One day after Australia slumped into a leadership crisis, when prime minister Malcolm Turnbull found that his support has collapsed, moments ago Liberal party lawmakers voted to oust Malcolm Turnbull, deepening political instability that’s seen six changes of prime minister in little more than a decade, Sky News reported. Turnbull will be replaced with Treasurer Scott Morrison, a far more market-friendly alternative than the more right-wing Peter Dutton, who had been cited as Turnbull’s most likely replacement.
Morrison won 45 votes to 40 over former Cabinet minister Peter Dutton in a closed-door meeting of lawmakers, Sky said. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was eliminated in the first round of voting.
As Bloomberg notes, Morrison’s victory represents a defeat for the party’s right-wing, which advocated conservative policies similar to those that led to the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit. He has a narrow window to unite the party and make up ground against the main opposition Labor party, which has benefited from the government’s inability to enact coherent policies from taxation to energy.
News of Morrison’s ascent to the prime minister chair send the Aussie dollar higher by 0.5% to 0.7290 from 0.7250 before the news. The AUD dropped 1.4% on Thursday, the steepest slump since May 2017, as the political turmoil damaged sentiment toward the nation’s currency.
Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pac research at TD Securities issued the following note:
“PM Morrison is the most market-friendly option, having successfully negotiated through multiple portfolios such as Social Security, Border Security, and more recently presiding over a substantial improvement in the budget balance as Treasurer.”
“Parliament and the markets will be closely watching post-vote polls to gauge if Morrison can even up the balance towards the Liberal-National coalition and away from the Labor Party under Bill Shorten. The skew towards the Labor Party at this stage ensures they they will form government at the next election.”
According to Bloomberg, Morrison has a narrow window to unite the party and boost its poll ratings, which slumped as Turnbull failed to craft coherent policies from taxation to energy. The government is trailing the main opposition Labor party by such a wide margin that defeat seems inevitable in elections due by May.
The rotation at the top will hardly come as a shock: the change in leadership extends 11 years of political turmoil in Australia, with no prime minister serving a full term since 2007 (Australia has been lucky not to fall into a recession for the duration of time since then). This week’s crisis has infected the nation’s financial markets and prompted a string of business leaders to demand the government provide policy certainty.
Some background on Australia’s new prime minister:
The 50-year-old Morrison entered parliament in 2007, at the election that ended the Liberal’s 11-year rule under John Howard. After the party returned to power in 2013, Morrison was appointed immigration minister and charged with enacting ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ aimed at stopping asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.
Morrison was promoted to Treasurer in 2015, one of the most high-profile and powerful roles in government. While he has overseen a hiring boom and managed to shrink the budget deficit, the government has received little credit as wages stagnate and housing prices soar beyond the reach of many Australians.