Australia suddenly got a new Prime Minister on the 24th of June, resident Aussie expert Nishma Doshi agreed to write for Bright Green about her first impressions.

It was clear that Dramatic Irony was going to kick Kevin Rudd in the face when he announced on 60 Minutes that Julia Gillard was going to be a fantastic PM ‘in the future’ (‘not yet’) a few weeks ago, so it wasn’t so surprising that Gillard challenged Rudd for a leadership debate two days later. The scoop on the whole affair was pretty simple: Rudd was no longer the #1 ALP Guy within the party, and with an increasing drop in the polls Australia’s love affair with Kev had almost died out. Gillard had been a strong candidate for a few years, having a strong union background flavoured with an outspoken Labor portfolio. As Deputy Prime Minister, she steps in, takes on the role, promotes everyone below her, and hey, Caucus votes her in. In less than 24 hours, Australians awake to their first female Prime Minister.

It’s taken me a while to really figure out exactly where Gillard stands in the Party, and what type of Prime Minister she would be – each paragraph having to be erased as the media reported on a new action. Gillard, as it turns out, may be a member of the left-wing faction of ALP, but it was the right that has supported, promoted and campaigned for her leadership. Thus, it’s unsurprising that Gillard has clearly shifted to the right of the party. She has promised three key agenda items:

  1. Securing a conversation over the Super Tax on Mining
  2. Improving border security
  3. Building a consensus on Climate Change

None of these policies are progressive, each is trying to tackle a right-wing perspective by playing on their own ground rather than assuming that the left is morally right. Rudd was interested in the discussion because he really believed in big business and its social responsibility. Gillard is a union member, and should be much more skeptical of business leaders – her failure to really bring her experience into the job is evidence, in my opinion, how far she is is willing to compromise her morals for political gain and power.

She has compromised over the controversial mining tax by reducing its profits from 40% to 30% after talking with mining companies. Obviously, as GetUp! Australia has previously uncovered, the taxes would only affect the owners and directors of mining corporations rather than all of the workers in the mining industry. Add that to the high wages and extra benefits than miners already have due to the nature of their work, the tax is not unfair. Gillard has become the Third Way – deciding to allow business to contribute to policy rather than people, a suggestion that her legitimacy should be questioned.

More disturbingly, the traditional pro-Asylum Seeker stance that had marked previous ALP opposition governments from the end of the Vietnam war is gone. Gillard has adopted the Liberal Party’s xenophobia, fearful of what Arthur Calwell once called a ‘chocolate coloured nation’. What are the concerns that Australia has with new those seeking asylum? Where has their empathy gone?

It is true that Rudd already had defied party policy by preventing Afghani and Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers from coming to Australia and gaining asylum, but Gillard has taken that much much further away from progressive policies to those particularly facing challenging circumstances to spitting in the face of those who may be murdered back at home. It’s definitely horrific and disgusting policy when Pauline Hansen actually agrees with ALP policy. Of course, the faillure of Gillard’s plan of processing Asylum Seekers outside of Australia (in East Timor) is the sweet topping on a turd pie.

On Climate Change, Gillard has still failed to actually outline her policies; from her emphasis on consensus, we can assume that Gillard is possibly more interested in convincing the public that Climate Change exists before pushing through the necessary economic regulations (Emissions Trading Scheme and a Carbon tax) as supported by her political party. As this is qwidelly believed to be one of the key principles that turned public favour away from udd (when Rudd shelved the plans), Gillard will need to ensure that she continues to support the plans publically to increase her chances of re-election. My fears are that she will do exactly what she has said. She will seek consensus and continue the neverending battle against climate-deniers rather than implement policy with the support that she already has.

Will elections likely in a month or so, the outcome of Gillard versus Abbott will shape the face of the future of Australia and its relationship with the international community. That both candidates agressively removed their predecessors, hold very strong opinions which they are not afraid to convey, and clearly cross-cut the centre of the political framework will mean the election may be much too close to call and dependent on last-minute factors. Either way, progressive politics will have been flushed out of the Australian political system – with only a surge in Green Party membership and support as a positive gain.

This post was initially published on AcaciaThorns.

Adam Ramsay

About Adam Ramsay

Adam is Co-Editor of Open Democracy UK and a green activist based in Edinburgh. He co-founded Bright Green in 2010.