Leadership woes a waste of time and public money
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Leadership woes a waste of time and public money

What a wasted week this has been in Canberra. Virtually all significant policy and high level administrative work was put on hold while the crew of the ship of fools staged yet another performance in the theatre of the absurd.

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Millions of Australians, including our hard working and professional public servants who now have no idea who is leading the country, and in many cases their own departments, are well and truly over it.

Time, public resources and administrative talent have been allowed to sit idle or go to waste while the politicians wage an almost comically bitter war over the spoils of defeat.

Whoever wins the ballot, expected to be conducted at high noon today, will not be the Prime Minister for long.

They will either be voted out next April or May or, even worse, be forced to go to the polls, and political oblivion, early.

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The probability of an early election went up markedly when, during his extraordinary press conference in which he expressed grave doubts about Dutton's eligibility to be in the parliament, Turnbull indicated he would resign his seat if he was forced from office.

"I [have] made it very clear that I believe former Prime Ministers are best out of the Parliament," he said in what may have been a very thinly veiled reference to both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd.

A probable chain of events, based on Turnbull's indication he would resign if his colleagues vote in favour of spilling the leadership and the reported preparedness of one or two of his ministerial colleagues to follow suit, is that in the wake of a Dutton victory one, and possibly more, Nationals MPs could move to the cross benches.

This would make it very hard for Dutton to form a Government.

What would happen in the event of a win by Julie Bishop or Scott Morrison, Turnbull's favoured candidate, is not so clear.

There is also the possibility other candidates for the leadership may emerge.

The PM was able to spin the leadership stoush into a high stakes contest in which Dutton was been portrayed as a dangerous choice.

Not only is there a likelihood, according to Turnbull, that Dutton's legitimacy would be challenged under s44, but if victorious he would also probably have to fight an early election for which neither he nor the party are prepared.

"You can imagine the consequences of having a Prime Minister whose actions and decisions are questionable because of the issue of eligibility," Turnbull said.

It is interesting to note that at the height of the s44 debate in 2017 Turnbull was in no doubt about Peter Dutton's legitimacy even though much of what is now being debated was on the record then.

The real downside of Thursday's events is that Australia will have to endure at least another day of rudderless Government and all of the chaos that comes with it.

Turnbull's hubris in trying to finesse the outcome of the challenge despite his own intention to step down if it goes ahead has done nobody, certainly not the nation, any favours.

This could, and should, have ended yesterday.