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Which politician do we want to lead the country?

By Peter Bowden - posted Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Malcolm Turnbull says his party is behind him despite losing the30th Newspoll in a row, a remark he now regrets using as a reason to dump Tony Abbott.

Newspoll also found Mr Turnbull remains preferred prime minister at 38 percent, compared to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's 36 percent.

These results seem inconsistent, even contradictory. We do not want the Coalition to govern the country, but we prefer its leader, the current Prime Minister, to govern in preference to the leader of the alternative political party.


These results are in fact telling us two consistent truths, each eminently acceptable: (i) that we do not want the Labor party's leader, Bill Shorten to be our leader, and (ii) We do not want the Liberal coalition to be our government.

Both viewpoints make great sense. We reject Shorten as he is seen as two faced, captive to the unions. Shorten played a pivotal role in the removal of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in 2010 and 2013.Labor's deep-seated aversion to leadership change also arose from these catastrophes.

Shorten won the contest for leadership over Anthony Albanese in 2013, after receiving 52 per cent of the combined vote of caucus and rank-and-file members. The30,426 votes of the members were weighed against the 86 members of caucus. Shorten won the caucus ballot, but Albanese received greater support from the branches. The reason why Shorten won is the power of the incumbent leader. That leader has the ability to sideline, or even dismiss, members who vote against him.

We see this power of the part leader worldwide: noticeably in the vote of the Chinese party members who gave Xi Jinping leadership for life. Many, if not most of them, would have had misgivings, but all were too afraid of the damage that Xi and those surrounding him could do to their careers if they voted against him. We see it in the reluctance of party members to stop Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan putting 245 journalists behind bars. Robert Mugabe ended 40 years in power last year, but that required outside intervention. Again, his colleagues were unwilling or too fearful to say "enough! "

Our parliamentary Labor Party members are equally gutless. Too afraid of losing their position in the hierarchy to speak out against their leader, a leader that the country does not want.

The current Liberal Coalition government is seen to be captive to the hard right. Turnbull is middle of the road but unwilling to take on the more conservative forces in his party. Peter Harcher, political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out on 31 March that Turnbull "has abandoned every big cause he has ever championed – the republic. climate change and gay marriage."That same-sex marriage in Australiarecently won out shows that Australian political beliefs do not lie on the side of conservatism. The Australian public has consistently shown that it is middle of the road. It hopes that Turnbull will win on other battles against the right wing of his party – the issues are an Australian republic, carbon emissions reduction, climate change and public education funding. Turnbull needs to realise that he has power, ignore his conservative wing, and make his party act on issues of concern to Australians. Australians do not want to give special privileges to white South African farmers, as advocated by the right's Peter Dutton, and Turnbull should have clearly said this. Our very capable foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, made this quite clear, but she is not about to challenge Malcolm Turnbull


Who then will win the next election? This writer's opinion is that it will be the party that brings its thinking more into alignment with the majority of the Australian people. It is called democracy – we do not have it at the moment, which is one of the reasons, if not the major reason, behind the dissatisfaction with our politicians.

But our politicians are not about to make changes that encourage them to act more in the interests of the Australian people. There are many possible changes. Probably highest on the list is direct democracy, where the people vote specifically for the political changes that they want. The gay marriage plebiscite was a great example. This change could be introduced by abandoning party discipline as well as by direct democracy. People would vote for the candidate that best represented their political view. At a guess, maybe six viewpoints cover the political spectrum on offer to us – these would be the left and right factions of the existing political parties. But these are issues for some future debate. What we are looking for now is a political system that responds to what the people desire - and that appears to be a more "l" Liberal Party coalition, or a change in leadership of the Labor Party.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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