Five Prime Ministers: a crisis, political aberration or the new normal?

Stream: Panel 86 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Australian Prime Ministers 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


On 26 June 2013, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reclaimed the leadership of the ALP and prime ministership from Prime Minister Julia Gillard after a protracted destabilisation process that had lasted just over three years. Rudd claimed he was the only one who could defeat then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, yet as it turned out on 7 September 2013, the ALP was comprehensively defeated and Tony Abbott became the new Prime Minister. However, by 9 February 2015, Prime Minister Abbott had endured a “near death experience” and was given six months by his party to become more consultative or risk a challenge to his leadership. On 14 September 2015, after an uneventful day in Question Time, that challenge came, and by late evening Malcolm Turnbull was the new Prime Minister of Australia. This paper provides a chronology of what happened in each case and why. Moreover, it examines the broad significance of the change in prime ministerships. Does it say something about the changing nature of the electorate or something about how politics is now conducted? What is the overall significance for contemporary Australian politics and the prime ministership in particular?


Mary Walsh (Presenter), Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Associate Professor Mary Walsh teaches politics and political theory in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra. She is a research fellow at the Institute for Governance and Policy at the University of Canberra and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Australian Prime Ministers Centre, Old Parliament House, Canberra 2015-2016.