New Aussie PM Turnbull 'filled with optimism'

Mr Malcolm Turnbull's ouster of former prime minister Tony Abbott in a sudden party-room vote on Monday madethe front pages of Australian newspapers. He was sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister yesterday.
Mr Malcolm Turnbull's ouster of former prime minister Tony Abbott in a sudden party-room vote on Monday madethe front pages of Australian newspapers. He was sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He signals he will avoid radical shift in nation's direction

Mr Malcolm Turnbull has been sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister, saying he was "filled with optimism" but signalling he will avoid a sudden change of course for the nation.

Significantly, despite his widely known progressive views, he backed former prime minister Tony Abbott's more conservative approach to issues such as climate change and same-sex marriage.

Just a day after defeating Mr Abbott in a sudden party-room vote, Mr Turnbull was sworn in by the Governor-General yesterday but is not due to unveil his first Cabinet until next week.

"I'm filled with optimism and we will be setting out in the weeks ahead and the months ahead more of those foundations that will ensure our prosperity in the years ahead," Mr Turnbull told reporters before the ceremony.

The swearing-in was attended by his wife and daughter, but not his son Alex, who is reportedly living in Singapore with his Hong Kong- born wife Yvonne Wang Yi Wen, and their baby daughter.

  • 'Revolving door' politics slammed

  • CANBERRA • Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has hit out at the vicious nature of modern politics, saying a "revolving door" for leaders was not good for the country.

    Speaking after losing the top job to Mr Malcolm Turnbull in a Liberal Party vote, Mr Abbott said: "Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving door prime ministership, which can't be good for our country."

    "The nature of politics has changed in the past decade. We have more polls and more commentary than ever before, mostly sour, bitter character assassination," Mr Abbott told reporters at Parliament House in Canberra. "And a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery," he said yesterday, after becoming the latest in a line of prime ministers to lose their jobs in party coups.

    Mr Abbott, who came to power in a general election victory in 2013, told the media it should "refuse to print self-serving claims that the person making them won't put his or her name to".

    "Refuse to connive and dishonour by acting as the assassin's knife," he said.

    His administration, particularly this year, has been marked by numerous leaks to various media organisations about policies and leadership rumours.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

An early opinion poll yesterday indicated that the ruling Coalition could receive a strong boost from its decision to switch from Mr Abbott. A Morgan poll found Mr Turnbull was the preferred prime minister of 70 per cent of voters, compared with just 24 per cent for opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten.

After being sworn in, Mr Turnbull, a former banker and self-made millionaire, appeared at his first parliamentary question time and appeared relaxed in the leader's chair.

He said he supported Mr Abbott's policies but that future policy was up for review. However, he indicated that he would not act on his own more progressive beliefs to radically shift the nation's direction.

Notably, Mr Turnbull signalled support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage after the next election, which is due next year, rather than a free vote of MPs.

Despite his support for a carbon emissions scheme, he backed Mr Abbott's climate policies, which pay polluters to cut emissions and have been heavily criticised as inefficient by environmental groups.

"The policy that we have in place is very clearly costed and calibrated, and it is effecting reductions in emissions now, and at a very low cost," he told Parliament.

 Mr Turnbull's indication that he would take a measured and consultative approach was immediately attacked by the opposition.

"The question which Australians have is: What does Mr Turnbull believe in?" Mr Shorten told Parliament.

Mr Abbott, who was removed by a 54-44 party-room ballot just days before his first two years in office, made an emotional final statement as prime minister and pledged not to "wreck" the party or undermine Mr Turnbull.

"There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping," he said. "I've never leaked or backgrounded against anyone. And I certainly won't start now."

The deputy Liberal leader, Ms Julie Bishop, who served under Mr Abbott but switched her support to Mr Turnbull on Monday, said it was the "toughest thing I've ever had to do in political life".

Asked about Mr Abbott's response to losing the leadership, she said: "He was obviously very hurt… It was very emotional for everyone involved."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'New Aussie PM Turnbull 'filled with optimism''. Print Edition | Subscribe