Australia's constant leadership spills prove just how good MMP is - Labour MP

Australia's leadership merry-go-round should put an end to claims our MMP system is unstable, say MPs on both sides of the House.

Australia faces having its sixth Prime Minister in 11 years on Friday, with Malcolm Turnbull likely to step aside to make way for either Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop or Scott Morrison.

Australia's electoral system is a mixture of first-past-the-post, preferential and STV systems - unlike MMP, the total makeup of its parliament doesn't necessarily correspond to how many votes each party got. For example, in 2016 the Australian Green Party got more than 10 percent of the vote, but only one seat in the 150-seat lower house. 

Since 1996, New Zealand has used the MMP system, which seats in Parliament almost directly correspond to how many votes a party got. Critics have long argued MMP would result in unstable governments relying on coalition partners with only razor-thin majorities. While the latter is true - there hasn't been a single-party majority Government since we switched to MMP - the former hasn't eventuated.

"We've had a long period of stability - three successive Governments before this one which were nine years each," Labour MP Michael Wood told The AM Show on Friday.

"The last time we knifed a leader when they were in office was back in 1997, when [Dame Jenny] Shipley pushed out [Jim] Bolger. We've had strong leaders like the current Prime Minister, like the previous ones."

Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull.
Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull. Photo credit: AAP

The first MMP Government - the one during which Dame Jenny "knifed" Mr Bolger - had its speed wobbles, but lasted the distance until Helen Clark took over as Prime Minister. She lasted nine years, and was replaced by John Key, who willingly stepped down to retire from politics, bloodlessly handing the reins to Bill English.

"People have often criticised MMP saying it would lead to instability - actually we've had incredibly stable Governments, and I think that's something to take note of and feel good about," said Mr Wood.

National MP Judith Collins, appearing alongside Mr Wood on The AM Show, said there hasn't been much stability across the Tasman since John Howard  was defeated in 2007 by Kevin Rudd - who'd go on to get rolled by Julia Gillard, before rolling Ms Gillard himself in 2013. His second stint as Prime Minister lasted only three months, before he was defeated by Tony Abbott, who got rolled in 2015 by Mr Turnbull.

Judith Collins and Michael Wood.
Judith Collins and Michael Wood. Photo credit: The AM Show

Of the three likely challengers, Ms Collins had nice words for Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison.

"She likes us, I think," she said of Ms Bishop. "I think she's been good. I think she does... She likes Winston Peters and she likes us as a country. She's been quite generous about us. She wasn't keen on Jacinda Ardern telling her what to do."

She worked with Mr Morrison when she was Minister of Police and he was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

"He was very, very helpful in cutting through some of the bureaucratic pushback from the Australian bureaucracy and he really made them get onto it and sort out some matters for us. He was great."

In the end, both MPs said they'd work with whoever's in charge at the end of the week.

"I don't think we've particularly got a say in the matter," said Mr Wood. "In the end what we have to do is work with whoever Australia ends up choosing as their leader. It's a dangerous path to start wading into that... we've got to have a good relationship with them."