I am writing a series of pieces documenting my thoughts on the lead up to the Australian Federal Election to be held on 14 September 2013. As a young woman, it will be my first experience of voting in a Federal election. I am not endorsing any particular party or politician. All opinions are mine unless stated otherwise, and while I will try to include honest information at all times, nothing should be taken as fact without further investigation. You can view my first post here.
What. A. Day.
For Australia. For Australian politics. For democracy. For Gillard. And for the Australian Labor Party.
I almost don’t know where to begin which seems crazy in that I only learnt of today’s events at 3:15pm. As I write, it is not yet 8pm. So all this has happened, been and apparently gone, finished, done, within a matter of hours. Now, that’s not to say today’s challenge within the Labor caucus came out of the blue. Such a statement would be dismissive of much debate and controversy documented by the media over the past weeks (and months, and years, depends where you draw the line).
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, urged journalists to ‘lift their game’ as presumably false reports came in that his support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, had dropped. While Minister Carr has been a loyal supporter of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, for quite some time now, Carr confirmed that he was well behind the Prime Minister to lead the Australian Labor Party into the Federal Election in September this year. Despite this, no one was doubting the ruckus the Labor Party were in. This was confirmed by many, including Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon. However, yesterday he did say that he’d ‘not seen anything’ that would suggest today’s leadership challenge.
But late last night it became known that Simon Crean, previously thought to be a steady supporter of Gillard, was being pushed to offer himself as an alternative leader of the Labor Party. At the same time, Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler, confirmed his own support for Gillard.
All of this has occurred within the context of the last week of parliamentary sitting before the May budget. The agenda this week included the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stephen Conroy’s proposed media reforms, the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and the national apology to those who faced forced adoptions. Much of these debates flew under the radar today, but the newly named DisabilityCare and Murray Darling Basic Plan passed, while the majority of Conroy’s media reforms did not. Most unfortunately, the apology regarding forced adoptions was largely stamped out by Simon Crean’s insensitive timing with his decision to call a leadership challenge.
The Minister for Regional Australia and the Arts demanded a ballot and simultaneously announced that he would run for Deputy if Kevin Rudd were to run for the leadership again. While Rudd has repeatedly stated he would not run for leadership, the public and to some extent, his fellow party members may have been right in thinking he would go back on his word. Politicians are known to be unreliable.
But true to character, Julia Gillard took all of the above in her stride and announced a leadership spill to take place at 4:30pm and warned jovially that others should ‘in the meantime, take your best shot’.
What followed all happened very fast. Kevin Rudd held true to his word and announced that he would not be standing for the leadership position. Thus, caucus met and Gillard and her deputy/Treasurer Wayne Swan, were reelected to their positions, unopposed.
Mr Crean has since stated that he was ‘surprised that Kevin Rudd didn’t stand’. No shit, mate. You’ve just caused a major disruption to parliament, made yourself look like a total dick on a national stage, and subsequently, you’ve been demoted to the backbench. All in a good days work, I suppose.
Many Ministers jumped on board to express their (reserved) opinions including Defence Minister Stephen Smith, who gave a calm response to the media, expressing that there were a number of people he suggested should consider their positions within the Party. Joel Fitzgibbon has already stated he would be taking the seven weeks between now and The Budget to do so, yet Smith alluded to others who should do the same. No names were mentioned. Ultimately, Smith stated ‘It’s over. That’s it.’At for the moment, it looks like it might be.
But what does this mean for the Australian Labor Party and the September election? The Party is in such a state I’m finding it hard to draw any conclusions what-so-ever, right now. But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has sure found himself in a lovely place tonight. Additionally, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has called for an election. He says the past two and a half years have been wasted by the Labor government at the expense of the nation.
Today has left the Labor Party in pieces. The Coalition are sure in a sunny spot and it looks like any success for the Labor Party in September has vanished. But as I tweeted in the heat of the moment this afternoon, ‘In Australia’s democracy, you vote for a Party, not a person. ALP voters must vote this way to avoid an Abbott leadership in September.’
So now it’s in our hands. You can pick and choose your people, and I’m not saying these figures are unimportant or hard to look past. But they shouldn’t necessarily dictate which party receives your vote. Remember, vote for the values, the policies and the government body as a whole. Because that’s the way our nation works. And that’s one thing that’s not changing anytime soon.