Australia’s government is in crisis mode. A schism has divided the ruling centre-right Liberal Party between moderates led by PM
Australia’s government is in crisis mode. A schism has divided the ruling centre-right Liberal Party between moderates led by PM Malcolm Turnbull and a conservative faction led by ex-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Today, that schism could be exposed again with a second party leadership ballot in four days. After narrowly losing Tuesday’s vote, Mr Dutton is favourite to emerge victorious and become Australia’s 30th prime minister.
If the ballot is called, Dutton will face challenges from two moderates: Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Mr Morrison, the architect of Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy, is the more likely of the two to block Mr Dutton’s path to the premiership, although this remains unlikely.
A Dutton prime ministership is likely to bring populist undertones. His conservative faction is particularly keen to cut immigration numbers, which stood at 260,000 in 2017 (roughly 1% of the population). This will satisfy right-leaning voters but perturb the business community and higher education sector, both of which rely on immigrants to drive revenue.
As the former top national security minister, Mr Dutton is also likely to take a hard line on China, which risks aggravating already-tense relations with Australia’s largest trade partner.
Whoever emerges victorious today will have to call a general election by September 2019 at the latest, suggesting political uncertainty looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.