In a dramatic week for Australian politics; Malcolm Turnbull was forced from the position of Prime Minister on the 24th of August – as an internal battle for the control of his Liberal party was fought. Peter Dutton unsuccessfully challenged Turnbull for leadership of the party, however the result of his narrow defeat only served to weaken Mr Turnbull’s position rather than strengthen it. It then became apparent that Peter Dutton among others were gathering signatures for a leadership contest (known as a leadership spill) with Mr Turnbull declaring that he would not run in such a spill and would resign from Parliament it took place. Party MPs eventually voted 45 – 40 in favour of a spill drawing the brief premiership of Malcolm Turnbull to an end.
Three contestants put their names forward for the Premiership, Scott Morrison (Treasurer), Peter Dutton (formerly minister of Home Affairs, until his unsuccessful leadership bid) and Julie Bishop (Foreign Secretary). Julie Bishop was eliminated in the first round with the final contest between Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton, Mr Morrison won the ballot 45 – 40 becoming Australia’s 30th Prime Minister. So in a story that could’ve been the plot of a Game of Thrones episode, a Prime Minister who survived one leadership vote was brought down by a second one in the same week. To add another twist to events; Dutton, who initiated the challenge on the Prime Minister, lost the contest he called. It’s no wonder that Mr Turnbull called the week “madness.”
Australians have grown annoyed and sick of the rapid change of their leaders, Mr Morrison is Australia’s 6th Prime Minister in just 11 years. No Prime Minister has finished their 3 year term time since 2007, and with Australia legally having to of called federal elections by May and with the Liberal party just behind in the polls – even before this damaging week – there’s a real chance that Australia could soon be onto its 31st PM. This dog eats dog internal party battles has been going on for over a decade now. The Labor party’s PM Kevin Rudd was defeated by a member of his own party, Julia Gillard, in a leadership battle in 2010 before he beat her again in 2013. Months later, the Liberals appeared to echo this pattern with Tony Abbott winning the election only to be struck down by the victim of this week’s events Malcom Turnbull in 2015, who has just been succeeded by Scott Morrison.
With the ongoing turmoil it’s obvious why businesses are annoyed at the amount of political instability and why the public is becoming disenfranchised by Australian politics which often seems to focus on short termism and party politics rather than the national interest of Australia.
The instability comes at a tricky time for Australia, its alliance with America is strained to put it mildly. It is wary of Chinese interference in its politics and universities, and has just banned Chinese state linked company Huawei from competing for 5G infrastructure projects. Australians are also alarmed at reported Chinese efforts to build a military presence on the nearby island of Vanuatu. The rise of Indonesia also poses a threat as it risks being knocked into second place as the economic power of its geographical area.
Such challenges and hardships are just a few reasons why Australia cannot afford such political instability at home. However, given recent precedent in Australian politics, it seems unlikely that Scott Morrison will enjoy a long and stable Premiership.