Scott Morrison is Australia’s new Prime Minister after defeating Peter Dutton in a leadership ballot in the Liberal partyroom this afternoon.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commenced the meeting by moving a spill, which was only narrowly carried (45-40), illustrating that there was little enthusiasm for change despite the relentless destabilisation of Turnbull by the right-wing forces backing Peter Dutton throughout the week. In the three-way contest that followed, Julie Bishop was knocked out in the first ballot, enabling Morrison to take the backing of her moderate supporters and overwhelm Dutton.
Josh Frydenberg is the new deputy Liberal leader, with Julie Bishop refusing to run for the position yet again.
There were early signs that the Dutton forces might be struggling after they were unable to produce the necessary 43 signatures for a partyroom meeting until after 11 this morning. Malcolm Turnbull then demanded the signatures be verified before bringing on the meeting at 12.20pm, 20 minutes after its planned commencement. The lack of strong support for Turnbull’s spill motion — after he had made clear he would walk away from politics if it was supported — also signalled that what was portrayed as massive support for change in Liberal ranks was as much in the minds of Dutton backers as reality.
The defeat of Dutton marks this as the single most disastrous leadership challenge in recent history. Despite ripping the Liberal Party and the government apart to tear down Turnbull, the hard right of the Liberals and their media backers have failed to install their own man and instead seen a man reviled as a turncoat on the right replace Turnbull — a result that may well have News Corp, 2GB and the late-night extremists at Sky News girding their loins for a new battle to destroy another prime minister.
It’s also clear that, despite facing the end of his political career, Turnbull cleverly strung out the whole process, giving Morrison time to put together his support and allow dismay at Dutton’s tactics to spread. It also enabled an extraordinarily ill Arthur Sinodinos to travel to Canberra for the meeting. Turnbull entered the meeting flanked by a frail-looking Sinodinos and Sydney MP Craig Laundy.
The right has succeeded in driving Turnbull out of public life, but he has inflicted on them a bitter defeat on the way out.
Read more on the incoming PM and the chaos of the last few days here.