The former treasurer in Malcolm Turnbull's government was sworn in as the country's prime minister after he defeated Peter Dutton in a vote to lead the Liberal Party.

Treasurer of Australia Scott Morrison arrives for th party meeting in Canberra on August 24, 2018, that saw him elected leader of the ruling Liberal Party and will see him become the country's prime minister.
Treasurer of Australia Scott Morrison arrives for th party meeting in Canberra on August 24, 2018, that saw him elected leader of the ruling Liberal Party and will see him become the country's prime minister. (Reuters)

Treasurer Scott Morrison was sworn in as Australia's prime minister on Friday after winning a three-way battle for the leadership of the Liberal party. Incumbent Malcolm Turnbull did not contest the party ballot.

There were three contenders in the leadership vote: former home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who narrowly lost a leadership vote against Turnbull on Tuesday, Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

It was the sixth change of leadership in 11 years, continuing an era of extraordinary instability at the top of the government, which seems to have had little effect on the country's overall prosperity and stability.

Morrison hosed down speculation of an early election and said a severe drought across the country's east will be his immediate priority.

"I don't think anyone should be making any plans for an election any time soon," the former treasurer, told reporters in Canberra.

Morrison will become Australia's 30th prime minister, ending an internecine battle that has scarred the conservative government ahead of an election due by May 2019. 

TRT World's Melinda Nucifora has more. 

The one-seat majority

Australia's outgoing prime minister said on Friday he would resign from parliament "not before too long" after being ousted in a leadership battle, leaving the government's one-seat majority at risk.

Turnbull's resignation would leave the new government of Morrison facing a by-election for Turnbull's Sydney seat that could see it lose its one-seat majority.

"I'll be leaving the parliament not before too long. As I have always said. I've been very clear about that. It's not a secret," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

The Liberal party is the senior partner in the ruling conservative coalition that will face an election by May 2019. The Liberal-National government has consistently trailed the opposition Labor party in opinion polls.

Nola Marino, the chief government whip told reporters that Morrison had defeated Dutton by 45 votes to 40 in the final round of voting.

Josh Frydenberg was elected to be the party's deputy leader, replacing Julie Bishop.

Turnbull did not stand in the contest.

Turnbull's crisis

Turnbull had demanded the names of lawmakers in the conservative Liberal Party who wanted him to go before he would allow them to choose a new prime minister at a meeting at Parliament House on Friday. The names would prove a majority of his government had abandoned him.

Turnbull tweeted half an hour before the meeting was due to start on Friday that Dutton had been provided him with the 43 signatures. Turnbull said the meeting would proceed once the signatures had been verified, which they were.

Revolving door

Turnbull is the fourth prime minister to be dumped by his or her own party before serving a full three-year term since the revolving door to the prime minister's office started in 2010. The trend is universally hated by Australians.

"Australians will be rightly appalled by what they're witnessing," Turnbull said on Thursday in announcing the meeting that would end his career.

Public anger became apparent overnight with windows broken at the Brisbane office of Dutton, Turnbull's main rival in his government.

Dutton has told the prime minister that a majority of Liberal Party lawmakers — at least 43 — don't support his leadership. But Dutton's supporters on Thursday could not find 43 lawmakers prepared to sign their names to a petition demanding a leadership ballot.

An explanation could be that some lawmakers fear they will be punished by voters if they put their names to dumping Turnbull. The ballot to choose a prime minister is secret, so lawmakers don't have to declare which candidate they voted for. Many later lie that they backed the winner.

The party's federal executive had intervened, telling a defiant Turnbull but that the state branches unanimously wanted the leadership crisis resolved on Friday.

Turning against Turnbull

Some lawmakers who were against the change of prime minister said they had agreed to sign the petition in a bid to end the impasse.

"I am being pressured — beyond any comprehension — I am being pressured to put my name on that list so it can bring the party room to a meeting," staunch Turnbull supporter Scott Buchholz said on Friday.

Turnbull had defeated Dutton 48-35 in a surprise vote on Tuesday. Turnbull initiated the ballot in the hope of ending speculation that his government had lost faith in him in the face of poor opinion polling. Several ministers have since resigned and told him that most of the government wanted a new leader.

Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten told Parliament on Thursday it was evidence that "Australia no longer has a functioning government."

"The Liberal Party, whatever it does today and tomorrow, is irreparably split," Shorten said.

Source: AP