Monday, February 02, 2015

Australian PM goes all Canadian as leadership challenged UPDATED AGAIN

It's not easy being Australian right now. Their prime minister recently made the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip ... a knight.  Seriously, an Australian knight. HRH Duke Prince Sir Philip or something. Even his own partisans were embarrassed.

It may be enough to cause Tony Abbott to lose his own title of Prime Minister.  Faced with this evidence that their leader has gone pretty much out of his mind (climate change denial, anti-Islamic crusades, and other policies not having done it somehow), MPs of his Liberal National Party began discussing whether it was time for a new leader.

Whereupon Prime Minister Abbott, who became party leader by the vote of the party caucus, declared it was not the job of the party caucus "to hire and fire."  They could hire him, that is. They just can't fire him. Abbott called the earlier removal of Labor party leaders Gillard and Rudd by vote of their caucuses "assassinations."  

Abbott did promise he will never make Prince Philip a knight again, but on the leadership thing, he wants to play Canadian rules: a leader is accountable to no one, and certainly not to the elected representatives of the people.

After a massive setback for Abbott's party in Queensland state elections and the Abbott government facing a spectacular plunge in the polls, Abbott's leadership is said to hang by a thread. With any luck the backbenchers will get their act together, he will be gone by next Tuesday, and the danger of Australia's parliamentary system going all Canadian will be nipped in the bud.

One cool thing about Auz politics:  their finance minister is named Joe Hockey.  Now that guy could have a career in this country.

One of my longer takes on this whole question of leadership selection in parliamentary democracies, here at Literary Review of Canada.

Update: February 3:  Showdown looms: "What is clear is that significant sections of the Coalition backbench have concluded that Abbott is incapable of regaining the trust of the people and winning an election that is still 19 months away.   But what isn't clear is whether the threat of bringing on a vote will produce a stampede of discontent or be snuffed out by those who are still willing Abbott to succeed."  

In the caucus of MPs that has to determine this, with their seats and careers in the balance, I bet nobody is feeling like a "nobody." D'yever wonder how a Canadian caucus would deal with such responsibility.

Second update:  And if you are really into the down under workings of parliamentary democracy, they have a nice mess in the Northern Territory, where the chief minister (aka premier) has been removed from the leadership by his caucus, but is refusing to resign as premier.  Anne Twomey, Australian constitutional maven, sorts out the alternatives here.  H/t Belshaw Reflections

Paul Krugman, when his blog gets into technical macroeconomics, puts a label "Wonkish" on the post concerned.  Are we getting to that territory here?

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