Allan Takes Aim Blog

A PM’s post mortem and bribery

Posted on: 30 September 2010


Published in Online Opinion 30 Sept this is an extended version of the article published in The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 28 September  

Notwithstanding that former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is again strutting the political stage, his unexpected political assassination must be subject to a post mortem. His assassins don’t want one because, unfortunately for them, a political post mortem is likely to shed light on a range of political health problems they don’t want brought to light.

Unlike Scarpetta’s criminal forensic skills, my political forensic skills are nil, so in tackling this post mortem I asked the following questions. Why did Kevin Rudd end on the slab of the political mortuary? Was it because his political killers thought him dictatorial, lacking in ideas and competence and thought they could do better? It will be of little consolation to him that because history is unkind to assassins when the history of assassination is written his assassins will not be treated any differently.

However, a brief background of the victim is useful when doing a political post mortem. So what of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? From the time he was sworn in as Australian Prime Minister on December 4, 2007, until June 24, 2010, he seemed happy and content.

But as time went by, some parliamentary colleagues became unhappy because if his and Labor’s standing in the polls continued to slide, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, some feared they would suffer at the pending federal election as did their State colleague in Penrith when Liberal Stuart Ayres took the seat from Labor with a massive swing of 25.5 per cent.

Unfortunately politics breeds unhappiness in some practitioners, a situation that came to a head on June 24, 2010, when four of Rudd’s unhappy but ambitious colleagues, plus his deputy Julia Gillard, plotted to remove him as Prime Minister in an act reminiscent of mediaeval times.

The reason given for the assassination was that he had taken the government off track. One wouldn’t need to be a cynic to think this a poor excuse for grabbing power and not much different to what happens in democracies where, in their quest for power, leaders of political gangs assassinate elected leaders.

No doubt the assassins thought the people would flock to their banner. Unfortunately for them, the people quickly showed displeasure at their action. And, no matter how hard the gang tried to portray Kevin as leading Australia to disaster if he remained PM, the people didn’t believe them nor pay much heed to their complaint that he had been dictatorial.

That they had little to complain about became clear because, after Kevin’s assassination when in a case of the pot calling the kettle black, PM Gillard donned the Prime Ministerial mantle and displayed her own dictatorial style by changing Labor’s policy of no carbon tax without reference to her colleagues. And if only to emphasise her dictatorial style she announced, again without reference to her colleagues, her foolish idea of a Citizens Committee to discuss a carbon tax.

And just as the people didn’t flock to their banner, the assassination also exposed deep divisions within labor as reported by Michelle Grattan, the authoritative political editor of The Age on July 28: “Julia Gillard now appears to be the victim of a systematic attempt from within her own party to blow her campaign out of the water.”

At the same time, if the gang’s alleged intention was to take power and get government back on track, it has to be said that if it had been off track before, they managed to take it further off track. Under Gillard, the mistakes have mounted. A few examples: her off the cuff election speech that wasn’t off the cuff; the East Timor fiasco; and the cash for clunkers scheme (a big clunker in itself) and others.

The chain of events in this sad tale brought to mind the famous phrase attributed to Abraham Lincoln that, “Government is of the people for the people and by the people”. While those words might once have been true the situation has changed. Today, government is of politicians, for politicians, by politicians – a situation for which we, the people, are to blame because we allow politicians to persuade us that they follow the Lincoln dictum.

And so Australia went to an election. The result of that election showed that many people had deserted Labor and given support to the Coalition parties. At the same time, some put their trust in The Greens and some supported Independents, decisions that helped create a hung parliament and posed difficulties when determining which party, or parties, would gain government.

That it took 17 days to form government shows just how difficult the task was. Indeed we might still be without a government had not Oakeshott (I nearly wrote big shot) and Windsor, two of the five Independents – the others are Crook (a notional National), Katter and Wilkie – decided the bribes offered by Julia Gillard to support her as Prime Minister of a minority government were better than those offered by Tony Abbott leader of the Coalition parties. Let me add that if the bribes don’t get paid, almost certainly the people will go the polls before the minority government’s term expires.

Unfortunately, this will add to the perception that parliament is a Theatre of the Absurd. Readers familiar with the works of Samuel Beckett know that some critics think his Waiting for Godot is not only one of the Theatre of the Absurd’s most prominent works but also a play with a vast number of interpretations, much like the number of interpretations put on the future of the minority government by assorted political journalists.

Although Godot could be described as a drama, voters used to calling a spade a spade think the minority government a farce, because it showed how to gain “government by bribery” a view with which I have some sympathy. Take PM Gillard’s new ministry. With all of the assassins gaining a position I have heard it described as a ministry of the bribed.

For a final comment let me add, that on the basis of Kevin Rudd’s welcome overseas as Foreign Minister (some people say he acts like a PM waiting resurrection) PM Gillard might now regret appointing him to the post.

The Chronicle, for Canberra’s best community news.Published every tuesday

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6 Responses to "A PM’s post mortem and bribery"

You have got Kevie wrong.
He is a Salesman a BS Artist , his mantra is to pick up on anything that will grab attention and flog it like Billy Graham………………………..

Kevin Rudd is a diplomat and, whatever one may think of his term as Prime Minister, he sees Australia as an integral part of the world, unlike most of Australia’s politicians (and, regrettably, a rather large chunk of its population) who still maintain the XXth Century insular, or at best, regional, outlook.

Australia had started to dip its toes into the waters of the world under Kevin Rudd’s watch. It has now rushed back up the beach to the safety of its towel, umbrella, et al. We need a Federal Government that leads us firmly through the (inevitable) local waves, into world waters, where we can take our proper place in the XXIst Century. All this sitting huddled up on the beach watching the ships sail by is not doing us any good. We have a lot to contribute to the world, and it is time that we got on with it.

Australia needs to show that it is no longer just a Southern Hemisphere outpost of the USA. We got rid of John Howard. We managed to avoid getting Tony Abbott as Prime Minister (he would have taken us backward). We have clipped Labor’s wings (for the moment). Now is the time for a strong diplomatic world presence.

Kevin Rudd, as Foreign Minister, has a foot in both politics and diplomacy again. Julia Gillard could well be an interim PM while Mr Rudd catches his breath, and mulls over his past internal politics manoeuvring mistakes. Meanwhile, his appointment as Foreign Minister is a feather in Australia’s cap. Ms Gillard made a good decision there for the country, if not for her own future.

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