Australia news - 1st woman Prime Minister!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Jun 24, 2010.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Wow, we're in shock here. The ruling Labor party just dumped their leader, our Prime Minister for the last two and a half years. When he came in, his popularity was a record high. He's done a lot of amazing things for our country, including hold us together financially at a time when the rest of the world was struggling. But memories are short and the PR machine didn't keep reminding people about the good stuff.

    A day ago we had no idea. OK, the polls weren't good, but he was still more popular in the polls than the alternative - the current Liberal leader. Frankly, the Liberal leader isn't even very popular with most Liberal supporters.

    The Aussie political system is not a Presidential system; it is the Westminster system similar to the British one. We have a number of political parties, two main ones. The Liberal Party is actually the more conservative one. At an election, we vote for the MP to represent us in our electorate (based on geographic lines). Voting is compulsory. The person who gets most votes in an electorate wins their seat. The party with the most members elected to their seat is the one asked to form government by our Governor General (similar to the Queen, in the British system). The leader of that party is then Prime Minister, but has to be formally sworn in by the GG. We also have our first ever woman GG.

    We are due to have an election within the next six months anyway. With the drop in popularity of Kevin Rudd (the outgoing PM) it was beginning to look like the next government would have even more trouble getting legislation passed. That has been the problem behind Australia's failure to follow through on proposed climate change promises.

    It has been a difficult time - Kevin Rudd became PM a few months before Barack Obama became US President. Politically, they are similar. There were so many wonderful promises, a fair bit of expense needed to make it happen - then the GFC hit and the money had to be spent differently. So a lot of election promises have been broken and it couldn't be helped. Other election promises were broken and some people feel they could have been helped. Increasingly, people were feeling that too many decisions were being made without getting party approval. Here, a leader can't simply wave his hand and say, "Make it so," he has to get it past his own party and cabinet, then past the Lower House, then the Senate (Upper House).

    Julia Gillard has been the country's deputy leader for the past two and a half years and now is the first female PM we've had. The first PM not born here (although she came to Australia from Wales when she was 5 years old and has a broad Aussie accent). A lot of firsts.

    Before this morning she was this country's deputy leader. She's done an excellent job, I've been impressed with how she can handle pressure, difficult questions from the media and also how she handles things in parliament. Here, an hour of parliamentary Question Time gets televised every day (when parliament is sitting). It's both parties sitting on opposite sides of the room, taking turns at discussing various issues, usually presented in the form of questions put to parliament. It can get very lively. Lately it's been very disruptive. Today Julia Gillard had been PM for two hours when she was dealing with her first Question Time as Labor Leader and PM.

    Our political system put us in a possibly tricky position constitutionally, today. Kevin Rudd, our outgoing PM, realising his party had lost confidence in him, resigned rather than lose a party room vote. Julia Gillard was then voted in as the new leader of the Labor Party. This was at 9 am our time.

    BUT - changes to our government line-up have to go before the GG before they are legal. So for three hours we had a PM who was no longer leader of his political party.

    Now, constitutionally, he could have gone to the GG and said, "As PM I am instructing you to dissolve parliament and call an election for such-and-such date." This would have locked him in place as PM until the election (which would have had to be six months away) and also (I think) locked in the opposing political party's leader. It would be one way (dishonestly) he could have kept his job. This was discussed in the media here this morning - this oddity in our current national constitution.

    Of course, he has more integrity than to do that, but in his press conference announcing he was stepping down, he did make a joking reference to the fact that he was still PM for 15 more minutes even though he was no longer leader of the Labor Party. "So you'd better be nice to me," he joked. Not much more joking, though - he was clearly in tears. Poor man.

    We do have a good replacement, though. I'm personally disappointed in this change but I can see the political sense, I suppose. My own personal preference is for this party to keep control because I think they've done a lot of good. But of course, every government also makes mistakes.

    I'm a fairly apolitical person. I vote according to what is promised and what I feel is good for the country. I also choose to vote for the person I feel I can trust to put the country first. Not a lot of politicians can be trusted to put the good of the country ahead of their own political ambition.

    This new PM is very capable. She would have to be, to get to where she has. One of her first jobs is going to be at an international summit. She is going to make people sit up and take notice.

    Our new PM, a redhead, is no pushover. Someone said tat when Britain had Margaret Thatcher as PM she was called the Iron Butterfly. They then said, "We now have a rusty iron butterfly."

    Anyway, I thought you guys might be interested.

  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    That is very interesting.

    Marg, does that mean that your new PM will be at the G20 summit, set to start tomorrow in my home town? Gosh. Short notice for her.
  3. Marg's Man

    Marg's Man Member

    No she won't be going for a couple of reasons.

    First she needs to consolidate her political position here, the Opposition is already putting in the boot about "political assassination". This despite the fact that THEY have swapped leaders five times since the last election and the current leader (a noted misogynist) has his position by virtue of an even bloodier (figuratively) leadership spill.

    Second our representative was always going to be the Treasurer as this meeting falls into his sphere of expertise. He is on his way in this role but now wearing the Deputy Prime Minister's hat instead. Our former PM was going but there was no need for him to go - it would have been necessary except to garner a few international brownie points. Being a woman she would be judged harshly if she went on a such a trip so soon after the changeover - wrong but that's the truth of the situation. Politics is a VERY dirty game.

    As a Canadian you will have better idea of how the Westminster political system works than our American friends.

    Marg's Man
  4. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    thats very neat news Marg. We have pretty much an identical system here, except it isn't compulsory to vote here. I at times wish it was as I notice a large number are so apathetic that they don't use their right to vote, even though they have strong opinions on what party they want elected.

    We had a similar situation that briefly gave us a female in charge too. Was neat while it lasted. I hope to see it again some day.
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Wow! Thanks for all that info, Marg.