The Aussies have ditched yet another prime minister, making dear old New Zealand look like an island of sanity and delivering us some political lessons from which we should learn.

The victim, Malcolm Turnbull, had a short but disastrous career as PM, lasting under three years in the job.

He seemed from a distance a kind of sensible "small c" conservative, a bit like Sir Bill English, who should have flourished in a liberal, tolerant society like Australia but the only feather in his cap was the legalisation of same-sex marriage which he achieved via a referendum.

Turnbull had swooped on his hapless predecessor, Tony Abbott, when Abbott's born-in-England forelock-tugging tendencies got the better of him and he bestowed one of the Australian knighthoods he'd newly revived on the Queen's husband.


Media of all kinds had a fun making a mockery of what Abbott called his "captain's pick" and I recall one newspaper underlined how silly all this was by publishing the full list of his titles (before the Australian knighthood) which went: His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand, Extra Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Canadian Forces Decoration, Lord of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Personal Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.

There you go, ridiculous but true. Harry Potter's alive and living in Buckingham Palace or is it Bilbo Baggins?

Despite Australia voting down the idea of becoming a republic and staying with the current monarchy some years before, Tony Abbott's bout of royal grovelling went down like the proverbial with the average Aussie, however his ousting left a glowering presence on the back benches, lusting after the vengeance that became his last week.

Turnbull lost support in his own Liberal Party caucus because of a series of poor poll results (though the gap between the ruling Coalition and the Labor Party was recently closing) and his attempts to do something about climate change by limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

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I subscribe to the Australian edition of The Spectator which features a gaggle of rabid right-wing and climate change denying columnists who chortled with glee at Turnbull's demise, but the last laugh may yet lay with the defeated former PM who has resigned from his seat of Wentworth in Sydney, causing a by-election and jeopardising his successor's one-seat majority in Parliament.

Judging by the result of a State Parliament by-election in New South Wales that occurred shortly after this Liberal Party blood-letting, the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, could be forced to a general election soon.

The Liberal Party has almost certainly lost Wagga Wagga, one of its safest state seats, to a local independent with a swing approaching 30 per cent.

One of the reasons for Turnbull's demise is that small but well organised groups of religious extremists who tend towards climate change denial have been taking over the local Liberal Party branches and selecting sympathetic candidates who become MPs.

Morrison is Australia's first Pentecostal Prime Minister, which would have been to his advantage in the leadership ballot.

One unwelcome feature of Australian politics that seems to be catching on in this country is the phenomenon of the "shock-jock"; radio commentators who seek to make their name by expressing extreme opinions.

Joining this tacky bunch this week was Heather du Plessis-Allan, who labelled Pacific Islands "leeches" because we allocate aid money to some Pacific Island countries that New Zealand has treated badly in the past.

By labelling countries as blood-suckers rather than their people, du Plessis-Allan sought to avoid accusations of overt racism, but the dog-whistle message was plain.

I thought that the South African-born and raised du Plessis-Allan was better than this but her media career has been tanking in recent years and she clearly thinks she needs to make a splash by whatever means.

An excuse for this kind of nastiness might be that she missed out on some basic Pacific history, having suffered under an apartheid childhood.

I'd suggest that Heather Googles "Samoan Flu epidemic" or "Nauru's top soil" if she's confused about why real Kiwis don't mind if we bung a few bucks the Pacific Islands' way when we can.

• Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.