It’s official. Malcolm Turnbull has been sworn in as Australia’s 29th Prime Minister following last night’s leadership spill.
The change of leadership is not only indicative of the ideological and cultural schism in the Coalition. It is indicative of the very same schism in Australian society today.
Malcolm Turnbull has won the Liberal leadership 54 votes to Abbott’s 44, and Julie Bishop won the deputy role with a decisive 70 votes to Kevin Andrews’ 30.
Abbott was undoubtedly one of the most successful opposition leaders Australia has ever seen, yet when the battle was won Abbott’s leadership was fraught with a genius for failure.
Regardless of his numerous attempts to atone and resurrect, Abbott and Peta Credlin chose slogans instead of narrative, authoritarianism instead of consultation, and divisiveness instead of conciliation.
Although the Nationals are no longer the tail that wags the Liberal dog, Turnbull will have to appease them with significant financial pledges and policy initiatives for regional Australia.
But his greatest struggle of all will be in appeasing the socially conservative ideologies of yesteryear that are rife within the coalition today.
Ministers will lose their jobs, but the great test for Turnbull will be to avoid a mass defection. I doubt whether Cory Bernardi will remain members of the Liberal Party. He will either defect to retirement, or defect to be an independent or to the Family First party.
For a man who echoed to our first female Prime Minister that her father died of shame, Abbott was never fit to be leader of a modern Australia. But I will say that this afternoon, at his first media appearance following the leadership change, Abbott gave the most graceful departing speech I’ve ever seen.
There is a distinct deference between Gillard knifing Rudd in 2010 and Turnbull knifing Abbott. Labor’s woes were a godsend to the Liberal opposition. Yet this time, Turnbull is the opposition’s worst nightmare.
We can expect federal Labor to repeat that a change of leadership is of no consequence, that Turnbull is just another salesman, and that there is no difference between Abbott and Turnbull. The thing is though, that the Australian people just won’t buy it.
There is a difference. A big difference.
Turnbull is a world-class intellect. He doesn’t speak in slogans, he won’t eat raw onions and he won’t knight Prince Charles. He is a republican, he believes in anthropogenic climate change, he won’t boycott the ABC and he will not appoint himself minister for women.
Bill Shorten is no match for Malcolm Turnbull. As the Election Leader of The Australian Sex Party – Canberra, I obviously won’t be voting for any of the major parties. But I will say that Turnbull is a greater talent than the entire Labor front bench put together.
The only Labor MP capable of challenging Malcolm Turnbull is Penny Wong. I hope that Turnbull reforms his party, and I hope that Penny Wong is one day given the opportunity to reform hers.