There are a number of issues that continue to confront the Government of Australia. These are some of them.
A – Authority, Accountability, Authentication, Authenticity
This Parliament struggled to life following an election with an unclear result. Ultimately the Julia Gillard Led Labor Party Formed Government on the basis of alliances with the Greens and three of the Independents, two of whom represented electorates who would not in their own right be expected to deliver a Labor Candidate or a Labor Government in normal circumstances. The the claim to Government being so fine would could easily imagine that the claim to authority would b e slight, despite the loudest of protests from the Government it would appear that they have little authority.
Unlike many of our leaders in recent time Julia Gillard says she is an atheist. This means in seeking authentication for her actions and plans, she must seek her own council or the council of others, as she has nowhere to anchor her moral compass. Where she to claim the will of the people she should look no further than Kevin Rudd or Jesus Christ to see how fleeting that can be.
B – Boats, Borders
A nation that does not have any control of it’s borders is hardly a nation in any contemporary sense of the word. Even in the European Union passage between nations involves Border Security and CheckPoints, even though there is quite free travel between European Nation States, each nation preserves the integrity of its borders. The ongoing arrival of those seeking asylum arriving by boat and without papers is an ongoing threat to our nation and in the end any mistake here could be our last. In the week of writing this number has reached 2500 in the term of the current parliament.
C – Carbon Tax
Tired but true, one of the great cries of the last election from Julia Gillard ‘There will be no Carbon Tax under a Government I lead’. This went very quickly under the arrangement in order to secure the confidence of the Greens vote. This in itself was interesting, as arguably it would be unlikely for the Greens to do other than support Labor. Adam Bandt, the Green elected to the seat of Melbourne all but had an understanding with the electorate that voting for him was voting for a green candidate to support a Labor Government. Interestingly Gillard has been entirely consistent in this issue, for in order to have any chance of getting elected she had to be against it, and in order to get any chance of having confidence in Green support she had to be in favour of it. The electorate could be forgiven fo concluding that the Gillard position on this is, I don;t care so long as I get to be in power.
D – Drama
The sense of drama, and the dramatic, is quite possibly part of the fact that the Government seems to have become a media exercise, where the look, and media announcement, the spin, all seems to be front and center and the actual things that get done. In the pre-budget week there has been such a string of announcements, that seems to amount to a promotion similar to the advertising promos. The truth is most Australians don’t want parliament house run as a media outlet, and would prefer that Government was looking better than and the next episode of Revenge.
E – Economic Responsibility
Historically Labor has a track record of being fair free with the money, as against the fundamental conservatism of the other side of the house. Labor has a track record of Government Spending, Government Debt, and Deficit Budgeting. This week we expect to see Wayne Swan deliver a planned Budget Surplus, which may yet turn out to be another variation of Government by announcement. They have argued long and hard about their ability to deliver a balanced budget, and though the economic conditions probably suggest this may be a time for judicious and wise government spending, the promise for a surplus has all but been written in blood.
F – Factions
The factions remain a problem for Labor as the world of the Internet has made the lives of most people more democratic, the factions seem at least to be one of the least democratic parts of national political life. in in the world of Labor politics they have the power, and they are not about to give it up.
G – Greens
The alliance with the Greens has been an important part of the life of the parliament. The Greens have played fairly quiet cards in general and managed to allow the Gillard Government to take the heat for essentially Green policy she has put in place. In the life of the Parliament the green primary vote seems somewhere around 14-16 percent whilst Labor polling has plummeted to around 27%. If this continues this may well be the last time the Labor Party Governs alone in it’s own right, for with any more strength and a few seats in the lower house the Greens would be foolish not to require some sense of coalition and a place or two in Cabinet may well be the expectation and the outcome. For the traditional Labor voter, aware that they have been let down, the prospect of voting liberal is daunting, so the Greens offer a safe land spot for Labor voters.
H – Honesty
Honesty has been a major question in the life of this parliament and there is little more that can be said than we would like to see more of it, not less.
I – Integrity
Integrity in Public Life, and the Integrity of those in Public Life continues to be a matter of concern. There have been many occasions where this has been a question, including the Carbon Tax, The Protraction of the Investigation into the Craig Thompson matters, the dodgy deal with Peter Slipper, The relentless character assassination of Kevin Rudd who moments before had held a prominent place in the cabinet, the dodgy Malaysia deal, the dodgy Timor Deal, and the list goes on.
J – Julia
Does Julia Gillard have an image problem, or is it just that she is not a nice person? She is espoused by her supporters as calm under pressure, a deal maker, and a great negotiator. Yet I find myself wondering if she is that good. She appeared to give much away in order to broker the deal that brought her the parliament, however she had the Greens anyway as they were unlikely to vote with the LNP, on anything save the moral absurdity of the Malaysia Proposal. In the same way she gave much to Andrew Wilkie who clearly punched above his weight, and the LNP where unlikely ever to enjoy much of his company having given him such a hard time as a whistle blower. Windsor and Oakeshott could possibly have been had for a little less, and I hope that we don’t give Rob the microphone again. Julia Gillard has certainly reached the point with the Australian Electorate where she has an integrity problem, and they do not run away quickly.
K – Kevin
No doubt Julia can see the wisdom of shooting rather than sacking predecessors and difficult persons. Kevin Rudd is the gift that keeps on giving. Generally he comes across as a nice person, anchored, real, goes to Church but not a choir boy by any stretch of the imagination. After the next election we may well find that Queensland has four or five Labor Senators and Kevin Rudd as Queensland Labor in the House of representatives. They need to work out how to be nice to him, because Kevin is a giver, and he will keep on giving. And the Electorate is well aware that he is a media mogul, and that he is hard on his staff. As Foreign Minister he was rumoured to have been white-anting the Prime Minister. And sure, he was reported in the media several times for some moderately unkind thoughts about Julia Gillard, whose only real fear was that Kevin might do to her what she did to him. Apparently what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. Certainly as he set out on his last trip as Foreign Minister it was had to see how he could continue in the role while his name was being trashed by the Labor machine at home. I, for one, completely understood his resignation. The savagery of the attacks on him following this was one of the ugliest in recent political history, far nastier than anything that the Opposition had ever levelled at him, personal, confronting, and ultimately despicable, and they still need his vote. In deed had they said about anyone in the opposition to kind of stuff they said about Kevin their would have been a great political fallout – oh wait – there was anyway. I think most people in Australia would have understood if he had chosen to sit on the cross benches following that assault, however quiet as a Church mouse he sits on the back bench, five times the statesman of the current Prime Minister.
L – Labor, Light On the Hill,
There is no doubt that Labor has lost its way, and lost sight of the light on the hill. They do not speak of vision, inspiration, hope, but spin and spin again. They have become damagingly introspective, concerned with power and deals. The vision is to be in power, not to make a difference. They are no longer aspiration-al, but having spent years in opposition opposed to John Howard they now find themselves in government opposed to Tony Abbott. There is no doubt that the Labor Party is in serious need of reform, and the pole axing they received in recent times in the Eastern States seems to have taught them nothing. They do not appear to have had a long hard look at themselves, and they run the risk of disappearing if they don’t. The Greens are waiting to fill the void.
M – Mandate, Mining Industry, Mining Tax
In general terms with a brokered arrangement to form a government they have a mandate to do nothing. In light of clear promises made during the election anything they could conceivably argue they had a mandate to do they have gone against. The Mining Industry and the Mining Tax has highlighted the fact that we are living in a two speed economy.
N – Nowhere
The first time Julia Gillard’s leadership came into the spotlight, and there was no challenge, she did make a clear statement that she was going nowhere. It would seem that she has gone nowhere, and taken us with her, and the future for her and her government is also nowhere. It would seem that the Labor Government is the Titanic, the Next Election an iceberg and the only question would seem to be the date. Can she make it though another year. One would image that no-one would want the leadership at the moment, so a spill is unlikely, however any the deals unravelling further, or the Slipper of Thompson affair getting worse, could take the matter out of her hands.
O – Opposition,
The Government consistently paints a very negative image of the opposition, and in my view draws more attention to Tony Abbott rather than the matter that the Government should be about. In a sense painting the dread of the possibility of an Abbott Government seems to suggest that they are opposed to the opposition. At the same time while the Labor brand is on the nose and there is seemingly so much that is lacking in the Government ranks, seems not to be making the progress that they ought. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is that Tony Abbot has consistently spoken and appears under briefed on so many issues, and having spoken seems to be stuck. Often when questions he seems short on detail. The truth is we need more from the Opposition than we are getting.
P – Polls
The polls are bad, and don’t seem to be getting any better. A primary vote in Queensland of around 27-8 % gave the party single digit representation in the states lower house. there is little to suggest that the national polling will be much better. The cash payout to families foreshadowed in the coming austerity budget is a thinly welled attempt to buy votes, and no doubt it will have a measure of success. However I doubt that the electorate will be that impressed. The short lived relief may help keep Julia Gillard free from a leadershiop challenge within, however unlikely to be enough to get them back in office after the next election.
Q – Quality
A Quality Government I suspect is on many electors minds as we look to the prospect of the next election. Certainly Quality has not be a Quality of the current administration. One presumes the background whirr on the next election campaign with be the sound of the paper shredders in Canberra in overdrive. Moving Slipper here and Thompson there seems something like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.
R – Ruins and Reinvention
The ruins of the Labor Party for the moment are found in a belief that people should serve the Party and that the Party does not need to serve the people. The Labor Party needs to re-invent itself, and I am not sure that they can do this whilst in Government. They appear to learn nothing from electoral defeat, even the gutting in Queensland they simply distance themselves from the damage. We need the Australian Labor Party as the balance to the brokers who wield the hands of capital, however if they can not step up to the plate and do that well, with integrity and honesty, than we will need to find some other group to do it. Unfortunately, while they remain in office this dysfunctional we are left wondering how anyone will repair the damage.
S – Speaker – Slipper
Henry II uttered the words “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?’. None the less Peter Slipper is no Thomas a Becket. The move to get him to take the speakers position was a convenient political move to try and shore up the government numbers. The accusations he now faces are not dissimilar to a rumors and suggestions that have been made in the past. Although in the role he is a good speaker in the house, there are enough questions to rob him of the moral authority.
T – Thompson
The member for Dobel, Craig Thompson, when he stood for the last election was already being investigated at the time of the last election, and that investigation has continued. The twists in this have made interesting reflections. None the less many of us have wondered why it has taken so long to bring the investigation to a close. Clearly it is hard to see how, if guilty, he could continue to serve. With the slenderest of majorities, many have wondered if the length of the investigation does not reflect on the need of the Government to preserve it’s majorityc at any cost. The report released by the Office of Fair Work Australia clearly sets Craig Thompson front and center for what most of would consider a considerable sum of union money spent on non union business. The Health Services Union has also been slammed by the report for appalling lack of responsible governance and lack of accountability for members funds. One wonders if some of the alleged expenditure was not in Craig Thompson’s mind a question of training for the day he might be the Party Whip.
U – Unions
The level of support from the Unions for the Gillard Government has been mixed. The dysfunction in the Health Services Union has not helped anything in the Craig Thompson affairs, and rank and file Union Membership is increasingly wary of unions run by professionals, extracting far larger salaries than the membership by factors of 5 to 10, and then topping up these benefits with a range of other perks with little accountability. Seemingly too much money has not helped, and if they can no longer attract a realistic membership base, then their political clout can only diminish as well. The relationship between Unions and the Labor Party almost certainly needs to be re thought out. The gap between Union rank and file and Union Officials will need to be resolved or the rank and file will walk away. The dilemmas surrounding the Health Services Union see the Government trying to distance itself from the Union, whilst facing the problem that one of their members (and every vote matters in a one seat negotiated majority) is at the heart of the controversy.
V – Vision
Julia Gillard tells us often that she has a plan. The question that is left void is the question of vision. This seems to be the point where it is coming unstuck more than any other. The proverb tells us that where there is no vision the people perish. Power can not be a vision in it’s own right, power is but a tool, (indeed it is only one of them) to bring reality closer to the vision. If al your vision is about having power, or keep the other guy out, then it is no vision. A Vision needs to be shared in a democracy, so that people can understand the plan. The strength a Kevin Rudd had was the ability to communicate his vision and get people onside. His failure was to keep his closest allies on side.
W – Wilkie
Andrew Wilkie aligned his support with the Gillard Government in exchange for a commitment to Poker Machine Reform and in the wake of the Slipper for Speaker deal, the need for Wilkie became a fraction less critical, and in light of the roar from the club industry, she backed away from it. Appropriately Wilkie called the deal off. Of course that may be a little mute, as Andrew Wilkie is unlikely to trust the Liberals, after the disgraceful way they treated him as a whistle blower. Andrew Wilkie appears to be a man of the highest integrity and no doubt he feels disappointed in both sides of the house. The people of Australia share his concern.
X – X
This is the X factor. X is the unknown quantity. We don’t know what we don’t know. What we do know scares and disappoints us. One suspects that the rest of it would cause us greater apprehension. We don’t know when, however I suspect that most of us know the result of the next elect.
Y – Yanks
The American Alliance has received a serious boost under the Gillard regime, and the visit of Barrack Obama included the announcement of a permanent American Base in Norther Australia. This was clearly viewed with less than optimism by our significant trading partner, China, and there is little doubt that that was part of the US strategy. Perhaps one of the interesting points here is that the American alliance has been generally more significantly pursued by the conservative side of politics, and the Chinese relationship by the socialists.
Z – Zero
It would seam that the zero point for this government will be the next election. Generally most of us believe that we need to next election to resolve the crisis that is this Government. Personally I hope that the next election result will be known on the night, and that the result is clear and we know who is running the country.