Tag Archives: Government

1975 revisited?

When the Withlam government was brought down on the 11th of November 1975 I had been in Australia for 18 months, I was 14 and my English was still a bit dodgy.

I wasn’t really into the news or politics as I am now, but of course since then I know much more about the events of that period. On an historical perspectives the current events with Craig Thomson pale in comparison. There we had blocked supply and eventually a Governor General dismissing a government which was elected with a majority.

Also the tragedy that must have been for Labor people to finally have a government after 27 years only to have its program frustrated at every angle (which forced an early double dissolution election in 1974) and having the whole thing collapse in just three years.

But it show how then as now, the Liberal Party is ruthless in getting power. In 1975 the law was that if a senator retired or died its replacement would be appointed by the Government of that state. The convention was that it would be replaced by someone recommended by the parliamentary party of the day. But when ALP Senator Bertie Milliner died suddenly, Joh Bjelke-Petersen instead of appointing what the ALP recommended, they appointed Albert Field who despite being a member of the Labor Party was of conservative and religious openly critical of the progressive Whitlam government. I will take from Wikipedia what happened next: “Field had resigned from the Queensland Public Service immediately prior to his Senate appointment, but there was a dispute about whether he remained a public servant when appointed. This may have made him constitutionally ineligible to be chosen as a senator, so the Labor Party challenged his appointment in the High Court. Consequently he was on leave from the Senate, unable to exercise a vote, from 1 October 1975. However, going against tradition, the opposition parties refused to provide a “pair” to maintain the relative positions of the Government and Opposition [sounds familiar?] This gave the Coalition a majority in the Senate, allowing them to pass motions to defer consideration of supply and force the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.”.

The echoes of 1975 are also very eloquently explained by Bernard Keane in Crikey.

And all this was orchestrated by someone that now is one of the poster boy of the caffelatte set, Malcolm Fraser. The fact is that the Coalition parties will stop at nothing to get power and they are good at it. I am wondering whether perhaps what I saw of the Hawke government was an aberration. Whether perhaps even if they can run the country Labor is not as politically adept in maintaining power.

Of course there are differences. Honesty, I know that I am left, but I can’t really accept that the Gillard government is ‘one of the worst government ever in Australia’ that’s bullshit. I have seen left governments which were on their last legs and unfortunately deserved to lose. The Kirner Victorian government in the 90’s and probably the NSW Kennally one last year. Like any government the Rudd/Gillard government made mistakes (like the often mentioned bats) but the basics remain sound. Unemployment, rates and inflation are relatively low. It may not be the best government we ever had but by no means the worse.

If anything, even if we now see the Withlam government with rose tinted glasses in its progressive policies (which was true) economically was pretty much a disaster. Unlike the Rudd government it failed to see that with the oil shocks of the 70’s the growth period of the 60’s was over, but it went on to spend regardless. This made inflation much worse. In 1975 it was 15.1759% (compared to the current 3.6026%). Also there was an attempt in raising funds from the Middle East and a Treasurer (Dr. Cairns) which bless his heart was really good on social policy, I don’t think was that great on the ins and outs of finance and economics. Not only he was embroiled in the aforementioned Loans affair that cost him his job, but was in a relationship with Julie Morosi, someone that he found attractive and that perhaps ill advisedly appointed her as Principal Private Secretary. The fact that they were in a relationship was known but it was heaven sent for the tabloid press, giving the idea of instability. The culmination came when Cairn admitted that he felt love for Morosi in the 1975 Conference in Terrigal NSW. Whic h while not the Gold Coast offered pictures of ALP ministers in holiday mode near swimming pools while the ‘battler’ (yes, they existed even then) was doing it tough.

There are other differences of course and the main one is offered by Bernard Keane again:

At least back then, in Fraser and Whitlam, we had two political giants slugging it out. This time around we have, to steal Laurie Oakes’ apt phrase, two political pygmies, neither of whom the electorate appears to have the time of day for.

I just hope that once in power whether in a few weeks, or in a couple of years Abbott will ditch the unhinged and become a balanced Prime Minister, albeit a conservative one.

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My victory speech

Many blogs posts have been written about the new Australian Government.  I may also contribute later.  But if I was Julia Gillard this is the sort of speech I would have given once I knew that I could create a government.

My fellow Australians,

It’s been a difficult campaign for re-election and from the results we can all see that we have lost a lot of support. We have been able to create a government with the help of the members for Melbourne, Denison, New England and Lyne.  but the message is loud and clear that many Australians weren’t happy about us the way they were three years ago.

I feel that tonight we must take this message and take it on board. As I campaigned around Australia I felt that many voters felt a yearning for someone to show the way, to enthuse them about where Australia can go.  Yes they wanted a competent government that could provide services, but there was a yearning for leadership about the future of our country.  About our soul and about our spirit.  We are a unique country.  A country that still is working towards the conciliation with its original inhabitants.  A country that like me is being formed by migrants, a country that has been one of the most successful in creating a cohesive society with people of different beliefs and cultures.

What a basis to build on.

I feel the most privileged leader of the world to be the Prime Minister of such a country.  A country that has such potential to be even greater than now.  A country that is diverse, vital vibrant.  That welcomes diversity instead of fearing it.

My fellow Australians.  As I reflect on the results of the election and the opportunity to be Prime Minister, I also have to confess that I and the Labor Party didn’t act on this belief.  Instead of believing in the future. Lead and forge ahead towards a clear path we were too fearful and we have paid a price for it.

In areas such as Climate Change we could have done better. I feel now that we as a government have been too timid. We as a government didn’t take the trust and the mandate given to us by the Australian people and made decisions which voters expected us to take.

It is true that worrying too much about how popular you are can be as dangerous as not taking any heed of what people believe. In politics there is a fine balance between wanting to be safe and popular and take courageous decisions. I believe that in the process of being wanting to be safe we lost our way. That instead of being popular voters thought that we didn’t stand for much. So instead of holding our ground we lost it.

Well, tonight as your Prime Minister I can say that my government will now take a different stand. We will be a true Labor government. A Labor government in the tradition of Withlam, Hawke and Keating that will make decisions to place Australia in the best position for this century. This time we will be confident about what we do. The times where the Labor party felt like it had to justify its economic credentials because it allowed itself to be portrayed as the Party which was less able to manage the economy are over. We are now stating clearly and categorically that we are the best managers of the economy as we have proven in the past three years. We are the best party for workers and to to provide infrastructure for a growing economy. And we are the best party to ensure that our population is sustainable without resorting to latent xenophobia.

Now comes the time where we are entrusted to lead we need to do so.

I want a confident Australia, I want an inclusive Australia.  I don’t want an Australia where we are ruled buy what can’t be done.

I make this promise to the Australian people.  I will lead for a confident Australia.  Even with the Parliament we have been given by the Australian people this will be possible.  I will lead in order to maximise the great potential this country has.

I refuse to be ruled by fear, and I am sure my fellow Australians agree with me.

Thank you.

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