What’s going down in Canberra Town?

Australian politics time!

What the heck is going on?

The current (I haven’t checked the headlines so I’m assuming he’s still current) Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had his leadership challenged by his party’s MPs. There is a good chance that he won’t be PM much longer.

But they can’t just depose your nation’s leader just like that?

Well yes, they can. That’s how the Westminster system works. For example, Margaret Thatcher stopped being PM in the UK because her own MPs ousted her. It’s meant to be a feature not a bug.

A rare occurrence only used in extremis then?

Um…well…it’s happened to the past four PMs. Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbot by this method.

So who is the challenger?

Initially a guy called Peter Dutton. He’s an ex-police officer with very right of centre politics.

But presumably he’s a great public speaker?

He sort of drones in a way that’s frankly unsettling and makes kittens cry.

But his supporters must think he has some electoral appeal. Is he dashingly handsome?

Come now, I’m not going to start judging people by their appearance. It is unseemly and irrelevant. The key thing is his right wing politics which will alienate many voters.

Did you just say underneath your breath that he looks like a gormless potato?

I would never…ok, yes I did.

But a man of steadfast integrity though?

He might be referred to the high court because of conflicts of financial interest that would make it illegal for him to sit in parliament.

Well it could be worse…

…and he may have used his position to reverse deportation for two foreign au-pairs for reasons he can’t explain…

He doesn’t sound like an ideal candidate?

Well the Australian Labor Party must be delighted but in reality Dutton will never be PM. He’s mainly just a weapon of the right of the Liberal Party to punish Malcolm Turnbull for not doing what they say.

You’ve explained this ‘Liberal’ party before. They’re actually conservatives?

Yes, its because of the Coriolis effect.

And Australia just likes to dump its Prime Ministers?

That’s a more recent phenomenon. John Howard was PM for several terms. This current habit started with Labor PM Kevin Rudd. His ousting was partly due to poor polling but also he was apparently a very poor manager who alienated colleagues.

So it’s a malaise that spread from Labor to Liberal?

Not quite…there are some common factors.

Could you list them as bullet points?

  1. Tony Abbot – aggressive right wing politician who relentlessly attacked Rudd when Abbot was leader of the opposition and then Gillard. As PM Abbot proved less than competent and was ousted by Turnbull but Abbot stayed in parliament to undermine Turnbull for revenge and ideological reasons.
  2. Energy policy. Politically (and electorally) Australia supports energy policies to minimise climate change and move from fossil fuels. Turnbull believe climate change is real and supports action to limit emissions. However, the right of the Liberal Party is vehemently in the climate denial camp and spends every effort to sabotage climate policy and scare monger about energy prices (which have risen in Australia for reasons OTHER than climate change measures).
  3. Immigration. While Australia leans progressively on climate, the same isn’t true on immigration and both Labor and the more centrist elements of the Liberal have adopted frankly appalling policies on asylum seekers to appease the Liberal right and fringe parties like One Nation. Scares about immigration or new immigrant communities are used as wedge issues by the right to destabilise centrist governments. (Oh, you’ve heard this song before…)
  4. Right wing media, in particular ‘Sky News’ owned by…Rupert Murdoch. (Oh, you’ve heard that song before also…)

What’s the good news?

Turnbull is a canny operator with little to lose and a house that has a Scrooge McDuck style vault of money in it [citation needed]. He doing his best to ruin any chance of Dutton becoming PM. In particular he’s made it clear that if he is ousted then he’ll reign from parliament. The government have a razor thin majority of 1 MP, so if Turnbull goes, the government won’t have a majority.

What’s the bad news?

Turnbull’s delaying tactics will help a more moderate replacement get enough support to stand, replacing Turnbull with somebody who would be more electorally palatable. The political paradox that helps fuels this kind of chaos is that the electorate HATE this kind of instability but often reward a new party leader with a boost in the polls. That might be enough for the Liberals to win a general election which will mean another three years of this kind of divisive nonsense from the Liberal’s right.

What’s the other good news?

You get great sausage sandwiches at polling booths on Election Day.

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25 responses to “What’s going down in Canberra Town?”

  1. It’s a bitter irony that those who call for immigration control in Australia are themselves the descendants of British immigrants came to that continent 200 years ago.
    I wonder how their ancestors would’ve reacted if the indigenous Australians had tried to stem the tide of British migrants entering into their country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For some unfathomable reasons, it’s often first or second generation immigrants who are the most opposed to immigration. We similar patterns in Germany, where those who rail most against immigrants and refugees were immigrants and refugees themselves (my favourite answer, when I pointed out to some old person railing about refugees that he’d been a refugee himself at the end of WWII, “That’s different. We were German.”) and also the US (Trump’s grandfather and mother were immigrants, ditto for Ted Cruz and people like that).


      • Under Stephen Miller’s proposed immigration rules, his own grandparents wouldn’t have been allowed into the US.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, at least he’s sort of consistent, unlike the “But it’s different, cause we were German” crowd. Especially since a whole lot of the usual xenophobes did not consider those descendants of German emigrants to Eastern Europe particularly German at the time. Seeing them siding with the xenophobes is a slap in the face of those of us who supported them back in the day.


      • Ted Cruz is an immigrant himself, he was born in Canada! There was some genuine question last time around if he was even eligible to run for President.

        But at least he came here as a young child, instead of that Australian guy who insisted his mum had somehow made him an Italian citizen without him noticing when he was, like, 30.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for the laugh, because there’s precious little amusement in this ridiculous situation otherwise. Dutton does look like a potato. Isn’t as charming and useful though. He’s our local MP. I wish he would take a long walk off a short cliff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My sympathies. For many years, my local member of the German parliament was a guy who literally looked like Blofeld. The campaign posters were always embarassing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I guess I’m glad my local Congressman is a generically good-looking late 30s white guy. And we mostly use posters and yard signs without pictures. And he does great anti-Drumpf tweets.


  3. You missed the part where they had to shut down the parliament because most of the ministers had resigned and no one had any idea who would vote for what. What a complete schemozzle!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh yes, it’s a gorgeous mess. The current edition has been about three years in the making (after Malcolm Turnbull outsted Tony Abbott, who immediately promised he wasn’t going to sabotage, white-ant or undermine the PM… I think he lasted about three days on that one, which is pretty good for the Mad Monk). To be honest the only real surprise is it didn’t happen about a month or so back, when we passed the “thirty consecutive losses in the polls to Shorten” mark (that being the marker Turnbull had used to determine he needed to take down Abbott).

    At the moment we’re up to multiple challengers, which means the vote is going to be split in multiple directions. We have Peter Dutton (ambulant potato, right-wing authoritarian conservative ex-cop); we have Scott Morrison (charisma transplant donor, current Treasurer, and uncharismatic Charismatic Christian); we have Julie Bishop (long-time deputy who has presumably thrown her hat into the ring as an effort at winding up the consensus candidate); and of course we have Malcolm Turnbull (the current incumbent, who isn’t likely to survive no matter what happens, and is of course threatening to leave the parliament if he gets dumped).

    Meanwhile, the suspension of parliament yesterday did at least save the ALP from having to address their questions “to whom it may concern” while the Liberals tried to figure out whether anyone was willing to be part of Malcolm’s front bench.

    Liked by 1 person

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