Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The National soap opera - what's on today?

What a big day in Australian politics!  The National soap opera concludes another episode with a cliff hanger.

Deposed former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calls a press conference from the US in the middle of the night to announce his resignation as Foreign Minister.  My first reaction was "finally!" until I realised he was not resigning from Parliament.  So while he ceases to be a Minister, he remains in Parliament.  Suddenly he has a little more freedom to campaign, free from the constraints of a ministerial portfolio and cabinet.

It really is a cliff hanger.  Tonight Minister after Minister has explained to the world why Kevin Rudd is bad, was bad, has always been bad and shouldn't lead the Australian Labor Party and should not be Prime Minister again.  Meanwhile, Rudd needs to get back to Australia and deal with Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement of a caucus ballot for the leader's position.

Kevin Rudd's announcement brings the leadership rumblings to a head.  For now.  What are the possibilities?

1. Kevin Rudd gets back to Australia and decides not to contest the leadership.  He would still be in Parliament, so Labor and the Australian people are left wondering what it's all been for.  He won't be allowed back into the Ministry, but can Julia Gillard ever function as a leader with Kevin Rudd sitting on her backbench?  I don't believe she can.  Flick the switch and the rumblings will start again.  The soap opera will never end.

2. Kevin Rudd gets back to Australia and decides to resign from Parliament.  In a hung Parliament this has dire consequences as the government would effectively be brought down.  Surely the objective is to hang onto Government.

3. Kevin Rudd challenges for the leadership in Monday's ballot and wins.  If what people are saying tonight gives an indication, he will find it hard to fill his Ministry.  And he has to contend with the independent MPs on whose support Julia Gillard relied to secure Government.  They have said that all bets are off if the Labor leader changes.  Except Andrew Wilkie, who has already withdrawn support for the Government because of the back down on poker machine reform, will support Kevin Rudd.  Hopefully Julia Gillard and the ALP would learn from this experience and understand that if she is rolled, she needs to get out.  How Kevin Rudd is even still in Parliament is beyond me.  The coup that rolled Kevin Rudd wasn't finished - they left the body warm, breathing and able to rise again and seek revenge.

4.  Kevin Rudd challenges for the leadership in Monday's ballot and loses.  Any loss could be by a little bit or by a lot.  One would think that a loss would surely mean he needs to go, but what does that mean in a hung parliament with a majority that can be no slimmer?  If Labor is to hold onto government, he needs to hang around on the back bench until a general election is called and then announce that he will not recontest his seat.  If he loses by a little bit, I can not imagine that he will not hang around and try again.  In the mean time, we, the Australian public will then be watching the whole soap opera again.  The speculation will continue.

Personally, I'm no fan of Kevin Rudd.  I think he showed much weakness as a leader but also much intellectual capacity.  I thought his prosecution of the AWB kickback scandal was very well done; but has anyone been brought to justice?  The issue fell off the table once Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister.  However, I think that we should remember that he delivered Labor a wonderful and important election victory in 2007 and his record shows him as the most popular Prime Minister of all time.  Surely these things make him deserving of some respect.

If the leadership coup that delivered Julia Gillard the keys to the Lodge had to happen, then it was a mistake to rub his nose in it by trashing this legacy.  He's got that steely flash in his eye and he's determined.  Kevin Rudd is not like other people; they would have stepped out of Parliament after being ousted from the Prime Ministership by his colleagues.

My hope is that he is true to his word when he talks about the interests of the Australian people and the ALP. My worry is that he and I mean very different things when we talk about the interests of the Australian people and the ALP.  The ALP is acting like they are in opposition, or like they hold a 40 seat majority.  Neither of these is true now, but one of them is likely to be true very soon if this isn't sorted.

Member for Watson, Tony Burke, said tonight on 7:30 that the government needed to do two things.  Shame he didn't list 1) choose a leader, and 2) get on with it.

Running parallel to these shenanigans, I am facilitating various of programs about leadership.  I'm immersed in the theory and practice of leadership and very conscious of functional and dysfunctional leadership behaviour. This leads me to think "you need to come on one of my leadership courses".  Seriously.

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