Why Scott Morrison and P.M. Tuilaepa should swap notes on “political stability”

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Five Prime Ministers in five years. That’s an interesting statistic folks, whichever way you look at it. 

While it makes for some great headlines and one-liner jokes, from the perspective of an outsider looking in, the revolving door that is the Australian Prime Minister role is nothing but a bizarre game of musical chairs. 

You blink and you miss it. 

Australia is without a doubt becoming far more famous for changing their Prime Minister than anything else. Who was the previous one again? Goodness we’ve already forgotten. I just hope also we remember the name of the new one after a few years.

The constant changes at the top are certainly far more interesting than the Wallabies’ poor form of late, but then let’s not go there.

From what we’ve been told, differences over finding an effective approach to tackle global warming go to the heart of the divisions between the conservative and moderate sections within the Liberal Party, which led to the change last week.

Here in this part of the world, we keep a very keen eye on the issue of climate change and global warming since it’s an issue that directly affects all of us. And as we continue to highlight our plight in terms of climate change, we look to our bigger neighbours like Australia for leadership and assistance. 

Which is why the developments in Canberra during the past few weeks have certainly been interesting.

Still, the idea that Australia changes its Prime Minister just about every other year is fascinating. The trend started in 2010 when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s deputy, Julia Gillard, called a challenge and garnered enough support from Labor Party to take the job. Since then, our poor children who learn general knowledge in school, are having a hard time trying to keep up with ever changing answer to the question of “who is Australia’s Prime Minister?”

Another interesting fact is that not a single prime minister has succeeded in serving a full term since John Howard, who lost the 2007 election to Rudd. Incredible. 

The questions surrounding the issue of political stability, let alone party stability, cannot be ignored. Why is it that Australian politicians appear unable to keep it together?

An article titled “Why Australia has had 6 prime ministers in the last 8 years” written by one Eric Stober makes some interesting points. One reason Australia seemingly has a revolving door for prime ministers is because of the nature of its parliamentary system, the article says.

 “In Australia it is the old British system, where if your caucus members want to undo you, they can and they can appoint whoever they want,” Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, is quoted as saying.

As opposed to Canada’s parliamentary system, in which the party’s members elect the party’s leader, in Australia it is the caucus that determines the leader. The process to replace the leader is as simple as having a petition signed by the majority of the party’s lawmakers, which triggers a leadership ballot. 

This is exactly what happened last week. What’s more, the process has allowed a series of political coups over the past decade, with three other sitting prime ministers undone by party rivals. 

Today, Scott Morrison’s name is in the history books as Australia’s newest Prime Minister. He won a leadership contest within the ruling Liberal Party, beating Peter Dutton to become Australia’s 30th Prime Minister and their sixth in 11 years. How long will he last? And can he hold on until the country goes to the polls? Who knows. Given the fragile nature of Australian politics today, anything can happen.

Which brings us to Samoa. Perhaps Mr. Morrison might want to find some time this week to have coffee with our Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who can give him some tips on political stability and how to remain Prime Minister for a long time.  That coffee appointment can happen, as Tuilaepa is travelling to Australia mid-week and will be addressing the Lowy Institute this Thursday. 

You see, not only has the H.R.P.P. governed Samoa for close to 40 years, but Tuilaepa has held the Prime Minister’s job for 20 of those years. It’s an incredible feat, one Mr. Morrison should get some tips from Tuilaepa on how to achieve.

That’s of course if Australia doesn’t change its Prime Minister again tomorrow!

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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