Australian leader defends government's first year

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 30, 2014 9:35 PM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday defended his unpopular government against mounting criticism, saying his administration has made achievements during its first year in power and its performance was more important than appearances.

Public dislike of Abbott has been blamed in part for his conservative coalition's weekend loss in state government elections in Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state.

Days before the election, Abbott's office anonymously briefed journalists that an unpopular policy to tax medical appointments had been dropped. The resulting media reports created public confusion, with Abbott and senior ministers maintaining the tax is still government policy despite a hostile Senate refusing to pass it into law.

Abbott was also widely criticized for denying last week that he broke a pre-election pledge to maintain funding for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. His government recently announced that 254 million Australian dollars ($215 million) would be slashed from the state broadcaster's budget over five years.

Abbott, who on Monday marked his fifth anniversary as leader of his Liberal Party which was elected to power in September last year, said he accepted that the ABC cuts were "at odds with what I said immediately prior to the election."

He also said his government had appeared last week "a bit ragged."

"But in the end, nothing matters more than performance and this is a government that has a very solid year of performance under its belt," Abbott said. "I do believe that be any reasonable measure, this has been a year of very considerable achievement for the government."

Abbott's government has been trailing the Labor Party opposition in opinion polls since shortly after the 2013 election and is becoming the least popular first-term government Australia has seen in decades.

Abbott announced Monday that he had dropped plans to cut AU$17 million from military personnel allowances in response to independent senator Jacqui Lambie's threat to vote against all government legislation unless the defense force is offered a better pay deal.