Australia’s prime minister-designate Scott Morrison has promised to unite his “bruised and battered” Liberal party after a divisive leadership contest, and to win back the trust of the Australian public.
“We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us as leaders,” said Morrison, 50, in his first press conference after winning the internal party ballot.
He will be the seventh Australian prime minister in 11 years – no prime minister has served an entire term in office since 2007 due to a series of internal leadership coups.
“We are on your side. That’s what matters. We are on your side,” Morrison assured Australians on Friday after his victory.
Set to be sworn in as the country’s 30th prime minister on Friday evening, Morrison said his first priority would be to tackle the severe drought gripping large areas of the country.
He said he will announce his cabinet next week.
He took the helm after Malcolm Turnbull was ousted Friday from the leadership of the ruling party following a rebellion by conservative lawmakers.
Morrison, a social and fiscal conservative who was the treasurer in the Turnbull cabinet, won by 45 votes to 40 against former home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who had called for the leadership contest.
In his final press conference as prime minister, Turnbull lashed out at the rebels, describing their conduct as “extraordinary.”
He said “a determined insurgency” had been launched against him by “a number of people both in the party room and backed by powerful voices in the media … to bring down my prime ministership.”
“Australians will be just dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the last week. To imagine that a government would be rocked by this sort of disloyalty and deliberate insurgency – is the best way to describe it, deliberate destructive action.”
Turnbull himself ousted then prime minister Tony Abbott in 2015 while serving in his cabinet.
Dutton had already lost a leadership contest against Turnbull on Tuesday, but the prime minister’s narrow victory only spurred him on.
Morrison, a Turnbull ally, threw his hat into the ring when Turnbull lost the support of other senior ministers and it became clear a second contest would take place.
Turnbull said on Friday he would also be stepping down from his parliamentary seat, “not before too long” though he refused to say exactly when. A by-election could threaten the coalition government’s one-seat majority.
It could also encourage the incoming prime minister to move forward federal elections that are scheduled to be held by May.
Turnbull highlighted some of the major achievements of his government, including the legalization of same-sex marriage and the establishment of a national redress scheme for victims of child sex abuse
“I think it has been a challenging time to be prime minister but I’m very proud of our record,” he said, adding that he planned to spend more time with his family.
Turnbull then went to visit the house of the governor-general, where he was expected to tender his resignation.
The ballot for party leadership was conducted in two rounds.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who could have become Australia’s first conservative female prime minister, lost in the first round, leaving Morrison and Dutton to fight it out for the top job.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was elected to replace Bishop as deputy leader of the party.
Defeated candidate Dutton said provide “absolute loyalty to Scott Morrison, to make sure that we win the election and defeat [opposition Labor leader] Bill Shorten and make sure he’s never prime minister.”(dpa/NAN)