Australia Names Scott Morrison New Prime Minister, Why the Shakeup?
On Friday, Australia’s former finance minister Scott Morrison was named the country’s new prime minister. He was elected after winning the Liberal Party’s internal ballot 45-40 over former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Another candidate, the country’s current foreign minister Julie Bishop, lost in the first round of voting. The first woman to serve as Australia’s foreign ministry announced her resignation after a failed bid to oust the outgoing prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
After being sworn in, Morrison announced his cabinet and appointed Marise Payne as Bishop’s successor, according to the latest reports. Payne once served as a minister of defense and has been a member of the Liberal party since 1982.
When he was Australia’s Minister of Immigration and Border Protection under the Tony Abbott administration, Morrison drew international condemnation in 2014 when he introduced a policy to stop refugee boats called “stop the boats.” He told the navy to return refugee boats to Indonesia and jailed refugees in shelters located in impoverished countries in the Pacific such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Why was Turnbull ousted?
Morrison is Australia’s sixth prime minister in the last ten years. Since John Howard ended his term in 2007, no prime minister has fully completed his or her term in the last decade. Divided opinions over national issues, poor showings in opinion polls and political parties’ low electability are thought to be the main factors triggering the leadership crises.
Australian news reported that while there were several factors that caused Turnbull to lose support within the Liberal Party, Turnball’s backdown on energy and the plan to set emission reduction targets.
Australia originally set a target to slash carbon emission by 26 percent by 2030, but Turnball backed out of the plan saying, “In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver.” Despite the change in policy, Canberra is still committed to the Paris climate agreement of 2015.
Turnbull tried his best to appease his coalition rivals by supporting same-sex marriage, but the effort was never enough. Australian news also reported that Turnbull was labeled as “Do-Nothing PM” as his coalition fellows complained of not seeing any significant achievements during his leadership.
Turnbull claimed that school funding, border protection, and same-sex marriage legalization were among his achievements.
However, Australia’s tough stance on immigration was started in the previous government under Tony Abbott, while school funding was a continuation of policy under the Labour Party administration, which is now the opposition party.
Additionally, few LGBT groups in Australia hailed Turnbull for realizing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Government Structure Plays a Role in Australia’s Government Instability Too
Another reason behind the leadership turmoil is the country’s British parliamentary system in which the party’s leader is elected by a caucus.
“In Australia, it is the old British system, where if your caucus members want to undo you, they can and they can appoint whoever they want,” Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, explained.
The resulting effect is when lawmakers no longer trust their leader and their party has a majority in government, they can pick a new leader without needing to consult the caucus or voters.
What Will Scott Morrison Offer?
The 50-year-old politician has promised to give a stability expected by Australians, but he refused to explain whether he is planning a policy overhaul.
Morrison is described as a more conservative figure than his predecessor when it comes to social issues. He is against the same-sex marriage legalization that became effective in early 2018.
A May 2019 election looms ahead for Australia and the time between now and then will be an important one for Morrison.