Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Julia Gillard - our new leader

Before I start, this post is not what I plan on posting regularly, but because I'm still so new at this, that can only be proven over time. So just trust me on this, it's pretty tangential.

I’m a little late in posting this, as the hysteria has mostly died down around the Gillard appointment of last week. Today is the end of the first week of Julia Gillard serving as Prime Minister of Australia. So many people have written about this already, some with humour, some slightly more seriously, but I still feel like I need to put my two bob in. Please don’t take this post as a stance on my personal political views, I don’t think I even know what they are yet, it’s more a reflection on the process that has brought us to where we are now in national leadership.

Firstly, I’m stoked that Australia has a female leader for the first time. A woman leading the country has been a long time coming, and when it happened it couldn’t go uncelebrated as an important point in our political history. The part of this event that I keep coming back to is the fact that she was not elected to this position. Is this not a pretty big fact that we’re ignoring, or am I blowing things out of proportion? Some would say that because there has been a rumbling of public support for the decision after it was made, it doesn’t matter if she was originally elected to the role or not and sure, the argument has strength.

But where was this decision made? Wherever it was, it sure wasn’t at the polling booths .This means that even if the public did think that she’d make a great leader of the country, they didn’t get the chance to say so until the decision had already been made for them. So what? Well, isn’t the point of elections in Australia to give the public a say in who leads them? Sure, two-and-a-bit years ago we chose a leader and party, and we still have the party, but not the leader. Should we kick back and say ‘well, we’ve got most of what we chose, that’s good enough’? Or, given that there has been a clear fall in support for the leader that we originally chose, who has now been removed by the party that originally put him forward, shouldn’t we seek to have a choice over who replaces him? I know that the system of government we have in Australia centres elections on parties and not individual leader, but the landscape of voters across the country still take individual leaders into their decision  on election day. So the decision to remove Kevin Rudd as PM couldn’t have been put to the people immediately, and that is why processes like votes of no confidence exist, however, once it is clear that the people’s choice isn’t working for the people, shouldn’t the next steps be an interim solution until another decision by the people can be made? Isn’t that how we as a nation show continued dedication to the values of popular vote, election by majority and giving everyone a choice? No one knows for sure when the federal election will be held yet, but the sooner the better. At least that way, the decision on who fills the seat is given to the people and the processes created to ensure our values are upheld are followed. When leadership start to ignore, delay or influence these processes for their own gain, their motivation for wanting the position comes into question and the integrity of their government is devalued.

In short, who cares if our current leader is woman or not, give the choice to the people who should have it, and make it snappy.