Australian Politics

It was probably with feeling of incredulousness that most read the appointment of former Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the post of foreign minister by current prime minister Julia Gillard on September 11. What made it an irony was the fact that Gillard had only three months earlier seized power from Rudd after he lost popularity due to his policy commitments.

Rudd had always been popular, riding sky high in popularity polls. His personality and rapport had made him well liked and the opposition led by Tony Abbot had a tough time matching up against him. However, everything began to change this year and his stand on certain important policies such as climate change cost him dearly in ratings. It was then that Gillard, deputy prime minister, saw that the party faced a possible downfall in the next election and decided to step in. She received the backing of 75 out of the party’s 115 members of parliament and threatened Rudd’s position on June 23. Initially, Rudd did not want to step down. But after it became obvious that he could no longer hold on to his position, he conceded it the next day. Gillard then became Australia’s first woman prime minister.

Gillard came into power in what was called a “sudden and ruthless coup” by some. Her intention was to save the party, but no one was surprised at the tough fight she had to make to keep her party in power in the August election. The Labour Party’s main opponent was the Liberal Party-National Party coalition led by Tony Abbott.

As it is with most elections, the personal lives of both main competing political leaders would be compared and it was no different in this case. Gillard is single, has no children, and is living-in with her partner who is a hairdresser. She had stated in an interview that she did not believe in God. It is an entirely different scenario for Abbott. He had studied for the Catholic priesthood in a seminary before choosing the political career path. Additionally, he’s married and has three daughters. Many compared the contrast between the “liberal” Gillard and the “conservative” Abbott.

During the pre-election run up, many Rudd supporters were still sore at his ousting. For the sake of politics, he and Gillard met to discuss issues. It was a closed-door meeting and the video and photos that were published in the press afterwards spoke well of their relationship. There was an obvious tension and a newspaper even said that they looked like a “divorced couple reluctantly brought together”. Furthermore, there was a leak of confidential Cabinet reports that made people doubt Gillard was fit to lead the country.

When election came around, pundits predicted a close fight and they were right. Both the Labor and Coalition won 72 seats each in the House of Representatives, with Labor winning less seats than the last election and the opposite for the Coalition. 76 seats were needed to form a majority parliament. As a result, Australia had its first hung parliament in 70 years. To cut a long story short, after a 17-day period of negotiation, the Labor Party received the backing of four crossbenchers and formed a minority government.

Rudd, with his big amount of foreign policy experience, was definitely needed in the government. Although both he and Gillard have insisted that they are able and can work together, it is not surprising that many doubt them. While there are still hard feelings against Gillard, politics is a shifty ground and things can change. It remains to be seen if there are relationship rifts between both of them. Politics is also dirty, no doubt, and friends can turn into enemies and vice versa in a matter of hours.

Evangeline is a 16-year old homeschooler from Malaysia. She firmly believes that every homeschooler should be keep up-to-date with what’s going on across the world.

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