Sam Dastyari: You Win A Leadership Ballot By Getting Dirty

Strap in, this leadership contest is about to get dirty. Well... dirtier.

If we lived in Latin America, Eastern Europe or even Africa there would be a convoy of Toyota Hilux’s heading towards Parliament right now with militia screaming Viva La Revolution! But this is Australia. Removing a Prime Minister is normally just another Thursday.

Most leadership changes are met with yawns rather than cries of coup d'état! But that’s because most people don’t ever see just how ugly they get.

Bill Shorten. Image: Getty.

Right now, Liberal Members of Parliament are being dragged into Parliament’s back rooms. They are being threatened, promised promotions and told how they have to vote in the upcoming ballot “if they know what’s good for them”. Careers are being made and broken.

Winning a leadership ballot is not for the faint-hearted. I know. It used to be my job to get the votes on the Labor side of the fence. I lived through two of these ballots. Julia Gillard removing Kevin Rudd, then Kevin removing Julia. These ballots never end up being about ideas, or values, or policies. They are about raw hard numbers - who has them and who doesn’t.

To win them you have to switch allegiances. And the best way to achieve that is by getting dirty.

Kevin Rudd was ousted as Prime Minister in 2010 and replaced by Julia Gillard. Image: Getty

Sure you can try get a Member of Parliament to switch their allegiance by appealing to party unity, a sense of civic duty or the direction of the nation. But what’s far more effective is making it clear that if that member of Parliament doesn’t support your candidate, there will be payback. That they will be left behind. They won’t get a promotion to the Ministry or Chair of a Committee with all the perks that come with it. That their preselection might be in trouble. That you will come for them.

Don’t kid yourself. Leadership challenges are never about you. Members of Parliament are not thinking about how this impacts anyone other than themselves. This isn’t about roads, or hospitals or schools. It’s about their prospect of being elected and their chance of being promoted.

For the next 24 hours only one thing matters in the Liberal Party room. Winning the ballot. The headline players in this saga; Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop, know exactly what they have to do.

Tony Abbott listens to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speak during the Coalition Party meeting at Parliament House on July 18, 2016. Image: Getty

Peter Dutton needs to wreck the show enough so that the remaining Liberal Party votes he needs understand that if he doesn’t get the leadership there is no prospect for unity. The wrecking will continue.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to buy time - and he has done that brilliantly by delaying a party room for another day. He’s angry, he’s tired but he’s determined to not let his enemies win.

Scott Morrison has to build his support. Time is his friend. The longer Turnbull holds out for the better his chances. He’s now in a supportive dance with Malcolm. Staying loyal while edging him out.

In happier times? Image: Getty.

Julie Bishop needs to decide is she will be the eternal bridesmaid or finally take the jump. Her supporters believe she has the best prospects of winning an election. But waiting to be drafted is no longer an option. If Julie wants to be Prime Minister she now has to wield a knife - not only taking on Turnbull but now Dutton and Morrison too.

For the next day, as far as the leadership candidates and their supporters are concerned; only the members of the Liberal Party room matter. The electorate can be ignored. Member of Parliament’s families will be forgotten. Their staff won’t even be spoken too.

There is one rule and one rule only : Do whatever it takes. However ugly and selfish that gets.

Welcome to Australian Politics. Viva La Revolution.