CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's former communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, assuring the country that his government remained strong despite an internal party revolt that made him the nation's fourth leader in little more than two years and will leave deep divisions in his administration's ranks.
Turnbull was sworn in as Australia's 29th prime minister on Tuesday after a surprise ballot of his conservative Liberal Party colleagues voted 54-to-44 on Monday night to replace Prime Minister Tony Abbott only two years after he was elected. Turnbull's elevation has cemented a culture of disposable leaders as the new norm in Australian politics since the 11-year reign of Prime Minister John Howard ended in 2007.
"There's been a change of prime minister, but we are a very, very strong government, a very strong country with a great potential and we will realize that potential working very hard together," Turnbull told reporters as he left his Canberra apartment on Tuesday morning.
[sharequote align="center"]"There's been a change of prime minister, but we are a very, very strong government..."[/sharequote]
"This is a turn of events I did not expect, I have to tell you, but it's one that I'm privileged to undertake and one that I'm certainly up to," he added.
Shortly before Turnbull was sworn in, a grim-faced Abbott spoke for the first time since his sudden ouster, warning that the persistent volatility in Australia's government could hurt the nation's standing on the global stage.
"Australia has a role to play in the struggles of the wider world: the cauldron of the Middle East and security in the South China Sea and elsewhere," Abbott told reporters. "I fear that none of this will be helped if the leadership instability that's plagued other countries continues to taint us."
Abbott did not say during his speech whether he will quit politics. But said he would not destabilize the new prime minister.