Our Say | Down is up in federal politics’ Bizarro World

AT the height of the madness of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, who would have possibly thought that federal Labor would soon be the party of stability?

Or that Bill Shorten – the man who supported a challenge against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and then, three years later, supported Rudd’s challenge against Prime Minister Julia Gillard – would be tut-tutting about chaos on the other side of the chamber?

Labor had a hard time keeping it together in government, so it’s been an extraordinary effort for the party to remain so tidy in opposition.


Mr Shorten has now been Opposition Leader for five years – almost two parliamentary terms – and has had only the most mild leadership flirtations from Anthony Albanese with which to contend.

The Coalition, in contrast, had three leaders in its first term of opposition alone after John Howard’s long innings as prime minister ended.

The Coalition also, amazingly, managed to tear down its first-term prime minister even more quickly than Labor had done two terms previously – setting in train the instability, recriminations and, finally, insurgency we have seen play out in the last three years.

New PM Scott Morrison has tried to draw a line under the lunacy of the last few weeks by calling it a Muppet Show.

Any voter who thinks Australian democracy needs two (at least) stable, viable alternatives at the ballot box, however, might be inclined to call it a farce. Or a horror movie.

Or perhaps a supernatural thriller: where a group of people, having watched with pleasure while their enemies are consumed by chaos and savagery, find the curse has somehow been transferred to them.

Watchers of federal politics could be forgiven, as they pick over the results of this latest leadership spill, for thinking they are living in the up-is-down, left-is-right Bizarro World of the Superman comics.

The man who helped bring down two Labor prime ministers in three years now represents stability and steadfastness.

The party that governed Australia for four terms under John Howard now represents instability and uncertainty.

And the leadership aspirant with the most support in the polls, Julie Bishop, finished last in the contest to replace Malcolm Turnbull.

Strange days indeed.