As the champagne stops flowing, eyes dry up and dank memes ride off to the bottom of the newsfeed, Malcolm Turnbull is left to pick up the pieces of a government divided. But first…
How did we get here?
I’m not stopping the presses or making a bold claim to suggest that Tony Abbott’s time as PM has been tumultuous to say the least. As you can remember, Abbott was elected on the back of a campaign that slaughtered the then Gillard/Rudd government for their instability and the plethora of shady behind-the-scenes politics by the aptly dubbed ‘faceless men’. So there is a certain amount of irony that Tony Abbott was ousted for the exact same reasons he was elected into office.
Australian politics in the last ten years has been like watching a real life game of Cluedo play out, except that the stakes are way higher and, regardless of the players, it's usually the Australian people that end up losing.
In the last 13 years there have been sixty-six leadership changes in Australian politics. To put some of this rapid change into context, during the reign of our last four Prime Ministers, only one AFL team has won the premiership (Hawthorn). The last PM to serve a full term was John Howard…
It is next to impossible for any kind of progress or stability to be found when, as Abbott suggested today, we live in an age where “we have more polls and more commentary than ever before – mostly sour, bitter, character assassination.” He continued to comment that “poll-driven panic has produced a revolving door prime ministership which can’t be good for our country and a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.”
He’s not wrong by any means, but it should be duly noted that it is this culture that got him elected in the first place. As LM co-editor and friend Felix Garner Davis proposed today, it's difficult to determine whether Abbott's denouncement of Rudd and Gillard was standard oppositional politics or whether he is just another cog in the machine.
It’s been a known fact for a while that Malcolm Turnbull has been the preferred Liberal Leader over his colleagues, but challenging would have caused the exact same problems that Labor faced during the Rudd/Gillard years. It was important to appear as a united front for as long as possible until the time was right, and the timing was just right.
Abbott and the Libs had 30 bad Newspolls in a row; meanwhile, Tony’s rhetoric persisted that the only polls that matter are elections. Well, with the fairly safe Liberal seat of Canning in WA going to a by-election, the Abbott-led Libs would have soon had a gauge to see what the Australian people really thought of their government.
It was important for Turnbull to do it before this poll regardless of the result, and here's why: if the Libs under Abbott were re-elected in Canning then it only would have strengthened Abbott’s leadership and made it more difficult to challenge in the future, but if they lost, a challenge after would have appeared like a panic, and a party in turmoil. Turnbull avoids undermining the merits of his challenge by calling it before the by-election.
Well, this is really anyone’s guess. Many see Malcolm Turnbull as the bastion of hope for socially progressive Liberals, while others see him as evidence of left-wing media bias in their portrayal of Tony Abbott. The tricky part here is that it appears that Turnbull’s own party is as divided on him as anywhere else in Australia. Either the next six months will prove to be more of the Australian politics we’ve come to know, with backbench leaks and public frustration, or after a major cabinet reshuffle the Libs will pull it together to try and save their seats.
Only one question remains: is this kind of politics, where Prime Ministers can change overnight without a public election, good for democracy? Or is our democracy a great one because we can change our leaders so often, a right denied to so many around the world?
Real life Bond villain Eddie Goldsmith has a passion for photography, movies, basketball and speaking in third person. Like most other sleep deprived 20-somethings Eddie's managed to find a balance between calm and collected to being one coffee cup away from never sleeping again. Writer, Editor, Generous Lover, Photographer and part time funny man I'm always looking to try my hand at something new.