Even if Tony Abbott doesn’t face a challenge to his leadership in coming weeks — as well-placed sources in Canberra suggest he will — we are clearly in a more disruptive period of politics. Australia could soon have its fifth prime minister since 2007; the Coalition was recently booted out of government after just one term in both Victoria and Queensland; and party leaders who fail are expected to move on more quickly than before.
Is this just because of the kinds of personalities who have dominated politics in recent years — Kevin Rudd with his sense of political self-entitlement, Tony Abbott’s inability to do anything other than tear down others’ achievements, Campbell Newman’s political tin ear — or something more structural?
Both Mike Baird and Jay Weatherill are competent and stable leaders, so politics needn’t be the circus it has been in Canberra in recent years. But increasingly our federal Parliament seems devoid of politicians with a genuine vision — or at least, ones who are able to effectively communicate that vision to voters.
Part of the challenge for parliamentarians in recent years has been the fragmenting media environment. But a big part is also the increasing professionalisation of politics — where instead of talking to us like human beings, politicians recite wooden talking points to camera. It is surely no coincidence that this has been accompanied by a hollowing-out of the major political parties: they are no longer mass member organisations, but more like niche consultancy firms bidding for the tender to run the country for three years.
The party or leader who finds a way to genuinely re-engage with Australians and speak in a language that addresses their concerns will enjoy a huge advantage in this era of disruption. Until then, we might not have seen the last of the revolving door.