Australia's Turnbull Loses Ministers 3 Months After Taking Over

Updated on
  • Briggs cites `error of judgment' in Hong Kong bar incident
  • Brough subject of police inquiries relating to former speaker

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lost two ministers from his three-month-old administration Tuesday as Jamie Briggs, responsible for development of cities, quit and Special Minister of State Mal Brough temporarily stood aside.

Jamie Briggs

Photographer: Stefan Postles/Pool/Getty Images

Turnbull said Tuesday that Briggs’s conduct “fell short” of standards expected of ministers. Briggs said he resigned after an unspecified incident involving a female public servant in a bar in Hong Kong but didn’t provide further details. Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt will assume Briggs’s responsibilities until a replacement is named.

The prime minister said he had agreed with Brough that the special minister of state should stand aside “pending the completion of inquiries by the police” into events involving access to the diary of the former speaker of Parliament. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will take over Brough’s duties, Turnbull said.

Mal Brough

Photographer: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Brough was under fire in recent weeks as the opposition Labor party accused him of saying one thing to the media and another to the parliament over his dealings with the then-speaker of the previous government. Turnbull is trying to refocus his administration on driving Australia’s economic growth and employment as he prepares for an election in late 2016.

“It does take a little bit of shine off Turnbull,” said Zareh Ghazarian, a politics lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne. “But it’s not going to have a lasting effect on his standing as it’s a quiet time of year and this will probably fly under the radar for a lot of people off on holidays.”

Turnbull has been riding high in opinion polls since replacing Tony Abbott in mid-September, returning the government to an election-winning lead and trouncing opposition leader Bill Shorten in the polls. Brough played a role in helping Turnbull gain support to win the leadership, according to numerous media reports including by the Australian Financial Review.

“In offering to stand aside Mr Brough has done the right thing, recognizing the importance of the Government maintaining an unwavering focus on jobs, economic growth and national security,” Turnbull said.

The decisions open the door for the prime minister to reshuffle his ministry in the weeks ahead.

(Updates with analyst comment in fifth paragraph.)
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