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Australian PM Turnbull ousted by Scott Morrison in leadership battle

By Susan McFarland and Daniel Uria
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Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison (C) will become the country's next prime minister after winning a three-way leadership battle to replace ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo by Sam Mooy/EPA
Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison (C) will become the country's next prime minister after winning a three-way leadership battle to replace ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo by Sam Mooy/EPA

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison will replace Malcolm Turnbull as Australia's prime minister after winning a three-way leadership battle on Friday.

Turnbull was ousted by a vote of 45-40 after three years in office, prompting the three-way vote between Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

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Bishop was eliminated in the first round of voting, leading to a head-to-head contest in which Morrison defeated Dutton by a 45-40 vote.

Morrison served as Turnbull's treasurer, since he took over as prime minister in 2015.

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After the vote concluded Dutton said he would provide "absolute loyalty" to Morrison, ABC News reported.

Bishop also lost her position to Josh Frydenberg who defeated Greg Hunt and Steve Ciobo with an absolute majority.

Turnbull, who agreed to hold the vote, said Australians would be "rightly appalled by what they are witnessing," according to the BBC.

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On Thursday, Turnbull said he would resign if he lost the vote for his position, and blamed critics in the media and those in his own party for sparking an "insurgency" against the government.

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Dutton, a populist who has campaigned on border protection, had also attempted unseat the prime minister earlier in the week.

On Tuesday, Turnbull narrowly withstood a challenge to his office and defeated Dutton by a 48-35 vote.

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In Australia, the prime minister isn't elected by voters directly, but instead acts as the leader of a coalition in parliament. Turnbull became the country's prime minister in 2015 after winning a similar leadership challenge

Turnbull, a former banker and millionaire tech investor, is considered by critics too liberal on social issues and has struggled to maintain the voter support of populist and right-wing parties.

As home affairs minister, Dutton held a hard-line stance on asylum seekers and has blamed African migrants for committing crimes.

The showdown has paralyzed the government for days and drawn criticism from the country's major corporations.

Turnbull said if he gets a letter with the minimum 43 signatures required of party lawmakers for a vote on his position, he would schedule a meeting Friday. If a vote is held in favor of replacing him, he said he would step down.

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