Australia purges another prime minister

Scott Morrison © Getty images
Scott Morrison: leading a country that doesn’t recognise him

Scott Morrison – a man whom almost half of Australians had never heard of, according to an April poll – has become the nation’s new prime minister, following a coup on Friday that saw the Liberal party dump Malcolm Turnbull and usher in Morrison by 45 votes to 40.

The “turmoil” has left Australians “stunned” by the “antics of their political class”, says Roger Maynard in The Times. How could a “stable nation with a strong economy, low unemployment and abundant natural resources” get through six prime ministers in 11 years?

The electoral system is often blamed. General elections are held at least once every three years and voting is compulsory, leaving MPs “constantly twitchy about opinion polls”. Unlike Labor MPs, who are subject to different rules, Liberal MPs can “sack their leader at any time”. Perhaps Australians are “victims of our own success”, says Richard Glover in The Washington Post.

With only “distant memories” of troubled times, “Australia has produced a political class free to indulge its own worst instincts”. And with the rise of career politicians, a “hyper-partisan political culture” has evolved in which your job, not your constituency, takes priority, adds John Howard in the Financial Times.

There was also, however, a “serious policy issue”, says Maynard. Turnbull’s left-of-centre policies, particularly on climate change, upset right-wingers in his own party, who “foresaw oblivion” at next year’s general election. His government’s popularity had slumped, creating an opening for Turnbull’s rival, Peter Dutton, to strike.

In the end, Dutton’s “extreme views” cost him the job, but Morrison faces an uphill battle, says Jonathan Pearlman in The Daily Telegraph. Restoring party unity will be hard, and the ruling Liberal-National Coalition is “widely expected to lose the next election”. In the meantime, the nation “finds itself ruled by another unelected leader”.