Has the Australian prime minister’s job become impossible? The authors of The Pivot of Power: Australian prime ministers and political leadership 1949–2016 ask this question at the very end of their book. They conclude on an almost utopian note, one rather out of keeping with the otherwise judicious tone maintained over 300 pages: ‘a new dawn will arrive’.
Sadly, the optimism of Paul Strangio, Paul ‘t Hart and James Walter on this point is founded on their historical observation of previous reinvigoration of the office, and not anything that has come to pass during the prime ministerships of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, or Malcolm Turnbull. Most of what the authors tell us in their account of the office since John Howard’s political demise belies their eventual optimism. But they do help us to see that the issue is not that we have suffered an unusually long run of duds; the problems are rather inherent in the evolution of the role of prime minister.