NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Malcom Turnbull out as Australian Prime Minister after latest Aussie leadership spill

The Com­mon­wealth of Aus­tralia is get­ting a new Prime Min­is­ter for the sixth time since 2007, after the Lib­er­al Par­ty of Aus­tralia (which is, despite its name, the coun­try’s major right wing par­ty) decid­ed to boot out its cur­rent leader Mal­com Turn­bull, who him­self oust­ed his pre­de­ces­sor in a lead­er­ship spill three years ago.

The BBC explains:

Scott Mor­ri­son is to be Aus­trali­a’s new prime min­is­ter after Mal­colm Turn­bull was forced out by par­ty rivals in a bruis­ing lead­er­ship con­test.

Mr. Turn­bull had been under pres­sure from poor polling and what he described as an “insur­gency” by con­ser­v­a­tive MPs.

Mr. Mor­ri­son, the trea­sur­er, won an inter­nal bal­lot 45–40 over for­mer Home Affairs Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton — who had been Mr. Turn­bul­l’s most vocal threat.

Mr. Turn­bull is the fourth Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter in a decade to be oust­ed inter­nal­ly.

“It has been such a priv­i­lege to be the leader of this great nation. I love Aus­tralia. I love Aus­tralians,” he said on Fri­day.

Turn­bul­l’s pre­de­ces­sor, arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Tony Abbott, had thrown his weight behind Dut­ton, but as the BBC not­ed, Dut­ton was edged out by Mor­ri­son in the par­ty room (or cau­cus room in Amer­i­can polit­i­cal par­lance). Hav­ing lost the con­fi­dence of his own par­ty, Turn­bull is now in his final hours as prime min­is­ter.

Turn­bull has also decid­ed to leave pol­i­tics and resign his seat in the Aus­tralian par­lia­ment. A by-elec­tion will be held to fill his seat in Went­worth.

Mor­ri­son, the incom­ing prime min­is­ter, served in the gov­ern­ments (we in the Unit­ed States would say admin­is­tra­tions) of both Abbott and Turn­bull.

Here’s a back­grounder on his polit­i­cal career from the BBC:

Mr. Mor­ri­son, a for­mer Tourism Aus­tralia offi­cial, entered par­lia­ment in 2007 and has since held three key min­is­te­r­i­al port­fo­lios.

  • A social con­ser­v­a­tive who appeals to the mod­er­ate ele­ments of the Lib­er­al par­ty
  • Rose to nation­al promi­nence as immi­gra­tion min­is­ter in Tony Abbot­t’s gov­ern­ment
  • Built a rep­u­ta­tion as a tough oper­a­tor in enforc­ing Aus­trali­a’s hard­line “stop the boats” pol­i­cy
  • Drew crit­i­cism over the con­tro­ver­sial asy­lum seek­er poli­cies and off­shore deten­tion cen­tres
  • Seen as a prag­mat­ic, ambi­tious politi­cian who has long eyed the top job
  • The 50-year old father-of-two is a lead­ing reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives and opposed last year’s same-sex mar­riage bill.

Speak­ing after the vote on Fri­day, Mr. Mor­ri­son said he would be work­ing to “bring our par­ty back togeth­er which has been bruised and bat­tered this week”.

It has now been more than a decade since an Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter served out their entire term. Lead­er­ship spills have felled the last four PMs.

The polit­i­cal and inter­na­tion­al edi­tor of the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, con­sid­ered by many to be Aus­trali­a’s news­pa­per of record, has harsh­ly crit­i­cized the lat­est lead­er­ship spill as “point­less” in a sear­ing col­umn, writ­ing:

Of all the point­less con­vul­sions in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics in the last decade, this is sure­ly the most point­less. It achieved no ben­e­fit on any lev­el but came at great cost to the gov­ern­ment and to Aus­tralia.

There was no great prin­ci­ple at stake.

The only poli­cies at issue could have been worked through with a bit of good­will, as Mal­colm Turn­bull said. The new prime min­is­ter isn’t even as elec­table as the one he replaced.

Only fifty-four per­cent of the Aus­tralian elec­torate had even heard of Scott Mor­ri­son in an April recog­ni­tion poll con­duct­ed by the Aus­tralia Insti­tute. In truth, a piece of fac­tion­al foot-stamp­ing with­in the rul­ing par­ty cre­at­ed an earth­quake.

It brought down a prime min­is­ter, desta­bilised the gov­ern­ment, dam­aged the stand­ing of the rul­ing par­ty, unset­tled the coun­try, and made Aus­tralian democ­ra­cy an even big­ger laugh­ing­stock. With­out sat­is­fy­ing the dis­grun­tled fac­tion that start­ed it all.

The Aus­tralian Labor Par­ty — which is cur­rent­ly Her Majesty’s Offi­cial Oppo­si­tion in Par­lia­ment — went through its own drawn out peri­od of tumult and strife when it was in pow­er between 2007 and 2013. For­mer Prime Min­is­ters Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard repeat­ed­ly bat­tled for the par­ty’s lead­er­ship dur­ing that peri­od.

Rudd, who had led Labor through a suc­cess­ful elec­tion cycle in 2007, was oust­ed by Gillard in 2010, though he remained in Par­lia­ment.

Three years lat­er, after a cou­ple of false starts, the tables were turned and Rudd returned as Prime Min­is­ter after Labor MPs lost con­fi­dence in Gillard, fear­ing defeat in an impend­ing elec­tion. (They lost any­way, even after bring­ing back Rudd.)

That 2013 elec­tion end­ed in vic­to­ry for Tony Abbott and the Lib­er­al Par­ty of Aus­tralia. But the arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Abbott proved to be an in incred­i­bly inef­fec­tive leader and his rest­less par­ty dumped him for Turn­bull in 2015.

Turn­bull was able to keep the Lib­er­al Par­ty in pow­er in the 2016 Aus­tralian fed­er­al elec­tion, but his par­ty nonethe­less lost four­teen seats to Labor.

After two addi­tion­al years Prime Min­is­ter, Turn­bul­l’s own pop­u­lar­i­ty has been sag­ging and it’s now his turn to be oust­ed. It remains to be seen if Mor­ri­son can lift his par­ty’s for­tunes before the next fed­er­al elec­tion in 2019.

Aus­tralian Labor, now led by Bill Short­en, is ready to pounce.

“Chang­ing Lib­er­al lead­ers is a bit like rear­rang­ing the deckchairs on the Titan­ic,” the par­ty tweet­ed, post­ing an ani­ma­tion of a large sink­ing ocean lin­er.

“The prob­lem is actu­al­ly the poli­cies: cut­ting fund­ing to schools and hos­pi­tals, cut­ting penal­ty rates, and try­ing to give the big banks a tax hand­out.”

Short­en pro­nounced Aus­tralian pol­i­tics “a bru­tal busi­ness” in a state­ment released through his social media accounts and offered Turn­bull best wish­es.

“I hope Mal­com knows that I have always respect­ed him as a for­mi­da­ble oppo­nent, as an advo­cate of great intel­lect and elo­quence and as some­one who came to par­lia­ment, rel­a­tive­ly late in life, because he was dri­ven by the desire to serve. Aus­tralian pol­i­tics will always need peo­ple like that, on all sides,” Short­en said.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for mon­ey.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion