Australia’s fourth leadership crisis in just over eight years has come to a soft resolution today, after former Treasurer Scott Morrison successfully deposed Malcolm Turnbull to claim the leadership of the Liberal party, securing 45 of the 43 votes necessary to become Australia’s latest Prime Minister.
Morrison’s victory comes after a week of political turmoil in Canberra, as rumours of Peter Dutton pursuing a leadership challenge came to the fore earlier in the week after Turnbull capitulated on the government’s emissions targets in the National Energy Guarantee.
Turnbull called a party room meeting on Tuesday, where he successfully beat a leadership challenge from Dutton 48 votes to 35. However, numerous ministers then resigned from Cabinet and their ministries following the challenge, leaving the government crippled and prompting opponents to call for another party room meeting.
That meeting occurred this morning after Turnbull was shown a petition with at least 43 signatures calling for it, and a vote to spill the Liberal party leadership was carried 45 to 40. Following the spill motion, Turnbull resigned and Morrison successfully claimed the leadership of the Liberal party, beating out other challengers including Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was also appointed deputy leader of the Liberal party with an “absolute majority” according to party whip Nola Marino.
Despite the leadership crisis being somewhat resolved, issues for the government are far from over. In a press conference yesterday, Turnbull promised he would resign if his leadership was challenged again, choosing to leave Parliament rather than sit on the backbench like former Prime Ministers Tony Abbot and Kevin Rudd before him.
This will likely prompt a by-election in Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth and challenges the government’s slim one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, drawing into question Morrison’s ability to control Parliament and prompting calls from some politicians for the government to call an early election.
At the very least, the government is set for a significant ministerial reshuffle, with key ministers such as Treasurer Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann having all tendered their resignation in wake of the leadership debacle.
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Small Business Minister and staunch Turnbull supporter Craig Laundy could also be set to resign, with the minister reportedly being a close friend to the outgoing Prime Minister. Laundy told 7.30 modern politics was “broken” and Australians could expect to see “more of the same”. There’s no indication as of yet if ministers who announced their resignation will be reinstated in former positions or not.
Dutton’s eligibility to sit in Parliament was also drawn into question over his financial interests in childcare centres, which have benefitted from recent government policy that changed where subsidies are paid. However, the Solicitor-General released advice this morning that Dutton was “not incapable” of sitting in Parliament.
During the crisis, debate on policy was effectively put on hold, with the government going so far as to adjourn Parliament yesterday, a decision that was widely derided by Labor and the Greens. This has also led to significant pieces of small business policy lying dormant in Parliament.
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