Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

It’s upside-down Down Under

Australia’s Labor Party hammered out a working coalition government last week (huzzah!), and so then came the naturally arduous task of cabinet building. In a highly surreal twist, Australia’s new Foreign Minister is apparently… ex-PM Kevin Rudd? The same fellow who was unceremoniously ousted as Prime Minister by Julia Gillard short months ago?

Rudd’s now got the awkward task of representing the government of his vanquisher, and he’s starting right away. He’ll be in Washington this week, then to the UN General Assembly on Gillard’s behalf. I don’t envy him the task, and am very curious as to why and how he came to accept the role. It’s glammy, but what a bizarre career trajectory.

I’m trying to imagine Paul Martin naming Jean Chr├ętien as Defence Minister in 2004, or Gordon Brown placing Blair as a Deputy Minister for Health in 2007. It just confirms to me: I don’t get Australia.

In other weird Aussie political job-hopping news: ex-Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett has been moved from Environment to Schools, Childhood and Youth. That’s also a demotion. But so was going from rock star to MP, I suppose.

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Filed under: International, Politics, , , ,

Didn’t win? You need a coalition

She can’t be happy. But Australia’s Julia Gillard is able to concede something that Harper never would.

“It is clear that neither party has earned the right to government in its own right.”

Interestingly, the Globe didn’t include this phrase from Australian PM Julia Gillard in her post-election speech, though the BBC did. Political cultural chasms reflected in journalism?

It seems a minor point, perhaps, but this immediate concession from Gillard is quite telling. It seems that, in Australia, we have a country where the uncontroversial reaction after the election of a hung parliament is to concede that a plurality is not the same as “winning.” Effectively, everyone’s a loser. The UK’s David Cameron agrees with this, though Harper refuses to recognise his rightful place in their company.

Britain is governed by coalition. Israel is. We see coalitions in Germany, Japan, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand – and overall, 10 of the world’s 16 Triple-A economies are run by coalitions.

When will Canada give up the fear and accept that government should represent a majority of the public? Even if that majority has to be achieved through bi- or even tri-partisan government? It’s too early to tell what kind of government Australia’s going to get – but to approach coalition as the first and the fairest of options is something to envy.

Political parties are not cults, not clans, not agents so righteous that any formal cooperation between them should be regarded is impure and immoral, if not illegal. For any one party to advocate such a view ought to be a clear signal of their failure to understand what the purpose of public representation really is.

Australia has its faults – but a country that can entertain full independence from Britain, as well as forging coalition government, has a leg up on Canada in some important regards.

Filed under: International, Politics, , , , , ,

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