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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

the Labor Party leadership. She managed to hang onto power in the general election of August 2010, when neither Labor (winning 72 out of 150 seats in the lower house) nor the Liberal–National coalition led by Tony Abbott (73 seats) were able to secure a parliamentary majority. After several weeks of negotiations, Gillard was successful in winning the support of the Green Party and three of the independents, giving the Labor party a narrow overall majority. Malcolm Turnbull had a previous stint at party leadership, when he was head of the Liberals for a year from 2008-09, serving as the Leader of the Opposition before being defeated by Tony Abbott in a leadership bid, by just one vote. A lawyer and banker before entering politics, 61-year-old Turnbull, has been welcomed by the world of commerce. Business leaders are likely to see him as more economically savvy than Abbott, whose first budget was not well received. One-time managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia, Turnbull is a millionaire, thanks to a string of businesses including a law firm and an investment banking outfit. He was listed in the BRW Rich 200 list in 2010 as having an estimated worth of AUS$186 million. “Turnbull is not as conservative as Abbott and has always been viewed as being ‘soft’ right,” says Field. “He is more aware of climate change and agrees with same sex marriage. He has an enormous personal wealth, so he wasn’t interested in the job for financial gain which makes him an interesting politician. He has been a journalist, lawyer and businessman and is regarded quite highly among the general population.” Turnbull first came to the public’s attention in 1986 when, as a young lawyer, he successfully defended Peter Wright, the British former MI5 agent who authored the book Spycatcher, blocking the UK government’s bid to stop the book’s publication. Annabel Crabb, Turnbull biographer and Sydney Morning Herald columnist, describes the new Prime Minister as “a man whose curiosity, ambition and avarice for experience has taken him from litigation against Margaret Thatcher’s administration to prospecting for gold in Siberia, and from near-banishment by his own party six years ago to his extraordinary reinstatement”. Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle, completed a couple of weeks after his election, seems to have won public approval, with 69 per cent of Sydney Morning Herald readers agreeing that the new cabinet “refreshes and renews the government”. He has increased the number of women in his cabinet to five, which still sees them woefully under represented. However, Julie Bishop and Marise Payne have been appointed to two of the most senior cabinet positions – that of foreign minister and defence minister. Some older frontbenchers who date back to the Howard government have also been swept aside in favour of younger newcomers. In terms of policy direction, it is early days for the Turnbull government. At the time of writing the only new policy announcement had been that of the decision to scrap the higher education bill, which would have allowed universities to set their own fee structures. The controversial legislation had been unpopular, with fears spreading about the ‘$100,000 degree’. “From both sides of the political fence there appears to be little policy making and more lamenting the poor performance of the previous government. And with so many changes in leadership, implementing policy has taken a backseat,” says Field. “Abbott did little in his short term, other than breach Australia’s UNHCR agreement with a draconian, inhumane policy against refugees under the banner of ‘Stop the boats’.” Kylie Field believes that Turnbull will have to look carefully at the country’s policy on asylum seekers, which has proved to be a divisive issue for the country. Large numbers of asylum seekers frequently arrive by boat on Australia’s shores each year, hoping to gain refugee status and start a new life. But they are immediately transferred to offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where camp conditions are very basic. “There is a ground swell in Australia about the treatment of asylum seekers, especially when it comes to children being held in detention. Turnbull has, in the past, voiced his opposition to the Abbott government’s strict enforcement of detention for those seeking asylum. “It’s early days and with most leaders in Australia there are enormous expectations on them to deliver and deliver quickly. With elections held every three years, and compulsory voting, expectations are high. I wouldn’t be surprised if a general election is called by the end of the year.” Whether Malcolm Turnbull will last until, or even beyond, the next general election remains to be seen. But the ‘honeymoon period’ of the first few weeks of premiership has seen him carrying the hopes of a nation. In Focus Australia 1945 Frank Forde (Labor) Post-war prime ministers 1945-49 Ben Chifley (Labor) 1949-66 Robert Menzies (Liberal-led coalition) 1966-67 Harold Holt (Liberal-led coalition) 1967-68 John McEwen (Country coalition) 1968-71 John Gorton (Liberal-led coalition) 1971-72 William McMahon (Liberal-led coalition) 1972-75 Gough Whitlam (Labor) 1975-83 Malcolm Fraser (Liberal-led coalition) 1983-91 Bob Hawke (Labor) 1991-96 Paul Keating (Labor) 1996-2007 John Howard (Liberal-led coalition) 2007-10 Kevin Rudd (Labor) 2010-13 Julia Gillard (Labor) 2013 Kevin Rudd (Labor) 2013-15 Tony Abbott (Liberal-led coalition) 2015- Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal-led coalition) www.global global four th quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 61


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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