Tag Archives: Prime-Minister

American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

https://jilldennison.com/2019/09/14/three-republicans-speak-up/

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_Australia

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.

Meeks


A Proud Australian

Yesterday marked a special day in Australia. We voted ‘Yes’ to equality and a fair go. And we voted ‘no’ to bigotry.

As a nation, that’s cause for celebration, but the moment would have tasted even sweeter if it had marked the day marriage equality came into law.

Because it’s not there yet. This postal vote was not compulsory. It was also not binding. That means the politicians in Canberra can dick about forever and a day, delaying the inevitable just to pander to party factions. The result of the vote had barely been made public and already a Rabid Right politician was spruiking a marriage equality bill that would grant the right to marriage but would also water down anti-discrimination laws already in place!

I hope the Rabid Right enjoys its moment in the sun, because if they mess this up, none of the Liberals will stay in power for much longer. That is the one lesson none of our politicians seem to have learned. I guess they still think the political see-saw of the last few years is just an abberation. But it’s not. Parliament is full of Independents because we, the people, no longer trust the two major parties.

Malcolm Turnbull, our PM, has said he will make marriage equality a reality by Christmas. I hope that reality does not include the right for others to discriminate against gay couples, because reneging on the clear wishes of we, the people, will sound the death knell for his whole party.

cheers

Meeks

 


Australian #politics – the bad, the bad and the ugly

rip 2016On Saturday, July 1, 2016, Australia voted in a double dissolution election [for House of Representatives and Senate at the same time], but five days later we still don’t know which party will govern.

Nevertheless, we can safely say that Malcolm Turnbull has lost. If the Liberals remain in power, Turnbull may remain as Prime Minister, but his effectiveness will be severely compromised, as will his legacy.

So how did Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most respected and admired politicians in recent history, manage to lose his appeal in such a spectacular fashion?

The answer, I believe, is very simple, Malcolm was not allowed to be Malcolm and voters punished the party for it. To understand this, it’s important to understand the right wing, conservative, faceless, faction heavy weights of the Liberal party. They :

  1. loved Tony Abbott,
  2. hated Malcolm Turnbull [they still do]
  3. had to acknowledge that Tony Abbott was almost universally hated by voters,
  4. had to acknowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was liked and respected by voters on both sides of the Liberal/Labor divide

[confession: I liked him too and I’m a Labor voter],

Taking points 3 and 4 into consideration, it eventually became obvious that the party would suffer a landslide loss if Abbott stayed as Prime Minister. Worse still, only the hated Malcolm Turnbull would have any traction with voters. So after much gnashing of teeth, the conservatives gave in and offered Turnbull a deal: they would support his coup against Tony Abbott, but only if he [Turnbull] continued to toe the party line established by Abbott.

In hindsight, this seems rather crazy until you consider that the right wing has never had any time for Climate Change, or marriage equality or even that pesky NBN. So they were prepared to use the Turnbull popularity with the electorate but without all that small ‘l’ liberal nonsense.

What is less clear is why Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters accepted such a backhanded and hamstrung endorsement.

My personal guess is that Turnbull et al., must have seen the writing on the wall and grabbed what they could, believing [probably accurately] that he would never have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister.

So Malcolm and the conservatives struck a deal and for a while, the strategy appeared to work. Liberal popularity in the polls went up as Malcolm rode a wave of public hope.

We believed in Malcolm. Wasn’t he the man who lost the leadership of the Liberal party because he stuck to his principles on climate change? What greater sacrifice could a politician make? And wasn’t he also the man who openly supported gay marriage? And in a way, despite selling out on the full glory of the NBN, he at least managed to stop Abbott from scuttling it completely.

So Malcolm was our hero, and we believed that finally we would get a government that most of the country could swing behind. He might be a Liberal, but he was a good Liberal. Maybe even another Menzies [arguably the ‘best’ Prime Minister in Australia’s political history].

But then the winds of change began to blow a little cold. Week followed week and nothing we’d hoped for eventuated. Nothing on Climate Change. Nothing on marriage equality. Nothing on Refugees. Nothing on anything that any of us plebs actually cared about. What was going on?

In time, some of us began to think that Malcolm was playing a long game. Yes, he was under the conservative thumb now, but after the next election he’d be so successful that the conservatives would have to crawl back into their holes and finally, finally Malcolm could be himself.

I truly believe this was a part of the PM’s strategy when he called a double dissolution on an issue that no one seemed to care about, including him.

The trouble with this strategy was that Malcolm’s popularity declined in direct proportion to the release of policy after policy that favoured the big end of town while asking us to accept all the sacrifices required to balance the budget [at some point in the future].

Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a ‘fair go’, and we’ll happily dig deep to help those laid low by disaster [witness the 30 plus million dollars raised by public donations after the Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria]. But Australians also have a history of distrusting the super rich and the big end of town. If the Liberals had offered genuine support to small business, we might well have tightened our belts and got on with it, but they offered incentives to companies and corporations that did not need the help. And they were going to pay for it by making us do without.

That major miscalculation was rooted in the conservative concept of the ‘trickle down’ effect. In essence, it means that if government supports big business, big business will generate growth which will lead to jobs which will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Sadly, most people in the Western world have now had first hand experience of the trickle down effect and they know it doesn’t work. So when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberals bleated about jobs and growth, we weren’t listening. Added to this disinterest was a great disappointment – we’d had such high hopes for Malcolm and he hadn’t lived up to our expectations. Malcolm wasn’t Malcolm. Had he changed his mind about all the things we thought he cared about? Or had he sold us out just to be PM?

I think we might still have voted for Malcolm if not for the brilliant campaign run by Bill Shorten. I personally dislike the man and can’t see myself trusting someone who stabbed two Labor Prime Ministers in the back in order to be given the job of opposition leader. Nevertheless, despite all expectations to the contrary, Bill Shorten ran an inspired campaign. He picked up on all the disenchantment of ordinary voters – including their fears for Medicare – and hammered them home.

In the final analysis, however, Shorten’s campaign would not have been as effective if the right wing conservatives had allowed Malcolm to be Malcolm. Instead, they muzzled the goose that might have laid their golden egg, and now they’re spinning all sorts of ‘reasons’ to explain its failure to deliver.

I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull because I can understand his desperation to finally wear the mantle of PM. But the truth is, when he sold out to the conservative right, he lost the perceived integrity that made him popular in the first place, and with that, he lost the very thing he wanted most – validation.

In my last post I talked about the disaffection of Western voters, and how this might lead to a change in how we ‘do’ democracy but in the meantime, we are protesting about the lack of integrity of our politicians in the only way we can – by kicking them out. This, too, is democracy.

cheers

Meeks

 


Tony Abbott stays. Not happy Jan.

angryI just watched Phillip Ruddock announce that the Spill motion in the Cabinet was defeated in a secret ballot. Quite substantially too. So the Mad Monk stays.

For those unfamiliar with Australia politics, the Prime Minister is not chosen by the electorate. He, or she is chosen by either the Coalition Cabinet [Liberals] or the Caucus [Labor]. The Cabinet [and Caucus when Labor is in power] is made up of those elected representatives who have been invited to ‘front bench’ positions in the Ministry – i.e. positions of power such as Treasurer, Foreign Minister etc.

As the Cabinet [and Caucus] elect the Prime Minister, they are also capable of unelecting the Prime Minister. One way of doing this is to call for a Spill motion. Essentially this means that a majority of Cabinet Ministers are dissatisfied with the current Prime Minister and vote to have the position opened up.

If the Spill motion succeeds, anyone is free to put their hand up as a potential Prime Minister [including the current one]. Cabinet then has another vote to decide which of the possible candidates will be the next Prime Minister. And sometimes, the previous Prime Minister ends up being re-elected to the position.

Sadly, this particular Spill motion was defeated. As a Labor voter I’d far rather see Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister than Tony Abbott, but for the moment at least, we don’t get a say in the matter.

Fortunately for us, I don’t believe this Spill motion will be the end of the matter. When one third of the Coalition government is unhappy with the Prime Minister, that discontent doesn’t go away just because the other two thirds dig their political heels in.

My prediction is that after a period of ‘walkee lightly lightly’, Tony Abbott is going to go back to being just the way he has always been. After all, why shouldn’t he? Didn’t he defeat the Spill motion?

As discontent builds, both in the Coalition and in the electorate, things will come to a head again. We saw it with the Rudd/Gillard debacle, and I believe we’ll see it again in the Abbott government. Either way I can’t see Abbott’s government being voted back in at the next election.

cheers on this sunny Monday morning,

Meeks

p.s. and for younger Aussie readers, the ‘Not happy Jan’ came from a very funny, and very popular TV commercial. The phrase sort of crept into the national lexicon for a while. For us oldies, it’s still there. đŸ™‚

 


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