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Australian leader ousted amid party revolt

August 24, 2018

Treasurer Scott Morrison has been picked to replace Malcolm Turnbull as Australia's new prime minister. Turnbull was forced to step down following a week-long revolt by Liberal Party lawmakers.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AAP/M. Tsikas

Australia's beleaguered Malcolm Turnbull was ousted as prime minister on Friday after a majority of Liberal Party parliamentarians said they supported calls for a leadership change, according to media reports.

Treasurer Scott Morrison won the following leadership contest, defeating former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton by 45 votes to 40. Morrison, one of Turnbull's backers, will be Australia's sixth prime minister in 11 years.

In his first press conference after Turnbull's ouster, Morrison promised to bring the battered Liberal party together and win back the public's trust.

"We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us as leaders," he said. "We are on your side. That's what matters. We are on your side."

Australia's new Prime Minister Scott Morrison
A close ally of Turnbull's, Scott Morrison's leadership isn't expected to take the Liberal Party in as conservative a direction as many would have hopedImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Coch

Who is Scott Morrison?

Born in a suburb of Sydney in 1968, Morrison had a background in tourism before entering parliament in 2007. He has held several cabinet positions in successive Liberal governments, including as minister for immigration and border protection from 2013-2014, overseeing Australia's controversial immigration policies.

According to Glenn Kefford, a political scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Morrison's leadership is likely to take the Australian government on a more conservative course.

"Morrison is a social and economic conservative and has strong religious convictions. For example, he voted 'no' in the same-sex marriage process we had late last year," Kefford told DW.

However, Kefford said, Morrison is facing an uphill battle if he wants to retain his title through upcoming elections in May 2019. 

"Australian voters have strongly opposed changes of leadership mid-term, especially when they think these are not necessary," he said. "If history is any guide, the expectation would be that they will find it very hard to retain government at the next election, whenever that is held."

Turnbull to retire

Speaking to reporters after the vote, ex-home affairs chief Dutton pledged his support for Morrison ahead of the 2019 elections. "My course from here is to provide absolute loyalty to Scott Morrison to make sure that we win the election and that we defeat [Labor Party leader] Bill Shorten," he said.

Turnbull was forced to resign as prime minister after Dutton succeeded in collecting the required 43 signatures to force a renewed leadership contest. It makes him the fourth consecutive prime minister to be dumped by his or her own party before serving a full three-year term.

Turnbull condemned Dutton saying, "Many Australians will be shaking their heads in disbelief at what's been done." He also described Dutton's actions as "madness" and "a determined insurgency."

Turnbull survived an earlier attempt to oust him on Tuesday, winning a party room vote by 48 to 35. However, in the days since, several ministers have defected to the hard-line wing of the conservative party that opposes the outgoing prime minister's more moderate political approach. Several other Liberal Party lawmakers have also resigned in protest over Turnbull's premiership, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

Australian lawmaker Peter Dutton
Hard-liner Peter Dutton led the revolt within the Liberal PartyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M.A. Pushpa Kumara

As his leadership had come increasingly into doubt on Thursday, Turnbull announced he would not contest a second leadership vote and leave parliament.

Later on Friday, Turnbull said he would quit politics "not before long."

dm,es/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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