Scott Morrison — best known as an architect of Australia’s harsh refugee policy — will replace Malcolm Turnbull as the country’s prime minister, after winning a party room brawl on Friday.
Morrison defeated another arch-conservative in his own ruling Liberal Party, Peter Dutton, by 45 votes to 40 in the final round of an internal party ballot. He will become Australia’s sixth prime minister in less than 11 years. Julie Bishop, a moderate who was Australia’s foreign minister and the party’s deputy, also made a bid for the prime ministership, but lost in the first round.
The episode caps off a turbulent period in Australian politics — no prime minister has served a full term since John Howard in 2007, and four sitting prime ministers have now been removed by their parties in backroom coups since 2010.
In a speech after losing his leadership, Turnbull promised to follow through on his threat to quit parliament after losing the leadership, endangering the ruling coalition’s wafer-thin parliamentary majority of one. The government’s majority will now depend on the results of a by-election to replace Turnbull in his electorate of Wentworth.
Turnbull accused members of his party of an insurgency that sought to “if not bring down the government, then bring down my prime ministership.”
He added that he was “impressed” that “the insurgents were not rewarded” by Dutton winning the vote to become his successor.
Speaking after losing his bid for leadership, Dutton pledged “absolute loyalty” to the new prime minister.
Morrison, who is from Sydney, Australia’s largest city, most recently served as the country’s treasurer. Prior to entering national politics Morrison led Tourism Australia.
Josh Frydenberg, the son of Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Poland, will replace Bishop as deputy leader of the ruling party.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten of the Labor Party told parliament that after 13 ministerial resignations just this week, “Australia no longer has a functioning government.”