UK
07/09/2013 16:58 BST | Updated 07/09/2013 17:27 BST

Conservative MPs Congratulate Tony Abbott, But Has Australia Taken A Huge Step Backwards? (POLL)

Boris Johnson has congratulated Tony Abbott, Australia’s new prime, on his landslide victory in the general election on Saturday, calling him a "dedicated leader with a straight forward approach to politics".

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A woman points the polarising politician while he casts his vote at Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club

The London mayor, who met with Abbott last year, added that he will do a "superb job" for the country. Fellow conservative politicians, including Dan Hannan and Grant Shapps were quick to offer similar praise, as was former MP Louise Mensch, the latter trumpeting conservatism's "global spread".

Earlier on Saturday, David Cameron called the British-born Abbott to congratulate him on his election, adding that he was looking forward to working with a "another centre right leader".

However, Johnson and Cameron's platitudes were in contrast with the reaction of many Labour MPs, who have expressed concern over the fledgling leader’s reportedly sexist attitudes, most notably when he told the then-prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, to "make an honest woman of herself", suggesting that she get married.

He also once referred to abortion as "he easy way out", adding: "It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.”

Throughout the election campaign, Abbott received unprecedented support from media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his swathe of Australian newspapers, which urged the voters almost daily to reject Kevin Rudd's Labor government.

Following news of Abbott’s victory, Labour MP Paul Flynn posted on Twitter: "Oz has elected a bigoted air-head to drag them backwards into mean prejudice and vainglorious chauvinism."

His Labour colleague Tom Harris added: "I'm sure that in terms of attitudes to women, new Australian PM Tony Abbott will bring his country roaring into the 1980s."

Gillard famously rebuffed Abbott in parliament, telling the House: "If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror."

SEE ALSO: Top Ten Quotes From Australia's New Prime Minister

In 2010, Abbott said: “While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it's inevitable and I don't think it's a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework."

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The London Mayor during a recent tour of Australia

A staunch Catholic, Abbott is also known to oppose same-sex marriage, abortion law relaxation and stem cell research, and ran on a conservative platform of lower taxes, less immigration and less foreign. In his campaign he was also dismissive of environmental concerns over C02 emissions and remains sceptical of the science of climate change, calling it "highly contentious" in a 2009 interview.

When questioned on immigration in 2010, the Liberal Party leader said: "Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia."

After studying at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, Abbott trained as a Catholic priest before entering first journalism and then politics. Despite having served as a minister in John Howard's government, his election to the leadership of the party was seen as a surprise, particularly after his past comments on social issues.