Australia’s Liberal-National Party (LNP) Coalition government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already confronted leadership instability, despite its decisive election victory over the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in September 2013. One of the great ironies of contemporary Australian politics is how the conservative LNP has become subject to similar party leadership turmoil which dogged the previous Rudd and Gillard ALP governments. The recent leadership speculation is the direct result of Abbott’s LNP government breaking its election campaign promises; particularly introducing harsh and inequitable fiscal austerity measures, including proposed cuts to health, welfare and education, which have been frustrated by crossbench opposition in the Senate. Never a particularly popular figure, with an abrupt personality lacking sensitivity to the need for policy consultation, Abbott’s personal approval ratings have long been in steep decline, with the LNP remaining well behind the ALP in opinion polling. Despite Abbott having already survived a backbench revolt, facing potential defeat in the next federal election due in 2016 amid a weakening economy, the LNP may well feel desperate enough to mount a successful challenge against him. However, it is unclear whether a new leader would enable enough policy change to allow the LNP to restore trust with the public, given factional and ideological divisions residing within the LNP. While a rapid turnover of Prime Ministers is not entirely unique in Australian history, it does appear that an era of greater volatility has returned to Australia’s political landscape, with potentially adverse consequences for effective public policy implementation.
Craig Mark, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
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