Two more senior ministers deserted the government this weekend, with Christopher Pyne and Steven Ciobo both announcing they would quit politics at the election.
The pair joined an increasingly long list of big name Liberals who are leaving, which includes Julie Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion.
But the exodus of talent from the government’s senior ranks is even worse than it seems.
Below you can see the group photo of Malcolm Turnbull’s ministry immediately after the 2016 election — at the start of this term of government.
We’ve crossed out the MPs and senators who have left the ministry, or are quitting politics at the election.
It’s a long list.
Scott Morrison is running out of time to erase the Coalition’s deficit in the polls, with the election less than three months away.
And he is confronting that already intimidating task without an ever-growing number of political stars.
The former prime minister left parliament and triggered a by-election after losing the leadership in August.
His decision to quit severely weakened the government, particularly when independent Kerryn Phelps won his old seat Wentworth, defeating the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma.
That robbed Mr Morrison of a majority in parliament, and when Liberal MP Julia Banks later defected to the crossbench, the government became vulnerable to losing votes on the floor of the House.
Mr Turnbull’s somewhat frequent public interventions haven’t helped either.
Since leaving parliament, he has lobbied Liberal MPs to refer Peter Dutton’s eligibility to the High Court, got into a spat with Mr Morrison over the idea of moving the Israeli embassy, heaped praise on Ms Banks, slammed the government’s energy policy and aired his grievances with his party very openly.
Ms Bishop quit the ministry in the wake of Mr Turnbull’s knifing, but having been foreign minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party for years, remained the Coalition’s most popular MP.
She announced her decision to quit at the election at the end of the year’s first parliamentary sitting fortnight last month.
RELATED: Why Julie Bishop is quitting
“During the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to closely consider the future of the Coalition government and the pending general election,” Ms Bishop told parliament.
“The government will be returned to office because it is focusing on what matters to the Australian people. And on that basis, I have reconsidered my position as the member for Curtin,” she said.
“I’ve been contacted by a number of talented, indeed extraordinary people, including women, who have indicated to me that should I not recontest the seat of Curtin, they would seek preselection.
“It is time for a new member to take my place.”
On her way out, Ms Bishop has spoken frankly about her failed leadership ambitions and criticised Mr Pyne and Mathias Cormann by name for their roles in sabotaging her.
Ms O’Dwyer, the Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, is leaving politics to spend more time with her young children.
“In composing photo books and looking at the special moments over the Christmas period I’ve seen how many I have missed and I know how many I will miss,” she said in January.
“I no longer want to consistently miss out on seeing my children when I wake up in the morning and when I got to bed at night.”
Ms O’Dwyer said she and her husband wanted to have another child and “everything would have to go right”.
“Like so many families, our journey to parenthood has not been straightforward and if my husband and I want to give ourselves the opportunity for a third child, we have to be realistic.”
Her Victorian electorate, Higgins, could be under threat at the election.
Mr Joyce is still in parliament and is running for re-election in New England, but has suffered a spectacular fall from his previous position as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister.
He had to quit and go to the backbench after his affair with a former staffer, Vikki Campion, became public knowledge.
The couple are currently expecting their second son.
Mr Brandis was the Attorney-General in the Abbott and Turnbull governments, and the party’s leading legal mind, before he left to become Australia’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
“One of the mistakes that people in politics make is too often they stay too long, because they can’t bear to leave,” he said after he quit politics.
“They become institutionalised, they become addicted to the game of politics and addicted to the atmospherics of this building, and eventually, they get kicked out.”
Mr Pyne has been in parliament since the age of 25 — he was elected in 1993 — and to be fair, could probably use a change of scenery by now.
“It’s time to retire while people are asking me to stay, rather than continue and end up later with people telling me to go,” Mr Pyne said yesterday.
His departure leaves the government with an obvious short-term political problem.
It holds his South Australian seat Sturt by a margin of 5.8 per cent. Internal polling showed Mr Pyne would have retained it easily, but now, with a new Liberal candidate, it could conceivably be up for grabs.
Beyond that, however, the Coalition is losing one of its most genial and likeable personalities.
Mr Pyne has held a number of serious jobs. He is currently Defence Minister and Leader of the House, which essentially means he’s in charge of making all the government’s parliamentary business run smoothly.
But he is better known for approaching politics with a levity many of his colleagues, on both sides of the divide, sorely lack.
Viewers of Channel 9’s morning show Today would be familiar with his weekly, banter-filled appearances alongside Labor’s Anthony Albanese.
The pair often fiercely disagree, but nevertheless manage to convey that they like and respect each other — something that seems increasingly rare in politics.
These days Mr Pyne also co-hosts a Sky News program with Labor MP Richard Marles. They have the same friendly dynamic.
And of course, Mr Pyne is a “fixer”.
Mr Ciobo relinquished his Defence Industry portfolio yesterday — it has been given to Senator Linda Reynolds — but spent several years as trade minister, which meant he was almost always away from home.
“Federal politics is anti-family, full stop. Don’t let anyone ever pretend otherwise,” he said yesterday.
“You often see family breakdown that happens in federal politics. There would be a lot of other professions in which it would be the same.”
Mr Ciobo was one of the senior Liberals who pushed to remove Mr Turnbull. In the August party room meeting, he put his name forward for deputy leader, but was soundly beaten by Josh Frydenberg.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan also cited family as his reason for resigning.
“Whilst politics is a proud vocation, it is also a difficult and exhausting business,” Mr Keenan said.
“The pressures on family life are formidable, as are the constant rigours of being an effective member of parliament, as well as a minister in the government.
“I have always worked hard as a member of parliament and as a minister, but after doing this for 15 years, I cannot commit to another term.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he would quit his Northern Territory Senate seat less than 24 hours after Mr Keenan’s January announcement.
“It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve the people of the Northern Territory for the last 17 years in the Australian Senate,” Mr Scullion said.
“My path to public office wasn’t a conventional one. I was just an everyday fisherman and sometime buffalo shooter and I raised my three beautiful children Sarah, Daniel and Luke on a fishing boat off the coast of Gove and North East Arnhem Land.
“John Howard famously said the Coalition is a very broad church and the fact that it has allowed a bloke like me to sit around its cabinet table shows just why it continues to be the party hardworking Australian families keep putting their trust and faith in.”
Mr Scullion did not elaborate on his reasons for quitting.