The winds of change are blowing in Canberra as Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been ousted by his own ruling Liberal Party in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull has defeated Mr. Abbott in a secret party room vote by a margin of 54 to 44. Liberal Party whip Scot Bucholz has revealed the numbers to the press post-meeting. This result reverses a similar one in 2009 when Mr. Abbott challenged Mr. Turbull and overthrew him as Liberal leader after Turnbull ordered the party to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme which had been proposed by the ruling Labor Government. Mr. Turnbull now assumes the title of Prime Minister-designate.
Just after 22:40 local time, Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference to address the medias questions, as well as to speak briefly about policy plans going forward. After thanking Mr. Abbott for his service to Australia, Turnbull went on to say that he was, “humbled, and honored by the responsibility” of his new position. The new Prime Minister struck an optimistic tone when looking towards the future by promising that Australia would be, “focused on ensuring in the years ahead, as the world becomes more and more competitive… we are able to take advantage of that. Australia of the future has to be agile, innovative, and creative” he said. Mr. Turnbull went on to say, clearly looking to establish a stark contrast from one of the criticisms of Abbotts leadership, that his government would be, “seeking to persuade, rather than seeking to lecture.”
This move installs the fifth Australian Prime Minister in the last eight years, and the fourth PM since 2013. Turnbull, who has served as a member of the Australian Parliament for Wentworth in Sydney’s eastern suburbs since 2004, has also served previously as a minister in former Prime Minister Howard’s government. In a move to maintain some level of status quo, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was voted to remain as deputy leader of the Liberal Party. Ms. Bishop also briefly addressed the media tonight.
Now former-Prime Minister Abbott has been plagued by sagging opinion polls domestically, which haven’t been aided by criticism abroad for controversial policies such as one which looked to solve the issue of migrants coming to Australia by paying ships approaching the Australian Continent with migrants aboard to turn around. Criticism over his position to unequivocally support a free-trade deal with China also helped to sink Mr. Abbott in his current role.
While surprising to many outside Australia, this move is far from unprecedented. Months before the general election of 2013 which installed Tony Abbott in power, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard was removed from power by Kevin Rudd in a similar leadership vote in June of that year.