Malcolm Turnbull in 2014. (Veni / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Malcolm Turnbull will become Australia’s 29th prime minister after beating Tony Abbott in a dramatic leadership ballot Monday. Turnbull, a former communications minister, won the ballot 54-44, with one informal vote. His views are more moderate than Abbott’s, notably his support for climate-change action and same-sex marriage rights, and he is also one of Australia’s richest politicians, with estimated wealth of about $132 million in 2010.

In Australian politics, as The Guardian notes, “members of a political party can attempt to ambush a leader with a sudden request to ‘spill’– or declare vacant – the leadership. As in the UK, the prime minister is not directly elected by voters but is the leader of the party or coalition that can command a majority in the lower house of parliament.”

Turnbull is now set to be sworn in as Australia’s fifth prime minister in five years. Recently, Abbott came under fire from his party as well as his own family for his stance against same-sex marriage.

The Guardian reports:

Abbott had pleaded with his party colleagues not to repeat the mistakes of their Labor predecessors who, when in government, switched from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in 2010 before returning Rudd to the prime ministership shortly before losing the 2013 election.

Turnbull, an urbane former investment banker and lawyer who defended Peter Wright in the Spycatcher case, brought long-simmering leadership tensions to a head on Monday by quitting Abbott’s cabinet and formally launching a challenge.

Abbott, whose standing in opinion polls has been damaged by a series of unpopular budget cuts, policy U-turns and gaffes, said he would fight the leadership challenge because Australia needed “strong and stable government” and the prime ministership was “not a prize or a plaything to be demanded”.

Abbott’s closest backers had sought to build momentum in the five hours between the challenge was announced and the party meeting, with a series of ministers appearing before the media to declare their support for the prime minister. They had argued a leadership change would anger the Liberal party’s conservative voter base.

But the show of support was not enough to hold back the push for a switch of leader.

Turnbull promised to lead a “thoroughly Liberal government” that would explain the challenges facing Australia and “not lecture.”

“I’m very humbled by the great honor and responsibility that has been given to me today,” he said.

Turnbull indicated ministers who wished to continue to serve would retain their current positions until the end of the week, when he would consider a reshuffle. He said he expected parliament to run a full term, indicating he would not bring forward an election due in 2016.

Turnbull also praised his predecessor for concluding free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan.

It is understood Turnbull has told colleagues he would retain the government’s current climate policy and has said he would continue with a plan for a public vote on same-sex marriage, although he has indicated he would like to hold it sooner rather than later.

Turnbull said the prime minister had “not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs”. In a swipe at Abbott’s tendency to repeat slogans, Turnbull said Australia needed a different style of leadership “that respects the people’s intelligence” and was based on “traditional cabinet government.”

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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