So it’s on. The Prime Minister Tony Abbott likes to call “Canberra insiders” are excited.
Something had to give. This slow tease of speculation needed to reach some sort of climax if the Government was to have any chance of getting back to business, rather than reprising the tattiness of Labor’s reign.
For all the PM’s affirmations that the Coalition “was elected to end the chaos” and offered a stable alternative to the ALP, the past fortnight has them looking increasingly like they’re reviving Labor’s shenanigans.
The West Australians seem to be moving as a block, with Dennis Jensen kicking things off for a restless backbench three days ago saying the PM had lost his confidence on January 23. And while Government ministers have been been pleading to give the PM more time, Jensen specifically noted he concerns and warnings date back to 2014.
Now two more from the west, Luke Simpkins and Don Randall, have decided to act, calling for a spill.
Yet there’s an intriguing line in Simpkins’ email to his colleagues.
He says: “The last time this outpouring of concern happened was when we were being led to support the Rudd Government’s ETS, and faced with this erosion of our base support we acted.”
The person they acted against in 2009 was Malcolm Turnbull, the former Liberal leader some are now considering reviving.
Why would Simpkins include such a reference, unless he’s seeking to remind his colleagues about Turnbull’s last time in charge and the end result?
As Paul Colgan pointed out this week, as a Plan B, no-one’s sure what Turnbull stands for now. So if changing leaders is about a shift in policy direction, it’s a fingers-crossed strategy.
In 2009, the party fractured over policy because Turnbull was backing then-PM Kevin Rudd’s plan for an emissions trading scheme.
It took eight days to fell Turnbull. Abbott announced his challenge four days out from the spill, with the MP for Menzies, Kevin Andrews pulling the trigger.
But Abbott’s ascension to power was almost a Steven Bradbury moment in a three-way contest with Turnbull and Hockey, who was expected to win. Even then many viewed Abbott as a wild card with a propensity to go off half-cocked. In the end, Abbott defeated Turnbull by just one vote, 42–41. Abbott became a tenacious wildly successful opposition leader who felled Rudd twice and Gillard.
Now, as he pleads to keep his job, his challenge is to last longer as PM than Rudd and Gillard.
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