In his first statement after being elected Liberal leader, Australia’s next prime minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Australians to embrace disruption.
He said his government would be “focused on ensuring that in the years ahead as the world becomes more and more competitive and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that.”
Turnbull said: “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves.
“We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
Turnbull, 60, defeated Tony Abbott in a vote on the leadership among Liberal party MPs, carrying the ballot by 54 votes to 44, with one abstention. It followed days of increasing speculation about Abbott’s position as leader, brought to a head by Turnbull’s decision to confront Abbott yesterday, resigning from the front bench and demanding a leadership ballot.
He paid tribute to Abbott, saying the nation owed him a great debt, citing the free trade agreements and border security among the achievements of the prime minister he’d just ousted.
“The burden of leadership is a very heavy one. Tony has discharged that as leader of the party and, of course, as Prime Minister over many years now and the achievements of the government that he has led have been formidable.
“So I want to thank Tony very much indeed for that.”
Turnbull’s focus is now on economic policy.
“We need to have in this country and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great economic opportunities and challenges we face. [That] describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.”
Turnbull said decisions would be taken in a “thoughtful and considered manner”.
“We will ensure that all Australians understand the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to take advantage of it.”
“The culture of our leadership is going to be one that is thoroughly consultative – a traditional cabinet government”, he said, where the prime minister is “first among equals”.
Outlining his vision, Turnbull said: “This will be… a thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.
“We will ensure that all Australians understand that their government recognises the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it.”
One of the key challenges for the Abbott government has been building confidence in the business community, something seen in many quarters as one of the obstacles to significant investment decisions in Australia. Turnbull said this would be one of his priorities as prime minister.
“You build confidence by explaining what the problem is and then setting out the options for dealing with it,” Turnbull said.
“My firm belief is that to be a successful leader in 2015 you have to be able to bring people with you.”
The prime minister elect said there would be ministerial changes after the parliamentary sitting, which finishes at the end of this week.
Treasurer Joe Hockey, who supported Tony Abbott in the leadership spill, is expected to make way for Scott Morrison, currently social services minister.