Lisa Wilkinson: Dear Canberra, This Soap Opera Would Be Funny Were It Not So Serious

Really, Canberra? Are we back here again?

After five Prime Ministers in just over eight years, are we really heading for our sixth? Yet one more game of mad musical chairs, with always the one left over being the previously most powerful?

What country does this and still claims to be a thriving democracy?

After this morning’s leadership challenge by Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull certainly looks for all the world like a dead man walking. In a leadership spill that was unthinkable just a week ago, those numbers of 48 to 35 are close.

And with the now-former Home Affairs Minister Dutton about to take his place up the back of the bus with fellow bad boys Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott, those at the coal-face say that another challenge is just around the corner.

Back in May 1991, after the first Paul Keating leadership challenge of Bob Hawke, a journalist commented to Keating’s apparatchik Graham Richardson that the numbers were “not close”.

“Yes,” Richardson breathed softly, “but they were close enough.”

His point was that Hawke was so wounded by the challenge, his authority so obliterated, that he would not last long.

In fact it was seven months.

Who thinks, rightly or wrongly, that Malcolm Turnbull will last that long?

Former Labor Prime Ministers Paul Keating and Bob Hawke. Image: Getty.

In fact, with the next Federal election roughly slated for May of next year, is not the best course for him to call an election sooner rather than later, so that in terms of deciding who Australia’s Prime Minister is, it could be -- you know -- we the people who decide, rather than the 80 Machiavellian manouevre-ers in the party room?

Overall, what the nation most craves, I believe, are two things: The first is stability, an end to the rotating doors installed in the Prime Minister’s office. The second? A sense that those we send to Canberra are focused exclusively on the problems the nation faces -- the drought crisis, global warming, the growing gap between rich and poor, energy prices -- and less on party-room politicking.

Magda Szubanski probably put it best today as this latest leadership spill unfolded:


We want solid policies, driven by people of conviction, based on the best data available. We want an end to mere poll-icies driven by whatever the latest polls say on any given day. We want the people in Canberra to stop fighting like cats in a sack, and actually lead.

This soap opera would be funny were it not so serious.

The Liberal Party needs it. The country needs it, no matter which party is in power. The last prime minister to serve a full term was John Howard between 2004 and 2007.

Now that really is a joke.