Scott Morrison Is Australia's New Prime Minister
NOEL KING, HOST:
Australia has a new leader again. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was unseated in what was essentially a rebellion within his own party. Here he is speaking earlier today.
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MALCOLM TURNBULL: Australians will be just dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the last week. To imagine that a government would be rocked by this sort of disloyalty and deliberate insurgency - is the best way to describe it - deliberate, destructive action.
KING: Louise Yaxley is a political correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She's with me now. Hi, Louise.
LOUISE YAXLEY: Good evening.
KING: All right. So some very strong words from Malcolm Turnbull there. He talked about a deliberate insurgency. He talked about disloyalty. What led to this chaos within the Australian government?
YAXLEY: There are a few elements to it. As you could hear from Mr. Turnbull's voice, there is a strong element of personality here. There are factions within the Liberal Party. There is also a policy element to it. Mr. Turnbull could be seen as on the moderate side of our liberal government. The conservative side of that government is not pleased with him and has been agitating against him partly on policy. And that policy goes back to him wanting to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions than they do partly because they want to see energy prices, power prices come down, and they want to use more coal than he's prepared to. So there's a few elements. But as you could tell, very much personality is a part of that.
KING: Just super interesting that part of this has to do with environmental policies. The idea that that could tear a government apart seems strange, I guess, here in the US. The new prime minister is a conservative lawmaker named Scott Morrison. Tell us about him.
YAXLEY: Well, he's very similar to Mr. Turnbull. And that's the irony of the outcome today - that the people trying to tear down Mr. Turnbull are the conservative edge of his party. Mr. Morrison was not trying to get rid of Mr. Turnbull. He was not one of those advocating against him, and yet he has walked out today as the new prime minister. He's walked out the winner when he wasn't the person trying to do this. So his policies mirror Mr. Turnbull's fairly closely. And in vindicating those who were pushing for change, he'll have a bit of strength to try to stick to the existing policy. So we don't expect to see a major shift in approach. It's really a loss for those who wanted that other approach.
KING: We know that now-outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and President Trump did not have the best relationship. Do we have any sense of how Morrison's policies could line up Trumps?
YAXLEY: Again, we don't expect a big difference...
YAXLEY: ...Between the way Mr. Turnbull or Mr. Morrison approach things. We saw those leaks about that very first phone call between Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Trump. And we didn't get told about it at the time. But not that many months after, we heard that that conversation was a real cracker. It was really wild. And it made news around the world. Mr. Turnbull was firm. We saw transcripts of it. It was fascinating from, I'm sure, both ends. After that, both men managed to repair that relationship and have had a working relationship because that alliance is so strong. The Australia-U.S. alliance is very significant, particularly here in Australia. And so they have made it workable. And it will be a huge priority for Mr. Morrison to ensure that it's workable. Whoever wins government in Australia throughout the years has put a fair bit of priority on that relationship. So while Mr. Trump's not always easy to work with - and we saw that in that conversation on the phone - Mr. Morrison will be making it a priority to make sure it works as best he can.
KING: Australia's government has had a lot of turnover. This is the sixth time you've switched prime ministers in about a decade. Why is that?
YAXLEY: It's an interesting question. A lot of people are blaming the influence of the media. There's a debate in Australia - a little about the questions raised about how Fox News operates in the U.S., how much influence the commentators have. There is also this culture that's developed here which, as you say, has meant that people have a difference, and instead of trying to work it out, they work against each other, and we get this outcome. The public's very angry about it. We have compulsory voting in Australia, and that gives the public even more of a sense that it should be the voters who decide who is the leader when they go to the general election every three years. They don't like it, and it makes them angry when they see they sorts of transitions midterm.
KING: Louise Yaxley of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Thanks, Louise.
YAXLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.