Melbourne, Australia – I do not pretend to understand Australian politics. What I do ‘get’ is that a lot of folks who I know here are NOT HAPPY with the election results this past weekend. A lot of my Aussie friends liken Tony Abbott, the new Prime Minister, or ‘Head Man in Charge,’ politically, with a Newt Gingrich, or current G.O.P. U.S. Congressional House Speaker, John Boehner (Pronounced: Bayner.)
Here is what I find, and have found, puzzling about this whole affair:
Lemme see if I get this right…………..
On the one hand, Kevin Rudd, the outgoing Prime Minister elected in 2007, his party, and their policies, kept the Aussies, and their economy, out of the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008. In June 2010, I am in Thailand, and BOOM!!!, the guy gets forced out after a few missteps that year…. (Not by the people in a snap election, or by shockingly poor polling numbers, but by Labor Party ‘movers and shakers,’ over a series of days. Wow!!!!) For me, a Baby Boomer American guy who lived through the days of Richard ‘tricky dick’ Nixon, the Australian Labour intra-party Coup, was like the infamous ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ of the Watergate days. Just absolutely crazy to this outside observer.
Now, here was ‘the rub’ for me….. during his tenure, there were missteps with the carbon tax, and the controversial proposal to tax the Australian Mining industry. Nothing traumatic from this political observer, and nothing that would prohibit him from getting re-elected. Yet, his own party apparatchiks ‘pulled the trigger’ on him, and withheld some key polls from other party members, in doing so, that indicated Rudd would win the next election, anyway. But, this key evidence of polls indicating a Rudd victory in the coming election that year was suppressed. One of his own cabinet members, Julia Gilliard, is anointed Prime Minister on the spot.
(I mean, what the HELL was THAT all about???!!!!)
Okay, from what I understand Kevin Rudd was like Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, in the sense of annoying, and arrogant, micro-management of his government. In short, a ‘Son of Bitch’ of a boss to work under. Yet, among OECD nations, the Aussie economy hummed right along, the envy of the rest of the industrialized world, despite U.S. / G-O-P like obstruction to his policies from the ‘Liberal’ party opposition in the legislature.
It is interesting for this American man to witness the transition of power in a foreign land. I thought Kevin Rudd, the outgoing Prime Minister, to be an interesting guy. He addressed some issues on the matter of race, regarding the Aboriginal Australians, saying ‘sorry’ for the ‘STOLEN GENERATION,’ a move that made some white Aussies uncomfortable…. And something unimaginable for any American president to do on racial matters. TIME Magazine, after all, had him on their front cover some years ago, as a guy USA-folks should pay attention to. But, “all politics is local,” said the late Massachusetts U.S. Congressman, Tip O’Neill, many years ago. STILL, Rudd and his party, kept Aussies OUT of the world wide recession, no small feat. Yet, I personally know of three Aussies who have already said they will be leaving this country of theirs, as a direct result of this recent election. Now THAT, is ‘HEAVY STUFF.’
The woman who replaced Rudd in 2010, Julia Gilliard, never had a shot, and would ALWAYS be viewed, fairly or unfairly, (By both the outside world leaders, and Aussie public, anyway,) as an un-trustworthy and back stabbing ally of the first order. As much as she tried, this was an image that just would not go away. (This matters GREATLY, Aussies readers, because your nation sits in a place where ‘the REAL action,’ economically speaking on this planet, is gonna be for the duration of this century.) Yet, Gilliard managed to win the 2010 election, juggle a minority government, push along important legislation, while being an extremely unpopular elected official. Her tenure, I believe, will set back aspirations of women seeking high office in Australia for decades to come, sadly.
Now, Tony Abbott is THE MAN. He is a strange guy, and spews political rhetoric not unlike that heard from Tea Party members in the USA. Because neither political party, his own Liberals, nor Labour, held an absolute majority in the Aussie Parliament, Abbott was able to obstruct much of the politically progressive proposals and policies advanced by both Rudd, and Gilliard in recent years. His tenure as THE MAN warrants close scrutiny, in the weeks, months and, especially, years to come.
Labour is out. Actually as a functioning political party, it is ‘down and out’ maybe for the next election cycle, or maybe for years to come. Critics will say this decline was self inflicted with highly public intra-party bickering, and back stabbing. The American officials of election strategy inside the G-O-P, meanwhile, are looking on, licking their chops, and ‘High Five-ing’ one another this hour, as a political party led by Tony Abbott took their cues. It is the Liberal Party under Abbott that also used their playbook, using it in another land, and with it, successfully contested an election that just some weeks before, was a ‘close call.’
There will be a ‘shake out’ period for the minority parties, like the Greens, and the Nationals, and also among Labour Party officials, too. Either way, what is clear, Aussie politics has moved sharply to the Right, and along with a ‘shake out,’ there is also going to be a major ‘shake up’ in policy.
There is no ‘transition’ period here. No shuffling of Cabinet posts, of Ministers, or Ambassadors, nor is the new guy the ‘Prime Minster Elect.’ The election was held on a Saturday. Rudd lost, and Abbott is ‘on the job’ now, this Sunday, within 24 hours.