AS IT HAPPENED: Scott Morrison becomes Liberal leader and Australia's 30th Prime Minister

DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty ImagesScott Morrison (C).

Scott Morrison has been elected leader of the Liberal Party, defeating Peter Dutton 45-40 in a partyroom vote in Canberra. He will be Australia’s 30th prime minister.

Our blow-by-blow live coverage is below.


    He starts by saying “we’re on your side”, and describes himself and his deputy Josh Frydenberg as the “new generation” of Liberal leaders.

    “My plan for this country is for an even stronger Australia,” Morrison said. He said he would work “to keep our economy strong, to guarantee the essentials”, and to “to keep Australians safe, from terrorism — all the way down to bullying in schools”.

    He said it was important “to keep our country together, to not pit one group of Australian against another”.

    “We have a lot of challenges as a country, and we will get through them as we always have — together,” Morrison said.

    He said one of his first priorities would be to ensure the government is doing what’s necessary to deal with the drought.

    Asked if he planned to go to the country to seek a mandate, Morrison said: “I don’t think anybody should be making any plans for any elections any time soon.”

    He said he looked forward to “our first electoral test” in the by-election for Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth. “I relish it,” he said.

    Morrison is a big Cronulla Sharks fan, and of course, they got a mention.

    “Whether it is about who comes to our country, as John Howard famously said, or what school you want your kids to go to, or what team they want to follow. I suggest the Sharks.

    “That is not going to be a matter of national policy, I assure you.”

  • 4:12pm: Editor-in-chief @Colgo points out that in the end Turnbull — taken for a political neophyte by some of his enemies — managed to annihilate an insurgency by professional politicians who have spent their careers in the Liberal Party machine. Read how he outmaneuvered Dutton and Abbott here.
  • 4:10pm: What price service to your nation? Given Turnbull donated $1.75 million to the Liberals to help pay for the 2016 election, ABC reporter Matt Bevan amortised the cost.

  • 4:01pm: Take a bow AFR cartoonist David Rowe.

  • 3:58pm: ScoMo’s up for a chat with the nation at 4.15pm.
  • 3:50pm: Some advice from a bloke who knows a bit about these things:

  • 3:36pm Bill Shorten pays tribute to his former political foe:

    Politics can be a brutal business.

    For Malcolm, for Lucy, for their family and for his personal staff, who are as loyal and as close as family, this is a very hard day indeed.

    In 2016, Malcolm and I led our two parties in the longest election campaign in fifty years and in some respects, I suppose we have been engaged in that same contest in the two years since.

    But for all our verbal conflict, for all the fierce words we’ve exchanged, I hope Malcolm knows that I have always respected him as a formidable opponent, as an advocate of great intellect and eloquence and as someone who came to parliament, relatively late in life, because he was driven by the desire to serve.

    Australian politics will always need people like that, on all sides.

    The final observation I would make may seem a small thing but I believe it says a great deal.

    On many occasions, Malcolm and I would speak at the same events. I don’t think any Australian Prime Minister has used the word ‘love’ more frequently in his public remarks.

    Anyone who listened to him speak could always hear his deep and profound love for his wife Lucy, for their children and grandchildren. But also his abiding love for our country.

    I hope the future brings Malcolm plenty of relaxing paddles in the kayak, plenty of stories to read and re-read to the grandchildren – and many long and happy days with his loved ones.

    Chloe and I wish him, Lucy and their family well.

  • 3:30pm: As the healing and unity in the Liberal party gets underway, we’ll just leave this blog post from Andrew Bolt yesterday here. Wrong two days in a row. Funny ol’ sport is politics.
  • 3:26pm Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex, can’t resist a parting shot. Oof.

  • 3:15pm Malcolm Turnbull leaves Government House at Yarralumla, in the C-1 Commonwealth Car, having tendered his resignation to the Governor General. The Turnbull era is officially over. Next up, ScoMo heads to the GG to become Australia’s 30th PM.
  • 2:25pm: Meanwhile, the economy grinds on.

    Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, comments on what today’s Australian political developments mean for investors:

    The near term market reaction to these types of events is nearly always negative, but this event has been so widely expected that markets are, so far at least, taking it in their stride. Even if there is a sell-off in the coming days, the negative reaction doesn’t always persist for long and may not be the biggest determinant of how markets behave in medium term.

    Looking at the last three instances of a ‘leadership spill’ in 2010, 2013 and 2015 the reaction across Australian asset classes is inconsistent. In 2010 both equities and the currency recovered within a few months, meanwhile, in 2015, equities trended down over the next six months while the currency was higher by year end.

    The implication is that politics are not the driving force behind market movements in the medium term. Political changes may swing sentiment but they don’t alter the fundamentals of the local economy or corporate outlook. Unless there is assumed to be a large change in monetary or fiscal policy or the regulatory backdrop in the near term, investors will go back to focusing on what important – the health of the economy and corporate fundamentals.

  • 2:20pm: “On fleek” correspondent Sarah Kimmorley points out that Turnbull made his goodbye appearance as MP in his favourite colour combo: orange and blue – something she pointed out two years ago is backed up by science.
  • 2:03pm An upbeat Turnbull, blue suit, orange tie, white shirt, is fronting the cameras now citing his pride in the government’s economic record.

    “It may surprise you on a day like this but I remain very optimistic and positive about our nation’s future, and I want to thank the Australian people for the support they’ve given me and my government over the last nearly three years,” he said.

    “We have been able to deliver substantial taxation reforms, much more than many thought possible,” he said.

    Infrastructure is also on the list, including the Western Sydney airport and inland rail.

    “I’m very proud that we are underway with Snowy Hydro 2.0.” [His $2 billion renewable energy plan for pumped hydro].

    “I have been a reforming Liberal Prime Minister,” he adds, citing the historic same-sex marriage reform and the child sexual abuse compensation scheme and childcare reforms.

    Pursuing the Trans Pacific Partnership is also on his list because “everyone thought it was dead”.

    “I was mocked, as you know, by some for keeping at it. But we managed to secure the TPP.”

    Keeping the US resettlement deal for refugees with Donald Trump is another achievement. Keeping tariffs off steel and aluminium too.

    “It has been a challenging time to be Prime Minister, but I have been very proud of our achievements, I’m very proud of my Government and my ministers’ record in achievement.”

    Turnbull thanks his family for their loyalty and love, especially his children Daisy and Alex and their spouses, saying if can often be tough on them as collateral damage in the rough and tumble of politics.

    “It isn’t easy being either married to or the child of a politician let alone a Prime Minister,” he said.

    He praises Australia, saying “we are the most successful multicultural societies in the world”, adding a warning that: “we must never allow the politics of race or division or of setting Australians against each other to become part of our political culture”.

    Turning his attention to the “madness” of the week, he says “it’s difficult to describe it in any other way”.

    Australians will be “dumbstruck and appalled” by this “insurgency”.

    It’s a subtle FU from the vanquished PM whose final act was defeat them.

    “The people who chose Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott, who chose to deliberately attack the Government from within, they did so because they wanted to bring the Government down. They wanted to bring my Prime Ministership down,” he said.

    “How the insurgents were not rewarded by electing Mr Dutton, for example, but instead my successor, who I wish the very best, of course, Scott Morrison, a very loyal and effective Treasurer.”

    Julie Bishop gets a big shout out, along with the new PM.

    “She is a very dear friend. We’ve been friends for over 30 years… and she has been a loyal deputy and just a great colleague and friend. So I thank Julie very much.”

    Turnbull takes a few questions from the media, then his family, wife Lucy, daughter Daisy and his grandkids, Alice and Jack join him in the Prime Ministerial courtyard.

    Jack yells “Boo!” at the media. Australia’s 29th PM goes into backbench wrangling mode with “Uh, come on Jack.”

    The upside to all this? Jack starts school next year and can expect the 63-year-old ex PM to be on the school run. There is life after politics.

    Among his final comments as leader, Turnbull says: “We have so much going for us in this country. We have to be proud of it and cherish it.”

    Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty ImagesMalcolm Turnbull leaves his final media conference with his granddaughter Alice in arm.
  • 1:55pm During our new PM’s past life he’s swung by the BI offices a few times to chat with editor-in-chief Paul Colgan and global markets and economics editor David Scutt for our weekly Devils and details podcast.

    He was last on in June, offering his assessment of the economy, the mix of economic growth, and the risk in the property market — which is one of the biggest questions hanging over voters’ minds. Have a listen to what he had to say here.
  • 1:50pm The Fixer fixed it. South Australian moderate Christopher “I’m a fixer” Pyne has been remarkably chirpy through this week of turmoil. Sky News reports he was doing the numbers for Morrison. Fixed.
  • 1:40pm The deposed PM will speak at 2pm for the last time as a politician. He announced ahead of the vote that unlike his predecessor, he’d leave politics immediately. For now he remains PM until Morrison is sworn in by the Governor General. What will the man who once said a prime minister “broke the nation’s heart” tell the Australian people?
  • 1:35pm New Prime Minister Scott Morrison will speak shortly. He now has 10 months or less to prepare the government for the next election, but his biggest challenge is to try and, as they say, “unite and heal” the party. The question is whether the forces around Dutton and Abbott will be content with vanquishing Turnbull and can fall in behind their new leader.
  • 13:18: A gracious Peter Dutton has emerged from the party room and pledged “absolute loyalty” to Scott Morrison as prime minister.

    Tony Abbott also spoke briefly and was not quite as effusive, but said: “We’ve lost a prime minister but still have a government to save.”

  • The race that stopped the nation:

  • 1:05pm: The Australian dollar spiked on the news Morrison was had secured the prime ministership. Look:

    Part of this will be the removal of the uncertainty over who exactly is in charge, but Morrison has also overseen significant repair to the budget bottom line and has retained the confidence of the ratings agencies in terms of Australia’s credit profile.

    The ASX is also rallying, up by about 20 points since the vote.

  • 1:01pm: Josh Frydenberg, who served as environment minister in the Turnbull government, will be the deputy Liberal leader.
  • 12:44pm: JULIE BISHOP HAS BEEN ELIMINATED, according to multiple reports. MPs will now choose between Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton.
  • 12:37pm: The spill motion has been carried in the party room. The vote was surprisingly tight: 45 to 40. Malcolm Turnbull’s time as prime minister is over.

    MPs will be preparing to vote now. There’ll be an initial contest between Bishop, Dutton, and Morrison. The candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and then there will be a contest between the remaining two candidates. It’s unclear when we’ll know the result. Stay tuned.

  • 12:15pm: They’re meeting at 12.20pm. Turnbull will resign immediately if the Liberal party room votes for a spill. So whatever happens, voters in the Sydney electorate of Wentworth will go straight into election mode. Turnbull won it in 2016 with 67.7% of the two-party preferred vote. Let’s hope they hold the seat given the Coalition has a one seat majority.

  • 11:09am: More chaos. Sky News reports that there is now uncertainty over whether there will be a meeting. According to Kieran Gilbert, there is a petition with the 43 names that has been seen by the party whip, but that it has not been handed to the Prime Minister for some reason.

    If that petition isn’t handed over, there will not be a meeting of MPs to decide the leader and we are in total limbo.

  • 10:59am:
  • Peter Dutton says the solicitor-general’s advice this morning, which said he was “not incapable” of sitting in the Parliament but added it was impossible to be fully conclusive, puts to rest the “false, unsubstantiated and malicious” claims about his status under the constitution.

    Right now, it looks like it’s on but we are yet to get 100% clarity.

  • 10:46am: Sky News reports Chief Government Whip Nola Marino has been given the petition complete with 43 signatures.
  • 10.34am: The Guardian reports Warren Entsch has signed the petition to hold a party room meeting, meeting the other condition Turnbull demanded – 43 signatures – to gather everyone at noon.
  • 10.05am: Australia’s foremost constitutional expert, Professor George Williams weighs in:

  • 9.54am: Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue’s advice is definitely maybe. “On the facts set out below”, he says Dutton “is not incapable of sitting as a member of the House of Representatives”.

    “I consider it unlikely that Mr Dutton is disqualified by reason of payments made to RHT Investments under the Inclusion Support Programme (ISP),” he writes.

    To recap: the question revolves around his interests in childcare businesses that have received several millions of dollars in government funding.

    But wait, there’s more:

    “It is impossible to state the position with certainty,” Donaghue says.

    There’s some risk and uncertainty which means “it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on that matter without more detailed factual information.”

    There are three reasons.

    First, the facts concerning Mr Dutton are unlike those that have previously been assessed against s 44(v).

    Second, as I note below, there may be further facts of which I am presently unaware.

    Third, there is a significant division of opinion on the High Court as to key questions concerning the legal operation of s 44(v), which creates some difficulty in predicting the manner in which the Court would analyse the facts.

    There is a possibility, consistently with the approach that the High Court recently took in the context of s 44(i) of the Constitution, that the Court might endeavour to create a clearer line in the interests of certainty, which might involve a broader reading of s 44(v) than was reflected in some of the judgments in Re Day (No 2).

    The full 27 pages of legal advice can be read here.

  • 9.54am: The ABC is reporting the Solicitor-General’s advice “as good as clears” Dutton. The advice will be released publicly, but not so far. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the petition with 43 signatures.
  • 9.42am: As we wait to see what the Solicitor-General has to say about Peter Dutton and Sect 44 of the Constitution, a quick reminder: while plenty of MPs and senators were booted from parliament over the 13 months because the dual citizenship clause, another fell foul of the clause that Dutton’s fate hangs upon, Section 44(v), which says anyone who “has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth” is ineligible.

    Last year the High Court concluded that was the case with former Family First senator Bob Day. He’d already left parliament after his building business went bust, so in that respect the issue was academic, but the case itself was complex in assessing Day’s financial arrangements, which centred around a family trust, a loan it made to a business to buy the building Day rented an office in, paid for by the Commonwealth. Many were surprised when the High Court said yes, there was a problem.

    Here’s an explainer.

  • 9.22am: Did you catch Howard era minister Amanda Vanstone and former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson on ABC TV’s 7.30 last night discussing the way forward for the party?

    Vanstone, a cabinet minister for the entire nearly 12 years of the Howard government revealed part of his genius for running the party’s broad church so successfully and it’s a warning to the Dutton camp to not swing too far to the right.

    She recounted one Cabinet meeting:

    I saw him actually say ‘Look I agree with you guys’ – that was the more conservatives – ‘but I’m going with them’ – and there was a bit of shock in the room – ‘because I think that’s what Australia thinks’.

    That’s what these guys don’t get. They don’t get that Australia has moved on from there position. There are people who agree with them sure, but they’re not the majority, and they’re kidding themselves if they think they are.

    More here.

  • 8.58am: The Australian dollar is falling. Canberra is effectively jawboning the currency. It’s now below US73 cents in Asian trade. Sam Jacobs has more here.
  • 8.45am The advice from the Solicitor-General on whether Dutton was in breach of Sect 44 of the Constitution was due to be handed to Turnbull at 8.30am today. It will weigh up whether the issue has to head to the High Court.

    For Turnbull this is the fingers crossed strategy. If a cloud hangs over Dutton, and the High Court awaits, it’s hard to see how he can challenge for the top job.

    Dutton was sharing his legal opinion on Twitter last night giving himself the all-clear.

  • 8.41am Amid general loathing and contempt for politicians, there’s one everyone’s talking about on social media today – Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who delivered a fiery spray getting stuck into the government in the Senate yesterday during Labor’s (lost) no confidence motion. Sarah Kimmorley has footage of the speech here.

    Here’s a sample:

    We have people got people around the country who are suffering, and look at what you are doing. You are so focused on yourselves that you have forgotten what the country elected you to do. And that is to govern for them. Not for you.

    You don’t deserve to govern. You deserve to be turfed out. That’s what you deserve.

    He’s angry. Plenty of voters agree. Keep an eye on the primary votes of the major parties at the next election.

  • 8.30am The Dutton camp says it has 40 signatures on its petition- three short of the 43 majority demanded of Turnbull, but North Queensland Warren Entsch says he’ll sign it and be the 43rd to meet the threshold if that breaks the deadlock and brings on a resolution to this standoff. The MP Leichhardt, a popular local member, was a same-sex marriage campaigner, so an unlikely to be a Dutton supporter. But as someone from the tropics, he knows how it feels when you’re waiting for the monsoon to break.
  • Annabel Crabb on the zeitgeist. If you’re of the generation that’s never seen a PM go full term or posted a letter, 2600 is Canberra’s postcode.

  • The declared candidates for the leadership are Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton, and Scott Morrison. Bishop entered the race yesterday, with her pitch to MPs being that she could save the most seats in an election.
  • It is impossible to say who will win.
  • MPs will no doubt pay close attention to a snap Roy Morgan poll taken last night which found Bishop was easily rated the favourite leadership candidate among voters, and also thumps opposition leader Bill Shorten as preferred PM. Here’s the breakdown:
    • Julie Bishop (64%) cf. Bill Shorten (36%).
    • Malcolm Turnbull (54%) cf. Bill Shorten (46%).
    • Bill Shorten (50.5%) cf. Scott Morrison (49.5%).
    • Bill Shorten (62%) cf. Peter Dutton (38%).
  • Hurdles: Malcolm Turnbull wants to see a petition from the Dutton camp with 43 signatures on it in order to call a meeting of MPs. As of this morning it was unclear if the petition has the required number. Turnbull can still call a meeting without the petition.
  • The solicitor-general is expected to deliver advice on the matter of Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in Parliament around 8.30am. Dutton has shared advice from a QC that he has no problem with his eligibility which is being questioned because of his interests in childcare centres which get government funding and MPs are not allowed, under the constitution, to take a “profit from the crown”. Still, any indication from the solicitor-general to the contrary has the potential to throw the race into further chaos.
  • Turnbull’s questioning of Dutton’s legal status is widely seen as a stalling tactic to allow his Treasurer, Scott Morrison, time to marshall support.
  • As of this morning the favourite with bookmakers was Julie Bishop. The odds, per Sportsbet:
    • Julie Bishop $2.30
    • Peter Dutton $2.40
    • Scott Morrison $4.00

  • How the vote works: MPs will cast votes for three candidates. The person with the smallest number of votes will be eliminated after the first round. Dutton is assumed to have at least 40 votes so he is likely to make it through to the runoff, so (again, assuming Dutton’s able to stand!) the critical question is who is eliminated — Morrison or Bishop.
  • Many hardened Turnbull loyalists may support Morrison, who has been an effective minister and Treasurer. But Bishop appears to be more electorally popular.
  • With a new leader elected — assuming we get there — Turnbull has said he will resign his seat of Wentworth. In a by-election the seat would vulnerable to being taken by Labor which would cost the Coalition its majority in the Lower House.
  • In any case, at least one Nationals MP is threatening to move to the cross benches in the Lower House over a Turnbull ouster.
  • So it’s highly possible there’ll be a general election, probably in October.

What a mess. We’ll have live update here as it all unfolds.

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