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 relatively 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.

One key policy of the British-born Roman Catholic, who considered training for the priesthood, is a generous parental leave scheme, but this sits awkwardly with his pledge to cut public spending.

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