The Canberra Situation: what regional Australia is saying

Fairfax Media's vast Australian Community Media network of regional, rural and suburban newspapers and websites serves towns in every state and territory. 

Some of these communities are grappling with high youth unemployment. Others are confronting alarming suicide rates. Lots need better infrastructure and access to services. Many are beset by the worst drought in decades.

Today, as Australians contemplate the self-destruction of the Coalition Government and a seventh change of prime minister in a decade, we're asking the man and woman in the street for their unvarnished view of this week's events in Canberra.

Or the "madness", as Malcolm Turnbull described it on Thursday.

NSW

Drought relief, improving the National Disability Insurance Scheme and generally making Australia a better place – voters around Newcastle have no shortage of ideas on how government MPs could be spending their time rather than plotting leadership coups. Younger voters in particular are disillusioned with the constant instability. Several people approached by the Herald declined to comment because they said they too disillusioned to comment.  

At midday on Thursday, Albury’s Dean Street was bustling, with many on their lunch break turning their thoughts to the ‘chaos’ happening 200 plus kilometres away, in the country’s most powerful building. If Peter Dutton becomes Prime Minister some Border voters are considering breaking their long-held Liberal ties, while others are contemplating moving back overseas – but on both sides of the political divide the men and women on the street are simply sick of revolving door politics. 

Susan Ballinger was spotted taking part in a protest on Friday. Protesters were advocating for refugees in Manus Island, calling on Gilmore constituents to sign the petition to process refugees on Australia's mainland.

Susan Ballinger was spotted taking part in a protest on Friday. Protesters were advocating for refugees in Manus Island, calling on Gilmore constituents to sign the petition to process refugees on Australia's mainland.

Berry resident Susan Ballinger declared the situation in Canberra appalling when interviewed in Nowra on Friday morning.

“Well I think it's an absolute disgrace,” she told The South Coast Register

“I'm appalled at the self-interest, the bigotry, the total lack of concern for the public good –  there doesn't seem to be any interest anymore. It's all about their own egos. Well, I prefer Malcolm Turnbull stayed, but if not, Julie Bishop. She's calm, she's a 'small l' liberal, so she has moderate views. She's been a reasonably effective foreign minister, and she's a woman.”

Eurobodalla resident and former Liberal MP John Haslem has spoken out on the leadership “mess” in Canberra, declaring it’s “no good for the party or Australia.”

Bega's Randolph Parlau in Bega on Friday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Bega's Randolph Parlau in Bega on Friday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Meanwhile, Bega man Randolph Parlou said politicians pushing for the top job via a spill are chasing more than the half a million dollars per year salary received by a Prime Minister.

“They all want a piece of the Prime Minister’s pension pie,” Mr Parlau said.

“The tax payers pay for this until they die. That’s why they do it.

“I saw that happening years ago when they all started doing this.”

 Kerryann George in her Dubbo store, where she followed updates about the leadership contest. Photo: FAYE WHEELER

Kerryann George in her Dubbo store, where she followed updates about the leadership contest. Photo: FAYE WHEELER

A business owner at Dubbo has called for an end to political infighting in the wake of the latest contest for the nation’s top job. A concerned Kerryann George on Tuesday called for “common sense”, “respect” and “stability in our political system”. She found too few signs of those elements as the Liberal Party decided the future of leader and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier that day.

Battling the drought is of greater importance to people in regional areas than “party bickering” in federal politics, declared Dubbo Chamber of Commerce president Matt Wright. “I think in regional areas at the moment, there’s such a massive focus on the current drought conditions that that’s taking a little bit of precedence over potential party bickering on a national political level,” Mr Wright said.

Irene Relf with her father Clem Wisemantel on Manning Street in Taree. Photo Anne Keen

Irene Relf with her father Clem Wisemantel on Manning Street in Taree. Photo Anne Keen

“It’s bloody stupid.”

That’s how Taree residents, Clem Wisemantel and his daughter, Irene Relf feel about the leadership spill. “It’s making history,” Clem said. “We’ve not had a PM for a full term since John Howard.” Both Clem and Irene are waiting to see who the next leader of the country will be, with the Liberal Party leadership in question. “There is no interest in looking after the country anymore, it’s all become self-centred,” Irene commented.

Sabine Lister has been on the road with her husband for the past 15 years providing assistance to Australia’s homeless wherever their motor home sets down. 

Currently house sitting in town, the Lithgow Mercury interrupted Sabine’s morning coffee on Main Street to talk politics.  

“They’re acting worse than kindergarten kids, they should do the job they were voted in to do. We’re sick of all the testosterone flying around,” she said.

For Tamworth’s Matt Chessell, the situation in Canberra is incredibly disappointing. Come election time, Mr Chessell said he couldn’t “see how people would forget this”, but wouldn’t be surprised if people “lose focus on what their vote is worth in an election”. He also raised concerns about how it looked from an international perspective.

GLOBAL IMPACT: Matt Chessell says the political upheaval makes Australia look bad on a world stage. Photo: Gareth Gardner

GLOBAL IMPACT: Matt Chessell says the political upheaval makes Australia look bad on a world stage. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Fairfield’s Emmanuel Kondok is working hard to foster peace-building skills among Australian South Sudanese youth. He reckons our politicians need to learn the same.

“What has happened in the past week in Canberra is a big mess,” he told Fairfield City Champion.

“The Liberal party fighting over each other, it is not showing good leadership to the Australian people.”

The president of the Southern Sudanese Community NSW said the appointment of Scott Morrison​ as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister is unlikely to change things.

“They are all the same; Scott Morrision, Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton...there is no difference,” he said.

“The difference between what is happening in Canberra and overseas like southern Sudan, if the leader needs to be changed it happens by force. In Australian society, it is a war of words.”

Meanwhile, the saga of this week’s spill has dented business confidence,  Orange-based Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe says.

“Business needs to understand where they’re going,” she told the Lithgow Mercury. 

Former Orange City Council candidate Joel Everett said he usually voted Labor and thought the week’s events would help pave the way for a Shorten victory at the next federal poll. But the small comfort did not affect his attitude to the behaviour.

“That shouldn’t be happening, it’s embarrassing whichever side you stand on, to have leaders of your country only thinking about themselves,” he said. 

He said politicians needed to remember they were in parliament to represent the Australian people and the victorious leader after an election should be allowed to contest the next.

“It’s changed people’s attitude to the major parties because it’s happening on both sides – people are finding it very difficult to make a choice,” he said. 

Bob Triming, Bathurst.

Bob Triming, Bathurst.

After Friday’s leadership change, Bathurst’s Bob Triming has said the choice of Scott Morrison as the 30th Prime Minister of Australia was the “best outcome” given the options, but it never should have come to that.

“I thought it was wrong to continue it when the first leadership spill was overturned and won by Turnbull, then they go back and have another bite of the cherry,” he said. While he would have preferred to see Bishop succeed, stating she was the “best Foreign Affairs Minister we’ve ever had”, Mr Triming felt Morrison was the better choice over Dutton. “If Dutton was there and elected Prime Minister he would still have the issue of his validity to be in parliament over his head,” he said. 

A Riverina resident has slammed the whole saga as a debacle that’s been unfair on the whole country.

Joan Dartnell (left) with her Aunty Rita on Friday. Mrs Dartnell isn't too impressed with the leadership spill.

Joan Dartnell (left) with her Aunty Rita on Friday. Mrs Dartnell isn't too impressed with the leadership spill.

“Just get on with the job,” she said. “People vote for people to run the country and this goes on. I think it’s disgraceful to be honest.”

On the other side of the discussion is Lake Cathie resident Kerry Newman, who believes Scott Morrison will carry out his new job as Prime Minister of Australia well – even though he would’ve preferred to see Julie Bishop in the top job. 

“He’s proven to have a positive track record in all the portfolios he’s had up to now,” he said. 

“He (Scott Morrison) played it by the book and wasn’t part of the coup,” he said. 

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Self confessed Katherine stirrer, Bruce Francois, a former long-time pharmacist, is disgusted by events in Canberra.

Katherine resident Bruce Francois.

Katherine resident Bruce Francois.

“We seem to be a long way from them, and they seem to be a long way from us,” Mr Francois said.

“By that I mean, they don’t really represent the people who elected them.

“We have a lot of issues bubbling away here which gets lost in their squabbling doesn’t it.

QUEENSLAND

Along with seemingly everyone else in the country, people in Mount Isa are bemused by the goings on in Canberra. Ahead of the partyroom vote that elected Scott Morrison as prime minister, the North West Star took to the streets of Mount Isa to ask the local community what they thought of it all and their opinion on who should run our country.

In sunny Queensland, some Redlanders were not quite sure what exactly was happening in Canberra, with others dismayed at the antics of elected representatives. “They are kindy kids,” one man told Redland City Bulletin. “They are meant to represent us. They are elected by the people for the people, like Caesar said. They (only) want to keep their $180,000 per year and free car.”

JIMBOOMBA: Mum Natasha Swatton with Denwarah, 14, Isabella, 10, Contessa, 9, and Hunter, 7. "This Peter Dutton … I don’t know much about him. They say he’s not for immigration,” Ms Swatton said. Photo: Lisa Simmons

JIMBOOMBA: Mum Natasha Swatton with Denwarah, 14, Isabella, 10, Contessa, 9, and Hunter, 7. "This Peter Dutton … I don’t know much about him. They say he’s not for immigration,” Ms Swatton said. Photo: Lisa Simmons

Shoppers on the streets of Jimboomba were more concerned with the daily shop and getting the kids home from school than a Liberal leadership challenge and who might be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

John Phillips has given his thoughts regarding the Liberal leadership spill, slamming the federal government for “just looking after their own egos and pay packets”.

John Phillips gave his thoughts about the Liberal leadership spill at the Port Augusta Senior Citizens Club.

John Phillips gave his thoughts about the Liberal leadership spill at the Port Augusta Senior Citizens Club.

The Port Augusta man believes Mr Morrison’s reign as PM will be short-lived.

“We’ll be saying hello to a Labor government in a couple months,” Mr Phillips said. “Unless they (Liberals) pull off some last minute stunts that fool the public into voting for them.”

But for now, voters feel betrayed as this week’s circus results in a seventh change of Prime Minister in a decade.

Mr Phillips admitted that his vote feels worthless, declaring “they’re not governing for us, they’re governing for their own ends.”

Andrew 'Cosi' Costello has joked he would run for Prime Minister next, given the current political climate.

Andrew 'Cosi' Costello has joked he would run for Prime Minister next, given the current political climate.

Murray Bridge-born television personality Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello joked he would run for Prime Minster, given the current political climate. 

“It seems like the job is up for the taking for anyone, so I think I might throw my hat in the ring next week,” Mr Costello laughed.

“Everyone else has had a go now so maybe it could be my turn next.”

Port Lincoln business owner Tanya Bieniasz says she was not surprised by the infighting from the Liberal party but hoped they would focus on issues that many Australians cared about.

“I understand why others put their hand up, because they obviously don’t believe in his policies,” Mrs Bieniasz told the Port Lincoln Times.

“I believe you vote for a party, not a prime minister.”

Mrs Bieniasz said her main concerns for the country were the rising cost of living, electricity prices, and the drought.

She said the infighting was interesting so close to an election.

Mrs Bieniasz said she felt insulated from federal politics.

“Every government is bad for small business.”

TASMANIA

Former Tasmanian premier and member for Braddon, Ray Groom, has declared that the political class of today has separated itself from the people.

Watching the leadership spill unfold from his Hobart home on Friday afternoon, the 73-year-old said he was happy with the end result and confident the Liberal party would win an election. 

“I am pleased for Scott Morrison and for Josh Frydenberg,” he said. 

“I think they will make a good team. But to be honest I felt very sad when Kevin Rudd lost his position, even though I am a Liberal and former Liberal leader.  And again when Tony Abbott lost his position, it disappointed me quite deeply. 

“With this more so because Malcolm Turnbull didn’t have the chance to finish his term. Unless there is a serious matter, I believe a Prime Minister should be able to do what they were elected to do.”

The general feel on the streets of Launceston seems to be a simple one: enough is enough. 

Cameron North, 27, summed it up as “just a bit laughable” but having a detrimental impact to Australia’s international reputation.

“I think the rest of the world is laughing at us at the moment, and rightfully so,” he told The Examiner.

There is a lot of infighting, which means there is no point in a Prime Minister if they can’t work together. It is just hard to keep up with it all, because it changes every day. What happened to a stable government?”

On the other side of the debate though, was Merv Whybrow.

"The government today are doing their job as they should,” he said.

“I think the biggest problem is Tony Abbott. They need to just get rid of him. All he has done is criticise the government, he hasn’t been supportive of anyone or anything.”

Take a look at even more opinions from the streets of Tasmania here.

Voters in the Braddon electorate have said they are “completely unimpressed” with the unfolding leadership challenge. Ahead of the vote outcome The Advocate asked the public what they think will happen inside today’s party room meeting. 

Self-professed swinging Burnie voter Daniel Mcauley said he hoped Julie Bishop would take the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull. He described the leadership challenge as a “complete disaster”.

 Jani Perry says people more like Jacqui Lambie should lead the country, while Daniel Mcauley says Australian politicians have been acting like school children.

Jani Perry says people more like Jacqui Lambie should lead the country, while Daniel Mcauley says Australian politicians have been acting like school children.

VICTORIA

In Warrnambool, for Damian Chisholm the prospect of Australia having its seventh Prime Minister in a decade is a bit of a joke.

“We elect a Prime Minister and then they have all their infighting and shuffle him out and (it’s) next one please,” he said.

Mr Chisholm said if Malcolm Turnbull was rolled then Julie Bishop would be the best alternative.

“(It’s) very embarrassing,” he said. Here’s more from the streets of the ‘Bool.

Infuriated by Liberal in-fighting over the office of Prime Minister, Eaglehawk woman Tara McGrath headed to the local store and bought a sheet of poster paper. On it, she wrote two simple words and two symbols in bold, capitalised font: #ELECTION NOW! For the next hour, she sat outside Bendigo Town Hall and sparked conversations with passers-by.

Eaglehawk resident Tara McGrath makes her thoughts on the in-fighting over the office of Prime Minister known.

Eaglehawk resident Tara McGrath makes her thoughts on the in-fighting over the office of Prime Minister known.

Amidst all the confusion from Canberra, the Bendigo Advertiser asked the public what they thought about the state of affairs in Australian politics. The general consensus is politicians are too focused on their own success and have lost sight of what really matters, their constituents. Some people are tired of the country’s Liberal leadership while others hope to see Australia’s first women in the top job.

 The voice of the people. Bendigonians discuss the state of Australian politics.

The voice of the people. Bendigonians discuss the state of Australian politics.

The Wimmera Mail-Times caught up with Horsham's Jai Harrison as he and his partner Hannah took their dog for a walk through their hometown on Friday morning.

Both are frustrated with the revolving door of Prime Ministers in Australia, and want to see stability in Canberra and a person the nation can trust in the top job. They are not sure who would make the best Prime Minister, but want the chaos sorted out quickly. Mr Harrison said it was ridiculous that the country could see its seventh PM in 10 years if Malcolm Turnbull is ousted from the role.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

“The problem with trying to talk to these pollies is that they are way too self absorbed to actually listen to their people,” said Cowaramup resident Deanne Haddow, who was glued to the radio on Friday morning.

Katrina Lombardo, Deanne Haddow and Barbara Maidment told the Margaret River Mail why they are disappointed in the Australian leadership "madness" this week.

Katrina Lombardo, Deanne Haddow and Barbara Maidment told the Margaret River Mail why they are disappointed in the Australian leadership "madness" this week.

Margaret River resident Katrina Lombardo echoed Ms Haddow’s frustrations.

“I would like them to do their jobs and be accountable. I would like all of them to show leadership qualities in their field and portfolios,” Ms Lombardo said.

“I would like them to be understanding of every perspective not just their own and the higher socioeconomic members of our society as they seem incredibly blinkered. 

Foreign minister Julie Bishop would be the top choice for prime minister if there was a change of leadership for the government, according to Boyup Brook, WA, cattle producer Neil Derrick.

“Mr Turnbull was a good leader, so hopefully they can get their act together, but if there is a change she would be the way to go,” Mr Derrick said.

Boyup Brook, WA, cattle producer Neil Derrick. Picture: Courtney Walsh, Farm Weekly

Boyup Brook, WA, cattle producer Neil Derrick. Picture: Courtney Walsh, Farm Weekly

Mr Derrick said people had become disenchanted with politics due to the “constant change of leadership (seven prime ministers in 10 years) and the dual citizenship saga”.

He said “it has to change or the country is going to go backwards”.

“We vote a government in with a prime minister and we should have the right to say who stays and goes,” Mr Derrick said.

“Julie Bishop would be the one to vote for - she would pull in a lot of votes that the others wouldn’t.”

He said it was “disappointing” to see the treasurer Scott Morrison putting up his hand for the top job when the other day he was supporting Mr Turnbull.

Mr Derrick said it was time the country started looking at becoming a republic because the “system is not working now - what else have we got?”

Mandurah man Brenden Rickihana joined the national conversation over the Liberal leadership spill on Friday morning. 

While he isn’t eligible to vote because he’s a New Zealand citizen, Mr Rickihana said his opinion mattered because he has children and grandchildren who have been born and raised in Australia. 

He labelled the current political climate in Australia as “dire” and said he was shocked by the party’s decision to shake-up their leadership. 

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