Scott Morrison to be new prime minister

By David Donaldson

August 24, 2018

Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

Scott Morrison has won the Liberal party room vote to choose Australia’s next prime minister.

Scott Morrison has won a Liberal Party parliamentary vote over Peter Dutton, 45 votes to 40. He will shortly be sworn in as Prime Minister. After the vote Dutton said he would strongly support the new Prime Minister, declaring the government needed to focus on defeating ALP leader Bill Shorten.

Prime Minister elect Morrison, won with votes from the supporters of incumbent Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, stymying the push from the conservative wing of the Liberal Party — led by former PM, Tony Abbott — to seize control of the Prime Ministership.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was knocked out of the leadership ballot early and is now expected not recontest her seat at the next election.

Former Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, who put in significant work on the now-dead National Energy Guarantee, was named deputy Liberal leader. Frydenberg beat out former Health Minister Greg Hunt and former Trade Minister Steven Ciobo. Frydenberg is expected to take the Treasury portfolio.

The morning was highly charged. It began when Morrison’s contender, Peter Dutton, was cleared of the constitutional question marks over his eligibility after legal advice from the solicitor general suggested he was probably in the clear, while conceding there was still “some risk” around the issue.

The party room meeting was finally called after a bare majority of 43 MPs, signed a letter calling for it. Earlier in the morning, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he would be the 43rd signature if it would resolve the stalemate.

Turnbull told colleagues that he would not call the meeting unless 43 MPs were willing to sign the petition, raising the prospect that Turnbull would know the names of every MP who wanted him gone. Further drama continued when Turnbull insisted on verifying the 43 MPs had actually signed the letter.

There is also a question of whether a Morrison government can command a majority in the House of Representatives, a requirement for holding government. Turnbull has said he will leave the parliament shortly, meaning the government will face an awkward pre selection ballot and then by-election for his Sydney seat of  Wentworth.

Nationals MP Kevin Hogan said on Thursday he would move to the crossbench if the Liberals held another spill, though he would still support the government on confidence and supply. Veterans Affairs Minister, Darren Chester, also suggested he might not remain if the leadership changed.

Morrison’s election however is expected to see a strong push for a period of healing within the government, and a pressure to refocus on the Opposition.

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