Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A busy day in Australian politics, and other things.

He said, she said - the war of popularity between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard has been going on ever since the latter deposed the former in what at first appeared to be a shock backstabbing, but later appears to have been planned for some time beforehand (see the seventh question in this article). Not that such a thing would have been unreasonable - he had been warned of his likely fate if his failures continued, and continue they did - so out he went. But lately things had been escalating, to the point where leadership challenges had been talked about, and then it got to the point of the suggestion being made that he'd have to be sacked from the ministry if he didn't either challenge or shut the fuck up and get on with being Foreign Minister.

I'm not the only one to think that his continual white-anting and self-promotion would have long since constituted grounds for removal from the ministry (and possibly Parliament), save for the fact that the Gillard Government has always held on to constitutional legitimacy by the thread of one sitting member. However, the defection of Peter Slipper from the Liberal Party to the Speaker's Chair and the resumption of Parliamentary voting capability by his predecessor, Mr Jenkins, means that Gillard has the ability to deal with her recalcitrant predecessor and current underling.

Except that he has now pre-empted any move to sack him by resigning his Ministry portfolio. And in spectacular fashion, too - he called a press conference while on overseas business in order to do it in (Australia's) dead of night. And so the leadership spill is on. The expected choices are Gillard to continue or Rudd to topple and succeed the woman who replaced him. There are other theoretical options, of course, but it mainly comes down to the two heavyweights. Economic journalist Terry McCrann thinks this isn't much of a choice, and Professor Bunyip agrees with him. So does the Herald Sun's editorial, which offers (as does the Professor) a plea for whoever comes out of this as Prime Minister to simply call an election, give the people a say, and (if the polls are anything to go by) have this farce of a government over with.

I think Rudd pushed too far too fast, and has now resigned rather than face the ignominy of sacking. He now has to put up or shut up - the question is whether his Parliamentary career can (or indeed should) survive defeat in the inevitable leadership ballot to follow early next week. If he fails and resigns from Parliament, that's his political career over. It likely also means the Opposition will win his seat in the subsequent by-election, and that shifts us back to the razor's-edge balance that has brought us to this point, with the Australian Greens holding the balance of power and making the government legitimate... but in turn giving them the right to dictate policy to that government.


Rudd, elected as a Labor mirror of John Howard, has turned out to be a complete failure, turning a comfortable surplus into repeated budget deficits and helping to blow out the national debt to unheard-of levels (over twice what his Labor predecessors Hawke and Keating did in thirteen years) for little or no gain. His policies have been disastrous, and his defeat over one of them began the downward slide that eventually cost him his job. He was headed for electoral disaster and was removed as a failure. The only thing in his favour when it comes down to a showdown with Gillard... that she is an even worse failure. She was, it is true, an adequate (a more than adequate) acting Prime Minister while Rudd was out of the country (which he was frequently), and as Deputy Prime Minister was the logical choice to put in when he was deposed. She even did the correct thing, doing not much in the way of active policy initiation and going to an election as a popular decider to cement her legitimacy. HOWEVER, she was part of Rudd's inner Cabinet-within-a-Cabinet and as Education Minister oversaw the horrifically bungled "Building the Education Revolution" policy, which boiled down to $16bn of schools infrastructure, the State School portion of which was centrally managed, hideously over-cost and poorly thought-out (while the Private and Catholic School sectors got exactly what they wanted at a good price), and smacked of payoffs to larger construction firms with heavy union representation (the unions were the founding point of the Australian Labor Party and have justifiably called the Party's tune since then).

Plenty of people wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, especially starry-eyed young "feminists" for whom the first female Prime Minister was all their political wet dreams come true. Indeed, even I was willing to let her prove herself - provided that the dysfunctional bullshit which had gone on until that point really was Kevin Rudd's insane megalomania and not the entire Inner Cabinet simply fucking things up in grand style. Alas, it was not to be. Among other things, Gillard swore up and down that "there will be no Carbon Tax under a government I lead", right up to the day before the election, and her ministers smeared everyone who said otherwise as a fear-monger. It can be argued - given the narrowness of the result - that had the voters known the eventual outcome (a Carbon Tax was tabled in Parliament and passed with the help of the Greens and the Independents), they might have voted differently. Whether Gillard was forced into it by the Greens who supported her government across the line or whether she actively lied on a major policy issue is irrelevant - she brought it in, and she's stuck with the responsibility for it.

Maybe we will learn that it is a bad thing to put in a "minority" leader (woman, black, gay, whatever) for the sake of equality; maybe not. There are two more tranches of starry-eyed "feminists" who have reached voting age since this mistake was made, and a third may yet do so before the deciding moment. I hope common sense outweighs "feminist" loyalty and they consign this worthless Emily's-Lister to the dustbin of history. There is no point in increasing the number of women (gays, blacks, etc) in Parliament solely to "balance the numbers". What we want is talented women (gays, blacks, etc) not to be blocked because of their gender (sexuality, skin colour, whatever). That is what constitutes equality.

Another thing she has utterly failed on is illegal immigrant policy. Indeed, her own words during John Howard's long tenure as Prime Minister - "Another boat, another policy failure" - bid fair to haunt her as much as does the "No Carbon Tax" gaffe.

I want rid of both of them - gone from the Prime Ministry, gone from Parliament, gone from public life and with their pensions denied them (and all their colleagues) in order to start paying back the massive debt they have incurred. The only thing I cannot decide is which of them I most want to see delivering the concession speech on Election Night.

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