No one is in charge in Australia. Monday’s leadership challenge by Home Affairs minister, the potato-headed former police officer Peter Dutton, was cutting enough to leave Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a wounded animal. The 48 to 35 margin of victory demonstrated the sheer degree of disaffection for the leadership within party ranks, and risks keeping that unenviable record of no Australian prime minister lasting out a full term of office since John Howard’s 2004 election victory.
Resignations have duly followed (some ten frontbenches outed themselves as Dutton supporters in offering their notices, though many have not been accepted by Turnbull). Dutton has become a chief plotter on the backbench, from where another challenge is brewing. The government is imploding and New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters, visiting Canberra, offered a bit of advice: “When you go into a spill, you have to take your abacus.”
In the aftermath of the challenge, Dutton continues to fuel the fire, giving radio station 3AW a generous smattering to threaten Turnbull. “You don’t go into a ballot believing you’re going to lose and if I believe that a majority of colleagues support me, then I would reconsider my position.” He had been chasing up colleagues, testing the waters, working the phones. “I’m not going to beat around the bush with that.”
Ever blinkered and reactionary, his policy offerings continue to be unimaginative, the stuff of cold…