Australia profile - Leaders

  • 13 February 2015
  • From the section Asia

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove (appointed March 2014)

Prime Minister: Malcolm Turnbull

Image caption Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

A veteran politician in the conservative Liberal Party, Mr Turnbull ousted fellow Liberal Tony Abbott from the premiership through a party leadership challenge in September 2015, following a pattern that has seen Australia change leaders four times in two years.

He served as Mr Abbott's communications minister, but mounted his challenge after the prime minister's falling popularity rating looked like endangering the party's chances at the 2016 election.

Born in 1954, Malcolm Turnbull came to prominence as defence counsel in the Spycatcher case in the 1980s, when Britain sought to ban publication of memoirs by a former intelligence officer, and went on to co-found a leading internet service provider before entering parliament.

He briefly served as environment minister in 2007 and opposition leader in 2008-09, when he was ousted by Mr Abbott.

Coming from the socially liberal wing of the party, he backs same-sex marriage and measures to counter climate change, and led the unsuccessful campaign for a republic in the 1999 referendum. This could spell problems with the Liberals' right wing in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.

Mr Abbott won the 2013 election against an unpopular and divided Labor Party, and went on to abolish a carbon emissions tax, and curb foreign aid spending and asylum-seeker numbers, but later stumbled over policy reversals and difficulties in passing some budget measures.

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