For those unfamiliar with Australia politics, the Prime Minister is not chosen by the electorate. He, or she is chosen by either the Coalition Cabinet [Liberals] or the Caucus [Labor]. The Cabinet [and Caucus when Labor is in power] is made up of those elected representatives who have been invited to ‘front bench’ positions in the Ministry – i.e. positions of power such as Treasurer, Foreign Minister etc.
As the Cabinet [and Caucus] elect the Prime Minister, they are also capable of unelecting the Prime Minister. One way of doing this is to call for a Spill motion. Essentially this means that a majority of Cabinet Ministers are dissatisfied with the current Prime Minister and vote to have the position opened up.
If the Spill motion succeeds, anyone is free to put their hand up as a potential Prime Minister [including the current one]. Cabinet then has another vote to decide which of the possible candidates will be the next Prime Minister. And sometimes, the previous Prime Minister ends up being re-elected to the position.
Sadly, this particular Spill motion was defeated. As a Labor voter I’d far rather see Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister than Tony Abbott, but for the moment at least, we don’t get a say in the matter.
Fortunately for us, I don’t believe this Spill motion will be the end of the matter. When one third of the Coalition government is unhappy with the Prime Minister, that discontent doesn’t go away just because the other two thirds dig their political heels in.
My prediction is that after a period of ‘walkee lightly lightly’, Tony Abbott is going to go back to being just the way he has always been. After all, why shouldn’t he? Didn’t he defeat the Spill motion?
As discontent builds, both in the Coalition and in the electorate, things will come to a head again. We saw it with the Rudd/Gillard debacle, and I believe we’ll see it again in the Abbott government. Either way I can’t see Abbott’s government being voted back in at the next election.
cheers on this sunny Monday morning,
p.s. and for younger Aussie readers, the ‘Not happy Jan’ came from a very funny, and very popular TV commercial. The phrase sort of crept into the national lexicon for a while. For us oldies, it’s still there. 🙂