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Vale Malcolm Turnbull. Hail Scott Morrison — Australia's latest Prime Minister and their business sector's clear choice to occupy The Lodge.

Morrison — known by the moniker "ScoMo" — is the Australian Treasurer.

He is a known figure on this side of the Tasman, where he led the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport in Wellington in the late 1990s.

He is at home with New Zealanders, as was obvious at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney this year, where he mixed easily with politicians and businesspeople alike, knowing many of them by their first names.

He was also part of a circle of Australian Liberal Cabinet Ministers (which previously included the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott) who enjoyed a good working relationship with Sir John Key and Bill English, who discussed strategies for right of centre political parties to sell their policies and stay in power.

The new Prime Minister has a strong business background. Before entering politics he held positions at the Property Council of Australia, the Australian Tourism Task Force and Tourism Australia.

But New Zealand should not expect Morrison to do us any favours.

He will have to mollify the Liberal Party's conservative wing, which is solidly behind policies such as deporting "Kiwis" who have served prison sentences and refusing New Zealanders adequate social benefits in Australia even when they have contributed to the tax base.

New Zealand has, however, escaped a hospital pass with the failure of Peter Dutton to win the prime ministership.

Dutton is a hardliner who has clashed with New Zealand Cabinet Ministers on immigration matters.

He has been castigated as Australia's Donald Trump.

He is also a hardliner on the Paris climate change accord, and arguably it was his positioning on this issue that forced Turnbull to make the fatal error which led to his downfall.

The brute reality is that Turnbull sold his soul and his personal beliefs — not just once, but twice — to stay in power.

And yet again he has failed.

Just days ago he jettisoned Australia's plan for targets to reduce carbon emissions, in order to appease Liberal Party conservatives.

That was something he had done earlier in his career, once the heat came on from the industrial sector in a nation whose wealth has been built on minerals and fossil fuels.

The campaign against him would never have succeeded if he had displayed the ability to stand his ground, and importantly, build a groundswell of support among the Australian public for his prime ministership.

Turnbull was never New Zealand's strongest friend, but among the coterie of Australian politicians who have been part of Australia's revolving door prime ministership, he was one with at least some touchpoints in this country.

He visited here as a lad when his mother, the late actress Coral Lansbury, left his father to take up with a New Zealander.

Later — as a journalist on the Bulletin, the barrister who mounted the Spycatcher defence, and then as an investment banker promoting Allied Domeq's successful takeover of the Montana wine company — he was an intermittent visitor to New Zealand.

Turnbull is well plugged in to senior business and political circles on this side of the Tasman.

But the multimillionaire lacked the common touch that his friend Sir John Key was able to ply in New Zealand when he cashed up his commercial career to build his Rolodex as an aspirant Prime Minister.

It is important that New Zealand again rebuilds strong links with Australia, which is beginning to look like the weak link in the Pacific when it comes to political instability.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern must lead this.

It is an opportunity for her — not to indulge in virtue signalling about Manus Island, but to face the realities of leading democracies which are under pressure in a fast changing world, with big power conflict dominating our region.

Article: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12113064

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