Australia Dumps Another Prime Minister for Pushing Climate Policies
Climate policy has once again toppled a prime minister in Australia. After Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton threatened to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership over climate policy, Turnbull on May 18th agreed to drop the National Energy Guarantee, legislation to implement Australia’s pledge under the Paris climate treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels by 2030. But that was not enough to save Turnbull.
Dutton then challenged Turnbull, but Turnbull survived a vote on August 21st by Liberal Party members of Parliament, 48 to 35. Dutton resigned from the Liberal-National Coalition government, but on Wednesday the 22nd Turnbull appeared to win back support from other government ministers who had voted against him.
The next day, Thursday the 23rd, Dutton presented a petition signed by 43 Liberal members of the House and Senate—a bare majority—asking for a new leader. After Turnbull resigned as party leader and prime minister on Friday the 24th, an election was immediately held. Three members—Dutton, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Treasurer Scott Morrison—contested the election. Bishop was eliminated in the first round, and Morrison then defeated Dutton 45-40 to become leader of the Liberal Party and thus prime minister. Morrison is a member of the establishment wing of the party and was a strong Turnbull supporter.
Malcolm Turnbull resigned his parliamentary seat on August 31st, thereby triggering a by-election in the wealthy Sydney suburban constituency of Wentworth. A date for the election has not yet been set and the parties have not selected candidates, but early polls show a dead-even race between the Liberal and Labor parties. A Labor victory would end the Coalition government’s one seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Morrison is Australia’s seventh prime minister in eleven years and fifth in the last five years. Most of them were ousted because they insisted on pursuing unpopular climate and green energy policies. Turnbull now has the distinction of being toppled twice, the first time in a party revolt led by Tony Abbott.