Australia’s Abbott begins transition but faces hurdles

Australia’s Abbott begins transition but faces hurdles

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott on Monday began the transition to government as he faced potential hurdles in the upper house Senate to drive through his reform agenda.

The conservative leader, who ended six years of Labor rule on Saturday, arrived in Canberra for meetings to hammer out the way forward, ahead of being sworn in to take over from Kevin Rudd, likely next week.

He has begun forming his front bench, so far confirming that National Party leader Warren Truss will be his deputy and keep his infrastructure portfolio, Julie Bishop will be foreign minister and Joe Hockey the treasurer.

But while Abbott's Liberal/National coalition is forecast to enjoy a 32-seat majority on the lower House of Representatives, the makeup of the Senate is not yet clear.

Up to seven minor party candidates could secure seats to hold the balance of power thanks to voter dissatisfaction with the main parties - complicating the new government's legislative push.

With 39 votes required to get legislation through the 76-seat Senate, Abbott will need to lock in six of these marginal votes - which could include the Australian Sports Party and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party - to pass bills, on current projections.

Abbott has vowed to quickly scrap corporate pollution and mining profits taxes imposed under Labor and introduce a costly and controversial paid parental leave scheme.

But he told Fairfax Radio Monday he would wait for the dust to settle before forging ahead with his agenda.

"The last thing I want to do is to rush the parliament back for a photo opportunity before the substance of the work is there for it to do," Abbott said.

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