Malcolm Turnbull has been Prime Minister for only a year, and already political commentators are speculating on how long it will be before he too is deposed like his three predecessors.
How durable will he prove to be with the Coalition divided over the current issue of Same-Sex Marriage, and having to wear the blame for a barely successful double dissolution election. The most stinging criticism is that he is a weak leader, in contrast to the more conservative and authoritarian Tony Abbott whom he replaced. However his preparedness to prudently listen, to negotiate, and to govern, as much as he can by consensus, could be attributes for long-term survival.
Labor’s Kevin Rudd had stints of two and a half years, and then in 2013 of only three months, the latter ending with a disastrous loss of an election from party disunity.
Improbably the longest serving leader of the past decade was Labor’s Julia Gillard who was able to form a minority government with the assistance of three independents after the mid 2010 election. Far from collapsing as the Coalition hoped, she was able to provide stable government until after three years, with the approach of the 2013 election, Labor’s power brokers questioned her ability to win, and unwisely recycled Kevin Rudd.
Tony Abbott, feared in Opposition, faltered in office, losing electoral support quite early in the parliamentary term after what was seen by the public to be a deeply unfair initial budget. Despite enjoying such a large majority in the Lower House, his ability to lead the Coalition to another election came under serious scrutiny and resulted in him losing office after two years.
With three year parliamentary terms it is inevitable the elected leaders will be severely criticised, perhaps unfairly and prematurely, denying them the chance to improve their status, and that of their party.
The cost of unduly frequent leadership change is such that both parties should now consider increasing parliamentary terms from three to four years.