WILL the last dual citizen forced out of the federal parliament please turn off the lights?
The fiasco unfolding in Canberra might be considered all a bit of a laugh to the famously relaxed citizens of Australia if it wasn’t coming at the end of a troubled time in national politics.
During the merry-go-round of prime ministers and opposition leaders in the past 10 years, not to mention the failed coups at the top, Australians’ faith in their leaders has been sorely tested – and, in some cases, found wanting.
The years following prime minister John Howard’s long innings were always likely to seem unstable in comparison. But it hasn’t just been perception. Even the most pessimistic of political watchers could not have predicted the chaos that has followed.
While Labor cycled through Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as prime minister, the Coalition churned through Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull before settling on Tony Abbott as opposition leader.
Abbott as PM then faced a challenge from an empty seat before he was toppled by Turnbull, who faces constant speculation in the media that he – only a year after winning an election – will be deposed any time soon.
At a time of political disenchantment with the status quo – seen overseas with the startling election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote in Britain and a political novice taking the French presidency earlier this year – the games and leadership gyrations in Canberra have served only to further sour an already unhappy public.
So as Australians see their elected representatives standing aside, refusing to stand aside or admitting they are uncertain whether they can even be in the parliament, their mood is likely to be darkening.
Never mind that some of the pollies are dual citizens only by a quirk of the rules. Never mind that some of them seem more surprised by the revelation they may be ineligible than do the media reporting on it.
All a lot of Australians would be seeing at the moment would be another example of a dysfunctional parliament and what they see as a political class that can’t get its own house in order, let alone get down to the serious business of running the country.
Canberra’s biggest problem at the moment isn’t Australians getting angry as politicians try to explain how this mess happened. It’s Australians deciding they’ve heard enough and they don’t want to listen any more.