Australia ruling party chooses Scott Morrison as next PM

Malcolm Turnbull becomes fourth prime minister dumped by his or her own party before serving a full term since 2010.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison, right, arrives for a party meeting in Canberra, Australia, on Friday [David Gray/Reuters]

Treasurer Scott Morrison will be Australia’s new prime minister after winning a three-way battle for the leadership of the Liberal party on Friday.

Morrison defeated the key challenger Peter Dutton, a former cabinet minister, by a vote 45-40.

Dutton’s supporters had forced incumbent Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hold the leadership ballot. Turnbull did not contest it and later confirmed his intention to quit politics.

“I’ll be leaving the parliament … not before too long,” he told reporters.

His resignation causes a by-election that could cost the government its single-seat majority.

Turnbull became the fourth prime minister to be dumped by his or her own party before serving a full three-year term since the revolving door to the prime minister’s office started in 2010.

The trend is universally hated by Australians.

He condemned Dutton supporters for bringing down his leadership in an intense and bruising campaign, which the prime minister described as “an insurgency” that went public on Tuesday.

“Many Australians will be shaking their head in disbelief at what’s been done,” Turnbull said.

Internecine battle

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had been among the favourites and could have become Australia’s second female prime minister. She was rejected on the first round of voting.

Australian media reported she would also likely resign from politics.

Morrison became Australia’s 30th prime minister after the vote ended the internecine battle that has scarred the conservative government ahead of an election due by May 2019.

He quashed speculation of an early election and said on Friday a severe drought across the country’s east will be his immediate priority.

“I don’t think anyone should be making any plans for an election any time soon,” he said.

Morrison becomes Australia’s sixth prime minister in less than 10 years.

Peter Hartcher, political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, said Australians are fed up with the constant political infighting.

“I can’t begin to tell you how distressed most people are at what goes on in their name in the federal government,” Hartcher told Al Jazeera.

“Everybody will still be wondering, ‘what was this really about’? There has been no explanation from either the outgoing or incoming prime minister.” 

Taking names

A beleaguered Turnbull demanded the names of legislators in the Liberal party who wanted him to go before he would allow them to choose a new prime minister at a meeting at Parliament House on Friday. The names proved a majority of his government had abandoned him.

The bare minimum majority of 43 signatures were provided shortly before the meeting started. They included more than one Turnbull supporter who signed to break the impasse.

Dutton’s and Turnbull’s camps waged the most chaotic, frenetic and at times farcical leadership struggle that Australian politics has seen in years, closing down Parliament on Thursday and damaging the Liberal party’s credibility.

Public anger became apparent overnight with windows broken at the Brisbane office of Dutton, Turnbull’s main rival in his government.

Turnbull came to power in a party-room coup in September 2015. A social liberal and multi-millionaire former merchant banker, he has struggled to appeal to conservative voters and only narrowly won a general election in 2016.

Liberal party member Warren Entsch said after the leadership vote: “This revolving door of prime ministers has got to stop.”

Tony Johnson, chief executive officer of Ernest & Young, said the political instability was also hurting Australia’s bottom line.

“The political turmoil of the past decade has come at the cost of our global competitiveness… The business community needs policy certainty to promote investment and improve business confidence,” Johnson said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies