First published in Clarity: February 11 2015
On Monday morning, Tony Abbott, amateur pugilist, survived the latest round of political boxing in Canberra, 61-39, and for the meantime, remains Prime Minister of Australia. His opponent, a mirage, could not be interviewed, but two individuals claiming to represent it, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull, remained tight lipped on the possibility of a rematch, given the absence of a knock out blow.
The Australian public enjoy the drama. Twitter went into a frenzy. #libspill, #spill and #itson spent much of the week at the top of the trend charts. As the match began, the tension mounted. Tony Abbott walked into the ring flanked by an entourage. Julie Bishop blanked the media. And there was Malcolm Turnbull, the lone wolf, striding into the arena unaccompanied. No matter that the outcome was an anti-climax. It made for good television.
Badly bruised by the encounter, Abbott came out fighting the following day, lamenting the “chastening experience,” but standing firm in his belief that “good government” could now begin. But with half of his backbenchers voting to remove him as leader, pundits quickly set the date for a rematch. Six months seemed an appropriate date. That was the interval between the Hayden-Hawke bout of 1982 and the Hawke-Keating bout of June 1991. Just soon enough to retain the attention of the viewers at home.
What has Australia come to?