This is my attempt to rank the last seven male Prime Ministers of Australia according to the Socio-Sexual Hierarchy (SSH). I have briefly referred to the SSH before here but an excellent overview can be found in the video I have added below. The theory was developed by Vox Day and he covers all that is necessary to know for this post in the video.
Now, if you have watched this or are familiar with the SSH, it should be clear why I am only covering the last seven male Prime Ministers. The reason I’m limiting it to the last seven is because these are the Prime Ministers that served during my lifetime. I don’t consider myself familiar enough to comment with any confidence on others though I think I could give a pretty good guess with regard to Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. I have also seen all of these men in their role and in their public interactions with others. All except Bob Hawke are alive as of writing and Bob only died last year. Finally, if I didn’t limit myself somewhere, I would feel the need to cover every Prime Minister and this would involve a lot more research and make for a rather long and tedious post.
I should add that this is completely based on my observations using the descriptions of the ranks in the SSH. I can be wrong (often in fact), and the SSH can be somewhat fluid though not with gammas. I would welcome anyone who could contradict anything I write here. I also want to insist that though I am right-wing, this does not affect how I rank these men. Even the most right-wing among them are to the left of me as you can see if you read almost any of my political content. The political beliefs of all these men are largely irrelevant to their socio-sexual rank. It is also mostly irrelevant to any good or bad they did in their role as Prime Minister.
I suspect that if I actually went through and did all of Australia’s Prime Ministers, I would find that most of them were deltas. It has often been noted that Australia has a rather uninteresting history and that’s partially because we were founded and largely led by thoroughly competent though rarely heroic men. We never had the need for a George Washington or an Arthur Wellesley because we didn’t have to fight anyone formidable to dominate the continent. The fighting was largely done by men taming the land and making it profitable.
Scott Morrison came into the role as a compromise candidate after the party room turned on Malcolm Turnbull in 2018. I wasn’t following this at the time nor privy to any discussions within the party room but I suspect he was selected for the same pragmatic, focus-tested reasons politicians seem to do everything now. He’d simply been around long enough and performed competently enough to be “electable” which proved to be so.
There is not much fight about him nor does he seem to have any desire to carve a name for himself in history like many of those below. He just seems to want to do his job and be liked for it. That is a thoroughly delta mindset and in times like these, unambitious politicians seem a whole lot safer than the alternative. As he’s been in less than two years, it would be hard to say much more about the man than this.
Malcolm Turnbull’s been in the news recently for releasing a political memoir. From the news headlines, seems to be as vindictive as you could expect from a gamma. I’ll admit here that of all the men on this list, I dislike Turnbull the most. I can trace that all the way back to the late 1990s when he was pushing for Australia to become a republic and no doubt imagined himself being the first president. This failed and he soon worked his way into the Liberal party and eventually became Prime Minister though not doing the hard work himself. That was left to another bloke who following their electoral success, he worked tirelessly to undermine until he could take over. He stood for one election following this which he could well have lost if not for the substantial majority his predecessor left him and then failed forwards until he was ousted in 2018.
Despite the narrative of a generally friendly media, Turnbull never had great support among the core supporters of the party he cynically attached himself too. The media simply looked at him as the least worst and quickly turned on him once he took power. His lack of success and quick decline was never a surprise to anyone paying attention. One of the traits of the gamma is the way they personalise everything and will seek to destroy those they even suspect of wronging them. This is what really makes his gamma status obvious. As soon as he lost the leadership he set about a path of destruction to undermine the party — though never openly. He set up his otherwise safe seat to be lost, he leaked to his friends in the media but all in a backbiting way that gave him plausible deniability. The media was also sure to cover for him.
The complete lack of enthusiasm I generally have the Australian electoral cycle was somewhat offset by the joy I felt, not in seeing the Coalition returned to government but knowing just how much it must have enraged this man’s ego. Dishonest, disloyal and petty are all words that describe Malcolm Turnbull and are also the distinguishing traits of a gamma.
Abbott is the quintessential delta of this whole group and I think nothing illustrates this better than him going out to fight fires while Prime Minister. He was criticised for doing this in a way that he would not have been if his political compass swung a little more to the left. One could argue that while commendable enough, it wasn’t his job to be fighting fires. But this is the essence of the delta mindset. The desire to do what needs to be done and to do it well. At the time there were fires, he was a trained volunteer and he wanted to get in their with the boys directly to solve the problem.
Abbott is also very much a politician so there was no doubt the hope for good press on his mind but the way he went about it wasn’t the typical rolled-up-sleeves and a hard hat type photo opportunity usually seen by politicians. He was really in their fighting them.
The delta mindset was also Abbott’s undoing. In contrast to gammas, deltas have high trust which can lead to serious mistakes in leadership. This is why he was easily undermined and removed by Malcolm Turnbull. An alpha would have either got rid of or politically neutered such a man as soon as he saw a threat. This also affected Abbott’s ability to implement policy he believed in because of his willingness to go along to get along rather than fighting it out. He was often portrayed by the media as a fighter but this wasn’t so much the case when it really counted. He was always much better as a competent officer in government than as a leader, as his brief stint as Prime Minister attests. All the work to get there and none of the glory — the destiny of the delta.
Kevin Rudd had a very carefully crafted public persona which made his gamma status far less obvious leading up to and in the early years of his election. After 11 years and four lost elections, the Labor party sold him as a younger version of his opponent. He was apparently never much liked in the party and this is much easier to understand now than it was back in 2007. Rudd’s public profile hid what is said to be a very unpleasant personality. The rumours of his tantrums and rudeness towards staff are very believable though I don’t recall any incidents being caught on tape.
Even if we were to dismiss such talk as malicious hearsay, his behaviour after he was ousted by his deputy Julia Gillard gives confirmation of his gamma status. A stronger leader would never have allowed a woman to undermine and oust him like that. And even if she could not have been ousted for publicity reasons, he would have still kept the other men in check. What became clear very fast though was that Rudd had few friends among his colleagues.
After being ousted, he gave an almost unwatchable cringe-inducing resignation speech where he cried while doing as much political damage to his party and their new leader as he could. An alpha would never have let it come to that and a delta would have retired with dignity to the back bench. Only a completely narcissistic gamma would do what Rudd did. He then spent the subsequent years quietly undermining Gillard at every turn until he was given the chance to lose in 2013. This was largely mirrored by Turnbull less than a decade later. One could say that history repeats but it’s just gammas being gammas.
I mentioned that these ranks can be fluid and John Howard makes the case for it. He was the hardest for me to rank but I think it is safer to put him in delta than any higher. Regardless of what you think of the man, he is one of the strongest and most successful leaders Australia has ever had. He is basically what Reagan was to the United States and Margaret Thatcher was to the United Kingdom.
Howard is an example where both age and experience elevate a man’s status. Unlike all the men already covered, Howard was in politics a very long time before he came to be Prime Minister. He was involved in politics from the late 1950s and elected to a seat in 1974 and didn’t become Prime Minister until 1995. His status as an elder statesmen elevated him in the public’s eye as well as those of his opponents.
Howard stared down an ambitious deputy on multiple occasions and fought off more than a few party room revolts. He ultimately went down in a political blaze of glory losing both the election and his seat in 2007. His opponents saw this as humiliating for him but I doubt he felt that way.
One could argue that Howard the man was a delta but a political alpha in a sense. But he his legacy was one of stability, hard-work a prosperity which one would associate more with a delta than with the always-at-war stance of an alpha.
I was still quite young when Paul Keating was Australia’s prime minister but I do remember him well enough. I didn’t like him at the time but I have come to respect him more as I’ve aged. It isn’t because of anything he did as prime minister and as I stated, I don’t think much of the politics of any of these men — especially in hindsight. What I like about Keating is his fighting spirit and verbal flair.
Even for people that disliked him, he was very entertaining to watch in parliament and there are a few hilarious exchanges of him with John Hewson (another gamma) and Alexander Downer on the parliament floor. He won what was called the “unwinnable” election in 1993 and made the most of his success. The reason I think he came up short against Howard was because his party had already been in power for over a decade and the public was ready for change. Howard also just had an elder statesman vibe about him that let him absorb the blows and return them when necessary.
After leaving, Keating became notorious for his aggressive and direct responses to people who criticised him whether as treasurer or prime minister or in retirement. Something that distinguishes him from the others is his relative lack of filter for a politician. Like him or not, that’s something to admire.
The late Bob Hawke is to the best of my knowledge, the most alpha leader Australia has ever had. Easy evidence of this is that he was a notorious womaniser prior to and apparently during his political career; something not nearly so common in the other ranks. He was also quick-witted, charismatic and a real fighter. Hawke is notable for changing the direction of the Labor party in the 80s which could not have been done had he been a weaker man.
What is also interesting about Hawke is his relationship with Keating. Both were alphas and both probably didn’t like or trust each other but Keating respected the top dog and fell into a beta position until he had the chance to replace him. When Hawke was ousted did not have a big public sook and just retired, married his mistress and lived his life for the next thirty years. That’s what alphas do.
Please remember, I’m not approving — just observing.
I have generally avoided touching on the married lives of the men above and focused instead on their public behaviour. But if you are curious to look up their married lives, you’ll see they correspond consistently with their ranks. The alphas have attractive wives and partners. The deltas are dedicated and loyal and the gammas married women that can also stand in as their mothers.
There wasn’t an example of a beta among this group but I think an argument could be made for the former opposition leader, Bill Shorten. He could handle the role of lieutenant but couldn’t make a convincing leader.
Finally, it should also be added that in Australia’s system, you don’t vote for the man which is why men of lower rank can still overcome someone higher in the SSH. Their rank is still important but citizens are voting for politicians standing in their own electorate and whichever party elects enough to form government is what ultimately decides who wins. Leadership matters regardless but that changes things when compared to the United States presidential races.