Tony Abbott unseated, Malcolm Turnbull takes over
Melbourne/Canberra: It was former Australian prime minister John Howard who famously declared that “Politics is a hard and unforgiving business.” If recent events are anything to go by, there is a ring of truth to it. So exactly two years after he was elected to government, Tony Abbott was ousted by his communication minister Malcolm Turnbull who launched a challenge to reclaim the Liberal leadership.
The events unfolded on Monday, September 14 when Turnbull staged a leadership coup in the afternoon, culminating in a Liberal Party room vote that he won 54-44.
The next day on Sep 15, Turnbull was sworn in as Australia’s 29th Prime Minister and praised the man he ousted as a “great Australian”.
He was sworn in by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and pledged his allegiance to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth-II at a hastily organised ceremony at Government House in Canberra earlier in the day, ABC reported.
Turnbull took the oath of office, with deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop and his wife among the assembled supporters.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also defeated Kevin Andrews in a ballot for deputy Liberal leader.
Before the vote — which he won 54 votes to 44, Turnbull said he had been under sustained pressure to put his name forward.
“Now this is not a decision that anyone could take lightly. I have consulted with many, many colleagues, many Australians, many of our supporters in every walk of life,” Turnbull said.
“This course of action has been urged on me by many people over a long period of time.”
“It is clear enough that the Government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need. It is not the fault of individual ministers,” he added.
“Ultimately, (Tony Abbott) has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs. He has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.” Turnbull began his first Question Time as prime minister by arguing his predecessor should be recognised for his achievements.
He also congratulated Abbott for his border protection policies, arguing they allowed the government to provide for an additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Meanwhile, Abbott partly blamed internal “white-anting” and “character assassination” in the media for his demise, but promised not to “wreck” his Government in retribution.
Reacting to the latest events, Manoj Kumar, Chairperson, Subcontinent Friend of Labor Victoria said, “Australia has had five ministers in five years. So the democracy in Australia is going backwards. Leadership change is occurring in every party before completion of any term of a government so this not a good trend. The Indian community or any other community is not affected by this transition. The only good news is Malcolm Turnbull is less conservative and is more acceptable by more liberal people.”
Goldy Brar, former advisor to multicultural affairs minister Mathew Guy, said, “Whatever happened is good for the country, whatever the Liberal Party has decided is the best interest of the country. Malcolm Turnbull is a very experienced leader with a business background and he is very down to earth. He will be good for the country and good for the party.”
New PM’s Speech
“This has been a very important day in the life of the nation, of the government, and of course of our party. As you know the party room, a little while ago, re-elected me as leader of the Liberal Party and elected Julie as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party. I want to say at the outset what a great debt the nation owes, the party owes, and the government owes to Tony Abbott and of course to his family, Margie and their daughters.
“The burden of leadership is a very heavy one. Tony has discharged that as leader of the party and of course as Prime Minister over many years now and the achievements of the government that he has led have been formidable. The free trade agreements that have been negotiated represent some of the key foundations of our future prosperity which I will talk about in a moment.
“And of course restoring the security on our borders has been an extraordinarily important step, enabling us for example to offer the increased and generous arrangements for Syrian refugees last week. So I want to thank Tony very much indeed for that.
“This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. It will be focussed on ensuring that in the years ahead, as the world becomes more and more competitive, and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.
“We cannot be defensive, we cannot future proof ourselves. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility and change is our friend, is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. We will ensure that all Australians understand that their Government recognises the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it.”
Abbott Says Goodbye
Tony Abbott delivered his own speech, conceding he had been ousted as a first-term prime minister after just two years in office.
“This is not an easy day for many people in this building. Leadership changes are never easy for our country. My pledge today is to make this change as easy as I can. There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.
“I’ve never leaked or backgrounded against anyone. And I certainly won’t start now. Our country deserves better than that. I want our government and our country to succeed. I always have and I always will.
“I’ve consistently said in opposition and in government that being the Prime Minister is not an end in itself; it’s about the people you serve. The great privilege that I have had is to see the wonder of this country like few others. And I want to thank the Australian people for giving me the honour to serve.
“Yes, this is a tough day, but when you join the game, you accept the rules. I’ve held true to what I’ve believed and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past two years. 300,000 more people are in jobs. Labor’s bad taxes are gone.
“A spotlight is being shone into the dark and corrupt corners of the union movement and Labor’s party union business model. We’ve responded to the threats of terror and we’ve deployed to the other side of the world to bring our loved ones home…
“I fear that none of this will be helped if the leadership instability that’s plagued other countries continues to taint us….
“The nature of politics has changed in the past decade. We have more polls and more commentary than ever before. Mostly sour, bitter, character assassination. Poll driven panic has produced a revolving door Prime Ministership which can’t be good for our country. And a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.
“And if there’s one piece of advice I can give to the media, it’s this: refuse to print self-serving claims that the person making them won’t put his or her name to. Refuse to connive at dishonour by acting as the assassin’s knife….
“I thank my staff, who have been absolutely unceasing in their devotion to our party and our country, especially my Chief of Staff, who has been unfairly maligned by people who should’ve known better…
“At this, my final statement as Prime Minister, I say: I have rendered all and I am proud of my service. My love for this country is as strong as ever, and may God bless this great Commonwealth. Thank you.”
Malcolm Turnbull: From barrister to prime minister
• Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was born on October 24, 1954. His mother Coral Lansbury is an author and English literature academic. His parents separated when he was young and he was raised by his father Bruce.
• He attended Sydney Grammar School before going on to the University of Sydney, where he received an arts degree and later a law degree. Later, he won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University.
• Prior to entering politics, Turnbull worked as a journalist, lawyer, investment banker and venture capitalist. He is now one of the richest politicians in Australia, and appeared on the Business Review Weekly Rich 200 List several times.
• One of his biggest achievements was defending former British spy Peter Wright in the “Spycatcher” case in the 1980s. Wright wrote a memoir about his time in MI5, and the British government sought to ban its publication in the UK. Turnbull successfully overturned the ban.
• He went into the technology business in the 1990s, and co-founded one of the biggest Australian internet service providers at that time, OzEmail.
• In 1980, Turnbull married Lucy Hughes, daughter of leading Sydney silk and Gorton government attorney-general Tom Hughes. They have two children – Alex and Daisy.
• Turnbull first showed interest in entering the Australian Parliament in 1981.
Few tears were shed, says Bishop
Canberra: Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop on Sep 15 said “informing Tony Abbot of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership challenge was the toughest thing she has had to do”.
Julie Bishop, also the deputy leader of Liberal Party said “there were tears shed” as she told Abbott that he has lost the faith of his party, reported Xinhua news agency.
As Abbott’s deputy it was her role to inform the prime minister of Turnbull’s desire to force a leadership ballot.
“It’s the toughest thing I have ever had to do in political life,” Bishop said.
Meanwhile, she said she was “not enjoying this” and it was a “very difficult time” for herself, Abbott and the party.
Bishop said the outgoing prime minister was visibly upset when he heard the news of a leadership challenge, but remained calm up until he was voted out by his ministers.
“He was calm, he was obviously very hurt. Emotionally this is a very draining time for people and I feel for Tony and I feel for his wife and his daughters. I knew them well,” Bishop said.
However, the foreign minister rebuked claims that she was one of Abbott’s ministers to turn on his leadership.
“Being the deputy brings certain obligations and responsibilities and one of those is to keep the leader informed of the views of the back bench and that’s what I did,” she said.
Bishop was retained as deputy leader of the party during Monday’s snap ballot. She defeated Kevin Andrews by 70 votes to 30.
(Compiled by agencies & TIW team)