Culture

The Rest Of The World Are Even More Confused About Our Leadership Chaos Than We Are

The New Yorker just re-discovered the onion. THE NEW YORKER.

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Not even 24 hours since declaring his intention to challenge the leadership of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull has now been sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia. Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has come forth from whatever broom closet he was weeping in and is being presented with a humiliating seat in the nosebleed section of the House of Reps, and the nation’s journos are funnelling caffeine into their faces while running off the same manic script we’ve seen play out over the past few years.

After Rudd and Gillard and Rudd again, the whole thing is eerily familiar.

I want to get off now please.

While many pundits have noted the crucial dysfunction of the whole situation, most Australians chose to have fun with it. Revelling in the total absurdity of the whole thing, we all settled into our #spill traditions of eating popcorn, yelling at Twitter and watching corridors on ABC News 24 — gleefully awaiting the unravelling of another human being from the apex of their high-powered career.

It’s either that or total disinterest. There’s little point in staying up until 11pm watching sad men in suits converge on obscured party rooms if it’s all going to unfold again in a few months time.

But through all this, it’s important to keep perspective. The past three US Presidents all served two terms each, staying in office for an impressive eight years. New Zealand is about the same with just two different Prime Ministers in the past 16 years, and the United Kingdom are a bit behind with three over 18 years. This is now our fourth change in the past five years — and the rest of the world are treating that figure with the confusion it deserves.

Not All Press Is Good Press

In reporting the news today, a number of international outlets chose to observe the damage to the nation with an autopsy of Abbott’s bewildering Prime Ministership. The NZ Herald chronicled his gaffes, including knighting Prince Philip and threatening to shirtfront Vladimir Putin, as if observing a newly-discovered life form.

“The Australian public and media has been puzzled by Mr Abbott’s love of eating raw onions,” they wrote, presumably while reading it aloud in David Attenborough’s voice.

This was rivalled by similar lists compiled by TVNZToday, and The TelegraphIn the latter, titled “Tony Abbott’s legacy: gaffes, broken promises and a hawkish foreign policy”, the UK political journalist picked over his career with a significantly sterner assessment.

“Aside from its embarrassing brevity, Tony Abbott’s period as Australian prime minister will probably be remembered for his no-nonsense leadership style, his reliable run of gaffes, and a capacity for dismantling opponents’ policies rather than delivering his own,” they wrote.

“He [also] did nothing to assure critics who accused him of being a sexist and misogynist when he swiftly appointed a cabinet that included just one woman.”

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Turns out it was Abbott’s arse on the flag all along.

These semi-celebratory reports also routinely opted to chastise Abbott over his actual work in office. Not even bothering to use his name, Gizmodo announced his departure with the headline “Australia’s climate change-denying Prime Minister has been ousted” before matter-of-factly referring to him as an “environmental villain”. The Washington Post similarly noted he was “frequently pilloried as a boor and a bully” and warned that things may not even change with Turnbull in charge.

“Tony Abbott is out of a job, and another leading climate-change skeptic may soon follow,” they wrote.

But amidst all this understanding of why the PM was booted in the first place was a wider disbelief at just how many times it’s happened before. Both The Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg described our nation’s highest office as a “revolving door”. Lebanon’s Daily Star and The Independent tallied our staggering number of past leaders in their headlines. Calling Australian politics “a brutal merry-go-round”, the latter even took the time to collate a little guide to each as though were old baseball players or dud Pokémon.

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C’monnnnn, someone just trade with me.

This view has also been expounded with more colourful commentary.

A headline from Slate declared, “Australia just changed prime ministers out of the blue. Again.”

“Down under, they call it ‘front stabbing’,” they wrote, despite the fact we definitely do not call it that. “Australia has now switched prime ministers five times in the last decade … Before we can talk about whether Turnbull can take his party and his country in a new direction, it’s worth seeing if he can stay in power long enough to try.”

In another op-ed, the BBC declared Australia the “coup capital of the democratic world”.

“It is now over a decade since an Australian prime minister managed to serve out his or her first term,” it reads. “Covering Australian politics feels more like conducting a triage of the wounded and slain. The bloodletting has become so brutal that party rooms have come to resemble abattoirs.”

But this is nothing compared to a damning assessment from The New YorkerIn a piece titled “Tony Abbott’s long demise”, the publication’s executive editor Amelia Lester displayed a real artfulness in savaging both the former PM and the state of the nation’s political climate at large. Running through an incisive list of his political spin around asylum seekers, failings with female and Indigenous populations, and general cruelty or incompetence, Lester surmises Abbott “exhibited a feckless machismo, which often verged on eccentricity”.

“The Australian people greeted another bloodless coup at the pinnacle of their government with indifference — and onions,” she wrote.

Then The New Yorker, perhaps the most prestigious publication in the English-speaking world, published this photo.

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Farewell, old friend. Thanks for nothing.