After months of crumbling voter support and infighting, Australia finally got to know who will be its eight prime minster; Malcolm Turnbull, long term rival of Tony Abbott, triumphed as the ruling Liberal Party voted him in. A former tech entrepreneur, the multi-millionaire Malcolm Turnbull won a secret party vote. According to Scott Buchholz, the chief whip of the Liberal Party, the stats were 54 to 44 in favor of Turnbull. Elections are to be held in Australia before the end of next year. On Tuesday, Turnbull is expected to be sworn in as the country’s prime minister and he said that he had absolutely no intention of cementing his legitimacy by calling for an early poll.
In a late-night press conference, an jovial Turnbull talked to reporters and said he was humbled and honored by the responsibility he had been given. He said that the government would be thoroughly liberal and would work for the freedom of the market and individuals. Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, was re-elected as the party’s deputy leader, which won a landslide election in 2013 with the National Party as junior coalition partner. Earlier, Tony Abbott had pledged to fight the challenge presented by Turnbull.
He said that for months, there had been ‘destabilization’ going on in the party and he had vowed to overcome it, but was ultimately unsuccessful in his endeavor. After the vote, he walked out of the party room stony faced and didn’t speak with the reporters. In 2009, Turnbull had been ousted by Abbott as the Liberal Party’s leader, even though the former has always been preferred as the prime minister. However, he became rather unpopular in the right wing of the Liberal Party because of his support for gay marriages, a carbon trading scheme and an Australian republic.
The challenge came as the $1.5 trillion economy of the country is struggling to cope with the end of a mining boom that comes only once-in a century and only days ahead of a by-election to be conducted in Western Australia, which is being regarded as a test of leadership for Abbott. In February, Abbott walked from a leadership challenge weakened rather badly, which occurred after some time of infighting and pledged to reconcile. But, since then, he and his government were lagging giving rise to speculation as to how long the party would give him a chance of turning things around.
Even though Abbott has pledged to be more consultative, he has constantly defied popular opinion both within and outside the party. He announced an emissions reduction target that was heavily critiqued by environmental groups and also prevented his MPs from supporting same-sex marriages. Turnbull spoke on climate change and supported Abbott’s stand in its regard. However, he didn’t comment on whether a public referendum would be held on gay marriage as pledged by Abbott. Last week, Abbott had agreed to welcome 12,000 refugees, but the news was overshadowed by an insensitive gaffe relating to climate change and a possible cabinet reshuffle.