American Elephants


Australia Changes Prime Ministers by The Elephant's Child

150914-turnbullAustralia’s Liberal party has given the Prime Minister’s job to Malcolm Turnbull today, a mere two years after Prime Minister Tony Abbott won a strong election mandate. Their Liberal Party is the conservative one in Australia, opposed by the Labor  Party.

Mr. Turnbull, who won the vote among Liberal MPs 54-44, was also exacting some political revenge. The 60-year-old former barrister and venture capitalist had been the Liberal leader in opposition until late 2009, when Mr. Abbott challenged him and won by one vote. Mr. Turnbull had made the mistake of endorsing the expensive and unpopular carbon tax pushed by the Labor Party government.

Mr. Abbott’s opposition to the carbon tax helped bring the center-right Liberals back to power, and Mr. Turnbull now says he’ll keep the Abbott government’s climate policy. But his earlier support for faddish climate-change regulation illustrates the doubts about his convictions among the Liberal rank and file. He is more socially liberal than Mr. Abbott, which will help among young people on same-sex marriage, but he is also seen as someone without firm convictions.

Mr. Turnbull is closer to the business community than is Mr. Abbott, and he’ll need its help because his main challenge is reviving economic growth. Australia hasn’t had a recession in 24 years as it rode the global commodity boom, but growth slowed to 0.2% in the second quarter thanks to falling Chinese demand and the world-wide commodity bust.

When the world is in turmoil, the people get restless. Australia has been very dependent on commodities and more competitive in a range of global goods and services. Mr. Abbott made policy on the fly, and made decisions to cut spending on areas that he had promised to protect and to raise taxes without preparing the public.

Mr. Turnbull will have to make the case that Australia needs to become less dependent on commodities and more competitive across a whole range of global goods and services. He is a little more left than his predecessor. He says he will keep the Abbott government’s climate policy, though he’s earlier supported climate change regulation. The Aussie’s distaste for a carbon tax is what won the election for Mr. Abbott.

Australia’s ruling party has given the job of Prime Minister to Malcolm Turnbull turning out Tony Abbott a mere two years after Mr. Abbott won the job with a strong election mandate.

Mr. Turnbull, who won the vote among Liberal MPs 54-44, was also exacting some political revenge. The 60-year-old former barrister and venture capitalist had been the Liberal leader in opposition until late 2009, when Mr. Abbott challenged him and won by one vote. Mr. Turnbull had made the mistake of endorsing the expensive and unpopular carbon tax pushed by the Labor Party government.

Mr. Abbott’s opposition to the carbon tax helped bring the center-right Liberals back to power, and Mr. Turnbull now says he’ll keep the Abbott government’s climate policy. But his earlier support for faddish climate-change regulation illustrates the doubts about his convictions among the Liberal rank and file. He is more socially liberal than Mr. Abbott, which will help among young people on same-sex marriage, but he is also seen as someone without firm convictions.


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