If you haven’t discovered Peter Black’s group blog, Election Blackout, here’s a teaser. In this post, originally published there, Justin Barbour takes a look at Labor disunity from the perspective of an undecided voter. It’s an interesting angle, and also provides us with the opportunity for a Roundtable thread for people to thrash out the issues raised.
The disunity in the Labor Party cannot simply be written off as “something that happens in every government.” What the Gillard Government is faced with is a systematic attempt to significantly undermine the government during an election campaign that by all accounts is going to be a close one.
It goes to the heart of effective governance. The Cabinet system that was so woefully ignored by Rudd, which undoubtedly contributed to his demise, is paramount to effective governance. Confidentiality during Cabinet deliberations is one of the most important aspects of government that one can imagine – if Ministers cannot speak openly and frankly about policies that come before them, how are we supposed to get effective policy?
It is for this reason that the steady flow of leaks coming from the Gillard Government should be a strong indication that there is something seriously wrong at the most senior levels of government. If this level of disunity is present during an election campaign – when political parties are arguably most unified – what is going to happen if Labor wins the election? Will the Cabinet system work effectively? How will Julia Gillard seek to ensure that confidentiality is maintained?
The motivation of the person or persons involved is not strictly relevant. We can postulate, analyse, and critique his or her motives all we like – what matters is the integrity of the Cabinet system, and the continued unity of the government of the day. Without this we cannot possibly have effective governance, and so I urge Julia Gillard to stop insulting our intelligence with her excuses – “it happens” – and work to fix the disunity within her own ranks.
The latest opinion polls have Labor in dire trouble. The election is going to come down to a knife-edge. Concern about government unity is surely hurting the government, and while Julia Gillard continues to be the preferred Prime Minister, the approval ratings of the government are at the level where Gillard and those who supported her deemed it necessary to roll a first term Prime Minister in order to maintain their electability.
I hope they give the same amount of attention to the leaks as they gave the issues that Kevin Rudd ostensibly mismanaged (never mind the fact that Julia Gillard in fact made many of the decisions that led to the downfall of Rudd.) The current wave of excuses – “it happens,” for the most part – are simply not good enough and until we can be sure that a re-elected Gillard Government would be unified with a credible Cabinet system, I can understand why many would be switching their vote from Labor to other parties.
I write this as a person who has not yet decided who to vote for. I will be watching how Julia Gillard tackles this problem in deciding who my first preference in the House of Representatives will go to. I have a feeling that many others are in the same position, or unfortunately for Gillard and co, have already decided to vote non-Labor based on the events that have transpired recently.