There’s plenty of speculation about motives in the latest welter political party turmoil commentary, but a key possibility is routinely overlooked by the press gallery: money.
Politics is a job and politicians are like the rest of us in (a) wanting to keep their job and (b) being paid as much as possible for doing it.
So in the strange business of why Peter Dutton might challenge for the Liberal Party leadership, it’s worth considering the considerable dollars at stake for the former Queensland policeman.
Before counting them, the idea of Dutton challenging is indeed a strange business. As someone on Twitter opined, if the best thing the Liberal Party has going for it is having a leader who is more popular than Bill Shorten, it would be weird to dump him for someone less popular than Shorten.
There are several factors working against that preferred-leader polling.
The most obvious is Tony Abbott’s deeply vengeful, attack-dog nature. Malcolm Farr has best summarised Abbott’s negative-at-all-costs tactics in his quest to remove Turnbull from the leadership.
Add to Abbott’s thirst for revenge that of Barnaby Joyce, hurling stones from the National Party sideline. The idea of Joyce, with his record, offering any leadership advice is rich with irony. Joyce also had been desperate to keep the higher pay of being Deputy Prime Minister.
But what’s in it for Dutton at this juncture when it looks like he would be taking the captaincy of a team about to lose?
The first is the biggest motivator for any political leadership change: politicians worried about losing their seat.
After the Longman result, Dutton’s seat could well be under threat. The thinking would be that he would have better chance of holding Dickson if he was campaigning as Prime Minister. Prime Minister’s losing their seat is a rare thing – ask John Howard.
And then there’s the immediate cash. Dutton’s base pay would jump from an annual $350,000 or so to $528,000. Nice. And then there’s the Lodge in Canberra and Kirribilli House in Sydney. Very nice indeed. And improvements in future perks after leaving politics.
Maybe Prime Minister Dutton wouldn’t be in the Lodge for long with an election due by May, but the rewards are also great for hanging on as Opposition Leader – $376,000 base pay compared with $254,000 as a shadow minister or $203,000 as a backbencher.
Along with the temptations of holding greater power and the ego factors, the financial incentives for having a crack at the leadership are very real. Don’t let any politician tell you they’re not – except perhaps the very wealthy Malcolm Turnbull.