Where did Malcolm Turnbull go wrong?

  • He challenged an incompetent Tony Abbott for the leadership at the behest of the Party, earning his ire and insurrection; despite pious vows to the contrary.
  • He wounded the ego of armchair critics and vocal conservative media opinion makers such as Alan Jones, and others, by ignoring their gratuitous advice.
  • He deviated from the more extreme conservative positions of his predecessor.
  • He tried to maintain unity by appeasing his opponents and moving to the right.
  • His dignified statesmanship, and legislative success, annoyed his detractors.
  • He set and practised prudent ethical standards for his ministry.
  • He tried too hard. His generosity to the party was not appreciated.
  • Frustrated, in the end, as Tony Abbott cruelly observed, he fell on his sword by calling for a vote on his leadership. His own supporters, urged on by the media could not then resist the temptation to further their own ambitions, by calling for a leadership spill.

Malcolm Turnbull, the 29th Prime Minister of Australia from the 15th September 2015, until the 25th August 2018, held the position for three weeks off three years. His dismissal continues the pattern of Prime Ministerial instability.

Australia’s record is six Prime Ministers, but seven changes, in the past nearly eleven years, since the 3rd December 2007 when John Howard lost not only the election, but his own seat, largely for outstaying his welcome. This is a leadership ballot about once in every eighteen months. (18.4)

This in stark contrast with the stability of the office during John Howard’s reign. In fact he was Australia’s second longest serving PM, from 11 March 1996 until 3 December 2007, a period of 11 years and 267 days.

Ruling parties are able to dump unsatisfactory leaders mid-term, but the practice can be abused for political gain, and serves to increase rather than settle party disunity.  Kevin Rudd believed his dismissal was unjustified and was able to reform the rules for the election of the leader of the Labor Party. The Coalition Party to their cost has not followed suit.

Is this transition to shorter terms an ongoing feature of Australian politics and if so, why? Leadership turmoil may be a bonanza for the media, but it comes at a cost to tax-payers, and it diverts the focus of politicians away from community needs, to advancing their own reputations and career prospects.

Ousted Malcolm Turnbull has been a dignified and effective leader,  but in spite of this he too has been brought down by concerted destabilisation from a coterie of disaffected colleagues, egged-on by some sections of the media. Ever since assuming the mantle, he was ahead of Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister in the polls. This is now irrelevant.







About Kenneth Robson

I studied at Adelaide Boys' High School, and the University of Adelaide, Medical School. graduating in 1961. My field of specialisation was Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Prior to establishing my practice in Adelaide, I spent 5 years working in India, and Papua-New Guinea, in the field of reconstructive surgery for leprosy. In retirement I joined the Australian Technical Analyst Association and passed the two examinations for a Diploma inTechnical Analysis, and the designation Certified Financial Technician (CFTe) by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.
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