Australia profile

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove (appointed March 2014)

Prime Minister: Tony Abbott

Tony Abbot Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott's conservative Liberal-National coalition swept into office in elections in September 2013, ending six years of centre-left Labor Party rule.

Oxford-educated Mr Abbott ran a disciplined campaign against a government in disarray after years of power struggles between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, who ousted one another in turn as prime minister.

He was able to overcome his low personal approval rating with policies aimed at reversing Labor's carbon emissions tax, curbing spending on foreign aid, and cutting the numbers of asylum seekers, all of which he implemented as prime minister.

One key policy of the British-born Roman Catholic, who considered training for the priesthood, was a generous parental leave scheme, but this fell foul of his pledge to cut public spending, and was eventually abandoned in 2015.

Mr Abbott's personal rating has never caught up with the popular appeal of some of his policies, and a series of ill-judged announcements in late 2014 and early 2015, coupled with the Liberals' loss of Queensland in state elections, led to a Liberal Party leadership challenge that he narrowly saw off.

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