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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.

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