What Do We Make Of Another Leadership Spill?

Words by: Jonathon Davidson
Image credit: ABC

The unprecedented situation as it currently stands is this: two opposing political parties in two periods of leadership over a scheduled eight years have both demonstrated they are collectively unable to sustain a head representative for their four year terms.

These crisis-like ‘leadership spills’, as they’ve come to be called, have happened for different reasons regarding the inner workings of the parties; but both for the same reason in the eye of dominant media coverage and public opinion: the policies and character of the Prime Ministerial leader.

I get the impression that we have been so worn down by this dynamic between media coverage on leaders and separately the inner workings of the parties; that leadership coverage, corresponding response and opinion ratings and current plans to swap Tony Abbott with another Liberal candidate seems arbitrary.

News.com.au today published an article titled: “PM faces another day of leadership speculation“. This WAToday article titled “No surprise in speculation over Tony Abbott’s demise” is evidence of an underlying notion currently within the public consciousness, that sounds more or less like: who didn’t see this coming.

I’m not going to talk about opinion poll ratings as much as I intended to, because co-editor at Rotunda Sophie lovingly pointed out a few places where I couldn’t really back up what I was saying. But I do honestly believe that their very existence has evolved to a sort of reference point for the public awareness, which I believe is detrimental to the political knowledge of the public and the integrity of the press’ relationship with the political ‘circuit.

For the last four days, there has been a stream of relentless coverage regarding a potential and seemingly likely leadership spill to occur within the currently elected LNP. Today, Jeff Kennett told reporters from the Australian that Tony Abbott’s role is now “terminal”.

I feel this is actually incredibly important, albeit from an ideological point of view – but there is a large amount of observable historical evidence that supports the argument ideologies today create society tomorrow – that is a link to an American article, but one which still touches upon the same point.

And if we’re going to use American sources, do me a favour and stick with me on a tangent here.

In 2005, the Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to playwright, poet and writer Harold Pinter. Harold was not actually present for the acceptance, but instead wrote a piece which was read. His lecture was titled ‘Art, truth and politics‘, and I want to take a moment to say that if you haven’t read it you should, it is absolutely phenomenal.

In  it, he recounts on his experiences of being present at one conversation between members of United States congress during the 1980’s which regarded the decision of whether or not to fund the Contras, a paramilitary group operating in Nicaragua at the time who committed unspeakable war crimes and crimes against humanity. Harold Pinter recounts the absolute callousness of the military officials who viewed the massacres of schoolchildren as necessary betting tokens.

I know, right? Stick with me.

This harrowing story is used to come back around to the Iraq War and the United States treatment of terrorism. This is now getting truly off topic, so I’ll tie it in, but he ends up speaking on the integrity of governments and the ideas that they stand for. His lecture ends:

“When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate… We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections…I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.
If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.”

Alright. Woah. I’ll acknowledge that’s a pretty hectic tie-in to bring back to Australian politics and the current circumstances behind the country’s second round of national coverage on a leadership spill in under six years.

But, in defining the truth, what do we make of it?  If Tony Abbott gets swapped out, does our entire representative system becomes completely meaningless? Is this the strongest case in favour of a Republic that we’ve ever had?

What do we make of a Government where solidarity does not exist within the parties? Is that the sign of a brighter, more open government growing for the future?

Probably not, because there is still minimal coverage on party policy. And I’ll admit that I’ll be damned if I know any of it myself.

The department of Foreign Affairs website lists the first Democratic right and freedom of the Australian people a “Strong, Free Democracy”. While a chop-and-change culture around leadership may be seen as “free” to pro-spill enthusiasts, it definitely does not communicate the idea of strength.

Of course, ultimately, there is no right answer, and it could be said that the leadership change is infact the perfect embodiment of the people’s will and democratic ideology put into action, but it is my opinion that nothing will change but perhaps an improved approval rating for the LNP.

Crafting a soapbox-rant like spiel in the name of “like, the big idea, man” is not the kind of thing that truthfully forwards public opinion and the transparency of policy and legislation – I am aware of that – but I am simultaneously aware that you can not critique something without removing yourself from its entirety, in this case, the empirical evidence coming from both the Australian academy and  bureaucracy.
It’s also my opinion that my opinion is objectively correct, which I can tell you because I’m allowed to be biased in this article.

Sure, planes won’t fall out of the sky, but these sure seem to me like the first steps that drive countries towards becoming “second-rate” – fears recently expressed by Mr. Abbott regarding Australia’s future. Maybe that statement is one entirely uneducated, and at Rotunda we accept all responses, so if there is something I ought to know feel free to get in touch.

The very singular notion of representative government is the bedrock on which Democracy grew and evolved over hundreds of years of dispute and bloody conflict. The embodiment of that in Australian government – the Prime Minister – should not be treated so lightly.

On the other hand, as Sophie pointed out – there’s pretty much no way anybody could do worse, so there is that going for the counter argument.

While I realise there is no shadowy puppet master sitting in a chair somewhere, laughing as he inflicts his cruel irony upon Australia’s track record (seriously, think about how this shit is going to look in 100 years,) I can’t help but notice that this marks the complete dissolution of all credibility held by the House Of Representatives, in the eye of the Australian public.

And if our parties are going to behave like this, why are we not a Republic?

The fact that the nation is seriously considering this move is, in my opinion, the ultimate testament to an internally dysfunctional operating political system.