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Multiple arrows fired with extreme prejudice

No early PNG meeting likely for Julia Gillard


Serious SIR MICHAEL Somare has invited Australia’s new prime minister Julia Gillard to visit PNG.

But with a new government settling in and a federal election in the offing, it may not be until some time next year that the two get together, if Labor is returned to office.

Ministers from both governments were due to hold their annual forum early next month in Alotau.

But this event was downgraded by the Rudd government from a forum to a meeting because, according to officials, only “a handful of Australian ministers will be available”.

But there are indications of a more serious explanation.

Australia has been reviewing its relationship with a PNG government widely seen as corrupt, incapable of delivering basic services and experiencing serious governance problems.

A meeting between Somare and Gillard, if it occurs, would be interesting. PNG has only one female parliamentarian and has a significant and globally-recognised problem of violence against women.

In a statement, Sir Michael Somare, said Labor governments have always had constructive policies towards PNG. He hoped Ms Gillard would expand on the work of Kevin Rudd.

But the truth is that this work has fallen into a hole this year.


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Mary Jones

Since the Federal elections, we have had a hung parliament and it is still up to the three Independent MPs to help form the next minority government in Australia.

I wonder what deals the independents are doing with either Tony or Julia to form the next government, and start getting on with the job of governing Australia. The long wait is not doing the country any good.

Dilan Thampapillai

The removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister is not a good thing for Australian democracy. This is the first time in Australia’s history that a first-term prime minister has been removed from office in the absence of a genuine national emergency.

The only other examples of a first-term prime minister losing office are Robert Menzies and Joseph Scullin. Menzies lost support for his leadership during World War II and Scullin’s prime ministership coincided unhappily with the Great Depression.

There was no national crisis this time. Instead, there was a crisis of self-interest. Rudd was removed from office because party powerbrokers felt that his decline in the opinion polls meant that Labor could be defeated at the next election.

Never mind, that Labor held a 52-48 lead in the two-party preferred vote or that Rudd outpointed opposition leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister by 46-34.

Never mind also that Rudd’s decline in the opinion polls occurred after he took the advice of those same powerbrokers and Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan on such issues as the emissions trading scheme bill, asylum seekers and the mining tax.

Let us also not forget that Gillard, as a member of the “Gang of Four”, was every bit as much a part of the subversion of the cabinet process as Rudd.

So, Australia has its first female prime minister. That is a great thing. But the way in which it has been done has devalued the office of prime minister.

It signals that party powerbrokers, both elected and unelected, can turf out an elected prime minister in his first term, or at least, at a time of their choosing and that elected representatives will follow their orders regardless of whether it is what the people want or not.

It also signals that the government can be brought to heel by the mining industry. Neither of those developments is good for Australia’s democracy.

Gillard, who was sworn in as prime minister hours after Rudd’s ouster, has kindly offered not to move into the Lodge until after she is elected by the people. That is good of her – Macbeth did not move into Duncan’s castle either.

In a somewhat cynical move, Gillard has offered Rudd a senior job if Labor is re-elected. The subtext is clear; do not make trouble and you might be rewarded.

Given that it has also now emerged that Rudd was actually close to a deal with the miners there are questions about whether his dumping was absolutely necessary and whether Gillard has been as loyal as she suggests.

In retrospect the indignation feigned over (Gillard aide) Alistair Jordan’s checking of Rudd’s numbers does seem slightly excessive for a seasoned politician. Legitimacy will be a problem for Gillard.

If Labor loses the next election one shudders to think how Gillard will be remembered. The legitimacy issue might be cured by Labor winning the next election but it might not. It all depends on how Labor handles the fallout.

This is a different situation to Paul Keating’s challenge to Bob Hawke in 1991, which everybody at the time could see was brewing prior to the 1990 election. Nobody anticipated in 2007 that this would happen. The problem is that Gillard’s ascension will again split the Labor base vote.

It seems evident that female Labor voters, particularly educated middle and upper middle class ones, are quite rightly delighted by Gillard’s promotion to the top job because of what it signals to all women in regards to career possibilities.

But there is going to be a lot of Labor voters who are very angry about the way in which Rudd has been removed.
They will be deeply angry about the way in which Rudd and his family have been humiliated. His last press conference was both moving and hard to watch.

For all his faults, Rudd had the makings of an exceptional prime minister.

Reginald Renagi

Julia Gillard will not make many policy changes for the ALP between now and the planned Federal elections later on this year. The key changes may be in climate change and whether to reintroduce Rudd's ETS in another form and configuration and the mining tax.

While I understand that she wants to avoid instability if Kevin was given a Ministerial portfolio it is still no way to treat a very popular former PM by banishing him to the ranks of the back benchers.

Reginald Renagi

Congratulations to Julia Gillard for being the first woman ('and red head', her own words, not mine) Prime Minister of Australia.

She will bid her time well and be fully briefed by her party advisers before she accepts Somare's invitation to visit PNG later on in the year. PNG liked former PM, Kevin Rudd as he was open and immediately connected with us than that difficult predecessor of his, what's his name again...?

I wonder whether Julia Gillard will try to erase Kevin's memory from PNG by rehashing and making 'another Port Moresby Declaration. Ian Kemish and his DFAT team better start editing her revised PNG speech now making sure it does not regugitate Rudd's earlier 'feel good' statements.

No big hurry there Julia, but better make sure you visit PNG before the US State Department Secretary, Hillary Clinton beats you to it. This may water down the importance of your PNG visit as it will be a man's country you will be seeing and many here still feel poor Kevin was hard done by a woman, even a very capable one at that.

A lesson that Michael must never forget or he will rue the day when a good deputy pulls the rug from under him one of these days soon in a shocking move learnt from the ALP!

Effrey Dademo

He (Somare) has a lot to learn from these latest events in Australian politics as he fights to cling onto power.

The office of the PM does not belong to any one person!

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