New Australian PM under pressure for maiden address

New Australian PM under pressure for maiden address

Scott Morrison became Australia's new prime minister after a bruising leadership challenge
Scott Morrison became Australia's new prime minister after a bruising leadership challenge AFP/SAEED KHAN

SYDNEY: Australia's new prime minister Scott Morrison's maiden address to parliament on Monday (Sep 10) was overshadowed by a poll indicating he may soon be out of a job.

Morrison - an evangelical Christian and former head of Australian tourism - stepped up to the dispatch box for a boisterous first session of prime ministerial questions with the future of his own two-week-old administration already in doubt.

Earlier Monday, a Newspoll survey showed his ruling Liberal Party trailing badly against the opposition, amid public unease over squabbling and careerism inside the ruling party.

Despite adequate personal approval ratings, Morrison's Liberals have the support of just 44 percent of voters, versus the Labor Party's 56 per cent, implying a looming electoral rout.

With elections expected by May next year, it is a gloomy political backdrop for the 50-year-old, who has struggled to parry questions about the leadership coup that brought him to power.

The Liberals removed Malcom Turnbull as prime minister two weeks ago during a bruising leadership challenge that exposed plotting, backstabbing and infighting within the party.

Morrison prompted wry laughs in the chamber when he offered Turnbull his "best wishes" but largely used his inaugural appearance to try and turn the page - focusing on the solid economic growth this G20 economy has seen for the last 27 years.

Morrison said he would follow the dictum of Gulf War general "Stormin'" Norman Schwarzkopf and "take charge".

"That's what I propose to do, take charge to ensure that we continue the stable government that has delivered the strong economy that has seen a million people come into work since we were elected in 2013," he said.

But opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten was having none of it, turning the knife with questions about why Turnbull was removed.

"They cannot answer the very first question that every Australian has been asking for the last 16 days: Why was Malcolm Turnbull sacked?" he said caustically.

Australia is no stranger to leadership upheaval - having six changes of prime ministers in the past decade - but Morrison's arrival comes at a precarious time.

After a decades-long boom there are warning signs that Australia's economy, the fifth largest in Asia, may have entered choppier waters with a disconnect between healthy GDP figures and weak wages growth.

The number two at Australia's central bank on Monday warned about household debt, which stands at among the highest levels of any developed economy.

There are also growing concerns that the real estate market, a key driver of growth may be cooling.

Source: AFP/na

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