes. Two more pings were detected in the same general area on Tuesday.

On Thursday, an Australian aircraft picked up an audio signal in the same area as the four previous detections but officials now believe it is unlikely to be related to the black boxes

The underwater search zone is currently a 500 miles patch of the seabed, about the size of Los Angeles.

The submersible drone, Bluefin 21, takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator and it would take about six weeks to two months for it to search the current zone.

Complicating matters is the depth of the seabed in that area. The signals are emanating from 15,000 ft below the surface, which is the deepest the Bluefin can dive. The search coordination centre said it was considering options in case a deeper-diving sub was needed.

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Australian PM Tony Abbott has announced that rescue crews have put no time limit on the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Tony Abbott told reporters near Perth, where the operation is being co-ordinated, that the hunt for flight MH370 was still being stepped up.

Ten aircraft and 10 ships are scouring the sea south-west of Perth for debris from the airliner.

Tony Abbott told reporters near Perth that the hunt for flight MH370 was still being stepped up

Tony Abbott told reporters near Perth that the hunt for flight MH370 was still being stepped up

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The signal from its flight-data recorder lasts about 30 days.

The search teams are deploying a special tool known as a “towed ping locator” to find the recorder, which will be used once debris from the plane has been found.

Several floating objects have been found during the search in recent days, but none is believed to belong to the missing plane.

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Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia’s prime minister after his Liberal-National coalition ended six years of Labor government.

Tony Abbott, 55, took the oath at Government House in Canberra in front of Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

His conservative coalition won a comfortable lower house majority in the 7 September polls.

It plans to scrap a tax on carbon emissions introduced by Labor and further toughen asylum policy.

Ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony, Tony Abbott said his government would get to work immediately.

“Today is not just a ceremonial day, it’s an action day,” he said.

“The Australian people expect us to get straight down to business and that’s exactly what this government will do.”

The new ministers were also being sworn in during the day. His 19-member cabinet line-up has caused debate because it contains only one woman, new Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Tony Abbott, however, says his cabinet is “one of the most experienced incoming ministries in our history”.

The new prime minister said on Tuesday that the carbon tax would be his first task.

“As soon as I return to Parliament House from the swearing-in ceremony, I will instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation,” he said in a statement.

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia's prime minister

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia’s prime minister

He says the carbon tax – which makes Australia’s biggest polluters pay for emissions over a certain amount – cost jobs and forced energy prices up.

Instead of the tax, he plans to introduce a “direct action” plan under which subsidies will be given to farmers and businesses to reduce their emissions.

The position of science minister and a fund providing loans for green technologies are to be scrapped. Two official bodies related to climate change are also expected to be closed, local reports say.

The moves that has prompted criticism from Australia’s chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb. “These sorts of issues are not going away just because we ignore them,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The new prime minister also says tough new policies to end the flow of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia via Indonesia will come into effect today.

Under a Labor policy, all asylum-seekers arriving by boat are being sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement if found to be refugees.

Tony Abbott is maintaining this policy and has promised to “stop the boats” – turning them back to Indonesia where safe to do so, a policy over which Indonesia has voiced concern.

He is expected to place the deputy chief of the army in charge of combating people smugglers, and his government will also restrict refugees already in Australia to temporary protection visas which must be regularly renewed.

Rights groups have criticized both the previous and incoming governments’ policies on asylum.

But – with some votes still to be counted from the September 7 election – it appears that the coalition will not control the Senate, meaning it may struggle to pass key legislation.

It is expected that the new government will have to work with several minor parties to get bills passed in the upper house.

The Labor Party, meanwhile, is in the process of choosing a new leader, with both former deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese and powerbroker Bill Shorten vying to replace Kevin Rudd, who is stepping down.

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Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott has unveiled his new cabinet, calling it a highly experienced line-up.

The appointments broadly followed the line up while in opposition, but included a major promotion for finance.

As expected Julie Bishop became foreign minister – the only woman to be named to Tony Abbott’s frontbench.

Tony Abbott defeated outgoing Labor leader Kevin Rudd in a decisive election on September 7.

The prime minister-elect made the announcement on Monday, in his first news conference since the poll.

Tony Abbott has unveiled his new cabinet, calling it a highly experienced line-up

Tony Abbott has unveiled his new cabinet, calling it a highly experienced line-up

“It is, I believe, one of the most experienced incoming ministries in our history, and I think it’s important to have experience as you move from opposition to government,” Tony Abbott said.

West Australian Senator Mathias Cormann was named finance minister over Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos, a move seen as a major endorsement from Tony Abbott.

Mathias Cormann, who was born in Belgium and migrated to Australia in 1994, has been the Liberal-National coalition’s spokesman on treasury and financial services.

Asked about the lack of female appointees, Tony Abbott said he envisaged that changing.

“I think you can expect to see as time goes by more women in the cabinet and the ministry,” he said.

Tony Abbott nominated Bronwyn Bishop, another Liberal Party politician, to became speaker of parliament. Several women also received appointments to junior ministries.

Other appointments include Andrew Robb, the coalition’s spokesman for finance in opposition, who was named trade minister, and Joe Hockney, the coalition’s shadow treasurer, as treasurer.

Tony Abbott is expected to be formally sworn in on Wednesday.

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Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott have hit the Australian election campaign trail in a final push for votes ahead of Saturday’s poll.

Opinion polls place the opposition coalition, led by Tony Abbott, ahead of the ruling Labor party.

But PM Kevin Rudd appealed to undecided voters, saying they could close the gap.

The economy, asylum policy and carbon tax are amongst the key issues concerning voters.

Latest polls suggest the opposition Liberal-National coalition will take 53% of the vote to Labor’s 47%. All the major papers, except newspaper The Age, are backing the coalition.

On Friday Kevin Rudd was campaigning in the New South Wales Central Coast, while Tony Abbott spoke at a guitar factory in Melbourne.

Kevin Rudd emphasized the Labor government’s economic record and said his priority was “jobs, more jobs and jobs, health, hospitals and broadband, and to keep support for cost of living pressures”.

He also criticized the coalition’s U-turn on internet policy as a “debacle”.

The opposition on Thursday announced a policy to filter adult content from the internet, with customers having to opt-out for access. The policy was retracted a few hours later.

Tony Abbott said a failure of “quality control” was to blame for the fact that the policy was “poorly worded”.

More than 14 million Australian people are expected to vote in Saturday's election

More than 14 million Australian people are expected to vote in Saturday’s election

“We don’t support filtering the internet,” he said.

Tony Abbott said the coalition would “end the waste, stop the boats, and build roads of the 21st Century”.

He also warned voters against “another hung parliament, and a weak and divided Labor-Green government”.

“[The] only way to have a new way is to choose a new government,” he said.

The opposition released more of its planned cuts and policy costings on Thursday, including a A$4.5 billion ($4 billion) cut in foreign aid over three years that would be diverted to domestic infrastructure projects.

The proposed cut has been criticized by NGOs and rights groups.

The election comes after Kevin Rudd toppled his predecessor Julia Gillard in a leadership ballot in June, amid dismal polling figures. Julia Gillard had herself ousted Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010.

The Labor party experienced a brief poll bounce after Kevin Rudd’s reinstatement, and several polls subsequently showed that Australian voters preferred Kevin Rudd to Tony Abbott as prime minister.

However, the latest opinion polls give the opposition coalition a clear lead.

The economy has been a major issue, as Australia prepares to adjust to the end of the mining and resources boom amid slowing demand from China.

The election rivals have also both sought to tighten asylum policy amid a spike in the number of people arriving by boat.

Under a Labor plan, asylum seekers arriving by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea and resettled there if found to be refugees.

Tony Abbott, meanwhile, says he will appoint a military commander to lead operations tackling people smugglers, and that asylum seekers granted refugee status would be limited to temporary renewable visas.

Both policies have been criticized by refugee rights groups. The UN has described Kevin Rudd’s policy as “troubling”, while Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the coalition’s policy as “cruelty and punishment for the sake of Tony Abbott looking tough”.

More than 14 million people are expected to vote in Saturday’s election, Australian media say.

There was a reported 94% voter turnout in the last federal election.

Every Australian citizen aged 18 or older is required by law to vote, with penalties for failure to vote without a valid reason.

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Tony Abbott, the favorite to win next month’s Australian general election, has launched his campaign.

The conservative opposition leader has vowed to control government spending and build a stronger economy by putting “bulldozers on the ground and cranes into our skies”.

Opinion polls show Tony Abbott is poised to end six years of Labor rule.

Earlier this week, Tony Abbott faced electoral rival and PM Kevin Rudd in a second election debate.

Tony Abbott, the favorite to win next month's Australian general election, has launched his campaign

Tony Abbott, the favorite to win next month’s Australian general election, has launched his campaign

Addressing a major rally of his Liberal Party in the city of Brisbane, eastern Australia, on Sunday, Tony Abbott said the country could not afford another term under the governing centre-left Labor.

“We’ll build a stronger economy so everyone can get ahead… I hope to be an infrastructure prime minister who puts bulldozers on the ground and cranes into our skies,” he said.

The first debate between the two election rivals on August 11, where Kevin Rudd had been expected to shine, was seen as a draw.

It remains unclear whether there will be a third debate.

Labor has switched prime ministers twice during the time it has been running the country.

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Australia’s Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign.

The candidates will face an hour of questioning from a panel of journalists in the capital, Canberra.

Correspondents say the economy and the issue of asylum seekers are likely to dominate the debate.

Current opinion polls put Tony Abbott and his Liberal-National coalition in the lead for the September 7 election.

However, Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party has significantly narrowed its lead since he ousted his predecessor, Julia Gillard, in June.

Kevin Rudd told reporters that Tony Abbott’s poll lead meant the pressure would be on the opposition leader in the debate to justify his budget plans.

Australia's Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign

Australia’s Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign

“Based on today’s polls if there was an election yesterday Mr. Abbott would be prime minister today and therefore he can’t be evasive tonight about where his A$70 billion ($65 billion) in cuts in health, education and jobs will fall,” said.

Tony Abbott said it would be clear to Australians well before polling day “exactly what we are spending and exactly what we are saving”, AFP reports.

Sunday’s debate, which begins at 18:30 local time, is the first of three such possible meetings before polling day.

Labor last week announced an A$200 million package to assist the car industry.

Tony Abbott, meanwhile, pledged to repeal Australia’s carbon tax at his first campaign event in Brisbane.

Both candidates have also already been campaigning on the heated topic of immigration, and how to stop illegal migrants reaching Australian shores.

Labor has been hit by the loss of two candidates in the past week. Kevin Rudd demanded that Geoff Lake, candidate for the safe seat of Hotham in Victoria, withdraw after it emerged he had abused a woman with a disability during a council meeting a decade ago.

Meanwhile the Labor candidate for the Queensland seat of Kennedy, Ken Robertson, stood down from the race after calling Tony Abbott a racist and “very bigoted” in an interview.

Ken Robertson said he was withdrawing “in the interests of ensuring that this matter does not distract from Labor’s campaign for a fairer Australia”.

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