Page 62

Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

One in one out Australia has just sworn in its fourth prime minister in just over two years, thanks to a trend in the two main parties of its biggest personalities launching leadership challenges at the first sign of the party leader slipping in the polls Katie Silvester In most stable democracies, heads of government don’t generally need to fear for their jobs until a general election is called. But Australian prime ministers must always be looking over their shoulders in case a leadership challenge comes their way from their own party. These challenges have become such a regular feature of the country’s political landscape that they have prevented any of the three previous premiers from completing a full term. Tony Abbott is the latest Australian PM to be toppled, after a leadership challenge from former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull in September saw Turnbull re-take the party leadership and, consequently, take over as Prime Minister. Turnbull is the country’s fourth prime minister in less than three years. He has already surpassed the premiership of Australia’s shortest serving Prime Minister – Frank Forde managed just seven days in 1945 before succumbing to a leadership challenge. But Turnbull may struggle to match the tenure of Robert Menzies who racked up 18 years in total as his country’s Prime Minister, including one unbroken stint of more than 16 years. The newest PM will, however, want to avoid the fate of his predecessors John Curtin and Harold Holt, both of whom died in office. The most recent leadership challenge was sparked by Abbott’s low ratings in opinion polls, caused partly by low economic growth. Some Liberals also believed that the electorate saw Abbott as out of touch, particularly after he decided to knight Prince Phillip, which was always going to be controversial in a country with a strong republican movement. Turnbull accused Abbott of not providing economic leadership, promising a “new style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence” and winning with 61 votes to 39. Sydney-based political commentator Kylie Field says: “The feeling among the majority of Australians is surprise and dismay every time there is a change in leadership. There is a general feeling in the community that Canberra has become a bastion of instability and a revolving door of party leaders. The recent change in leadership came about supposedly due to poor economic management by Tony Abbott and the Treasurer Joe Hockey, but is more to do with opinion polls and infighting by the party-room favourites, although Abbott had a reputation for poor economic management. Australia is a country obsessed with its economic performance on a local and global scale. Our mainstream media outlets report on the monthly meeting of the Reserve Bank and discussions about property prices are a daily news feature.” The Liberal–National coalition led by Tony Abbott had come to power in the September 2013 general election, when the coalition secured 90 seats to Labor’s 55 and brought an end to Labor Party rule. Just three months earlier, when polls had suggested the Labor Party would lose the September election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had been ousted by Kevin Rudd in a snap leadership election. Gillard herself – Australia’s first female Prime Minister – had come to power in June 2010 after a dramatic fall in the popularity of then-Prime Minister Rudd. As Deputy Prime Minister, Gillard successfully challenged Rudd for Financial deficit: The public felt Tony Abbott was not strong enough on the economy Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull: Lucy Turnbull was lord mayor of Sydney from 2003-4 ‘It’s early days and with most leaders in Australia there are enormous expectations on them to deliver and deliver quickly’ In Focus Australia four 60 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2015 global


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
To see the actual publication please follow the link above