At a casual glance, the Prime Minister, whomever it might be at any given time, appears both immensely powerful and largely unassailable, assuming both a united party and a parliamentary majority.
Yet, like a bushfire buffeted by a sudden wind change, the situation can change abruptly and without notice. And possibly with similar devastating consequences.
Less than eight months ago, Scott Morrison pulled off an unlikely election victory, confounding the opinion polls and the commentariat alike. Leaving behind the Liberal carnage from the removal of both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison achieved heroic status among the Liberal ranks, in a party seemingly destined for the political wilderness.
Ordinarily, such a feat - similar to that of Labor's Paul Keating in 1993 - might have ensured a robust mantle of protection, even for a Prime Minister whose own ascent was, to many, unexpected.
But events of the past few days - culminating in a hostile reception by angry locals at fire-ravaged Cobargo on the NSW South Coast - have triggered both dismay and apprehension about not just the prime minister's judgment, but his immediate future.
The decision he took two months ago, in the face of dire warnings about the worsening bushfire situation from experts, to defer any meeting of the Council of Australian Governments to consider a co-ordinated national program of response, is now looking worse by the day.
To compound the situation, he took a badly ill-advised family holiday to distant Hawaii as Australia began to burn and, according to media reports, hesitated to respond to calls for his immediate return.
Within a broader picture, his intransigence on the critical policy issue of climate change and its clear link to the current crisis - grotesquely illustrated by his crass marketing stunt of brandishing a lump of coal in Parliament - calls into serious question his ability to lead a nation now under threat in a way not seen since the Japanese attacks on the mainland in the darkest days of World War II.
His Liberal colleague in the NSW government, Andrew Constance, was blunt in his response to the Cobargo reception, saying it was "probably deserved". Constance, whose own house had been under threat, was surprisingly not even informed of Morrison's visit to his electorate.
Other Liberals to whom I spoke on Friday were aghast at his apparent miscalculations. "Unbelievable," said one. "I don't think he gets it," said another.
This time last year I was drafting a chapter on Scott Morrison for a revised edition of my book on prime ministerial exits, expecting like many others that he was headed for the door.
In a number of interviews with current and former colleagues, what emerged was a picture of a complex and secretive figure, both ambitious and ruthless, and with little capacity for empathy or care about anyone who stood in his way.
One long-time Liberal figure, who has watched him since his days as NSW state director of the Liberal Party, described how Morrison could enter a room and almost immediately sense who had power and who did not, who needed to be won over, and who could be safely ignored.
"His whole career has been based on those instincts. It has taken him right to the top," said the Liberal figure.
Others pointed to the highly unusual circumstances of his endorsement for the seat of Cook in 2007, after a vicious campaign was mounted against the candidate already preselected, Michael Towke. With a torrent of leaks coming from within the party and eagerly devoured by a section of the media, Mr Towke was portrayed as a serial branch-stacker who had substantially embellished his academic and work record. There was also a significant downplaying of his many years as a member of the Labor Party.
Towke was eventually disendorsed by the party state executive and Morrison, who had failed to impress in the original preselection ballot, was installed.
A factional participant in the preselection said the anti-Towke campaign was as ruthless a political exercise as he had seen, and could only have come from deep inside the party.
Other figures to whom I spoke recounted how Scott Morrison quietly began canvassing support even before Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership began to flounder, while at the same time assuring Turnbull of his support.
His modus operandi has taken him to the very top - but even those who once welcomed his ascension are now questioning whether he has any of the qualities needed to comfort and heal - not to mention lead - a nation that is hurting badly and fearful of what is to come.
Almost certainly, there will be more Cobargo receptions. Scott Morrison might well find no one wants to listen to him.
- Dr Norman Abjorensen is a political historian. A new edition of his book The Manner of Their Going: Prime Ministerial Exits in Australia was published in October.