More inside machinations of Australia party politics for you all. This time though a brief look at the Prime Minister Australia didn’t get. Julie Bishop has decided to step down as Foreign Minister and to serve on the backbenches under Australia’s new PM, Scott Morrison.
Worth saying up front that a reactionary government led by a reactionary woman is still a reactionary government. Julie Bishop has been deputy leader of the Liberal Party for multiple leaders and has been active in pursuing the same terrible policies of that party. However, those policies clearly do evolve in a highly gendered climate where values coded as being masculine distort choices and attitudes. We live in a world of least-worst choices but even then the calculus becomes confusing.
In the recent leadership spill, rightwinger Peter Dutton sought to oust the more centrist Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull, realising that he wouldn’t survive as PM, used delaying tactics so that alternate candidates had a chance to challenge Dutton as PM. In the end, the Liberal Party MPs had a choice of three candidates:
- Scott Morrison (who eventually won and is now PM)
- Julie Bishop (at the time deputy leader and Foreign Minister)
- Peter Dutton
Ostensibly the reason for the change in the leader was the poor showing of the party in opinion polls. However, of those three candidates the one who would have been most popular (according to polls) as PM was Julie Bishop. Simply put, the Liberals had a much better chance of winning the next general election (which could happen anytime but next May is likely) if they picked Bishop. So why didn’t the Liberal MPs pick Bishop?
The Guardian has acquired leaked WhatsApp messages from Liberal MPs showing the machinations that occurred: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/26/julie-bishops-leadership-bid-scuppered-by-colleagues-messages-show
Essentially high profile MPs likely to support her coordinated their votes to NOT vote for her so that Peter Dutton didn’t win. The fear was that if Morrison was eliminated in the first round of voting, some of his votes would go to Dutton. Given that the margin was small (in the end Morrison only beat Dutton by 5 votes), this assessment was probably right. Put another way, if it had come down to a contest between an unelectable (and possibly ineligible) rightwing man who appears to have had his charisma sucked out by a doomsday machine and a competent popular woman who just wasn’t quite evil enough, then the Liberals would have picked Dutton.
Whether to be happy or sad about that in these times is no simple matter. If Bishop had won the chance of three more years of the Liberal Party (including its extremist faction) would have been higher. However, if you have to have the Liberals in charge I’d rather it was the least worst option. For a benchmark of ‘least worst’ note that Bishop acted a lawyer defending mining giant CSR from compensation claims from people dying mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos at CSR’s mines.