HUFFINGTON POST

How Australia Became The Land Of The Bloodless Coup

The country has had five prime ministers in five years.

When you think of stable nations, one of the first to come to mind would have to be Australia.

Twenty-three million people, a continent all to itself, abundant natural resources, a constitutional monarchy, robust rule of law and -- wait for it -- five prime ministers in five years.

Canberra, the “bush capital” with its artificial lake and free-roaming kangaroos, is fast becoming known as the home of the bloodless coup.

This week’s was executed by a suave self-made millionaire, former lawyer and tech entrepreneur Malcolm Turnbull, who is now the most senior politician in Australia thanks to the votes of just 54 people -- Liberal Party MPs who were possibly lobbied over the social app Wickr, Turnbull’s untraceable communications tool of choice.

Turnbull took out the deeply divisive Tony Abbott, who had defeated Labor’s Kevin Rudd at the 2013 general election. Rudd himself went to that election just after he knifed Julia Gillard in a Labor Party caucus spill, having had time to plot his revenge for Gillard knocking him off his perch in a similarly brutal fashion in 2010.

Are you still with me?

In 2007 Rudd swept into power after 11 years of stable Liberal/Nationals Coalition government lead by John Howard.

After more than a decade of conservative rule, many voters rejoiced at the end of the Howard era.

Now many are questioning the benefits of a system where the average length of each prime ministership since is just 1.6 years.

How did we get here? That’s a complicated question.

On Tuesday, the clearly shattered Abbott donned a black tie for his final press conference and launched into the “febrile” media, declaring: "We have more polls and more commentary than ever before. Mostly sour, bitter character assassination. Poll-driven commentary has produced a revolving-door prime ministership which can't be good for our country."

Most would agree this “revolving door” is not good for the country, but sheeting responsibility home to the ever-shortening news cycle and the growth of social media is to let the politicians themselves off the hook.

Howard, a mentor to Abbott and now considered an elder statesman of Australian politics, gave his own analysis Tuesday, insisting the poll obsession of the politicians themselves were more to blame.

"Politics is relentlessly driven by the rules of arithmetic,” Howard said.

Certainly Turnbull cited polling as one of the main motivations for taking the drastic step of unseating a first-term prime minister.

As he pointed out, Abbott’s government had been in a losing position in 30 consecutive Newspolls.

The urgency of taking action this week was elevated by a special “by-election” in a West Australian seat this coming weekend.

The sitting Liberal MP in the seat of Canning, Don Randall, tragically died a couple of months ago.

On Saturday, the voters in that seat will elect a new member of the House of Representatives. By-elections always take on special significance when a prime minister is battling bad polling.

One of the biggest factors in Turnbull being able to pull off such a spectacular act of political treachery, however, is that now what used to be unthinkable appears to be the normal order of business.

On June 23, 2010, Australians went to bed with Rudd the prime minister and awoke the next day to news we had our first woman leader of the Federal Government.

There wasn’t even a caucus ballot -- Rudd simply saw the writing on the wall and reluctantly handed over the leadership.

Gillard’s justification was that Rudd’s administration had “lost its way.”

It was shocking, not least because no one had thought to mention to the public beforehand that there was a problem.

Gillard was empowered by the so-called “faceless men,” Australian Labor Party number-crunchers with low profiles and big swags of votes.

At the subsequent election, fought out between Gillard and then-Opposition Leader Abbott, the nation couldn’t decide and voted in a hung parliament.

During an excruciating 17 days of intense lobbying, Gillard scraped together an agreement with Independents to form Government.

One of her biggest mistakes, perhaps, was to grant Rudd’s wish to be appointed foreign minister.

The privately loathed but publicly popular Rudd swanned around the world while Gillard’s minority government floundered.

In 2012 Gillard saw off a Rudd challenge, but on March 21, 2013, he prevailed once again and Gillard’s time was up.

Rudd then lost Government to Abbott in a federal election.

The highly self-interested and politically vain scrabbling of Rudd and Gillard looks to have changed Australian politics forever.

In the wheeling and dealing Turnbull did to pull off his well-executed move on Monday, the climate change-believing, marriage equality-advocating leader promised to keep the Coalition’s widely derided policy on carbon reduction and its refusal to bring on a vote on same-sex marriage in this term of government.

So how a Turnbull Government would differ from an Abbott Government is mostly a question of style.

Turnbull has promised to be more consultative, and certainly many Australians are hoping he’ll be less embarrassing.

As to our stability -- diplomatic sources on both sides of the Pacific have reassured The Huffington Post Australia that all the chaos changes nothing in the U.S.-Australian relationship.

The Australian business sector is certainly excited by the prospects of a Turnbull administration, but wary of what deals he’s done with the agrarian Nationals to hold the Coalition together.

And the current Labor leader and former “faceless man” Bill Shorten is now very nervous. Snap polling shows Turnbull to be wildly more popular.

So stay tuned for further bloodless coups, Australian style.

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