Australia's revolving door of PMs: How and why they left office

Former banker and businessman Malcolm Turnbull (left) was sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister on Tuesday, a day after defeating longtime rival Tony Abbott (right) as Liberal Party leader in a party room coup.
Former banker and businessman Malcolm Turnbull (left) was sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister on Tuesday, a day after defeating longtime rival Tony Abbott (right) as Liberal Party leader in a party room coup. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA - Former banker and businessman Malcolm Turnbull was on Tuesday (Sept 15) sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister, a day after defeating longtime rival Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader in a party room coup.

The 60-year-old is the country's fifth Prime Minister in eight years, extending the trend of what has come to be known as the "revolving-door"of leadership in Australia - where ailing prime ministers are swiftly removed by their parties in intense political battles.

Although Abbott's ouster on Monday threw the spotlight on the Liberal party, similar leadership spills had also plagued the Labor Party when it was in power. Here is a look at each of the past Australian leaders and what went wrong for each of them.

1: Kevin Rudd: 2007-2010


Kevin Rudd with Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Istana on May 29, 2009. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Labor's Kevin Rudd rose to power in November 2007 after being elected prime minister in a landslide vote. The Queensland-born Rudd was deposed by his deputy, Julia Gillard, in 2010 after he faced a dramatic slide in support.

Rudd's ignominious exit came following a series of policy failures overan emissions trading system and a proposed mining tax.

His low approval ratings had sparked fears among members of his party that he could lose in an election slated for that year to a resurgent Liberal-led opposition headed by Abbott.

He quit just before the party was to dump him in an internal ballot after Gillard successfully mounted a challenge for the leadership, becoming Australia's first female prime minister.

2: Julia Gillard: 2010-2013


Julia Gillard during a news conference on July 10, 2011. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Rudd made a spectacular return to the Labor Party leadership three years later, after challenging Gillard for his old job ahead of the 2013 elections.

Though many Labor lawmakers preferred her leadership style, her unpopularity among voters had led a majority of them to seek a change just weeks ahead of the election, which was eventually won by Abbott.

Although Rudd was foreign affairs minister in her government, Gillard faced a persistent challenge from him as he kept up an unwavering effort to return to the job.

Gillard's fall came despite the country's economic growth and low unemployment, with voters angry that her government had introduced a controversial carbon tax in a backflip from her 2010 election promise not to do so.

3: Kevin Rudd: June 2013 to Sept 2013


Kevin Rudd during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Aug 4, 2013. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Rudd returned to his role as Prime Minister for less than a year, serving only from June to September. Despite giving Labor an initial boost in the polls, Rudd ran from behind during the five-week campaign that culminated in Abbott's Liberal party handing Rudd's Labor party a resounding defeat in the election.

The vote saw Australians punishing Labor for six years of turbulent rule and failing to maximise the benefits of a mining boom.

Rudd's time in power was marked by a legacy that included him publicly supporting same-sex marriage and saying "sorry" for past injustices to the Aborigines.

4: Tony Abbott: 2013 to 2015


Tony Abbott speaks during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 23, 2014. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Barely two years into his three-year term and after months of approval ratings that showed his popularity near rock bottom, Abbott lost the top job to challenger Malcolm Turnbull in a Liberal Party vote on Monday (Sept 14).

The 57-year-old had first faced a leadership challenge in February after poor polling and a series of gaffes ignited a backbench revolt, but survived. His ouster came after he failed to turn around the polls, bolster the economy or stop damaging internal leaks, leading to a loss in party support.

Abbott, who toppled Turnbull in a party-room coup in late 2009, was forced into a leadership ballot among his Liberal Party colleagues after Turnbull said the coalition government faced defeat without change at the top.

With strong backing from influential Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Turnbull was able to oust Abbott by a 54-44 vote.

5: Malcolm Turnbull: 2015 to present


Malcolm Turnbull leaves his home in Canberra, Australia, on Sept 14, 2015. PHOTO: EPA 

Long viewed by the public as a preferred prime minister to Abbott, Turnbull is a moderate on social issues who supports gay marriage and making Australia a republic.

But his stand on certain issues has previously led to him being dumped by his party - including over his support for the previous Labor government's carbon emissions trading scheme. The scheme, which was designed to combat climate change, was a policy that many in his party rejected.

While some in the party ranks have been quick to condemn him for his ousting of Abbott, others say thatTurnbull - who entered politics in 2004 - is the best person to lead the party if they are to win in elections expected next year, which polls suggest they are on track to lose.

Time will tell how Turnbull will fare in his new role, but he has vowed repeatedly to run a government based on collaboration, in contrast to Abbott's divisive personalised rule marked by frequent gaffes.

SOURCE: STRAITS TIMES ARCHIVES, BBC, HUFFINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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