By Ben Aveling
What happens on Monday is important.
What happens after Monday is even more important.
Australia needs the party to:
- continue to deliver the right outcomes,
- begin explaining why these outcomes matter, and
- 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.