A sorry history repeats itself

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” These are probably the most famous words Mark Twain never said. They resonate because they’re true.

I am not only astonished, but also appalled, at the willingness of Australia’s political leaders to prove the point, the Liberals now matching Labor verse for verse. From my vantage point, this is how the rhyme goes.

Rudd and Turnbull: winning by whiteanting

Kevin white anted the PM, putting personal ambition before party interest. Malcolm white anted the PM, putting personal ambition before party interest.

Swan and Bishop: the “loyal” deputy

Wayne was loyal deputy to the PM, until he became loyal deputy to the PM’s assassin. Julie was loyal deputy to the PM, until she became loyal deputy to the PM’s assassin.

Shorten and Morrison: the scheming third in line

Bill was steadfast in his support for the PM (Gillard), until he wasn’t — not because he supported the PM’s assassin, but because when the assassin faltered, he was next in line. He put power before principle. Scott was steadfast in his support for the PM, until he wasn’t — not because he supported the PM’s assassin, but because when the assassin falters, he is next in line. He put power before principle.

Gillard and Abbott: the gracious loser

The poetry here isn’t perfect. You could argue that Julia “rhymes” with Malcolm, both cutting down a first term PM. Similarly, you could argue that Tony “rhymes” with Kevin, both being PMs axed in their first term.

But it’s also true that Julia was honourable in defeat, in stark contrast to her treacherous assassin. And if his departing speech is believed (and I do believe it), Tony is honourable in defeat, in stark contrast to his treacherous assassin.

All of this was bad enough the first time round. You do not remove an elected prime minister in his first term. You just don’t do it. That is the people’s prerogative. But that it has happened a second time is unforgivable. I don’t think Gillard foresaw the implications of subverting the electorate’s right to assess a first term government; Turnbull has no excuse. To say I’m angry is an understatement, and apparently I’m not the only one.

Now I’m in a quandary. I think I will have to vote informally at the next election. I’m all for compulsory voting, but I wish the federal ballot paper permitted optional preferences. As it stands, in Labor-Liberal contests (which accounts for most electorates, and certainly my own), every voter is ultimately obliged to cast their vote for one major party or the other. There is no way I will cast a vote which indirectly rewards the treachery of Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten or Scott Morrison. As far as I’m concerned, none of these men is worthy to be Prime Minister. How can we trust them to put the national interest before self-interest?

What a sorry lot our political leaders are. The canniest political players (the first six) are devoid of honour. At least Gillard and Abbott demonstrate an honour of sorts, but then, they have proved to be hopeless politicians. Maybe that’s causal. Maybe political skill and personal honour are antithetical.

More’s the pity.

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