Rudd's Ministry after being sworn in on 3 December 2007
Irrespective of Rudd's failings, and we should not understate his leadership in saving Australians from the demise of the GFC; no leader deserves a factional coup d'etat.
Sudden leadership spills are unsettling to all concerned. What happened to Rudd was equivalent to a CEO being suddenly escorted from the company premises.
It was an humiliating and disrespectful act characteristic of oppressive regimes and revolutions, both uncharacteristically Australian. In the interests of good governance, probity, electorate accountability and civility, the process of leadership replacement needs review. What would have been wrong for instance with a two week notice period allowing for civil measured transition? What was the rush? We are not at war.
The process of leadership replacement where a political party can suddenly replace a Prime Minister or a State Premier without electoral involvement is undemocratic. Political parties are elected on the merit of their leader. That merit earns an electoral mandate. If that mandate is not fulfilled, it is for the electorate to judge.
Australia now has an unelected prime Minister and an unelected Premier of the country's most populous state, NSW - both appointed by the Labor Right factions. Irrespective of the personalities or gender of these two leaders, that they may be seen as factional appointments should be cause for concern by Australians that a undemocratic process and an unaccountable political group can control government at federal and state levels simultaneously. Where does the real power and control lie?
Such power must be realised, then properly curbed and restored to the people, even if such a leadership change were to be trigger a compulsory election. Until there is a general election Gillard's Government is not credible.
On the back of these two issues, Australia has its first female Prime Minister in Julia Gillard. This is an historic achievement, but it shouldn't be. What has take us so long? This is 2010 and all Australians are supposed to be equal and feminism has been fighting since the suffrage movement on the 1880s. Gender shouldn't even be a factor in a mature civilized society, just like ethnicity or age. It is an indictment on Australians that few indigenous people are in politics and that it is probably many generations away before we can celebrate an Aboriginal woman as Prime Minister.
That our socio-political mindset is so hung up on the abilities and performance of one person in the role a leader is a rather vulnerable insecure position for the electorate and the media to be in. It means that the success or failure of the entire nation hinges on the whim of one personality. In Rudd, we trusted him on his promises, but even though he was quickly distracted by the GFC and then lost focus on key issues, he didn't end up being an axe murderer, luckily. American voted for George W. Bush and look what they got - someone who condoned torture and sent Americans to invade another country!
Our dependence on one person to lead the nation poses an unnecessary 'key man' risk. It is the Government and specifically a Cabinet team of ministers who should be running the country, not Rudd, not a gang of four, not just Julia Gillard. Running a country is immensely complex. It is a shared responsibility that of course demands leadership, but for effective delivery requires layers of delegation and good governance.
Gillard would be wise to better utilise the talents of her elected representatives than trying to do everything herself like Rudd tried to do but failed. Gillard should be about leadership of the Cabinet. Gillard's Government should be about managing the national interest as directed by Cabinet. The two functions are distinctly different. Rudd' experiment with autocracy should be learnt from. He started off with a progressive approach to listening to the electorate in his 2020 Summit. Perhaps his incapacity to interpret criticism constructively saw him become insular - lessons we can all learn from.
If we consider some of our more longer serving leaders at both federal and state levels who were popular with the electorate and not divisive, we may learn from what works for Australian political stability. Deakin, Menzies, Hawke, Wran come to mind. Liberal and Labor are ideologically the same so it matters little which is in office. Listening and consultation followed by decisive action is a good start and this is one of the first indicators of Gillard's style she announced on taking the helm.
I wish her new government well. It would be reassuring for voters to think they can look forward to a long period of political stability in Australia, without the usual cycle of new leader euphoria...disappointment...complacency...anger...contempt...followed by let's give the Opposition a go.
But we must have an election soon. Until we do, Australia does not have a 'government of the people, by the people, for the people.' [Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 19th November, 1863, Pennsylvania, USA].