A tumultuous chapter in Australia's political history has come to an unexpected end with Turnbull supporter Scott Morrison winning a leadership spill.
Turnbull’s preferred candidate, Scott Morrison, has won the leadership spill in a 45-40 result. A third candidate, deputy leader Julie Bishop, was eliminated in the first round of the vote. Josh Frydenberg has moved into the Deputy Leader position.
The result is a stunning blow for conservative Peter Dutton who was the favourite to take the party leadership and thus the Prime Minister’s position going into the spill.
— Bloomberg Australia (@BloombergAU) August 24, 2018
It is unclear whether the party will now unite behind Morrison given the close-run nature of the result and the deep divisions which have been exacerbated during this week as rival camps vied for control of the party.
Paul Williams, a political analyst at Griffith University, told Bloomberg, Morrison was a “compromise candidate”. Williams also said he is politically to the right of Turnbull, but less conservative than Dutton.
“If anyone can ideologically straddle the two camps (within the Liberal party), it’s him. His job now is to prepare the party for the election while trying to bind the wounds it’s self-inflicted.”
The opposition Labor party remains heavily favoured by bookmakers to win the next federal election. Morrison’s coalition party has odds of 4/1 in what is essentially a two-horse race.
The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) was slightly up after Morrison’s win.
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) August 24, 2018
Turnbull exiting parliament, but his ally Scott Morrison will become Prime Minister
Meanwhile, incumbent Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will resign from his seat in parliament, triggering a by-election.
By delaying the leadership spill by a couple of days, Turnbull give his supporters within the party time to rally behind his preferred candidate and deny Dutton.
In a brief statement to reporters, Dutton vowed to support the new leader.
“My course from here is to provide absolutely loyalty to Scott Morrison to make sure that we win the election and that we defeat Bill Shorten.” he said
Shortly before the result of the spill was made public, Chinese state media took a swipe at Dutton.
“This Dutton can be called a low version of Trump. We can imagine the consequences he will bring to Australia if he is in charge of the country,” The Global Times opined. “This is the most embarrassing situation in Australian politics.”
— SBS News (@SBSNews) August 23, 2018
Who is Scott Morrison?, Australia’s Prime Minister designate
Until today, the 50-year-old Morrison had been serving as Treasurer of Australia. He also moved into the Ministry for Home Affairs, vacated by Peter Dutton when he announced his ambitions to unseat Turnbull earlier this week.
He has been a member of parliament since 2007 and serves a district encompassing the Sutherland Shire, a coastal area in Sydney’s south.
Prior to entering politics he worked as the General Manager at Tourism Australia and worked in policy and research for the Property Council of Australia. He then served almost five years as State Director of the Liberal Party in New South Wales.
Once elected, his stock rose quickly and he took on a shadow cabinet position in 2009 under Tony Abbott’s leadership, taking responsibility for the shadow ministry for immigration and citizenship and becoming part of the Shadow Cabinet Committee on Border Protection.
Morrison became known for his hardline stance against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. In 2013, he launched Operation Sovereign Borders which aimed to dramatically reduce the number of unauthorised boats arriving in Australia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the policy may be in breach of the United Nations Refugee Convention but it won popular support.
Morrison is an avid churchgoer and opposed same-sex marriage in Australia. In his maiden speech, he said his Christian faith played a central role in his upbringing but “is not a political agenda”.
Breaking News: Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was ousted by his treasurer, Scott Morrison, a surprise twist after a week of leadership turmoil and party infighting. https://t.co/nHw1H5kG2w
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 24, 2018
Morrison’s maiden speech: Christian faith, prosperity and geneosity
In his maiden speech in parliament, Morrison said ‘the shire’ offered an excellent quality of life, which he sought to protect. “I want to keep it that way by ensuring that Australia remains true to the values that have made our nation great and by keeping our economy strong so that families and small business can plan for their future with confidence,” he aid.
He quoted a biblical verse from Jermeiah chapter 9:24 which had inspired him: “I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.”
“My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous,” he continued. “Strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.”
Morrison also said Australia was an economically strong nation but it needed to make tough decisions to ensure it maintained its prosperity.
Outside of politics, Morrison has been the number one ticket-holder for his local rugby league team, the Cronulla Sharks.