Dutton’s just waiting for another shot at PM

IT was over almost before it began.

In one of the more frantic half-hours we’ve seen in federal politics in recent years, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the Liberal leadership vacant on Tuesday morning, called a leadership spill and was re-elected to the job before most of us had started the workday. But who really believes that will be the end of the story?

Peter Dutton has retreated to the backbench for now but history suggests he has not fired his last shot in a bid to take the top job. Leadership spills have regularly proved to be a two-step process and losing a ballot is almost a prerequisite to winning one.

Former opposition leader Bill Hayden saw off a challenge from Bob Hawke in July 1982 before the pressure got too much for him and he stepped down from the job in February 1983. Mr Hawke famously led Labor to a landslide election victory just a month later and he remained as prime minister until 1991, when he also fell victim to the two-step spill.

Paul Keating, frustrated that Mr Hawke had reneged on their Kirribilli deal, finally tired of playing second fiddle in June 1991 but lost the leadership vote 66-44. Six months later, though, he challenged again and emerged a 56-51 victor to set himself up in The Lodge.

Julia Gillard needed just a single challenge to depose incumbent prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010 but was never really safe in the job.

She comfortably saw off a challenge from Mr Rudd in February 2012 and contested another leadership spill unopposed in March 2013 before Mr Rudd finally exacted his revenge in June 2013.

Remarkably, it has just been more of the same since the voters finally got sick of Labor’s turnstile leadership and returned the Coalition to government under Tony Abbott in 2013. Mr Abbott survived one spill motion in February 2015 before Mr Turnbull successfully gathered his troops for another shot at the top job in September that same year.

Now Mr Turnbull finds himself in that same post-spill void where every move will be seen in the context of another looming challenge.

Of course, it will be a waiting game to see if Dutton is even eligible to sit in parliament, let alone run for Prime Minister, with a possible investigation into his decision to stop the deportation of two au pairs. 

How about we get on with running the country?