What a farce. The day began normally enough – with the Coalition in crisis. By the evening, the Liberal party room had a new premier, who was refusing to explain to the Victoria public what happened or why.
Denis Napthine has been a credible and competent minister. But if he wants to govern the state, he must attempt to explain why his party deemed it necessary to torpedo a publicly elected premier.
In a press conference last night, Napthine didn’t even come close, merely saying it was his task to build on the great work of Baillieu and his team. ”The people of Victoria will understand what has happened,” he said.
Really? In the end, Ted Baillieu had little choice but to resign – and he did so with dignity – following an extended and corrosive campaign against him that locked him in a downward spiral from which he could not escape.
There were several factors that contributed to his demise, including a failure to manage his own party, a failure to communicate with the public, a failure to manage the media, and a failure to manage a series of political scandals.
Baillieu was also the victim of circumstance, inheriting power at a difficult time, with declining revenues, a patchy economic outlook, and a one-seat majority in Parliament.
Nevertheless, it has been one of the messiest episodes in recent political history, rivalling federal Labor’s disastrous decision to oust Kevin Rudd. The Coalition’s handling of this affair was unbecoming, messy, vituperative and incompetent. So much so that the public will have every right to be cynical about their ability to govern.
Baillieu’s decision to resign had been a long time coming, but it was precipitated on Wednesday by a decision by controversial Frankston MP Geoff Shaw to stand aside from the Liberal Party.
There is now a palpable danger that the change of leaders will incite open warfare within the government. The Coalition has clearly failed to heed the example of federal Labor’s experience. From the moment Gillard’s supporters knifed Rudd, her detractors have been busy undermining her authority. Federal Labor, now contemplating yet another leadership change, is heading for oblivion.
Whether the Coalition is headed for a similar fate is an open question.
Unless Napthine, who has already been knifed by his own party once when he was opposition leader, pulls something extraordinary out of the hat, he will have a hard time turning things around in the polls over the next 20 months.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.