15 September 2015
by Phillip Coorey
Liberal leadership: Malcolm Turnbull defeats Tony Abbott
Malcolm Turnbull will become Australia's fifth prime minster in five years after toppling Tony Abbott in a leadership coup by 54 votes to 44.
In a coup, which has torn the party apart and will lead to an upheaval in the ministry, Joe Hockey is also set to be dumped as Treasurer unless he quits first.
He will most likely be replaced by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison. Mr Morrison voted for Mr Abbott but declined to run as his deputy.
Julie Bishop, who tapped Mr Abbott on the shoulder at noon on Monday, was re-elected deputy leader, she beat Abbott loyalist Kevin Andrews by 70 votes to 30 votes.
She has held the position since 2007 and has now survived four leadership changes.
Mr Turnbull said afterwards he intended that the Parliament would run its full term and he saw his prime role as selling the need for economic change, rather than lecturing people.
"We need to have in this country and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face," he said.
"Describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.
"This will be a thoroughly Liberal government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market."
Mr Turnbull has promised not to change policy on climate change nor defy the party room and bring forward a vote on same sex marriage.
In a shot at Mr Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin, Mr Turnbull vowed a thoroughly consultative approach.
"The Prime Minister of Australia is not a president. The Prime Minister is the first among equals," he said.
Mr Abbott served just two years as Prime Minster, short of the three years served by Julia Gillard and the cumulative two years and 10 months served by Kevin Rudd, both of whom he vanquished.
Ms Gillard congratulated Mr Turnbull on Twitter. The Nationals, who almost left the Coalition when Mr Turnbull was last leader, are demanding a new Coalition agreement and will meet Tuesday morning to discuss strategy.
Several ministers who backed Mr Abbott are expected to join him on the back bench, These include Eric Abetz, Mr Andrews and possibly Peter Dutton. Mr Turnbull said he would shake-up the ministry after this Parliamentary sitting week.
"Inevitably...there will be changes in ministerial arrangements. I'll be meeting with the ministry tomorrow morning," he said.
The explosion came just days before the September 19 canning by-election. Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie said he would work with whomever won but his dedication to Canning was unwavering.
"When the dust settles on September 19th and all the Canberra journalists and politicians have headed home, the issues will remain for the people of Canning; jobs, crime, ice and infrastructure," he said.
Mr Turnbull, who lost the Opposition leadership to Mr Abbott in 2009 by one vote, mounted the challenge on Monday on the basis that Mr Abbott was incapable "of providing the economic leadership we need" or "the economic confidence that business needs".
"The big economic changes that we're living through here and around the world offer enormous challenges and enormous opportunities," he said.
"We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities, explains the challenges and how to seize the opportunities.
"A style of leadership that respects the people's intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take and makes a case for it. We need advocacy, not slogans."
Mr Turnbull also attacked Mr Abbott's style of government, including his notorious "captain's picks" and the cabinet process.
"We have to remember that we have a great example of good Cabinet government. John Howard's government most of us served in and yet few would say that the Cabinet government of Mr Abbott bears any similarity to the style of Mr Howard," he said.
Mr Turnbull said it was his duty to protect Australia from Labor leader Bill Shorten becoming Prime Minister
"We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row," he said.
"If we continue with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister, it is clear enough what will happen. He will cease to be Prime Minister and he'll be succeeded by Mr Shorten".
Amid scenes of carnage and division, Mr Abbott fought back and called a ballot for late Monday night.
"This country needs strong and stable Government and that means avoiding, at all costs, Labor's revolving-door Prime Ministership," he said.
"We have laid the foundation for a better deal for families and for small business. You can trust me to deliver a stronger economy and a safer community.
"The Prime Ministership of this country is not a prize or a plaything to be demanded. It should be something which is earned by a vote of the Australian people."
He demanded the destabilisation stop.
"I firmly believe that our party is better than this, that our Government is better than this and, by God, that our country is so much better than this."
In a sign of the rancour to come, a bitter Mr Hockey before the ballot also pledged support for Mr Abbott, refused to stand down and slammed Mr Turnbull's critique that the government in its current form could not provide economic leadership.
"(Mr Turnbull) has never said to me or to the Cabinet that we are heading in the wrong economic direction. The disloyalty of some has been outrageous."
"We must put the national interest ahead of any self-interest. The Prime Minister has my absolute loyalty as I have his."
Labor has feared a transition to Mr Turnbull who is vastly more popular than Mr Abbott, especially among Labor voters.
Mr Shorten said a switch to Mr Turnbull "changes nothing" because Mr Turnbull had been part of a dysfunctional government.
"Australia has been going nowhere for the last two years," he said.
"Australia does not need another out of touch, arrogant Liberal leader.".
After days of intense speculation that another challenge was coming, Ms Bishop visited Mr Abbott at noon on Monday to tell him he had lost the support of the backbench and the cabinet. She told him he should stand aside.
Sources said the meeting was very brief and Mr Abbott "wasn't happy to say the least".
When Question Time finished at 3.10pm, Mr Turnbull followed the Prime Minister back to his office and, during a 20-minute meeting, told Mr Abbott that unless he stood aside, there would challenge.
Mr Turnbull resigned from the frontbench and more of his supporters were threatening to do the same unless Mr Abbott stepped aside.
Mr Abbott is the fourth longest serving Liberal leader following Robert Menzies, John Howard and Malcolm Fraser.