In the midst of this Quantas bru-ha-ha and the tragic deaths of four more Australian soldiers in Afghanistan (which I am leaving along – let the families grieve), another small event has gone virtually unnoticed. In the face of still-terrible approval ratings, a member of the Gillard government (apologies as I missed their name) has come out claiming Prime Minister Gillard has the full support of caucus and the party.
Now when did we hear that sort of blather before? Back when the Howard government was facing increasing public unrest, we tired of hearing statements like that about party unity under Howard. It seemed for a while there that any statement by that government to either parliament or the media had to include some reference to them being “a team.” Some two months before the November 2007 election, Joe Hockey vehemently declared on ABC radio (I happened to be listening at the time) that the party was 100% behind John Howard. Yet shortly after the election which not only saw the Howard government toppled but saw Howard lose his own formerly-blue ribbon seat, Hockey was quick to join the rush of former government ministers claiming they had not really supported Howard but had been telling him to stand down. So much for unity.
Are we now seeing a repeat within the Labor ranks?
The situations are of course quite different. Howard had a Menzies-esque autocratic hold on his government for 11 years. Gillard on the other hand only achieved her position through political assassination of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd and coming within a hair’s breadth of losing the subsequent election. In the circumstances, given how the approval ratings of Gillard and the government in general are rivalling those that were used as justification for Rudd’s removal.
I find it very hard to believe that the unity within the Labour caucus is any better than that which really lay behind Howard’s ‘team’.