Politics Magazine

Gillard Ousted from Labor’s Leadership

Posted on the 27 June 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the nation of Australia have, in the space of just 24 hours, got themselves a new leader. However, this leader is not really new, as he himself lost power just three years ago. Kevin Rudd is widely seen as more popular than his successor/predecessor Julia Gillard, but it is unclear if he can turn around the minority Labor government’s poll ratings in time for the election that is due before September. The left has been bracing itself for a crushing defeat at the hands of the Liberal Party (leader: Tony Abbott, the notorious bigot on the rabid right), but now considers a third election victory possible.

I don’t really know what to make of the leadership change. I prefer Gillard myself, but realise that it’s difficult to justify the retention of an unelectable leader, particularly when it is such a callous rightwing Opposition that is waiting in the wings. Indeed, Rudd yesterday echoed the comments made by Gillard that “I cannot stand idly by” whilst the Liberals are preparing to reverse all the achievements of the Labor government. Maybe that’s a fair point. Maybe Gillard should have expected to have power torn from her hands in 2013 as she tore it from Rudd’s in 2010. But there’s one thing that isn’t a maybe: three years of infighting caused by the Ruddites forsaking party unity for personality politics has fatally undermined Labor’s credibility. Every year of Gillard’s premiership was marked by a leadership election (these are short and simple affairs as they’re decided by a vote of Labor federal MPs. The ALP doesn’t bother with the democratic need to give its membership a vote, much less with trade union affiliates) triggered by a divisive minority. No wonder Labor is unpopular: any electorate would throw out such a disunited government.

It is commendable, therefore, that Gillard has accepted defeat with a lot more grace than Rudd. She has announced her retirement from politics at the next election, and said that she is proud of the considerable achievements of her government (which looks to me as being somewhat to the left of Rudd’s one) despite the challenges of internal divisions and the precarious parliamentary position of the party. Consider the merits of a Carbon Tax, expansion of social security provision, progressive reforms in health and education, and defending the country against a resurgence in regressive social and political views. And of course, Gillard was the first female Prime Minister, and has had to fend off a shocking level of chauvinism and misogyny that should shame a liberal democracy.

Neither of the leaders is perfect, but I would emphasise that it is important for Labor to enter the election with a coherent message and stable leadership. This infighting must stop, and although Rudd is far too moderate for my liking, Labor must accept him as their leader for the time being. And I would echo the call he made in parliament a few hours ago: please lets take the venom out of Australian politics. A recent Liberal fundraising dinner had this on its menu:

“Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail: small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”

It’s not funny and it certainly isn’t clever. Let this remind us why it is so important for our Australian comrades to win this time, rather than the sort of people who deem such ‘ humour’ appropriate in the 21st century.

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