By Ben Aveling

What happens on Monday is important.

What happens after Monday is even more important.

Australia needs the party to:

  1. continue to deliver the right outcomes,
  2. begin explaining why these outcomes matter, and
  3. have a good, hard look at why it has not been doing these things.

Neither candidate, on their own, has all of the skills the party needs.

As Barry Jones said, “He is an exceptional communicator and she is not. She is an outstanding negotiator and he is not. … If they were capable of working together, it could make Australia proud.”

But why should they not be capable of working together?

Rudd has told Gillard to put the party first. Gillard has said the same to Rudd. Each should follow their own advice. Instead of the wisdom of Solomon, we have two candidates both arguing that half a baby is better than none. Anyone who genuinely believes the party comes first should be happy to serve, even if they privately dislike the leader.

We cannot rely on finding the perfect leader; there is no such thing, every human is fallible and finite and this does not matter. What matters is the decisions that are made, not who makes them. The Leader does not have to make every decision, the leader does not have to attend to the implementation of every decision, but the leader does have to sell the party’s decisions.

And the party’s best communicator is Rudd. And the party’s best implementer is Gillard.

And for that reason, the party should select Rudd as PM and Gillard as Deputy PM and publicly support them both – sing loudly their shared journey of change and renewal. And it will be true, so long as the party makes clear that each leader is just one voice amongst many.

The Leader is the collective voice of the party. The Leader is not the only voice in the party. And yet, and at great cost to the party, we have had a succession of people publicly saying things like “I knew we were doing the wrong thing. I wanted to speak out. I remained silent.” Many of these people are senior ministers. It seems the party lacks internal forums where our MPs can safely speak and be heard.

That has to change.

Everyone says that we need our MPs to put the wider party ahead of factional interests. For that to happen reliably, we need our MPs to be answerable first and foremost to the wider party – to members.

Factions have a role to play – to develop and promote future leaders and teach them how to win followers from the rank and file and from the wider public. But this role is lost if factions are allowed to be the final word on who our MPs and leaders are.

We have to fix this. We have to implement the Faulkner Carr Bracks Review recommendations. Most especially, we have to implement Recommendation 25 – Intervention in Preselections can only be allowed in genuinely exceptional circumstance.

Rudd has promised change: “I stand for … [a] party where its members have a real say in who leads them and what policies they deliver.”

Gillard must do likewise.

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2 Responses to Leadership.

  1. Dennis Argall says:

    Nice dream, but you seem not to have regard for Kevin’s evident problems working with a team, which, on all the evidence, are huge and preclude a notion of delegation to a deputy.
    It was clear to officials that much was wrong when last arranged Rudd/Gillard, when he ran shambolic meetings and officials waited till he left the country to put matters to cabinet.
    I’ve known Barry Jones too, as well as Kevin.
    Barry also a dreamer.

    The path you propose unlikely to get your party back, wherever, you wish it to be.

  2. Ben Aveling says:

    Hi Dennis, some good points.
    Absolutely, the article is an exercise in ‘what if?’ Or more specifically, ‘what would it take to stop Abbott?’
    I don’t see that as dreaming. I see it as an attempt to find a solution to a problem we have to solve.
    A functional leadership team is not a nice-to-have, it is a necessity. Perhaps this win will deliver that and most certainly I hope it does. But I don’t dare count on it.
    Therefore, I put it to you that it becomes necessary to brainstorm, to ask what might a sensible outcome look like, and to ask what would need to be changed to make one achievable?
    As you’ve pointed out, we can’t count on Kevin to be the voice of the party. So what do we do instead? Is it a role Julia can fill? What would it take for that to be possible? If not Julia, then who? Could that person perform that role without being the PM? Is the answer that we have to stop relying on having a single voice speaking for the party?
    These are questions that need an answer.
    Regards, Ben

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