Australia has a new old Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd has been sworn in as PM three years after being ousted as head of the Australian government by his then deputy Julia Gillard in a bitterly-fought jostle for leadership of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in June 2010. At the time Rudd had served for only three years as Asutralia’s 26th Prime Minister after Labor won the 2007 federal elections.Despite a long period of popularity in opinion polls following Rudd’s rise to power in 2007, a significant fall in Rudd’s personal ratings was blamed on a proposed Resource Super Profits Tax and the deferral of the Senate-rejected Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. With the next election drawing near, there was growing dissatisfaction with Rudd’s leadership within the Labor Party. Eventually Gillard, announced on 23 June 2010 that she would challenge him for the leadership the following day. Knowing he would be defeated if he contested the leadership, on the morning of the ballot Rudd resigned as Prime Minister. After his resignation, he successfully re-contested his seat at the 2010 federal election, after which Labor formed a minority government.
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He was subsequently promoted back to the cabinet by Julia Gillard as Minister for Foreign Affairs, a post he remained in until he resigned on 22 February 2012 in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to challenge Gillard for the leadership. On 26 June 2013, Gillard announced another caucus ballot on the leadership from which Rudd emerged victorious, therefore becoming the Leader of the Labor Party for a second time.
Critics have attributed this farcical musical chairs in the leadership of Australia’s parliament between two “lesser evils” to a simple lack of good leaders to choose from. Neither Gillard nor Rudd enjoy any particularly exceptional favour amongst their peers within the ALP. Colleagues had reportedly described Rudd as “a selfish, dysfunctional, egomaniacal, saboteur” and that the ALP had turned to Rudd for leadership “under the most extreme duress”, specifically to avoid “electoral annihilation” under Gillard’s leadership. It should be noted that the ALP did not support Rudd despite several bids for party leadership over the three years since Gillard seized power in 2010.
Depending on which camp you listen to, both leaders are made out to be power-hungry individuals acting as fronts to their respective backers in politics and industry who are not above putting their personal interests above that of the Party. Indeed, the battle for leadership in a fragmented — almost dysfunctional — party desperately clinging to power between two people who represent their lowest common denominator clearly illustrates how low-end politics transcends sub-systems within the broad spectrum of “democratic” governance.
Changing leaders within a parliamentary form of government, indeed, is laughably easy as this latest circus illustrates. As Sydney Morning Herald writer Stephanie Peatling quipped at 10:01am AEST today on her live feed on the events unfolding in the aftermath of the power struggle…
It doesn’t take long to officially become Prime Minister.
Official photographs are now being taken.
It’s a bit like getting married – the photos tend to take longer than the actual serious business end of matters.
Imagine this sort of political “flexibility” afforded a Third World “democracy” like the Philippines where the “issues” play an even smaller part in politics and personalities and personal agendas remain the lords of all democratic exercises that transpire. Will anything ever be achieved in an environment where efforts to cling to power follow timeframes measured in months rather than in years?
In his seminal 2003 Philippine Star article Parliamentary system not for Philippines: The wherefores, the late Teddy Benigno spells out in simple turns the underlying principles that determine the success of a parliamentary form of government and how the cultural makeup of the Philippines quite simply remains incompatible with it…
What are or were the essential features of parliamentary government as conceived by Britain?
They are, among others, rule of law, the supremacy of a popularly-elected parliament, collective responsibility of the Cabinet (executive to Parliament) and a tradition of stable, program or policy-oriented political parties (Prof. Olivia Caoili, Legislative and Executive Relations in the Philippines and the Parliamentary Alternatives). Read that again. Stable, policy-oriented or program-oriented political parties. Without such parties as an ideological glue parliamentary government in the Philippines would be a colossal sham.
Everybody knows that “political parties” in the Philippines have long been bankrupt of any form of stable or coherent ideology and, being as such — perversions of their Western models — Benigno further asserts…
[…] because we do not have such political parties, a parliamentary government in 2004 will be a riot of traditional politicians endlessly vying for power. Who cares for the political doctrine of John Locke or the laissez-faire philosophy of Adam Smith? You have lots of money. You can always buy the majority in Congress — give it a fancy political name — and become prime minister until the next bimbo, with more money than you have, comes along.
The above may as well describe Australian politics over the course of this week. But then comparing Australia to the Philippines is like comparing a Mercedes Benz to a jeepney. Both can run on diesel fuel. But the the efficiency with which an engine burns the fuel and the engineering behind the way with which a vehicle’s transmission channels the energy produced by this combustion to rubber on the pavement is where the stark difference between a Benz and the Philippines’ King of the Road lies. Perhaps a Benz may fire out of tune every now and then over a lifetime of cruising along at 170 kph on an Autobahn on most days. But comparing this occassional hiccup to the way a jeepney struggles mightily as it noisily slogs through Manila’s steaming streets leaving a cloud of toxic black smoke in its wake highlights the folly of sticking with the wrong arguments when it comes to Philippine politics.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Kevin Rudd” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site. Photo courtesy Herald Sun.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.