Australia has seen its fair share of change at the top recently with a total of seven pollies serving as prime minister over the past decade alone, but now current PM Scott Morrison has made a move to prevent any future leadership spills within the Liberal partyroom.
The Liberal leader, who took over from Malcolm Turnbull following two successive spills in August, called a late night meeting on Monday, according to The Australian, to discuss the rule change, in a bid to exert his authority and protect himself from any challenges from potential rivals within the party – should he be re-elected next May.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Morrison said the decision had been made because the Australian people are “sick” of pollies swapping in and out of the top job, with both Labor and the Liberals ousting numerous leaders in recent years.
“We understand, our entire party, the frustration and the disappointment that Australians have felt when governments and prime ministers that they have elected under their authority, under their power, (have) been taken from them with the actions of politicians here in Canberra,” he said.
“We understand that frustration. We understand that disappointment. We acknowledge it and we take responsibility for it … The Liberal Party … has made a decision and that decision is that an elected Liberal Party leader who goes to the election, wins that election and becomes prime minister — they will remain prime minister for that full parliamentary term”.
The Liberal partyroom has passed new rules saying a sitting leader can only be rolled with a two thirds majority.@ScottMorrisonMP: It only applies to leaders who successfully contest an election.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 3, 2018
Morrison also stressed that the new rules would not apply to the leader of the opposition, currently Bill Shorten, and that they currently do not apply to himself as he has not yet successfully contested an election.
He added: “It only applies to leaders who successfully contest an election. We respect the fact, and I think this has been the great anguish of the Australian people as they’ve seen this happen in both the Labor party and the Liberal party, when they have seen these changes. They’re sick of it and we’re sick of it and it has to stop.
“If they elect a prime minister, by electing a government, then they should have every reasonable expectation that that’s what should remain the case.”
Reactions to the news have been mixed with some questioning Morrison’s motives, while others praised him for trying to rebuild the trust of the Australian public. However, according to reports in The Australian, senior government sources described the move as “highly defensive”.
The announcement comes after Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull called for a general election to be held immediately, having also weighed in on party matters this week by publicly calling on senior Liberals to defy the PM’s plans to give current MPs preselection for their seats without a vote.
His comments were shared on Twitter and came after news broke that the NSW MP Craig Kelly would be spared preselection after he suggested he would follow Julia Banks to the crossbench, should he be dumped as the Liberal party candidate for his constituency.
Turnbull wrote: “Today I learned there was a move to persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their say,” Turnbull tweeted on Sunday evening. “I subsequently spoke with several State Executive members to express my strong view that the Party’s democratic processes should operate in the normal way especially after such a long debate in the NSW Liberal Party about the importance of grass roots membership involvement.”