My views on the Gillard Government hang on three basic beliefs:
- This is, on balance, a good government, in some areas a very good government, doing a good job of implementing some major policies and negotiating them through parliament.
- The "coup" of June 23, 2010 was one of the biggest tactical mistakes in Australia political history.
- It should be accepted that the Australian Labor Party will not be re-elected to government when its current term expires in the third quarter of 2013.
Some inner contradictions there. Kevin Rudd should never have been removed from office in the manner that it happened, but this is now something that cannot be undone. The reasons why Rudd was knifed by his party colleagues have been well documented for some time: not the panic over falling opinion polls, but his shambolic management style which was bringing policy advancement to a near-standstill.
Julia Gillard is a scarily and surprisingly bad communicator at times, arguably the worst orator I have seen in a Prime Minister, but her government is getting the job done in so many areas, and quite a few very difficult ones. There are some big mistakes in my opinion (the continuation of the Intervention, the handling of asylum seekers), and many more successes with more to be done. As for the carbon tax, it was a broken election promise, but all things considered it was the right thing to do.
But for whatever set of reasons, the ALP's re-election hopes in 2013 are cactus, and have probably been so for a while. The fact that Tony Abbott is the most reckless and dangerous "Liberal" leader since the Liberal Party was created seems to matter naught to the electorate at large any more. Eighteen months till the next election is a huge amount of time in politics, but the toxic events of the past week have made it nigh on certain that the electorate will hurl Labor out of government when the chance arrives. Unjustified as I think that may be.
Rudd's machinations and the open hostility towards him from some of his senior colleagues has ensured that any renewed Prime Ministership of his will be unworkable, and probably lack the necessary confidence of the independents.
Rudd has been an exceptional Foreign Minister - I believe it's his correct niche in this Government - and his loss in that role is significant. Already this week Australia has lost ministerial representation in two major international forums this week on Somalia and Syria because of his decision, announced in Washington DC at 1.20am on Wednesday morning, to quit suddenly for reasons that are purely based on tactics in his feud with Gillard.
Neither Kevin Rudd nor Julia Gillard have been bad Prime Ministers on the scale of, say, Billy McMahon, but neither are capable of rescuing the Labor Party's hopes for another term of office beyond the current one. At this point of time there is no obvious successor to either (and certainly not Simon Crean) and no purpose in Labor creating its own Brendan Nelson, certainly not while still in Government.
It's a sorry, sad mess which is a classic case study of how the machinations of politics can go horribly wrong.
Give this inherently good Labor government the time and space to complete as much of its agenda as it can before the curtain comes down in or around October 2013. For that reason I say maintain the status quo, keep Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.