Hurt, angry about ex-PM Gillard? Feel betrayed by PM Rudd? How does “President Abbott” sound? Both Rudd and Abbott are moving us to a US-American style of political campaigning and it was an obsession with presidential-style popularity polls which justified the knifing of our first female Prime Minister, and not the policies or legislation the Gillard Government passed. It’s happened, can’t change it, so where to now?
First is the Grieving or Celebrating
I’ll never vote ALP again. I feel betrayed. I am furious. I’m grieving.
These are just some of the comments I’ve seen and heard since PM Gillard was knifed.
Move on. We have to unite. Rudd is our best hope, our only hope.
I’ve seen people spend more time talking about how their football team lost and have been allowed to vent and rage for longer following a mid-season defeat than what Left wing supporters have been allowed to talk about what happened without someone telling them to “move on, unite behind Rudd”.
You’re hurt, you think Kevin Rudd is a traitor? What can we do? analyse it, cancel our political party memberships if we are in the ALP, start recruiting if we are in the Greens, maybe tear down, undermine, white-ant Rudd, send the ALP to the wilderness, perhaps. Or we could fight Tony Abbott and his conservatives regardless of who is the Prime Minister.
On the other hand, maybe you’re celebrating, and the people who are grieving see that as gloating, or rewarding a white-anter who betrayed his party. Now is not the time for “I told you so”, save that for after the election.
Is it true that Bill Shorten encouraged PM Gillard to spill then afterwards withdrew support? Is it true that the two Labor MP packing up their office, as breathlessly reported by Latika Bourke, was part of a Team Rudd stunt to undermine PM Gillard? Is it true the plot was hatched, days or even weeks before the Wednesday spill?, as Stephen Smith said the day after the spill “I am great mates with Albo. I said to him the other day, ‘Albo, if you become Deputy Prime Minister, I’ll be able to call you both leader and deputy at the same time”1 (surely he meant to say, last night, not the other day).
In the end, does it matter? While PM Gillard supporters were taking selfies of their cleavage, the men and women of the Labor party were plotting the downfall of the Prime Minister. The analysis of the hows and the whys, what we think and how we feel won’t change what happened.
Politicians will always play politics, it’s what they do, it’s how they got where they are. Getting angry at politicians for acting like politicians seems a waste of energy.
Believing what a politician says is like playing poker with a backbencher. When you finally get a royal flush, he jabs you with a sharp stick.
Abbott tries to Americanise (Americanize) our politics
Tony Abbott promised back in october “The next election campaign will be the filthiest and the most personal in living memory.”2
He has made it a contest between leaders, based on popularity, he has had numerous campaign rallies, called for the direct election of the Prime Minister, dragged his wife and smiley children into the picture, as if he was Mitt Romney, he has fought on Tea Party style issues, and put religion of candidates centre stage.
This past weekend we witnessed a most US-American style election campaign rally from the Liberal party (pictured). Complete with bored people in the background who tick all the demographic boxes, Hillsong style theme songs and speeches that wouldn’t be out of place in any Hauptstraße.
Abbott’s repeated claims about the people choose the Prime Minister3 – not in this country we don’t, it’s a little thing known as the Westminster System, maybe he is confused about the differences between a president and a prime minister. Perhaps someone can tell Tony Abbott what it is or read the Wikipedia page to him. (link Wikipedia: Westminster System)
This is deliberate misinformation, people don’t choose, the people never choose, and for Abbott to campaign for three years that the voters should be angry because Prime Minister Gillard wasn’t chosen by the people conveniently skips the 2010 election, where Ms Gillard was the prime minister. Notice how many times the media talks about a Rudd-government or Gillard-government, instead of ALP-government.
This is part of the dumbing down of our political understanding. It is easier to talk about personalities and popularity of leaders, because to say you “don’t like” someone takes a lot less brain cells than understanding and evaluating their policies. It is easier to reduce politics to 3-word slogans and tell people they are supposed to feel fear of refugees, betrayed because they were ‘lied’ to and scared of a great big new tax, than talk about legislation and policy detail.
Fixed election dates, so we can spend three years campaigning, rather than governing for two and half then campaigning in the last few weeks. Makes it a bit difficult to be screaming hysterically for “Election Now!” at the same time stamping your feet and demanding fixed terms, hey, Mr Abbott?
If we have learned anything from The West Wing, besides Martin Sheen was a better fictional president than real life George W ever was, it is: no matter how bad or how good things get in politics, you move on, you deal with what you have to, then say ‘what’s next?’
Pres Jed Bartlett (The West Wing) “When I ask ‘What’s Next?’ it means I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?”
We can’t turn back the clock – though Abbott would like to, and maybe some of the grief people are feeling is not just because it happened, but because in the end, it did a make a difference, in the polls. So, until we invent a DeLorean time machine, what’s next?
If Abbott wants nasty personal US-style campaigning, maybe the Left should also look to the US and see what we like and borrow from them. As Leon C. Megginson says:
“According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species… that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
You wanted it Abbott, you wanted it Rudd, maybe its time for those of us whose politics goes beyond parroting Alan Jones and doing the Sausage Sizzle Shuffle once ever three years to get our names marked off to take political campaigning to a different level.
If the Liberal Nationals switch to US style presidential election campaigning, they will have the upper hand – they have the media on their side, they have the financial backers, they have the lobbyists, and they have a energise base.
Fight On Issues
With Kevin Rudd and his “normal” family, as one commentator said, back in Boganville (his private nickname for the Lodge), I have seen and heard a lot of despair, particularly from women whose interest in federal politics was piqued by Julia Gillard. I say, Don’t give up.
If the party you love thinks the way it can win is by converging its policies with the Right, and you think you can no longer campaign for them, raise funds, donate time, make calls for them, do you abandon them, or do you let them know you are not happy with them trying to be Liberal-lite.
If you feel you can longer support the party, chose a cause you believe in, whether women’s rights, worker’s rights, human rights, environmental rights, and find a candidate that supports those, and fight for those individual candidates. Lobby groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby, (which could be just a handful of gay hating men in their mothers spare bedroom), have enormous sway over the political landscape, because they fight on single issues, and the never stop fighting. Groups such as Emilys List, or Get Up, bypass the party machine, and a look at their websites will let you know the candidates they support rather than an entire party, or the causes they are mobilising for.
If the party moves to the right in a chase for votes and sells our its core principles, make every issue a battle ground, the most engaged wins, the Left can do that. The Left are very good at fighting on behalf of others and the disadvantage, the Right are good at fighting for their own self-interest.
There are lobby groups, community organisations, online and real world networks, grassroots campaigns, not just one, but as many as your time, energy, finances, and interest can sustain. Volunteer or be a financial member, donate your time if you are skilled, form your own lobby groups to fight for a small local issue and learn activism and lobbying skills from the ground up. A change of prime minister shouldn’t mean a mass exodus of engaged and informed voters.
Journalist Margo Kingston of No Fibs, and others like her, are reinvigorating political reporting with citizen journalism. The mainstream media has made itself redundant with endlessly repetitive opinion pieces and vested interests, the 5th estate bloggers and website owners is filling the gap.
Whatever your cause or candidate, the mainstream media probably won’t be reporting favourably unless it is in their financial interests to do so. If you can’t maintain your own blog, join with a bunch of friends, and report from your electorate, or on your cause, or promote your candidate.
I have seen a lot of engagement with politics, particularly federal, over the past few years, it would a shame if a change in leader ended that. If we want something, its time to show our elected leaders we are engaged, not just hope our politicians do the right thing, and complain afterwards, remind them that while voting is compulsory, voting for them is optional, and we are not going to go away.
If you live in a safe electorate, and feel you can’t make a difference, fight to make it marginal. Your vote won’t be taken for granted. Live in a very safe seat, choose a seat where you feel you can difference, and fight for those issues or that candidate.
Fundraising, which is where the Liberals have it over the Left. They have the almost unlimited resources of the major miners and big business. That have people lining up to attend intimate dinners for 20 at $1000 a plate.
Can’t afford $1000, and don’t want to reward Kevin Rudd and don’t want to join the Greens, but still don’t want Abbott to be PM. Support causes, candidates and lobby groups, instead of (or as well as) parties.
Host your own fund-raiser, get your friends together, have a meal, a chat and everyone puts in an amount for your chosen candidate. Obama showed that you $1000 a plate dinners, or millionaire casino magnates stumping up the multi-millions. The Obama campaign brought in lots of small donations rather than a few very large ones.
Maybe we no longer have a female prime minister, that doesn’t mean misogyny and sexism will go away. The same week that PM Gillard became ex PM Gillard, the world watched Wendy Davis, in pink tennis shoes and white suit stand up for over 13 hours in the fight for women’s right, supported by male and female colleagues.
Julia Gillard was accused of misandry for daring to mention abortion. Meanwhile NSW has Zoe’s Law a bill that would grant greater legal protection to a foetus (“a ‘child’ in utero”), and John Madigan in the federal senate is an anti-abortionist Democratic Labor Party (DLP). It might be time for all of us to put on our pink tennis shoes and stand up for what we believe in, fight and campaign on individual issues, remind the people we vote for why we vote for them.
If PM Gillard showed us anything it’s that the gender card is not like a credit card, women don’t get to pull it out when they want something, it’s more like a red card or yellow card in football, it’s used against you, if you step out of boundaries. It’s Time to lace up our pink tennis shoes and start stepping over the boundaries.
As Tony Windsor is fond of saying The world is run by those who turn up, he has a point. It’s not an Australian Idol system of choosing governments, yet. The winner isn’t decided by whichever candidate has the most votes from the home viewer.
Too bad it’s not Survivor, there are a few Liberals I wish I could vote off the island.
No, I am not telling anyone what to do, this is all just my opinion, which I am entitled to as anyone else. If you disagree, that is your right.
People who are politically active may find nothing of interest in this post, it is written in response to people who say ‘now that Julia Gillard is gone, how can I vote for Rudd and his team of backstabbers’. Easy, find another way to channel that energy.
1 Stephen Smith in his valedictory speech, 27/06/13 Hansard
2“The next election campaign will be…” Lateline 18-10-2012
3 Hansard: 27/06/13 Tony Abbott “Why should the Australian people accept that their right to choose their Prime Minister has been usurped by faceless men for the second time in just three years?”
3 Hansard: 26/06/13 Tony Abbott “It is time the people of Australia were allowed to choose their Prime Minister.”
3 Hansard: 21/03/13 Tony Abbott “I think it is time to give the people a chance to choose the Prime Minister and to choose the government. On the 50th anniversary of the faceless men being shown in a photograph in the Daily Telegraph, I say: let’s get rid of the faceless men. Let’s have a new Prime Minister and a new government.”