The rookie PMs

The tropical hothouse down-under which is still referred to by some eternal optimists as Australian politics is gearing up for another election later this year. If current trends persist, and this is far from certain, a change of government may well be in the offing. In recent years, astute political observers have characterized the country as the most poll-obsessed polity in the western world. Indeed, the Australian political system has become a revolving door for prime ministers, and we all have seen plenty of them since 2007.

First, Kevin Rudd

Was elected on a high-note in 2007 and promised to implement change on which the

Australian Labor Party

Had campaigned so successfully. Yet, he lasted only until 2010 and was deposed by his own party prior to another election held just a few months later. However, his successor

Julia Gillard

Did not fare much better. Faced with a hung parliament, a relentless smear campaign by the Australian media establishment and sniping and constant undermining by her predecessor and his supporters, she lost her job when it became apparent that the party was headed for a train-rag in the 2013 election, and her predecessor Kevin Rudd was reinstated to save the furniture. For a well-researched take on what happened during her tenure, read

this book here and watch

this.

The other side in australian politics faced similar problems after taking office in late 2013. Once admired as a capable political strategist for long serving prime minister

John Howard.(1996 2007),

Tony Abbott

Was widely expected to govern at least for two consecutive terms, but his party decided otherwise. He was deposed in 2015, and his old foe

Malcolm Turnbull

Moved into the Lodge. Yet, fate was not kind to him either, and in 2018 another coup was orchestrated, bringing to power

Scott Morrison

And his odds of survival are uncertain as well. It seems hardly surprising that the Australian public longs for days long gone by.

Towering figures

Some believe that the second half of the twentieth century were a golden age in Australian politics; it was an age of party political stability, with Labor and the Coalition (Liberals and Nationals) altering in power, and some figures of historic magnitude emerged on the scene looming large in collective national memory.

Robert Menzies

, the father of the

Australian Liberal Party

Governed the country for 17 years from 1949 until 1966.

Malcom Fraser

Came to office under somewhat controversial circumstances, but he governed the country successfully from 1975 until 1983 for the Liberals.

Then, it was Labor’s turn to shine.

Bob Hawke

Turned out to be the great reformer of the Australian left and governed from 1983 until 1991 before being replaced by

Paul Keating

Who was not just instrumental in developing and pushing through economic and financial reforms as Australian treasurer under Hawke, but was also the prime minister who opened up Australia to the Asian region; a legacy John Howard would eventually have to build on.

Finally, for the Liberals again, it was

John Howard

Who governed for 11 long years, and is widely seen as the last prime minister who had the political talent and astuteness for longevity and endurance.

Takes and perspectives

Two thoughtful veteran Australian journalists have tried to explore the question of the revolving door much more in-depth and have produced two essays worth reading.

Laura Tingle

Argues in her piece

Follow the Leader

That the problems facing political leaders at present are both cultural and structural. Citizens may have expectations of political leadership which can no longer be managed properly and thus lead to discontent and a longing for authoritarian politics, both throughout the world in general and potentially in australia as well. While Tingle explores the problems of modern leadership largely from a global perspective,

George Megalogenis

Takes a much narrower perspective, focusing on australia and particularly on the difficulties relating to foreign policy making. In his piece

Rookie PMs

He suggests that the revolving door has undermined Australia’s international standing generally and its ability to function as a regional partner in relation to its Asian neighbors in particular. the only hope for a new period of stability may well lie in the upcoming elections later this year and the obvious discontent within the electorate with their representatives changing leaders every so often between elections.

If you want to know more about my own affinity with Australia and the region, please read more

here.

Footnote

As I have spelled out in this

Episode

Of my podcast, since growing up I have been a great admirer of parliamentary debates. The rough and tumble of the Australian parliament is unique in the world, but I have always enjoyed great political theater.

Particularly after having grown up in a dictatorship until the age of 11, this sort of performances still put a big smile on my face, and

this one

Is perhaps the best I have ever come across.

Well, for all serious analysis, relax, smile and enjoy for once.

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