Our Say: More to leadership than changing leaders

A FUNNY thing has happened in federal leadership circles in recent days.


In the week since Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down his second Federal Budget, there has been plenty of talk about a levy on banks, about Medicare, about Gonski 2.0, about a new inland rail line and about the fully-funded National Disability Insurance Scheme.

What we haven’t heard is any talk of a leadership challenge – on either side of the political fence.

After a decade of revolving leaders for both the Liberal and Labor parties – both in opposition and in government – maybe the message is finally sinking in for politicians that that’s not what voters expect.

Since John Howard left The Lodge in 2007, Australia has had five prime ministers (including two stints for Kevin Rudd) and just as many opposition leaders.

And it was always the polls that pre-empted a new round of leadership speculation so when the first post-Budget polls were published on Monday, we could have expected rumblings to start again.

A Fairfax Ipsos poll found that despite a week of bagging the Budget, Bill Shorten still trails Malcolm Turnbull by 12 points on the question of preferred prime minister.

Mr Shorten has held the job of opposition leader since late 2013 and despite an unexpectedly strong showing at the 2016 election, he appears unable to engage the voting public.

Previously such continued lacklustre numbers might have sparked a call for Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen [or anyone else] to become opposition leader, but we’ve heard nothing.

At the same time, the Ipsos poll found that despite the Budget being better received than in previous years, the Coalition remains six points behind Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

That’s an election-winning lead for Labor and in years gone by we could have expected Mr Turnbull’s leadership to be under real threat.

Again, though, we’ve heard nothing.

Maybe MPs have finally twigged that they have been elected to lead the country, not engage in petty internal squabbling.

Maybe they’ve decided to focus on policy rather than personality as a way of winning voters’ confidence.

Maybe - or maybe the next leadership challenge is just around the corner.