‘Coup-culture’ undermines Australian democracy

| February 15, 2015

Focusing on the leader, rather than the government, is undermining our democratic standards and fostering a deeper cynicism about politics. Dr Troy Whitford says we need to make sure the voter is central to changes.

The ‘political coup-culture’ was recently seen in the motion to spill the federal Liberal leadership.

I object to leadership challenges in government because it is part of the encroachment of presidential style politics which is incompatible with how leaders in our democracy actually operate.

In Australia we vote for parties, not presidents. The prime minister or premier is considered the first among equals. The success or failure of a government is in the hands of its cabinet, not individual leadership.

Yet, over recent years we have seen political campaigns focus on leaders. It has gone to the extent some people actually think they are voting for the party leader not local member or party. This development has been somewhat harmless although inaccurate.

What is harmful is the new development that when government or cabinet is faltering it singles out the leader and will sacrifice them for another parliamentary term.

In reality nothing actually changes because it is the performance of the whole cabinet that is often the problem.

A general fear of change in popular opinion seems to be the catalyst for coups which also shows a lack of fortitude in our governments.

The desire to run presidential style campaigns has led us to focus on the individual rather than the party and performance of cabinet.

This, coupled with blatant ambition and impatience of politicians, is causing the problem and degrading the importance of democracy as a means to peacefully allocate resources.

It is also being used by overly ambitious politicians to seek an office they may not have won in a clear election.

We need to make sure the voter is central to changes in leadership and government. These political coups are diminishing the power of the vote.



  1. Stayaway7

    February 17, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Awesome article

    I found this article very well done. Good job and keep it up.

  2. chrislove

    March 1, 2015 at 7:39 am

    How did we get like this?

    I can't figure out when or how this started happening in Australia. I guess "leadership doubt" is great fodder for a hard-to-satiate news industry… Do you think this situation is created/fed by the media or are Australians expressing a wish for a new convention in Parliament? Are we saying that we want the Cabinet to think of the PM as presidential, or are too many of us just swallowing the high drama?