Our say | Numbers no longer adding up for treasurers

AN interesting subtext to the current leadership turmoil is the changing career path our politicians are taking.

It used to be that serving as treasurer was the stepping stone to becoming PM.

At least eight former prime ministers had previously served as treasurer before getting the top job while others – including Peter Costello and Bill Hayden – could easily have joined those ranks had history played out just a little differently for them.

The path from treasurer to PM is particularly well-trodden among the conservative parties with John Howard and William McMahon the best-known among them.

Now, however, it seems what used to be known as the immigration portfolio is the one being sought by ambitious MPs.

Julia Gillard served as the Labor spokesperson on immigration while in opposition under Simon Crean and while Kevin Rudd never held the immigration portfolio, he did take foreign affairs after losing the top job to Ms Gillard.

On the Liberal side, both of the most recent immigration ministers – Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton – have, in turn, been widely speculated as potential leaders as Malcolm Turnbull’s troubles have multiplied.

Most significant has been the rise in Mr Dutton’s stocks since he took over immigration from Mr Morrison in 2015. His formal title is now Home Affairs Minister, but that is simply immigration minister on steroids.

By creating the home affairs portfolio – which encompasses immigration, intelligence and counter intelligence – and handing it to Mr Dutton last year, Mr Turnbull fast-tracked the career of the man now reportedly seeking to take his job.

At the same time Mr Turnbull effectively downgraded the role of treasurer to the third most important job in government, confirming the cycle we have seen across both parties over the past decade or so.

But what does this changing pecking order say about the priorities of government?

Are immigration and intelligence really seen as more important to the country than a strong and stable economy?

Are we really more concerned about the threat posed by people coming here than the threat of an economic collapse?

If so, then fear-mongering political and media renegades have won and the country, as a whole, has lost.

We’ve arrived at a new political future with no real idea how we got here.