I was really floored when reading through the tweets celebrating the end of Tony's reign as King Idiot of Australia, and heralding the arrival of our new progressive leader, Malcolm Turnbull.
When I wrote a blog post two years ago now when the Coalition came to power I was despondent. I was so shocked that the whole country could prefer this elitist, nonsensical, scatter-gun slogans policy approach, and willingly put such a fool at the head of this country. To actively choose cruelty and short termism and vote in the Coalition off the back of Abbott's ego driven grandstanding. (Granted there wasn't much of an alternative, but that's another matter...)
I'm still stunned that my largely progressive friends and colleagues seem so delighted by Malcolm's new job. Although I suspect it has more to do with a sense of schadenfreude than anything else. I must admit I felt vaguely smug to realise that Tony has fallen 5 days short of the required term to take a 600K annual "former prime minister" pension. That sucks Tone.
That said, I really think any of us who truly care about a fair and equitable society need to be a little careful and wait to reserve judgement on our fifth fearless leader in five years. Turnbull is after all, still an enormously privileged, wealthy, white man, with a firm belief in the free market system we know is rapidly failing. Those of us who would traditionally sit on the Left side of the political spectrum have been primed to think of Turnbull as the progressive saviour of the Right. And I have a really hard time believing that to be the case.
Ultimately I don't care about which political party our leader belongs to. I care about their ability to form clear policy and to create positive change for the electorate they serve - informed by best possible knowledge from science, industry and the community. I care about their ability to gain support for decisions that may be unpopular in the short term, but are in fact best for Australia and the global community beyond the next opinion polls. I care about dealing with our dual major challenges of rising global inequality, and rising sea levels. I care about a return to a society who values people over things.
I'm stuck somewhere between feeling like this is how politics should work - the people are the ones running this show. Screw election terms - as we seem so be intent to do in Australia, at least for the last 5 years or so - let's get the best person in the job. But I also feel like the 24 hour news cycle, and a hungry and polarised Australian media is the biggest winner out of this whole circus, and that the formal democracy mechanism we've relied on all this time is fundamentally broken. Let's not forget too, that we've elected the party - the person who runs it may not be as significant a factor as we've been led to believe. As my friend Craig commented at the time of the last election,
"Elections are just there to give the illusion of choice and change. The 'machine' will just keep chugging along as normal."
Could the same be said for leadership changes?
Where's the leadership? Where's the long game? Where's getting on with the difficult job of actually being in government - of implementing intelligent policy, and bringing the Australian and international community along for the ride?
Maybe I should give Turnbull more credit. He has sat patiently for quite a while now, toeing the party line, and actively avoiding creating controversy... But it remains to be seen whether that tactic was a means to a political end, or whether that same patience and persistence will also serve this country.
I'm not doubting that he seems vastly more capable to lead our country than his predecessor, but it remains to be seen in which direction.