Australia’s new prime minister Scott Morrison, a staunch conservative and devout evangelical Christian, yesterday pledged to heal the ruling Liberal party after a week of infighting that outgoing leader Malcolm Turnbull said left his nation "dumbstruck and so appalled”.
Following a brutal party brawl, Mr Morrison emerged victorious as leader in a 45-40 party-room vote against Peter Dutton, a hardliner who led a coup against Mr Turnbull.
Mr Morrison, formerly the treasurer, equivalent to Chancellor of the Exchequer, was sworn in on Friday by the Governor-General, the Queen’s representative, to become Australia’s sixth prime minister in eight years.
"There has been a lot of talk this week about whose side people are on in this building," he said.
"As the new generation of Liberal leadership… we are on your side. Our job … is to ensure that we not only bring our party back together, which has been bruised and battered this week, but that … we bring the parliament back together.”
Mr Turnbull, a former investment banker who became leader after toppling Tony Abbott in 2015, was ousted by a group of right-wing MPs who mistrusted his progressive views, even as he veered rightward on issues such as climate change, the republic and same-sex marriage.
“Australians will be just dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the past week,” Mr Turnbull said after resigning.
“To imagine that a government would be rocked by this sort of disloyalty and deliberate insurgency… That’s why this week has been so dispiriting. It’s been vengeance, personal ambition and factional feuding.”
The toppling of Mr Turnbull means that no Australian leader has served a full term since John Howard after the 2004 election. He joins Labor’s Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and Mr Abbott, a Liberal, in the succession of ousted leaders.
Warren Entsch, a Liberal MP, said after the vote: “This revolving door of prime ministers has got to stop”.
Adding to the turmoil, Mr Turnbull said he planned to leave parliament, which would require a by-election that could threaten the ruling Liberal-National Coalition’s one-seat majority. This could force an early general election, which is currently due by May.
Mr Morrison, a father of two and faithful member of an American-style mega-church, did not support the move to topple Mr Turnbull. He was elected after a three-way contest against Mr Dutton and Julie Bishop, the foreign minister, who was defeated in the first round of voting.
WATCH: Outgoing Australian PM’s grandson boos the media
On Friday night US President Donald Trump congratulated Mr Morrison.
Trump tweeted, "There are no greater friends than the United States and Australia!"
Mr Morrison soon responded, writing on Twitter: "Had a great discussion with @realDonaldTrump this morning. We affirmed the strength of the relationship between the US and Australia…"
Known as a shrewd political operator, Mr Morrison developed a reputation as a tough but capable minister after overseeing Australia’s efforts to stem the flow of asylum seekers by boat. This involved detaining refugees on remote offshore islands and towing boats back to Indonesia, measures condemned as unlawful and inhumane by the United Nations.
Mr Morrison grew up in the beachside suburb of Bronte in Sydney, where his father John was a policeman and church elder.
A devout Christian who opposes same-sex marriage, he met his wife Jenny Warren at their church and they married at age 21. In his Who’s Who biography, he lists one of his interests as “church”.
Before entering parliament in 2007, Mr Morrison was manager of Australia’s tourism body and oversaw a notorious campaign in which a bikini-clad model asked “Where the bloody hell are you?”. The advertisement was banned on television in Britain in 2006.
"It’s a bit of a PR dream," Morrison said at the time.
In his first press conference as leader, he pledged to assist farmers struggling with a crippling drought and to lower the nation’s soaring electricity prices. He said he did not plan to call an early election.
But his larger problem will be healing a battered party that has endured days of bitter combat.
After losing the ballot, Mr Dutton promised not to undermine the new leader.
"My course from here is to provide absolute loyalty to Scott Morrison, and make sure we win the election," he said.