As unlikely as it may seem, there’s speculation in the media that the National Party is considering defenestrating its current leader, Michael McCormack and, according to some, replacing him with former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Joyce has fueled the rumours by selflessly offering his services.
In case you’ve forgotten how Joyce came to be on the back bench, Independent Australia has one of the most comprehensive coverages of this debacle available. You can also check out True Crime News Weekly where Serkan Ozturk broke the Joyce scandal.
The most recent Liberal political assassination of leader Malcolm Turnbull has hardly had time to become yesterday’s news, however, much the party wants you to move on. Turnbull, you may recall, rolled his predecessor Tony Abbott, who had earlier rolled Turnbull. However, it was Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who most recently attempted to dethrone Turnbull. Dutton was rejected by his fellows and here we are with Prime Minister Scott Morrison — though we have yet to be given a credible explanation as to why this particular misfortune has been heaped upon us.
The most recent Liberal political assassination of leader Malcolm Turnbull has hardly had time to become yesterday’s news, however much the party wants you to move on. Turnbull, you may recall, rolled his predecessor Tony Abbott, who had earlier rolled Turnbull. However, it was Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who most recently attempted to dethrone Turnbull. Dutton was rejected by his fellows and here we are with Prime Minister Scott Morrison — though we have yet to be given a credible explanation as to why this particular misfortune has been heaped upon us.
It is not overly dramatic to theorise that the dominant force in conservative Australian politics at the moment, is instability. It’s fair to conclude from this condensed account that leadership in the LNP is a perilous occupation, one that frequently ends in tears and banishment to the backbench. Or New York City, if you've got a condo on Central Park.
It’s an unwritten rule of a Coalition leader’s job description — if enough of your Party are dissatisfied with how things are going, they’ll chuck you out. They don’t have to give you warnings or explanations, or attempt to resolve the problems with you first. They need only the numbers and you’re done for.
Nobody, it’s reasonable to conclude, in either the Liberal or National parties, is happy. Their only solution to the malaise is to change leaders.
So, what are we to make of the revolving leadership door?
At the very least, changing leaders as if they are your underpants is a signifier of extreme discontent. Throwing out the leader while the chronic malaise remains unaddressed is not going to have the desired effect. Nothing will change, there will be no "new generation" of Coalition leadership and it will only be a matter of time before the latest leader is thrown off the cliff. Liberals and Nationals work hard to change the shade of lipstick on their pig but, ultimately, it’s still a neoliberal pig.
Changing leaders is a band-aid solution that does not deal with the cause of the problem. The primary cause of unrest and apprehension is the Coalition’s fundamental goal, which is to maintain power. This is a corrupt goal and the only means by which it can be achieved are, of necessity, corrupt.
The goal isn’t to wisely govern the country. It isn’t to govern for everyone equally. It isn’t to responsibly address the social ills that fall into its ambit. The Coalition’s primary goal is to defeat Labor and maintain power. Peter Dutton explained that his tilt at leadership was entirely about keeping Opposition leader Bill Shorten “out of the Lodge”. Dutton believed, wrongly, that his Party would welcome him as the leader who could achieve that goal.
In pursuit of this goal, both parties seek a leader they believe will best serve that purpose. It is a mission that is doomed to failure because, at its heart, it’s a struggle to control what cannot be controlled in a democracy — the decisions of voters. Despite opinion polls that claim to determine who is preferred prime minister, we do not, in the Westminster system, elect our leaders.
Given the rapidity and frequency with which these leaders are changed, we would be fools to believe we have any influence at all in this matter. Indeed, indications are that voters are beyond exasperated at leadership changes in Canberra, which are seen by many as a symptom of dysfunction, self-absorption and lamentable incompetence.
However, so driven are Coalition members to “keep Bill Shorten out of the Lodge”, they appear unable to grasp that the instability and discontent made manifest by repeated leadership changes in pursuit of this tragically inadequate goal, may be the very thing that turns some voters against them.
The secondary cause of Coalition malaise is ideology. Both parties are ideologically torn, with every faction struggling to achieve ascendency. Dutton did not admit this but his efforts to replace Turnbull were not solely to do with blocking Shorten, as he claimed. They were equally to do with his faction taking control of the Liberals.
The Coalition parties don’t seek power because it will enable them to perform good governance. They seek power because it furthers their ideological and personal purposes. They have thoroughly corrupted all notions of good governance and replaced them with the belief that the only good is maintaining power. All their means serve this end.
The Coalition will keep throwing out leaders because there is no leader who can guarantee the attainment of their goals. Such a leader cannot exist in a liberal democracy — indeed, such a leader is the antithesis of liberal democratic principles.
In this corrupted climate, it would not seem at all extraordinary if the Nationals reinstated Barnaby Joyce as their leader. Indeed, there is by now almost an air of inevitability about it, as if we have descended so far into nihilistic slapstick, Joyce is the obvious next act.
There is, however, a silver lining. Joyce’s reinstatement as deputy prime minister would give us a splendid opportunity to revisit the many unanswered questions surrounding his alleged rorts. It might also be useful to reopen the investigation into Joyce's alleged breach of ministerial standards — an investigation dropped by then Prime Minister Turnbull when Joyce resigned his portfolio.
You can follow Dr Jennifer Wilson on her blog No Place for Sheep and on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.