Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is now former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Following a rapid leadership challenge this afternoon by former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Abbott has failed to secure his leadership of the Liberal Party in the ensuing party ballot, with Turnbull achieving 54 votes to Abbot’s 44. This makes Tony Abbott Australia’s shortest serving prime minister since Harold Holt, who disappeared while swimming off the coast of Victoria in 1967 and was never found. Youthindependent.com published an article earlier today examining the extraordinary circumstances behind Australia’s revolving door of political leaders over the past few years. It can be read here: http://youthindependent.com/australian-prime-minister-faces-2nd-leadership-challenge-this-year/.
A separate poll was also conducted for the deputy leadership, with the two contenders being current deputy Julie Bishop (who sided with Turnbull in his move against Abbott) and Kevin Andrews, a pretty much unheard of politician. Bishop won this challenge far more comfortably, with 70 votes to Andrews’ 30.
Abbott, who is still technically prime minister until Turnbull visits the Governor-General (the crown’s representative) to declare government, declined to address reporters following the decision, and was seen leaving the party room flanked by supporters, though fewer than he went in with. Turnbull is Australia’s fourth prime minister in a little over two years.
The Liberal party is actually in a Coalition with the National Party, a fairly hard-line right wing group in Australian politics, and the Nationals have warned that their deal was with Abbott and not Turnbull. Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (better known worldwide as the man who threatened to kill Johnny Depp’s dogs) said: “A Coalition agreement is an agreement between the leaders of the party, between the leader of the National Party Warren Truss and the leader of the Liberal Party who at the time was Tony Abbott. We must make sure that we have a leader that can lead a Coalition, not just a leader that can lead the Liberal Party. So for that purpose, we need to make sure that the views that are well held by the National Party, who obviously didn’t get a chance to vote in that vote tonight, are understood and incorporated in any government going forward.”
Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t seem overly fazed by such talk however. The new Prime Minister was grinning as he left the party room after the 40 minute vote and thanked Tony Abbott for his service, a noticeable change in tone from his brutal assessment of Abbott’s leadership only hours earlier.
“I want to say at the outset what a great debt the nation owes and the party owes, the Government owes to Tony Abbott and of course, to his family Margie and their daughters. The burden of leadership is a very heavy one. Tony has discharged that as leader of the party and, of course, as prime minister over many years now and the acheivements of the Government that he has led have been formidable.” Later, Turnbull promised to lead a “thoroughly Liberal government”, adding “We need to have in this country, and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and oppurtunities that we face … describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those oppurtunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture … The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t futureproof ourselves. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
Much remains to be seen following this extraordinary turn of events, including the response of the Labour Party Opposition, who no doubt would have preferred to run against the gaffe-prone, perenially divisive Abbott rather than the more moderate and media savvy Turnbull. Many eyes will be watching when Abbott faces the cameras tomorrow but perhaps the most humiliating potential result of his ousting has already happened: the worth of the Australian dollar rose when it was announced that he was no longer Prime Minister.