Malcolm Turnbull showed he can count and won the leadership battle 54 to 44. There ends the leadership and prime ministership of Tony Abbott.
It is somewhat remarkable that Abbott ever became leader and prime minister. He was a senior minister under Howard, and effective. But he was seen not as a leader. Even then he was one of the most conservative and sometimes controversial MPs.
Like Labour here in opposition, the Liberals searched for an effective leader. After their 2007 loss they elected Brendan Nelson who was not high profile in Government, nor in opposition. Nelson beat Turnbull 45 to 42 and Abbott did not stand.
Nelson had never been in opposition and rated below 10% in preferred PM polls. He lasted 10 months and lost to Turnbull 45 to 41 in September 2008.
Turnbull also struggled as opposition leader and his role in an alleged Government scandal that proved false undermined him. His support for a price on carbon was a step too far and he got rolled 14 months later by Abbott 42 to 41.
So Abbott only became leader after two previous ones failed. No one a few years earlier would have thought he would be leader. But he got it, and he was surprisingly good at it. He ruthlessly destroyed Kevin Rudd and Jula Gillard’s Governments. To be fair Kevin Rudd mainly destroyed himself.
Abbott made a few blunders in opposition, but overall was surprisingly disciplined and on message. He became Prime Minister in 2013.
But as Prime Minister it all went wrong. They achieved a huge victory with their policy on turning the boats back – the annual drowning toll went from hundreds to zero. But elsewhere it was chaotic. The Budget was a disaster as they were seen to break their promises, and it was too punitive. And then it just became backdowns and u-turns plus a number of Captain’s Calls which backfired.
He got given six months to turn things around after the February spill, but didn’t. After trailing for 30 polls in a row, his caucus voted for survival.
Turnbull is seriously not liked by some of his caucus, and many Liberal supporters. He will need to attract voters from elsewhere. However I give him a good chance of winning the next election, if they have unity, as Bill Shorten looks horribly exposed due to his actions as a union boss where he sold out workers in return for money from corporates.
I had the pleasure of attending an IDU function at Malcolm’s Sydney apartment around a decade ago. He wasn’t an MP then, but was Liberal Party Treasurer and seen as a potential future Prime Minister. I’m not surprised he has finally become Prime Minister.