Sept. 19, 2014: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference in Sydney. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Australia’s beleaguered prime minister was ousted from power in an internal party ballot on Monday as the ruling conservative party attempts to win back a disenchanted public by replacing the nation’s polarizing, gaffe-prone leader with his more moderate rival.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott lost a leadership ballot by members of his party, who voted 54 to 44 to replace him with former Liberal Party leader and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal Party whip Scott Buchholz told reporters. Turnbull had called for a leadership ballot earlier Monday amid flagging opinion polls for the 2-year-old conservative coalition government.
The change in leadership continues an extraordinarily volatile period in Australian politics. Turnbull becomes Australia’s fourth prime minister in just over two years.
The political turbulence comes as Australia enters its record 25th year of continuous economic growth. However a cooling mining boom that helped Australia avoid recession during the global financial crisis has slashed tax revenue and a hostile Senate has blocked several key parts of the government’s financial agenda.
The change at the helm will also likely lead to a major cabinet reshuffle, with Treasurer Joe Hockey, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Defense Minister Kevin Andrews and Employment Minister Eric Abetz among ministers who publicly supported Abbott against the Turnbull challenge.
Abbott’s former Liberal Party deputy, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who supported Turnbull’s bid, was re-elected party deputy. She defeated Andrews 70 votes to 30.
The Liberals were elected in 2013 as a stable alternative to the then-Labor government. Labor came to power under Kevin Rudd at elections in 2007, only to dump him for his deputy Julia Gillard in 2010 months ahead of elections. The bitterly divided and chaotic government then dumped Gillard for Rudd just months before the 2013 election.
Before Rudd was elected in 2007, John Howard was in power for almost 12 years.
Monday night’s contest pitted a man who has been described as the most socially conservative Australian prime minister in decades against a challenger some think is not conservative enough.
Unlike Abbott, Turnbull supports gay marriage, wants Australia to replace the British monarch with an Australian president as head of state, and backs a policy of making polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions.
“This country needs strong and stable government and that means avoiding at all costs Labor’s revolving-door prime ministership,” Abbott told reporters before the ballot, referring …Read More