This week saw the election of Malcolm Turnbull as the new Prime Minister of Australia, after having defeated the sitting Prime Minister Tony Abbott as head of Australia’s conservative ‘Liberal Party’.

Some commentators in the United States have, erroneously, compared Turnbull’s ascension to power to that of Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. But this could not be further from reality, with the two on stratospheric polar opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Although Turnbull comes from the ‘Liberal Party of Australia’, like in Canada, it is the local conservative party, with the emphasis being here on ‘classic liberalism’ and conservative traditions.

Whereas Sanders maybe be on the far-left in terms of both domestic and foreign policy issues, in Australia, Turnbull is considered a ‘moderate conservative’.

Although Turnbull supports issues like gay marriage, climate change and social welfare, he is staunchly conservative on matters of foreign policy, economy and governance. He firmly believes in the free-market economy, private enterprise and free trade (including being a major proponent of Australia’s current negotiations for a free trade agreement with China), as well as lower taxes, reduced public spending and smaller governments. In other words, he is a ‘fiscal conservative’ in the truest sense of the word.

Much of Turnbull’s outlook on the economy was also shaped by his personal career before entering politics, including as a highly successful merchant banker, lawyer and entrepreneur.

Indeed, on the very day Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister this week (14th September), he stressed “Our values of free enterprise, of individual initiative, of freedom, this is what you need to be a successful, agile economy in 2015.

Turnbull’s election to the top political post in the country was purely on domestic economic issues. Therefore, one should not expect any drastic foreign policy changes, especially as Julie Bishop, who was Foreign Minister under Abbott and with whom Turnbull is very close, will retain her position.

Turnbull, who is a strong proponent of the U.S. – Australia alliance, will continue to strengthen this special relationship, as the bedrock of Australia’s foreign policy. He will also continue Australia’s active military support for action against ISIS and Islamic terrorism, as well honoring the Government’s commitment to take in 12,000 plus Syrian refugees.

In particular, under Turnbull’s leadership, Australia will continue its strong support for Israel, being one of the most vocal supporters of the Jewish state on the international stage.

In an interview with Israeli commentator Shmuel Rosner in Sydney, only last month, Turnbull spoke openly about Australia’s “very good” relationship with Israel, saying “we need to collaborate more with Israel, particularly on matters of science and technology. The more we can do with Israel, the better.

Turnbull also ‘just gets it’, when it comes to Israel’s security situations, and as he says, the need for “Middle East’s only democracy to take the necessary steps to defend itself from terror.”

Even with respect to the Iran Deal, Turnbull recently said that although he supports the agreement, he does so “cautiously”, while “recognizing and emphasizing with the anxiety in Israel.”

After the Abbott government was lagging for some time in the polls, Malcolm Turnbull provided the conservatives an immediate boost, with the first poll following his election already giving him a 70% – 24% advantage over Labor Leader Bill Shorten as the preferred Prime Minister.


Arsen Ostrovsky is a Middle East analyst and freelance journalist based in Israel, who lived in Australia for 25 years. You can follow him on Twitter: @Ostrov_A

[Note: This post was modified shortly after initial publication.]


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