New premier re­as­sures Aussies

Lesotho Times - - International -

CAN­BERRA — Aus­tralia’s for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter, Mal­colm Turnbull (pic­tured), was sworn in as prime min­is­ter on Tues­day, as­sur­ing the coun­try that his gov­ern­ment re­mained strong de­spite an in­ter­nal party re­volt that made him the na­tion’s fourth leader in lit­tle more than two years and will leave deep di­vi­sions in his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ranks.

Turnbull was sworn in as Aus­tralia’s 29th prime min­is­ter af­ter a sur­prise bal­lot of his con­ser­va­tive Lib­eral Party col­leagues voted 54-44 on Mon­day night to re­place Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott only two years af­ter he was elected. Turnbull’s el­e­va­tion has ce­mented a cul­ture of dis­pos­able lead­ers as the new norm in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics since the 11-year ten­ure of Prime Min­is­ter John Howard ended in 2007.

“There’s been a change of prime min­is­ter, but we are a very, very strong gov­ern­ment, a very strong coun­try with a great po­ten­tial and we will re­al­ize that po­ten­tial work­ing very hard to­gether,” Turnbull told re­porters as he left his Can­berra apart­ment on Tues­day morn­ing. “This is a turn of events I did not ex­pect, I have to tell you, but it’s one that I’m priv­i­leged to un­der­take and one that I’m cer­tainly up to,” he added.

Shortly be­fore Turnbull was sworn in, a grim-faced Ab­bott spoke for the first time since his sud­den ouster, warn­ing that n the per­sis­tent volatil­ity in Aus­tralia’s gov­ern­ment could hurt the na­tion’s stand­ing on the global stage.

“Aus­tralia has a role to play in the strug­gles of the wider world: the caul­dron of the Mid­dle East and se­cu­rity in the South China Sea and else­where,” Ab­bott told re­porters. “I fear that none of this will be helped if the lead­er­ship in­sta­bil­ity that’s plagued other coun­tries con­tin­ues to taint us.”

Ab­bott did not say dur­ing his speech whether he will quit pol­i­tics. But said he would not desta­bilise the new prime mi­nis- ter.

Turnbull, a 60-year-old for­mer jour­nal­ist, lawyer yer and mer­chant banker known for his mod­er­ate views, was party leader r for two years be­fore he was ousted in 2009 by Ab­bott by a sin­gle vote in a sim­i­lar lead­er­ship bal­lot.

Ab­bott, a 57-year-old for­mer Ro­man man Catholic sem­i­nar­ian,rian, has been de­scribed bed as the most so­cially y con­ser­va­tive Aus­tralianstralian prime min­is­ter ster in decades, while Turnbull is con­sid­ered not c o nser­va­tive­tive enough by the right wing of the party.

Ab­bott ac­c­knowl­edged ed ern-his gov­ern­ment had not ot been per­fect, though he blamed the poll-heavy cul­ture of mod­ern pol­i­tics for the fre­quent up­heaval in the na­tion’s lead­er­ship.

“We have been a gov­ern­ment of men and women, not a gov­ern­ment of gods walk­ing upon the earth. Few of us, af­ter all, en­tirely mea­sure up to ex­pec­ta­tions,” Ab­bott said. “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 de de­vel­oped that re­wards treach­ery.”

Turnbull’s re­turn to the helm will likely lead to a ma­jor Cab­i­net reshuf­fle, with Trea­surer Joe Hockey and Defe De­fense Min­is­ter Kevin An­drews among the min­is­ters w who pub­licly sup­ported Ab­bott.

An­drew An­drews, a se­nior fig­ure in the party’s right w wing, on Tues­day ar ar­gued that he should re­tain his de­fens de­fense port­fo­lio.

An An­drews chal­lenge lenged For­eign Min Min­is­ter Julie Bis Bishop, a Turnbu bull sup­porter, for the Lib­eral Par Party’s deputy lead lead­er­ship on Monda Mon­day night, but was de­feated by a vote of 70 to 30.

“I did it as a way of reach­ing out and say­ing to him that I can work with him, that I be­lieve other peo­ple like me can work with him, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” An­drews told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Corp in ex­plain­ing his chal­lenge to Bishop. “There’s al­ways hurt and frus­tra­tion and grief at these cir­cum­stances. That’s nat­u­ral. That’s hu­man.”

Un­like Ab­bott, Turnbull has sup­ported Aus­tralia mak­ing pol­luters pay for their car­bon gas emis­sions to re­duce the na­tion’s green­house gas emis­sions and le­gal­is­ing gay mar­riage.

But Bishop said the gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies would not change with­out con­sul­ta­tion with Lib­eral Party law­mak­ers.

“The poli­cies re­main un­til they’re changed and they’re only changed through a process of dis­cus­sion and con­sul­ta­tion with the party room,” she said.

She said the party had moved against Ab­bott be­cause he had not de­liv­ered on a prom­ise made in Fe­bru­ary to im­prove the gov­ern­ment’s stand­ing in opin­ion polls within six months.

“He asked for six months to turn things around. Well, seven months later a ma­jor­ity of the party room felt he hadn’t done that,” Bishop said.

The po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence comes as Aus­tralia en­ters its record 25th year of con­tin­u­ous eco­nomic growth. How­ever, a cool­ing min­ing boom that helped Aus­tralia avoid re­ces­sion dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis has slashed tax rev­enue and slowed growth while a hos­tile Se­nate has blocked key parts of the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial agenda.

The Lib­er­als were elected in 2013 as a sta­ble al­ter­na­tive to the then-la­bor gov­ern­ment. La­bor came to power un­der Kevin Rudd at elec­tions in 2007, only to dump him for his deputy Ju­lia Gil­lard in 2010 months ahead of elec­tions. The bit­terly di­vided and chaotic gov­ern­ment then dumped Gil­lard for Rudd just months be­fore the 2013 elec­tion.

Suc­ces­sive opin­ion polls showed that the gov­ern­ment was likely to lose in next Septem­ber’s elec­tions un­der Ab­bott’s lead­er­ship. — AP

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