Australia’s Crazy Politics

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes part in a joint press conference with France's President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at Kirribilli House in Sydney on May 2, 2018.
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes part in a joint press conference with France’s President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at Kirribilli House in Sydney on May 2, 2018.

Malcolm Turnbull is attempting to do something unique in the annals of recent Australian history: actually finish out a term as prime minister.

Turnbull is the country’s fourth prime minister in 11 years — fifth if you include Kevin Rudd, who had two cracks at the job. None made it to the next election before being ousted. In most cases, the ousting wasn’t done by Australian voters, but by their own parties. Rudd, once again, stands out as unique, having been rejected by both his party and the voters on separate occasions.

It’s a record Canadians might want to ponder the next time some bright young leadership candidate pledges to remake the electoral system to render it more “fair” and “representative.” The New Democratic Party is committed to just such a system. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were committed as well, until it became clear Canadians weren’t as wild with excitement as Trudeau would have liked (and, in particular, weren’t willing to buy into the specific alternative he had in mind). British Columbia, under its propped-up-by-the-Greens NDP government, will hold a referendum this fall to test support for a switch to one of three possible alternatives to the existing first-past-the-post.

The fact that every previous attempt to stoke some ardour for proportional representation in Canada has fallen short isn’t about to deter Premier John Horgan. He can’t allow it to. The referendum is needed to ensure the continued support of the three Greens who keep him in power, and thus will go ahead no matter how fated to defeat it may appear. Voters will be asked, first, if they want to change the voting system, and, second, to rank three chosen alternatives.

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