Three days ago I posted about the civil war between Australian Labor Party politicians Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd who had preceded her in the office of Prime Minister of Australia. She was defiant and vowing to stay on as Leader of the Labor Party and Prime Minister until the 2013 General election, due in early October 2013. He was apparently getting ready to go on a trip to China, a sign interpreted by many to be that he seriously did not expect to be Prime Minister any time soon.
How fast can things change! This afternoon it was announced that there would be a leadership ballot at around 1900 hours Australian time (2100 hours NZT) this evening. Around 2230 hours this evening it was announced that Kevin Rudd, who had served as Prime Minister of Australia from November 2007 to June 2010 had been returned as Prime Minister by a Labor Party vote of 57 to 45.
One can only wonder what Julia Gillard was thinking when she said a few hours before the ballot that the loser should quit politics forthwith. I imagine given the intensity of the Labor civil war that the blood between the two got so bad that she thought there was room for only one of them. It is possible she made an off the cuff remark in the heat of the moment, or was recklessly over confident about still being Prime Minister. Whatever the case, now would be a very good time to reassess whether she still wants to be involved in the rough and tumble of politics.
For New Zealand, the change in leadership in Australia does not mean much. The major problems of New Zealanders not qualifying for Australian social welfare unless they become Australian citizens still remains, which Ms Gillard refused to make any changes on when she and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key last held talks. There is still a yawning wage gap between the two countries that nobody currently holding high office in New Zealand seems to have a clue how to fix. Finally, New Zealanders still depart at a rate of about 900 a week for the “lucky country” because the job market in New Zealand is not all that politicians or businesses say it is.
For how the two countries get on, there is unlikely to be any major change. Australia is still despite our differences on nuclear power and nuclear weapons the country closest to being a military ally, and to understanding why New Zealand functions in the way that it does. The sheep shagger and convict jokes, the “Australia stole this/that, New Zealand slacks off on defence” banter will still be an integral part of dinner parties involving people from the two countries.
But what might change – assuming Labor is still in office after the election – is how Australia views China. Mr Rudd is very fluent in Mandarin, and both countries whether they like it or not know that China’s influence in the Pacific will only grow in the immediate future as the dragon tries to keep its 1.4 billion strong population happy. How New Zealand and Australia work together in keeping the South Pacific stable will, recognising Chinese interests in the region, also be significantly influenced. Mr Rudd might have different views to what Julia Gillard had on the subject of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which New Zealand, Australia and China are all wanting to be a part of. It will be very interesting to see what happens.
For now though, the defeat of Tony Abbott must surely be the single biggest problem on the horizon for Labor.