Our Say | Reviving the lost art of political patience

FOR a man who was supposedly dead (politically) and about to be rolled by his own colleagues not so long ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking surprisingly alive.

The talk of him being torn down has quietened for the moment – and, in fact, the speculation of a change of leadership has shifted to the Opposition, where Anthony Albanese is said to be considering a tilt at Bill Shorten.

Mr Turnbull’s nemesis, former PM Tony Abbott, seems increasingly sidelined, as do some of his more hard-core supporters.

And the coming Super Saturday by-elections even present a chance for a sitting government to take a seat from the Opposition – a slim chance, admittedly, but still enough to be generating plenty of interest.

Political life is not without its troubles for Mr Turnbull, who still faces a difficult Senate, poor polls and persistent questions about his judgement, but there does seem to have been a slight shifting in the tide.

Political fortunes can rise and fall. It seems obvious enough, but the major parties appear to have forgotten that fact in recent years in their rush to discard leaders who displease them (or the public).

They’re on the nose, we’re told of the prime minister. The public’s stopped listening. It often sounds like the rugby league criticism: the coach has lost the dressing room.

But patient governments – and Oppositions – of the past knew that a public that had stopped listening might start listening again if the conditions were right. Or if the other side of politics made only a couple of errors of judgement.

It’s a measure of the madness of federal politics of the past decade or so that Mr Turnbull’s still only slender time at the top feels comparatively lengthy and stable.

Though he is only approaching three years as PM, he is close to surpassing Kevin Rudd’s first and second stints combined and has already bettered Tony Abbott’s prime ministership that began in September 2013.

Give him a bit longer and he’ll go past Julia Gillard to be the longest serving prime minister since John Howard – at a grand total of three-and-a-bit years.

As Mr Shorten looks over his shoulder and Mr Albanese makes some curious noises, Labor might do well to remember that politics is a long game.

A couple of months ago, Mr Turnbull was said to be dead. But death in politics, unlike in life, can sometimes be temporary.