IT has been very hard to watch the events unfold in Canberra this week without a deep sense of unease.
As the media commentators and Twitter fans dissect, debate, crow, commiserate or retweet, I’ve found myself pondering just how much politics has been changed this week – and not for the better.
Yes, in dumping Tony Abbott and handing the leadership to Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals may have improved their popularity in opinion polls.
But they have also rewarded a minister of the government who – for the past two years – has contributed very little to the betterment of Australia.
I think Opposition Leader Bill Shorten nailed it when he said “Australians understand that the thing about Malcolm is it's always about Malcolm”.
Since the Abbott-led Coalition won the election, Mr Turnbull has done little beyond sneak, leak, white-ant, criticise and mug it for the ABC cameras. He has openly mocked Mr Abbott and seemingly done very little actual work on his own portfolio, judging by the continuing shambles that is the NBN.
It is impossible to imagine a politician who has been less of a team player than Mr Turnbull, and yet he is now the prime minister charged with leading a consultative coalition government under a “broad church” of MPs. To be fair, I’ve never actually heard him mouth the usual rhetoric about going into politics because he wants to serve the community, because clearly he doesn’t.
If Mr Turnbull were at all interested in being a productive member of the government, he would have used his popularity with the Left media to back Mr Abbott.
He should have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the democratically elected prime minister, promoting the policies the government had formulated.
Instead, he has spent the past two years promoting himself, often at the expense of his colleagues.
If the party truly felt it was necessary to remove Mr Abbott, surely a quiet tap on the shoulder by cabinet would have been much better than the played-for-the-cameras Malcolm Turnbull Show, which featured a stellar guest star performance by Julie Bishop as Lady Macbeth.
Labor senator Sam Dastyari was also spot-on when he tweeted: “You could drop a nuclear bomb on this parliament and Julie Bishop would crawl out as deputy leader.”
Let’s be honest, to have continued as deputy Liberal leader as long as she has, Ms Bishop must have better self-preservation skills than Bear Grylls.
Speaking of self-preservation skills, I notice that Nationals Leader Warren Truss insisted on a written agreement with Mr Turnbull, rather than the handshake-style deals which the Coalition partners enjoyed with both Mr Abbott and former PM John Howard. I tell you what though, unless it was written in Mr Turnbull’s blood and been hit with a Harry Potter-style unbreakable curse, I’d put money on it being not worth the paper it’s written on.
It seems to me that – with the Liberals following Labor down the path of prime ministerial musical chairs – they have thrown in the towel and very publicly admitted that the only thing governments care about now is being re-elected.
Controversial reforms? Forget it. It’s fairly clear now that neither side has the ticker to stand firm on any issue that is going to deliver a hit in the polls.
It’s a damn shame that, as our country changes with the digital age, we have politicians rooted firmly in the era of Machiavelli.
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