Turnbull ousts Abbott to become new Australia PM

September 15, 2015 08:12
Malcolm Turnbull, with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, talks to reporters at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Malcolm Turnbull will succeed Tony Abbott as prime minister of Australia, the fifth in eight years, after a party rebellion.

Turnbull, Abbott's long-time rival, won a secret party vote by 54 to 44 on Monday, Reuters reported, quoting Liberal Party chief whip Scott Buchholz as telling reporters after the meeting in Canberra.

Australia is set to hold elections before the end of next year, and Turnbull, expected to be sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, told reporters he had no intention of calling an early poll to cement his legitimacy.

"I'm very humbled by the great honor and responsibility that has been given to me today," Turnbull was quoted as saying in a press conference.

"This will be a thoroughly liberal government. It will be a thoroughly liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was re-elected deputy leader of the party which, with junior coalition partner the National Party, won a landslide election in 2013.

Abbott had earlier pledged to fight the challenge from Turnbull, but was ultimately unsuccessful in overcoming the "destabilization" that he said had been taking place within the party for months.

He walked stony faced out of the party room following the vote and did not speak to reporters.

Abbott ousted Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party in 2009, though Turnbull has consistently been seen as a preferred prime minister.

Turnbull's support for a carbon trading scheme, gay marriage and an Australian republic have made him unpopular with his party's right wing.

The challenge came as Australia's US$1.5 trillion economy struggles to cope with the end of a once-in-a-century mining boom and just days before a by-election in Western Australia state widely seen as a test of Abbott's leadership.

Abbott emerged badly weakened from a leadership challenge in February, which came about after weeks of infighting, and pledged a new spirit of conciliation.

But he and his government have since consistently lagged the center-left opposition Labor Party in opinion polls, helping fuel speculation over how long his party would give him to turn things around.

Abbott earlier dismissed reports about a challenge as "gossip", saying he refused to play "Canberra games".

Abbott has continued to defy popular opinion inside and outside his party, despite pledging to be more consultative, blocking his MPs from supporting same-sex marriage and announcing an emissions reduction target criticized as inadequate by environmental groups.

Turnbull declined to say whether he would honor Abbott's pledge to hold a public referendum on gay marriage.

On climate change, a prickly issue within the Liberal Party, he told reporters he supported the emissions target set by Abbott.

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