Revolving Doors of Prime Ministers
The last ten years were the most uncertain period in Australian politics with the country seeing five Prime Ministers from 2007 to 2015. This situation has been regarded as an ‘aberration’ (Walsh as cited in Walsh 2017), ‘the new normal’ (Watson as cited in Walsh 2017) or even a political ‘crisis’ (Kelly as cited in Walsh 2017 pp. 465). This essay is divided into two sections; the first section gives an overview of the five prime ministers, and the second section discusses factors, which led to this situation. It follows up how this has influenced contemporary Australian politics and public policy.
Labor Leader Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister on December 3rd, 2007 after defeating the long-standing Howard Coalition government. For Rudd, climate change was a key issue during election campaign. As Prime Minister, his first official act was signing the Kyoto Protocol. However, later he backtracked on carbon emission trading legislation. On 13th February 2008, he offered historical ‘National Apology to Stolen Generation’. He has also been credited with successfully navigating Australia out the global financial crisis. However, he was criticised for not consulting his colleagues on policy making, for example his proposed super profit tax on the mining sector. This caused him to lose favour of his own party (Abjorensen as cited in Walsh 2016, p.325) and culminated in his removal from the leadership position just two months ahead of the general elections. Julia Gillard, then Deputy PM says, his time as Prime Minister was that of ‘chaos, paralysis and mess’ (Lowe 2012).
On June 24th, 2010 Julia Gillard made history by becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Even though the Labor government under Rudd had successfully navigated the global financial crisis, the 2010 elections resulted in a hung parliament for the first time since 1940. The Coalition and Australian Labor Party (ALP), both won 74 seats each in 150 seat strong house. After seventeen days of intense negotiations, Julia Gillard formed a minority government with the help of independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.
Throughout her time in the office, immigration proved to be the most vexed issue (Walsh 2014, pp. 139). She promised to review policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers after a ship carrying approximately ninety asylum seekers crashed into Christmas Island in December 2010, killing around 50. In May 2011, Gillard proposed a refugee swap agreement with Malaysia under which Australia agreed to take 4000 certified refugees from Malaysia in return for Malaysia taking 800 asylum seekers who had arrived on Australian shores. The Malaysian solution was challenged in the High Court and declared illegal by it. Having her Asylum Seeker policy rejected by the high court and not being able to form an agreement with the Coalition caused a lot of the general commentary to be along the lines of ‘lacking authority, legitimacy and leadership...