Sunday 21 January 2018

Australian PM Abbott ousted by rival in Liberal party coup

Newly elected Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) attends a press conference with deputy leader Julie Bishop (R) after ousting Tony Abbot.
Newly elected Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) attends a press conference with deputy leader Julie Bishop (R) after ousting Tony Abbot.

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has been ousted in a stunning coup by self-made millionaire Malcom Turnbull, continuing the nation's five-year run of leadership swaps.

Winning a 54 to 44 Liberal party-room vote in Canberra yesterday, Mr Turnbull (60) promised to unite the party and the nation with a new style of leadership that "respects the people's intelligence".

The former Rhodes Scholar and investment banker holds more progressive political views than Mr Abbott, an ardent conservative and monarchist, but immediately signalled he will restrain his own personal support for same sex-marriage and strong action on climate change.

"This will be a thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market," he said.

Praising Mr Abbott's tough migrant policies and free trade deals with China, Korea and Japan, he promised a "thoroughly consultative, a thoroughly traditional cabinet government".

The successful coup resulted in Australia's fourth leader since 2013 and followed an 18-month run of dismal polls for Mr Abbott.

The political demise of Mr Abbott, a London-born former boxer, began with his unpopular first budget in 2014 and continued with his widely mocked decision to award a knighthood to Britain's Prince Philip.

Facing an electoral wipe-out at the next election, due in 2016, the coalition turned to Mr Turnbull, an eloquent, accomplished and supremely confident MP who once led the nation's republican movement.

Polls show Mr Turnbull is far more personally popular than Mr Abbott, who has a reputation for boorishness, gaffes and poor judgment.

Attempting to fend off Mr Turnbull's surprise challenge earlier yesterday, Mr Abbott warned that the switch would repeat the revolving-door leadership of the previous Labour government. Labour effectively imploded after twice ousting sitting prime ministers, replacing Kevin Rudd in 2010 with Julia Gillard, who was in turn defeated by Mr Rudd in 2013.

Mr Abbott said Australia's 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," he said.

But his fellow MPs ignored the warning, convincingly voting to oust Mr Abbott.

The deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, backed Mr Turnbull and easily won back her position in a 70 to 30 vote against cabinet minister Kevin Andrews.

Despite their vastly different political outlooks, Mr Turnbull has much in common with the man he has just toppled: both are Catholics who studied law in Sydney, went to Oxford, dabbled in journalism and are married with children (two for Mr Turnbull, three for Mr Abbott). (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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