Moral Authority?

We live in a democracy in Australia. In general we believe that this method of Government provides us with the confidence that we will be ruled by those who have to moral authority to govern, however the current state of affairs begins to call this into question, and many people listen to the words of Government as words of little account.

For some considerable time during the life of the previous government Julia Gillard declared repeated that she was content to be the deputy leader, and that Australia had the best Prime Minister in Kevin Rudd. Then of course she “tapped him on the shoulder” – he may have been forgiven for thinking he was “knifed in the back” and a large number of Australian’s quite honestly don’t like that. Loyalty is still considered a virtue by the majority of us, even if there is not enough of it about.

During the election campaign she was keen to make a commitment to Australia that there would not be a Carbon Tax under a Government she led. Interestingly that was probably what she believed at the time, and the ALP, also interestingly, has favoured a free market carbon credits system.  I suspect that was what she was not saying when she made the promise. The election result was complex – to say the least – and ultimately we have a complex deal with the Greens, Andrew Wilkie the Independent from Tasmania, and two out of three ex nationals – independents – a complex arrangement when Julia is allowed to govern if it is alright with Bob Brown, and of course she needs to keep the promises she made to the Independents.

The Carbon Tax has now become a done deal requirement of Government, and Australians are expected to understand this.

We continue shoot from the hip politics in other areas, so we don’t send cattle to Indonesia because we don’t think the slaughter methods are humane. We won’t send Asylum Seekers to Nauru because they have not signed the UN Convention of Refugees (they have now) but it is imperative that we send the to Malaysia (who have still not signed the convention and their track record certainly looks like they are not in a position to do so). The fact of the matter appears that Julia will not accept any solution that may have worked in the Howard era.

Now we have the Craig Thomson (the honourable – the member for Dobel) who it appears may have used a union credit card in his last job to fund a colourful personal lifestyle. It also seems that a number of records have gone missing, that the union has a reasonable slice of cash it can not account for, and that the union has funded all sorts of activities. Nothing about the sad part of the story seems clean, and the seem to be any plausible explanations – however Craig continues to enjoy the full confidence of the Prime Minister. This story just seems to get worse day by day, and clearly the good people of Dobel must be wondering who they have elected. One presumes that had all this been known before the election they may have voted for someone else, however it seems likely that Julia did have a good whiff of this story when she was the Deputy PM.

There are only so many indiscretions that despots and tyrants are allowed before they are deemed to have lost the moral authority to rule. At that point it becomes obvious that people rule because we let them. Increasingly we wonder when this happens in a democracy? Is it only at an election? About half way through the term of the last NSW Labor Government people got tired and effectively they stopped ruling. I suspect this may be beginning to happen at the federal level as well.

Sadly the leader of the opposition has not stood up to the plate effectively, he has allowed himself to be seen as Dr No, and when questioned on all sorts of issues (especially environmental issues) seems to come up under read and under briefed on the issues on which he is speaking. Unfortunately this leaves a bit of a vacuum. It is also clear that he must not make Julia the enemy, and with the polls going the way they are Julia will be lucky to lead the part to the next Christmas Party let alone the next election.

Julia seems to be Prime Minister, with a power sharing arrangement that leaves her looking like a puppet on several different strings, leading a Government trying to do things without a mandate, and now looking increasing as if they do not have the moral authority to govern.

I received the graphic at the top, whilst I was writing this, and it amused me, so I have included it, as we all need a little laugh now and again. The Boston Tea Party is another historic example of leadership without Moral Authority failing to stay the distance.

We know that Julia Gillard is not Prime Minister for ever, it would seem at most she has another two years left in her, unless she can pull a cat out of the bag – this would require her to emulate John Howard which seems to be one thing she has studiously avoided. We know that Julia is unlikely to be the leader of the Labor Party for ever. If she leads the party to the next election that may be the end of her leadership of the party.  The ALP has had a habit of being only too prepared to drop leaders when the going is tough, so the possibility to a leadership spill goes up. Against that you would have to ask who would want it. Labor needs a massive turn around to regain an election winning possibility, and who in their right mind would want to lead the government forged in the impossible power balance where Bob Brown and others are pulling the strings. One can only imagine that if you took on the leadership you would want to OK to call the election very early, and on balance that would seem to be fraught at best. There seems very little chance therefore of the ALP having a leadership spill as it is hard to imagine that anyone would want the job right now.

The prospects therefore are that Julia will lead the ALP to the next election and will do so as late as she can.

The prospects of an early election therefore will depend on a vacancy and a bi-election, which will happen if a member of the Gillard side of the house dies, or is incarcerated for a serious crime. If the evidence was found for the Craig Thompson affair to be brought to trial, one can only imagine that would be dragged out for some time to ensure that he was not incarcerated during the term of the current parliament.

The other possibility of an early election rests on the collapse of the arrangement. It seems Andrew Wilkie is keen to push the Poker Machine Reform agenda and is threatening to abandon his support for the Gillard Government if he does not get it. Oakeshott is threatening to vote against this legislation. Therefore it comes undone. The result of Wilkie withdrawing is mute, however, as he is essentially sympathetic to the left of the house, and would be a very unnatural ally of the Liberal-National coalition. Windsor and Oakshott both appear to be serving the final term representing their electorates, as both New England and Oxley are de-facto National Seats and the expectation is clear that the electoral backlash for both of them will be sufficient for them to seriously consider not even bothering to nominate.

Clearly the national interest would be served by an election before Christmas 2011 so we could know we had a Government that could govern, with a mandate and with moral authority. That really does require both sides of parliament to clean up their act and get people up to speed.

It seems the thought of a four year fixed term is unlikely to go anywhere at the moment. More likely it would seem that the idea of an electronic voting scheme where at any stage a voter could log on and move their vote and the weekly wash up would decide who held each seat for the next week would enable us to clearly get rid of people who need to be gone rather than hang on to them for the next three years. The downfall of such an idea is that the free press is too powerful already and they have been know to be partisan, even biased, and not to always validate the truth of the matter they report. The other problem is that no Government would ever be able to make tough decisions.

Australia needs Government, not Politics, and the instability of the current uncomfortable alliance unfortunately makes for more politics and less government. The other side of the house needs to be less confrontational and better read.


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