No one expected the circus to stay in town for so long ! Yesterday, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that he was quiting federal politics. Can the Labor Party finally move on ? The pressure on him and his family it seemed was too great after 15 years in parliament. He has thoroughly entertained us over the past six years since he first became Prime Minister, then a backbencher and Prime Minister again. It has been the ultimate political rollercoaster ride in modern memory. In this time we have witnessed labor’s success and failures as a government. There have been character assasinations, backroom backstabbing, parliamentary investigations, deaths and polices charges. All that was missing was a Byzantine style political mutilation!
Is this something modern day politics has to worry about? Byzantine Mutilation. The blinding of Leo Phokas the Elder after his unsuccessful rebellion against Emperor Romanas Lekapenos.
Most of us were willing to embrace change after “Kevin 07” stormed into political office in 2007. It was a comprehensive election win that saw former Prime Minister John Howard lose his seat in the aftermath. In one of his first acts as Prime Minister, newly appointed PM Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol, committing Australia to tackling the one of our greatest issues today, that of climate change. He then, historically made an apology to all Aboriginal people and the aborigines of the ‘stolen generation’. Officially, the Australian government was sorry for all the grief, suffering and loss that we as a nation had caused the Indigenous population. Most Australians were also grateful that we had come through the global financial crisis in great shape. PM Rudd with his treasurer, Wayne Swan, took great pride in this being one of their proudest achievements.
26th Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Image AFP/Getty
However, eventually the honeymoon came to an end. Rumours of discord started coming out in the media. In a nutshell, the shit hit the fan! Colleagues began openly criticizing Rudd as rude and dysfunctional. Power was everything to him and if he wasn’t involved in a decision, it wasn’t worth pursuing. Tantrums were allegedly a common occurs too. He was caught on video, on one particular occasion, cursing about a chinese interpreter and throwing a trantrum about a hairdresser in Afghanistan. If that wasn’t enough, policies he had introduced began to fail miserably. Notably, a failed attempt at imposing a new big tax on the biggest mining companies and a bungled home insulation scheme where four men died installing roof batts in 2009-10.
The public likely may have forgiven Labor for losing its way over time, but what the Australian public was not prepared for was the circus act that followed. Behind closed doors, the Labor Party’s ‘faceless men’ orchestrated a ‘coup’, resulting in the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, replacing him as Australia’s first female Prime Minister.
Some critics have commented on her appointment very favourably and others have been critical in the way that she had toppled Rudd. Was Gillard an opportunists or was she in the right place at the right time ? In another lifetime or place she would have made a great PM, unfortunately she inherited a sinking ship.
These events had not gone down well in the eyes of the Australian public. Enough was enough. It was time to pack up the big tent and go home. But by some miracle at the 2010 election, Labor led by Julia Gillard had managed to win and form a minority government with the aid of the Greens and Independents.
Gillard’s government would be marred by more internal tension and broken promises. Rudd would relentlessly campaign against her, undermining her at every opportunity that was humanly possible. He would mount an unsuccessful leadership challenge and scamper with his tail between his legs to fight another day.
27th Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Image Getty
Through taunts and sexism and to her credit, she would keep together a minority government in political office for a full term. She would introduce many good policies, such as implementing major spending reforms in disability care and education. Ultimately, both her and Rudd would run up a huge national deficit, something that contributed to their downfall.
In a new election year, Labors troubles continued and Gillard was plummeting in the opinion polls. Enter Kevin Rudd. Again. Defeating Gillard 57 to 45 in the caucus vote. To understand the second Labor ‘coup’ by replacing the 27th Prime Minister with its 26th, is to understand how desperate the Labor Part had become in trying to remain in office.
After Gillard graciously bowed out of politics, Rudd began to campaign again as if he was still Labor’s hero. He may have “wrote in sterling silver with a ballpoint pen”, but he was still a cold blooded chameleon.
Ultimately, Labor was doomed and on the 7th September 2013, Labor lost the election to the Australian Liberal/National coalition led by Tony Abbott.
Rudd would deliver his concession speech, unlike Gillard’s, in a “long burst of triumphalism”, even as Labor was decimated at electoral ballot.
Finally, is it save to say now has the circus left town ? For everyone’s sake lets hope so. As good as a side show that it was, Australian politicians need to get back to the basic of running this country. Labor has a new leader in Bill Shorten, but he is an old face, one who helped first oust Rudd and then brought him back from political obscurity. Lets give him the chance to redeem himself and his party. Lets also give Abbots Coalition government a chance before we write them off as well.
As I write this blog, we are being threatened with our own US style government shutdown. Labor is refusing to increase the nation’s debt limit and even before we have had the chance to rid ourselves of the Labor circus, a new one threatens to come to town. It is never ending. Who said Australian politics was boring !