Tony Abbott loses leadership vote; replaced as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull
A mild surprise in Australia today as a leadership vote of Prime Minsiter Tony Abbott's Liberal Party resulted in his ouster by his former communications secretary Malcolm Turnbull. Abbott had been bleeding support in recent months due to an economic downturn and the growing belief among voters that his rival in the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, was more capable of handling the economy.
Despite keeping his promise to "stop the boats" filled with economic refugees from Asia, the economic slowdown in China has severely impacted Australia's economic growth, leading to the perception that Abbott wasn't up to the job.
Turnbull warned that if Abbott continued to lead the party it was likely to lose the next election to Labor and its leader Bill Shorten.
"You only have to see the catastrophically reckless approach of Mr. Shorten to the China-Australia free trade agreement, surely one of the most important foundations of our prosperity, to know he is utterly unfit to be Prime Minister of this country and so he will be if we do not make a change," Turnbull said.
The Australian economy has been feeling the effects of slowing demand from China for minerals.Australia's gross domestic product expanded 0.2% in the second quarter, down from 0.9%, missing analysts' forecasts.
Shorten said a change at the top of the Liberal Party wouldn't make any difference.
"Australia does not need another out of touch, arrogant, Liberal leader. Australia needs a change of government," he said.
The most recent survey by Newspoll -- as of September 7 -- shows voters are split between the two major parties, though respondents said Shorten would make a better leader than Abbott.
Until Monday, Turnbull was the country's popular communication minister, someone seen by many as a potential leader, if only he'd put up his hand. In February, he resisted pressure to be nominated for the role during the party-room vote.
In the past, Turnbull has expressed support for same-sex marriage and concern that not enough is being done to combat climate change.
Abbott has said in the past that climate change was "real," but resisted many of the schemes advanced by climate change advocates to lower carbon emissions. He still backed coal as an energy source, and set more modest emission reduction goals than advocates preffered.
Abbott was pro-American, but less so than his Liberal Party predecessor John Howard, who developed a strong working relationship with former President Bush. Mr. Turnbull is not expected to change Abott's foreign policies toward America, but may take a more active role in the coming international climate change conference in Paris later this year.
But climate change policy played little role in his ouster. It was the bread and butter issue of the economy that brought him down and will likely determine the future of Mr. Turnbull as well.