And In The End…

Long Live The Donkey

Long time readers would know that I was dreading the upcoming Federal election. Given the choices of parties and leaders, I couldn’t see myself a way out from donkey voting. I’d even given myself a handle – Don Quivote – in large part so I could tell as many people of my great political discomfort at the choices being offered.

Thanks to the ALP Caucus finally dumping Julia Gillard as their leader, I am spared of the need to donkey vote.

I imagine there will be much parsing of the nuances and events that led to the spill that ousted Julia Gillard, our first female Prime Minister. When I think of her accomplishments, I have to say that they are a decent amount of them and that I had no issue with her policy positions in most part. If anything my great dissatisfaction with Julia Gillard was always the manner in which she couched the issues. I have written of those things at great lengths so I won’t rehash them here. I am however surprised that Julia Gillard tried to smoke out Kevin Rudd with the challenge and forced the loser to quit – which in the end has sealed her own fate.

When I think back I can recall that the first incarnation of the Rudd-Gillard teaming in opposition was a great compromise in order not to blow up the ALP in opposition as it sat there without a clue as to how to remove the monolithic Howard-Costello government. Riddled with factional warfare the ALP had the option of going with the popular but tether-less Kevin Rudd or the party apparatchik (no pun intended on chick by the way) Julia Gillard. The compromise as it were, was to run with Kevin Rudd as the leader and win the election and sort it out later. It’s not surprising then that the sorting out bit turned out to be the Rudd coup and installation of Gillard as Prime Minister, which obviously put the same conflict back in relief.

Julia Gillard has complained that this infighting has been the hallmark of her time as Prime Minister, but when you think about it, it has been the hallmark of the ALP after the demise of the Keating government, and you can count luminaries such as Simon Crean, Kim Beazley, Mark Latham as well as the first Rudd office as participants and victims of this factional brawling. And really, the division has never healed. Although one imagines the whole NSW Right getting found out by ICAC in NSW has sort of lent a helping hand in blurring the factional lines quite a bit. How can you go around being a bossy-boots NSW Right faction member after it gets found out that the leaders of the factions were only in it to line their own pockets?

Isn’t the meltdown in NSW poll numbers essentially related to the disgust with the ALP? Doesn’t the Rudd coup fall under one of the things the electorate deeply resents about the Gillard-led ALP?

All that being said, there has been a long standing feeling that Kevin Rudd’s mission in politics was incomplete, while Julia Gillard’s historic mission as Prime Minister might have seen its last day partly as a result of the Gonski reforms passing the Senate late this afternoon. It’s easier to understand the last three years as the years Julia Gillard decided to get her bit in – but now she is done. It looks as if she burned all of her political capital in 3 years to make her mark and now all she has is the legacy of her minority government in the history books – oh that and a fat superannuation pay out, but they all get those.

The big surprise today was Bill Shorten who looked like he swallowed a poison grenade and holding in the explosion as he announced he was backing Rudd. One imagines that must have  been quite uncomfortable given his wife’s support for Julia Gillard as well as his role in installing Julia Gillard as PM, knifing Kevin Rudd three years ago. I guess he’s had his public humble pie moment. The recognition there might be that the Rudd project had not run its course, and that in fact he was mistaken in having moved against Kevin Rudd back in 2010. That his personal animosity towards Kevin Rudd didn’t amount to a hill of beans. One imagines these would be really tough things to get one’s head around.

When you line it all up, it’s not entirely clear if the divisions can be healed by Julia Gillard leaving politics. Or will Kevin Rudd fill that vacuum left behind with his vision for Australia? To do that, he still needs to win the next election. It will be interesting to see what the next polls are going to say.

It sure has been a heck of a day. At last I get to retire my donkey.

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