I must admit that I am an armchair political observer of foreign countries close to my heart. Having been educated both in Australia and the UK, I cannot help but keep track of what is happening there socially and politically. Relatives and friends in both countries help sustain my interest in keeping up.
I have been following the Australian polls since the announcement by the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard many months ago that the country would have a general election in September 2013. A close friend in Brisbane told me way back in 2011 that Australians generally were itching to change the labour government both at the State and the Federal level and so they changed the one in Queensland from labour to conservative in 2012 and he told me just watch the result in 2013, the labour party would be routed.
Another close University friend, a Judge, asked me what I thought of Julia Gillard in 2011 when she came to power through a coup d’etat against Kevin Rudd, the then Labour PM. I told him that I was uneasy about the route to power but perhaps she would be more acceptable to her party colleagues and he of course didn’t really fancy the woman, the first female Prime Minister of Australia, haha.. a closet male chauvinist!
So I was somewhat sure Tony Abbott, leader of the coalition would be the new Prime Minister on 8 September 2013 and indeed he does by winning 87 of the 150 parliamentary seats. Whatever it is Australians have made their choice. I must say, on the whole, despite their advancement in many spheres, Australians are generally conservative but not inimical to change.
If I were to choose between Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd, I would have the latter anytime. Kevin is a highly intelligent man with a sense of clear thinking, a statesman; listening to him reminds me of Tony Blair, the former British PM. Both are knowledgeable and engaging. Unfortunately Kevin could be quite impatient, brash and prone to uttering expletives especially towards his tarry,slow-thinking staff or colleagues and that led to his downfall.
Anyway, Labour’s infightings were not acceptable to the Australian public as internal instability is likely to sap the governing energy.
What actually calls me to think loudly today is the fact that Kevin Rudd, the losing PM is gracious in his party’s defeat (here) and takes responsibility for the loss. He conceded defeat and before that called on Tony Abbott to congratulate him and wished him well. Compare that to the losing Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim and think for yourself the culture that both operate in. The expression “Political maturity” is absent in our Malaysian vocabulary.
And not only that, Kevin says he is not going to contest for the Labour Party’s leadership and he would not be in the public affairs for a while after this. Now compare that with the Malaysian scenario. The same non-performing leaders want to stay on or is appealed to stay on so we have Anwar Ibrahim still is the opposition leader, Chua Soi Lek still is the MCA boss, MIC Palanivel too and some defeated LDP leader in East Malaysia too want to hang on to power! Where are the new blood? Looks like they are being suppressed.
I don’t see anyone as charismatic as Kevin Rudd in the Australian Labour Party (ALP) today but on his voluntary withdrawal, someone will rise to the occasion and lead and renew the body. This is all about continuing change with moral values as a compass. Values such as democratic government, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of liberty.
Turning to Malaysia, I also don’t see anyone who could lead Barisan Nasional (BN) or the ruling National Front beside Najib at the moment but surely there will be someone who could make the difference if given the opportunity, yet Malaysians in general (but gradually changing now), and UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) in particular, is frightened of “the bogeyman” of change. The reason could be if status quo changes then the interest of some individuals would be affected. Clearly, it is always the interest of some people but not of the party as a whole or of the country for that matter.
At any rate, I salute Kevin Rudd for his dignity in defeat . And I hope Australians will not be disappointed with their centre-right choice. But then again, they can always change it the next time around if they are : the beauty of a two-party political system.