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Ousted former Australian prime minister to quit parliament

Malcolm Turnbull told supporters he will resign from parliament, a week after he was forced from office by MPs in his own party.

Australia’s former prime minister has said he will resign from parliament this week in a move that could cost the government its single-seat majority.

Malcolm Turnbull told supporters he will resign from parliament on Friday, a week after he was forced from office by MPs in his conservative Liberal Party because he had lost their support.

That could set the stage for an October 6 by-election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison could also call general elections, although he has said he plans to hold polls close to when an election is due in May.

Mr Morrison visited the drought-stricken Outback on Monday in a demonstration that he has turned his focus away from his government’s internal drama to the problems of the nation.

Mr Morrison selected drought assistance as a top priority along with national security and economic growth when he was chosen by Liberal Party MPs on Friday to replace Mr Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull became the fourth prime minister to be dumped by his or her own party since 2010 in response to poor opinion polling.

Mr Morrison flew to rural western Queensland state, where crops are failing and ranchers are struggling to feed sheep and cattle after six years of drought. He has not yet announced any new initiatives to help farmers.

Mr Morrison is working to heal a bitter rift between conservative and moderate MPs in his conservative government to present a united front to voters.

The hard-right MP who led the charge against Mr Turnbull but lost the leadership ballot to Mr Morrison was sworn in as home affairs minister on Monday. Peter Dutton had quit that post so he could publicly challenge Mr Turnbull.

Tony Abbott, who was prime minister before Mr Turnbull and is a key ally of Mr Dutton, declared on Monday that the government would not turn against Mr Morrison.

“The era of the political assassin is over and thank God for that,” Mr Abbott told Sydney Radio 2GB.

Mr Morrison welcomed Mr Abbott’s comments.

“It’s been a pretty tumultuous time and I think Australians would welcome the fact that that period of time is over and it should be over,” Mr Morrison told reporters in the town of Quilpie.

“The age of bitterness has come to a close and the age of working together and focusing on the future has come.”

Mr Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, said she wanted to be the Liberal Party candidate in Mr Turnbull’s Sydney electorate which is the wealthiest in Australia.

Mr Abbott supported his sister, who is a lesbian and clashed with her former seminarian brother in last’s year’s debate about whether Australia should legalise gay marriage. Parliament legalised same-sex marriage and Mr Abbott attended his sister’s wedding in February.

Mr Morrison, whom Mr Turnbull described as a loyal treasurer, excluded Mr Abbott from his first cabinet but has offered him a newly-created role of special envoy for indigenous affairs. Mr Abbott has yet to decide whether he will accept it.

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