The Federal Parliamentary Labor Party needs to show some courage. The Thomson-Slipper affairs, and the handling of them by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, have destroyed irreversibly the credibility of her government. They have also profoundly wounded the Labor movement and damaged to a shocking degree the prestige of the Federal Parliament.
What emerged from the parliamentary action of the last two days is that, under Gillard’s leadership, Labor refuses to dispense with the support of Craig Thomson’s vote and insists — on legally and morally spurious grounds — that all judgement upon him must be left solely to our snail’s pace judicial system.
In other words, Labor would rather continue destroying its own reputation, and that of the Parliament, and would rather face an electoral catastrophe in late 2013, than loosen for an instant its desperate grip on power. The “Whatever it takes” mentality has seized possession of Labor’s shrunken soul. The once altruistic “mission” of the Australian Labor Party has been reduced, under Gillard, to a species of addiction.
There is no need, however, for Laborites to despair. Doom is never inevitable. There is something that can be done about it; something easily within reach of every member of the federal parliamentary Labor caucus.
Man of substance
Kevin Rudd was not a good Prime Minister. He was responsible for wrecking Australia’s border security and for hitching the future of the Australian economy to a doubtful theory about climate change. He all too often mistreated his colleagues and senior members of the public service. He has a vengeful streak in him. He is, however, something Julia Gillard is not. He is a person of some integrity; he is a strategic thinker; he has a high degree of credibility in the electorate; and he is a political foe of the Greens.
These are all characteristics in a leader that Labor needs right now, especially integrity and strategic vision. Note, I say, now. Not next week, not next month, and certainly not sometime next year. Labor needs Rudd now.
It might be that integrity and strategic vision demand that a second Rudd government should deny itself the support of Craig Thomson’s vote and go for an early election. If that is what recalling Rudd to the leadership means, then the Labor caucus needs to embrace both options immediately.
To dispose of Thomson, and to go to an early election, would be the honest thing to do. It might also be the politically prudent course. The scale of a Rudd-led Labor defeat at an early election would be — I reckon — somewhat less than waiting until late 2013 and going to the polls under the discredited leadership of Julia Gillard.
Rudd, moreover, would be more than capable of stabilising and reorientating the Labor Party during a stint in opposition and of holding an Abbott government to account. Under Rudd’s leadership, Labor could be back in power in as little as six years. The alternative for Labor is three or four terms in the wilderness.
If Labor MPs and Senators care about their country, their party, and themselves, they will put Gillard to the sword now and bring back their only credible leader.
Honorable Members. Honorable Senators. Steel yourselves!
*Gary Scarrabelotti is Managing Director of the Canberra-based consulting firm Aequum: Political & Business Strategies.