Australia has a new Prime Minister following a dramatic and somewhat ironic leadership ballot today. Malcolm Turnbull has become the country’s 29th prime minister after he beat out controversial current Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a leadership battle which has been brewing for some time, but which came to a head with today’s ballot amongst ruling Liberal Party members.
Turnbull’s victory is ironically similar to the 2010 coup staged by former prime minister Julia Gillard against Kevin Rudd.
Abbott’s overthrow highlights the inner turmoil of the Liberal Party and Australian politics in general, as Turnbull, the former communication Minister, is the country’s fifth prime minister in five years.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was elected deputy prime minister in an easy 70 to 30 vote over main challenger Kevin Andrews. Bishop had been serving as Abbott’s deputy but dumped him, switching her allegiance to Turnbull last week when rumours of the leadership challenge surfaced.
The dumping of Abbott was a revenge of sorts for Turnbull, a former lawyer and journalist, as six years ago he had been replaced by Abbott as Liberal Party leader in a climate change policy dispute, and had even quit politics in 2010 for a while because of Liberal party infighting.
Liberal Party sources said just before the inner party vote that ended Abbott’s role as Prime Minister, he had told his colleagues “the prime ministership was not a prize or a plaything to be demanded. It should be something which is earned by a vote of the Australian people. There will be a party room ballot for both the leadership and deputy leadership positions later this evening. I will be a candidate and I expect to win.”
After the vote, according to the source Abbott had taken a shot at Turnbull and his infamous temper by warning colleagues that the stress and pressures of being Prime Minister were such that “a more febrile and lesser man” might not endure them.