It’s WTF Wednesday!
So i’m writing this post for two groups of people:
- Non-Aussies baffled by how ridiculous our political situation seems to be
- Equally baffled Aussies who just want to know, in layman’s terms, what the hell is going on.
I kinda feel like right now, every other democracy in the world is lol’ing and/or rolling their eyes at how silly Australian politics is. Equally, I feel like a lot of Australians have completely switched off. Three leadership spills in two years and Prime Ministers changing like the wind? It might be easier to throw in the towel and ride your kangaroo in to the sunset, but I believe that in a country where voting is compulsory, it’s super important that we don’t just become disillusioned by politics. So WTF is actually going on?
“It was the glasses but then it was the Redhead and now it’s the glasses again.”
The basics – a timeline
2007 – the Australian Labor party won the election and their leader, Kevin Rudd became the PM, with Julia Gillard becoming deputy Prime Minister.
2010 – Rudd lost the support of his party and was removed as PM for “bad polling and having lost his way” (Dennis Shanahan). He was challenged by Julia Gillard, who won a leadership ballot and replaced him as PM. She also became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Rudd’s manhood was understandably bruised.
WUT, deputies can challenge leaders?
Any member of the party can stand for the leadership, not just the deputy, but it would be a silly thing to do if you didn’t have the support. If you lost, the leader might be just a tad pissed by your lack of support and potentially remove you from their cabinet. Take what happened in March when Simon Crean called for a spill….and then Gillard was re-elected unopposed and sacked him. Awkward.
Feb 2012 – Rudd launched a leadership challenge against Gillard and vowed that if he lost, he would not initiate any further challenges. Gillard won with 71 votes to Rudd’s 31.
March 2013 – Gillard had been PM for a while and there was a “leadership spill”, called by Simon Crean because of ‘waning’ support for her leadership. A confident Gillard called a leadership ballot to quell unrest. Rudd, true to his word, did not challenge her, and Gillard was re-elected unopposed. Crean was sacked. Rather dull.
26th June 2013 – Despite several Labor ministers trying to dampen claims that Gillard would be ousted, shit went down on the 26th. I was in Sydney without phone battery so I missed all the delicious drama. There was a second (or third? I’ve lost count) leadership ballot in as many years. This time, Rudd stood. One of Gillard’s primary supporters Bill Shorten changed his vote in the ‘eleventh hour’. Rudd received 57 votes to Gillard’s 45 and was elected as leader of the Labor Party and thus Prime Minister elect. Revenge thou art a heartless bitch.
Why did Glasses Man stand when he said he wouldn’t? POLITICIANS DON’T LIE.
Rudd stood on the grounds that he could not “stand idly by and allow an Abbott government to come to power in this country by default.” Basically, it wasn’t looking good for Labor under Gillard’s leadership; polls indicated a “catastrophic loss” for Labor at the planned September 14th election, and her unpopularity meant that the Liberal Party was likely to be elected. The rationale behind reinstating Rudd as PM was to give Labor a “fighting chance”.
The next day, Julia Gillard resigned from her position and retired from politics, after having stated that the loser of the ballot should do so. Deputy Prime Minister and treasurer Wayne Swan also resigned.
Over the following few days, a shit load of Labor mp’s resigned and Rudd completely reshuffled his cabinet (as announced Monday). He has announced that the date of the election will change, but has yet to confirm the new date.
Why are Prime Ministers changing when we aren’t electing them?
In Australian federal (national) elections, you actually vote for the party and not the leader. The leader of the party is elected by the party members and can therefore be removed at any time during their term if a leadership spill occurs. Although the Australian people ‘voted’ for Kevin Rudd, he was ousted by his party and JGillard became leader of the Labor Party and thus PM.
What the hell is the Coalition? I always hear about the Coalition.
The Coalition is an agreement between the Liberal Party & the National Party of Australia, two centre-right parties. When you hear ‘Coaltion’, they are loosely referring to the Liberal Party (led by Tony Abbott).
Is there such thing as the Australian Sex Party? *Giggle*
Who do Aussie’s like?
To simplify this to utter generalised basics, Julia Gillard originally commanded a lot of caucus support (managing to remove Rudd from leadership) but has proved less popular with the people. Something to do with an ocker accent and red hair, I don’t know. Meanwhile Rudd is known as being difficult to work with and loathed by many of his colleagues, yet has a nerdy charm that makes him quite popular with Australians and politicians overseas.
Tony Abbott is like that guy who you wish you could like. He’s very educated and belongs to an able party, but you would still rather see a three-legged possum be Prime Minister because frankly, he’s an ass. You’re basically looking at a ‘best of three evils situation’, between two parties that are both so close to the centre that there’s barely that much of a difference between them.
What does ‘close-to-the-centre’ mean?
It means pretty neutral on the political spectrum. Left parties believe in social equality and can be considered more ‘progressive’, while right parties have more traditional social values and believe in the maintenance of law and order with a minimalist government. The Labor Party is the main centre-left party in Aus, and the Liberal Party/Coalition is the main centre-right party.
Are there any other options? How the hell am I supposed to decide who to vote for?
Well, there are the Greens. To quote my politically correct father, “All Greens are Gays.” To quote the sane world, the Greens are currently seen as being the “third force” in Australian politics and are fast growing in popularity. As a left-wing environmentalist party, they offer a solid left-wing alternative to the relatively central Liberal and Labor parties.
I wouldn’t recommend voting based on the leader you prefer the most. As we’ve seen, leaders can be removed by their party at any time. Consider the party policies and visit their individual websites to determine whose values fit with yours (though be warned, the persuasive language will make them all sound like Kylie Minogue in hotpants). With a skeptical outlook read the newspaper, fantastic posts like these, and watch the news. Donkey voting is for donkeys 😀
Still confused? Take this quiz to see where your values fall on the political compass in relation to the major parties. www.ldp.org.au/quiz/
Please note: My only ‘credentials’ are as an Australian citizen and a student of politics. This article is in no way intended to be taken as academic or 100% accurate (did the stick men give that away?) This blog is, after all, a charming guide to nothing 🙂