Torrid week ends with a new Prime Minister

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Scott Morrison sworn in by the Governor General as Australia's 30th Prime Minister [Image: Sydney Morning Herald]

Scott Morrison has been sworn in as the 30th Prime Minister of Australia at Government House, ending a torrid week in federal politics.

Prime Minister Morrison won the leadership of the Liberal Party 45-40 over Peter Dutton. Josh Frydenberg was elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and was sworn in as Australia’s new Treasurer.

HOW THE DAY PLAYED OUT

The morning after a farcical day in the House of Representatives, a petition to call on a special party room meeting was being circulated as we anticipated the advice of the Solicitor-General about Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in the Parliament.

Dutton was deemed to be “not incapable” of sitting in the house, somewhat clear. As the clock counted down, more signatures were collected. The 43 signatures required were collected around half an hour before Turnbull’s deadline.

Once the Government Whip confirmed the signatures, a special party room meeting was called for 12:20pm. In front of the glaring lights of the cameramen, the snapping photographers, and the eager journalists, the party room gathered to decide the pathway forward.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull moved the motion to have a spill of the leadership, putting his Prime Ministership on the line one more time. It was carried 45-40, losing his leadership then and there.

Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison after the party room meeting Image: Sydney Morning Herald

The focus quickly shifted to choosing a new leader, from a field of Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison. Bishop was knocked out in the first round. It became a two-horse race between Dutton and Morrison, in which the latter would become the new leader. Not long after, his deputy was elected.

TURNBULL DEPARTS
Malcolm Turnbull says farewell as PM Image: Crikey

An up-beat Malcolm Turnbull addressed the media, staff and colleagues in the Prime Minister’s court yard for one last time. He outlined his achievements, particularly his economic leadership and legalising same-sex marriage.

“It has been such a privilege to be the leader of this great nation. I love Australia. I love Australians,” Turnbull said. “We have so much going for us in this country. We have to be proud of it and cherish it.”

He also paid tribute to his Deputy, Julie Bishop, and congratulated Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, as well as taking a parting shot at the “wreckers” who undermined his leadership, before leaving the press pack with applause from his staff.

Turnbull will resign from his seat of Wentworth, which would trigger another by-election. Names for his successor have already been thrown around, including Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister.

SHORTEN’S CLASSY MESSAGE

Among the chaos that the Labor Party was relishing, a classy message from their leader Bill Shorten showed a nicer side of politics in such brutal circumstances.

SCOMO’S EARLY DAYS AS PM

The new Prime Minister will have the daunting task of uniting a bitterly divided Coalition in tough political conditions.

“There has been a lot of talk this week about whose side people are on in this building. And what Josh and I are here to tell you, as the new generation of Liberal leadership, is that we are on your side,” Morrison said.

It will be hard to sell a message to the Australian people who weren’t buying the situation. The people of Australia have become further disenchanted – and bemused – by our politics. 

The only positive the Coalition can take out of this is they have a new leader who doesn’t polarise moderates and conservatives in the public (and the party) the way that others do. Morrison must assemble a cabinet with Michael McCormack and Josh Frydenberg and refresh the Government’s focus.

The country will look on from this sorry chapter in Australian politics.

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