24 August 2018: Australia will have its fifth Prime Minister in five years after Scott Morrison won a party room ballot 45 votes to 40 votes against Peter Dutton with Deputy Leader, Julie Bishop, knocked out after the first round of voting.
After a disastrous week that too often put ego and ambition ahead of the needs of the community, it was a leadership coup that nearly didn’t happen, with an initial motion to bring on the spill limping over the line by three votes. Josh Frydenberg was unanimously elected as Deputy Leader and will replace Julie Bishop who had held the post for 11 years and three leaders.
Socially and economically conservative, Morrison has strong and respectful relationships across factional lines, which he will need to call on. His experience in portfolios – stopping the boats, addressing the abuse of the welfare system and balancing the books – has shaped who he is. His leadership now offers economic credentials together with an understanding of how decisions made by Canberra can severely impact Australians. Morrison has previously spoken of the need not just to tell the electorate they are listening, but show them the Government is listening and this is crucial for a Government that is seen as out of touch and to have any chance against the Opposition’s line.
As a senior member of the Cabinet, Morrison can also own many of the Government wins – personal tax cuts, small business tax cuts, and education and childcare reforms. While a conservative at heart, time will tell if he’s able to quell the anxieties of the right wing of the Liberal Party. Morrison and Frydenberg own the two policies that have divided the party room – tax and energy – and this result does not resolve these issues for people like the leadership spill architect Tony Abbott. The irony of this isn’t lost on anyone.
Former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull will resign from the Parliament in the near future; triggering a by-election that will offer a test for the Liberal Party’s new leadership. After three years of pragmatism, Turnbull finally showed the fight that many within his party, and the electorate, wanted him to. He won the tactical game this week and as a result, had the opportunity to appoint a successor while leaving the “wreckers” to mill over what might have been.
The new PM is set to take the weekend to mull over his ministry, which is expected to be announced and sworn in early next week. Frydenberg is likely to take the Treasury portfolio and will continue the work Morrison has begun on a ‘mega MYEFO’ expected to be handed down in December. In a show of unity, the new leadership team is likely to extend an olive branch to a number of ministers who stepped down this week. For example, Greg Hunt has been successful in Health and may be in the running to hold his spot due to his close relationship with Josh Frydenberg (Frydenberg is godfather to his daughter).
While questions abound about the ministry, by-elections and key policies, as well as the timing of the next Federal election, the dust needs to settle further before many, including us, are willing to make predictions. Though ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy may have summed it up best “The result is in and the winner is Bill Shorten.”