Wed, Aug 29, 2018 – 5:50 AM
MALCOLM Turnbull, the former Australian prime minister who was forced out in a party coup last week, will quit the country’s Parliament on Friday.
His impending departure is another headache for Australia’s rattled government, which will temporarily lose its tiny one-seat majority.
Mr Turnbull, a 63-year-old moderate, was deposed in a Liberal party coup last week driven by a hardline conservative faction.
After being knifed, he indicated that he would leave Parliament rather than go to the backbench.
He told a party gathering on Monday evening he will officially resign on Friday, broadcaster ABC and Fairfax Media reported.
His departure will trigger a by-election for his Sydney seat of Wentworth – potentially to be held on Oct 6 – leaving new Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a precarious position with no parliamentary majority for two weeks.
Mr Turnbull’s seat in the wealthy Sydney enclave of Wentworth is traditionally a Liberal safe haven, although a backlash against the government’s political infighting could make this less certain.
“As you know, my prime ministership has come to an end. The circumstances have appalled most Australians but again, I won’t labour the point,” he told the Monday meeting, according to Fairfax reports.
“I have a strong view which I’ve made very clear publicly so it comes as no surprise, that former prime ministers are best out of Parliament not in it, and I think recent events best underline the value of that observation.
“And so, accordingly, on Friday, I will resign from the House of Representatives.”
Christine Forster – the sister of arch-conservative and former prime minister Tony Abbott, who helped orchestrate Mr Turnbull’s political demise – has already put her hand up to replace him in the plum parliamentary seat.
Ms Forster, who is gay and was a high-profile proponent of same-sex marriage in a successful campaign last year, is a well-known Liberal councillor in Sydney.
Others reportedly in the running include businessman and former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, while the Greens and Labor will almost certainly field their own candidates.
The next general election in Australia is due to be held by May 2019, with several opinion polls currently giving Labor the lead.
The ruling Liberal-National coalition’s primary vote dropped four points to 33 per cent, a Newspoll showed, while the two-party-preferred split between the opposition Labor party and the coalition blew out from 51-49 in favour of Labor two weeks ago to 56-44, which would translate into a heavy election defeat.
The Newspoll, published by The Australian newspaper, also showed Labor leader Bill Shorten was now preferred prime minister among voters.
Mr Morrison has promised a new generation of leadership, and an end to political infighting.
“Australians expect that of their parliament and I’m pleased that’s the case,” Mr Morrison told reporters when asked about comments from Mr Abbott, a leader of the conservative faction that ousted Mr Turnbull, that the “era of the political assassin is over”.
“The age of bitterness has come to a close, and the age of working together and focusing on the future has come,” Mr Morrison said on his visit to Quilpie, a small outback town about 1,000 km west of Brisbane, capital of Queensland state. AFP, REUTERS
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