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Profile: Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott, leader of Australian Liberal Party
Tony Abbott's election cast doubt on Australian climate policies

Tony Abbott, who has been elected leader of Australia's opposition Liberal Party, is known as something of a maverick politician.

A conservative Catholic - he once briefly trained as a Catholic priest, earning him the nickname "Mad Monk".

He has consistently voted against relaxing laws on abortion, same-sex marriages and stem cell research, and is a supporter of strong immigration policies.

Mr Abbott is also famous for his sceptical views on climate change, which he has in the past dismissed as faddish.

His surprise election to the Liberal party leadership on 1 December concerned environmentalists, who had pinned their hopes on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Emissions Trading Scheme, which aims to reduce Australia's carbon emissions by up to 25% below 2000 levels by 2020.

Mr Abbott said the scheme amounted to "a A$120bn ($110bn: £66.5bn) tax on the Australian public".

"We can't just waive that through the parliament. It would be grossly irresponsible of us," he said.

But he has denied being a climate sceptic. He says he does believe human activity is contributing to climate change but that "there's an argument as to how great that contribution is, and what should be done about it".

The former student boxer and journalist has been in Australian politics since 1994, when he was elected to represent the affluent Warringah district of Sydney.

He rose through the ranks under former Prime Minister John Howard's government, serving as an employment minister between 1998 and 2001, and as minister for health and aging in 2003.

It was while in the role of health minister that he was involved in one of several instances of apparently undiplomatic behaviour, when, after arriving late for a television debate, he publically swore at his counterpart when she complained.

In 2003, he angered Australian builders by describing the country's construction industry as "dodgy as hell".

Mr Abbott is married with three daughters.

In 2002, he believed he had been reunited with the son he fathered with his then girlfriend as a 19-year-old.

But it later emerged that the man, who had been working for years as a sound technician in the Australian parliament, had no biological connection to him.



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