Every think-tanker wants to be mentioned in The Economist, so it was a thrill to find myself quoted several times in the Banyan column back in March on the Labor leadership spill.

But there was an unmistakable hint of reproach in the article. It was polite, of course, but Banyan said that, in referring to the interminable Labor leadership struggle as our 'long national nightmare' (an allusion to US politics), I was 'fretting' about Australia's international reputation. And as I said the next day, it did seem as if I had over-reacted. The world took no notice of the leadership farce.

It's less than three months later and Prime Minister Gillard has just announced another ballot among Labor MPs for the leadership, at 7pm tonight. Deposed prime minister Kevin Rudd will contest.

So can we worry about Australia's international reputation now?

Former foreign minister Gareth Evans certainly thinks so:

Australian politics should, on the face of it, hold as much interest for the rest of the world as Tuvan throat singing or Bantu funerary rites. But I have found otherwise in my recent travels in North America, Europe, and Asia. Much more than one might expect, there is an eerie fascination in political and media circles with the death throes of the current Australian Labor Party (ALP) government.

How is it, policymakers and analysts ask, that a government that steered Australia comfortably through the global financial crisis, and that has presided for the last six years over a period of almost unprecedented prosperity, could be facing electoral extinction in September, as every opinion poll is now predicting?

How did a diverse, socially tolerant country with living standards that are the envy of much of the world, become roiled by so much political divisiveness and bitterness?