Tony Abbott is now increasingly being shown up by a new breed of State leaders, and the refreshing brand of politics they’ve adopted.
And his – and many of his colleagues’ inability to see that – will cost them dearly.
Voters in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have all sent a message at the state level; they want civility and good manners to return to politics and for policy to trump personality, in the leadership stakes.
Take Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland’s newish Labor premier, as an example. She chased down a mighty majority to lead government on a notable promise that she would listen, not shout like her predecessor.
She’s stuck by it, taken politics out of the headlines, and run – so far – a remarkably stable minority government.
Mike Baird, in NSW, has run a similar approach, eschewing loud personality politics in favour of decency, and a marked lack of hubris.
Daniel Andrews in Victoria slots into the same style. All of them are determined not to be captive to either political divisiveness, or the media circus that creates.
“They’re normal people,’’ Gary Morgan from Roy Morgan Research says. “They talk a normal language.’’
And mostly, they see their job as a job – not as a stint on a national celebrity show where KPIs are attached to a singing and dancing media grabs.
It’s a refreshing change, which voters are eating up. And they’ve shown that it doesn’t mean they need to shrink away from a squabble, or soften their demands for reform.
Daniel Andrews has come out swinging in support of the China free trade agreement – and against his own federal colleagues.
“The leader of the National Party expressed some surprise that a Victorian politician could disagree with his federal colleagues – well yes, yes,’’ Mr Andrews said.
Mike Baird took to Facebook to tell his own party that sometimes a picture upstages policy, and the image of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi meant meant we needed to do more.
“We cannot see the images we have seen, and feel the things we have felt, and then go back to business as usual,” he wrote.
The proof of such a refreshing approach to politics is seen in the polls; the state leaders are in positive territory, in sharp contrast to the pit national politics has become.
Remember the inevitable speculation about every successful state leader – the question of when they would transfer to Canberra would quickly arise.
That seems such a silly question now. Why would they want to, when Canberra is on the nose?
They’ve provided a game-changer in politics; one that shifts us away from the politics of personality that has drowned the federal parliament in recent years and where decorum, dignity and decency are valued characteristics of any national debate.
They’re winning the personality debate, just the collateral that will help them win the next rounds of national political debate – taxation reform and reform of the federation.
Madonna King is a senior journalist, and has worked at News Ltd, Fairfax and the ABC. She is the author of six books, including the biography of Joe Hockey.