Julia Gillard’s collapse in authority

December 13, 2012 by Julie Bishop
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The claim this week by Labor MP Michael Danby that Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr undermined Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s authority on a crucial United Nations vote has serious implications for the Government and its foreign policy…writes Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop

Julie Bishop

The first and most obvious impact is on the authority of the Prime Minister.

During the final parliamentary sitting week for 2012 it was reported that Julia Gillard had sought to exercise her Prime Ministerial authority in Cabinet to ensure that Australia voted against a UN motion on the status of the Palestinian territories.

Those reports also claimed that a majority of her Cabinet colleagues did not support her stance because it would have a negative impact on support for the Labor Party among Muslim communities in western Sydney.

This is a hollow argument as Labor Ministers would be well aware of the Coalition’s long-standing position of voting against that UN motion, and there would be no basis for assuming support would be transferred to the Coalition.

According to Michael Danby, Bob Carr ran an extraordinary lobbying campaign in opposition to the Prime Minister and was successful in garnering sufficient support to roll her in Cabinet.

While Ms Gillard sought to impose her authority on Cabinet, Bob Carr ran a guerrilla campaign among the backbench and got his way in the Caucus.

This represents a fateful moment in Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership and may well be the crucial turning point from which she cannot recover.

A Prime Minister without authority cannot function in that office for very long.

Bob Carr’s actions have set a precedent for other Cabinet Ministers who will now be aware that they can gather the numbers against the Prime Minister with impunity.

The depth of the collapse in her authority is revealed by the fact that she has not even reprimanded let alone asked for Bob Carr’s resignation or sacked him.

Another implication of Bob Carr’s reckless campaign against the Prime Minister is that it throws a cloud of confusion over the lines of authority regarding foreign policy decisions.

On 1 January 2013 Australia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations will take up Australia’s temporary seat on the Security Council.

How can our Ambassador act with confidence on any instructions from the Prime Minister when crucial votes come before the Security Council?

To whom should our Ambassador defer in the event that he receives conflicting advice from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister?

The Ambassador cannot be guided by the public statements of the Prime Minister, nor can he be guided by her private comments, as Bob Carr has proven he can undermine even her most strident positions.

Our Ambassador cannot know whether Bob Carr will undertake further campaigns to override the Prime Minister’s authority.

Should a decision be required urgently, he may not have the luxury of waiting for Cabinet and Caucus processes to play out.

This puts our Ambassador in an untenable position that could only be resolved by the removal of either the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister or both.

There are also broader implications for the exercise of our diplomatic and trade policies across the globe.

Many serious matters can only be resolved with direct discussions between leaders, as officials and Ministers lack the stature to deal with certain highly sensitive matters.

These can range from consular cases to overcoming barriers in trade negotiations to dealing with territorial disputes.

Every world leader will now be aware that Prime Minister Gillard cannot guarantee passage of her commitments through her own Cabinet and Caucus.

They will be well aware that Bob Carr has effectively taken away the Prime Minister’s discretion to impose her authority on critical issues.

While there may be no discernible change in the way they deal with the Prime Minister, her lame-duck status within her own party is now apparent to all.

One of the worst aspects of Bob Carr’s behaviour is that he was wrong on this issue.

The vote to change the status of the Palestinian territories is more likely to prolong the conflict and will not lead to a resolution.

It will encourage the Palestinian side to seek redress through the international courts rather than through meaningful negotiations based on a recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

The Coalition has been consistent in supporting the right of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live peacefully and safely within internationally recognised borders.

The path to peace is not assisted by Labor’s compromised decision to abstain on the vote.

Julie Bishop is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Foreign Minister.



6 Responses to “Julia Gillard’s collapse in authority”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Julie Bishop is to be congratulated on her clear and principled statement, and I say that as a life long Labour voter. Labour has lost the plot because of its plotters. And because it has tolerated factions and corrupt manipulators within its ranks.

    But there is more to the Carr conspiracy against Julia Gillard than what Julie Bishop wrote. Currying favour with the anti-Israel mohammedan cohort makes the majority of our nation hostage to the sympatisers and allies of our enemies. Will Australia again send troops to fight jihadis? Will Australia ever make a stand against increasing Sunni militancy in Indonesia as it did against Indonesia’s colonialist repression and terror in Timor?

    Then too, we need to ask to whom did Carr compel our nation to kow-tow to? As much as it is politically incorrect to point this out, the group whose backsides Carr is kissing is over-represented in gun, drugs and theft offenses, in car rebirthings, in violence especially in bikie gangs and in prostitution. It is well past the time that the community Carr crawls to be called upon to answer for race rapes, the jihadi attack on the community after some tired of sexist bullying and the hate semons of some of its imams. Carr’s political supporters will not be integrated into our society as long as multiculturism’s champions create a privileged status for those who play the role of colonisers to whom second rate natives must defer.

    While Julie Bishop makes the valid point about the “Palestinians” having to negotiate rather than seek to have their demands imposed on Israel by international bodies, she, like almost everyone else, misses the point that if Palestine is a state, then attacks become an act of war and Israel is then free to stop supplies of food and electricity. It is free to stop collecting taxes. And it is free to charge “Palestine” with violation of humanitarian law when civilian targets like Sderot come under fire.

  2. Leon says:

    How many times has Bishop knifed her leader.

  3. Peter says:

    Julie B. is right re. it being a turning point.Bob Carr is the one she selected to replace Rudd as F.M. after his failed challenge in Feb.He said he “was a fan of this Prime Minister”,and that is why he took the job and came out of retiremennt”.
    Do not forget that Danby is a Vic. Jewish MP .this should not be unmentioned.
    Ms. Bishop tells at best a half-truth about the recognition of Palestinian observer status in UN being wrong.
    AND in the process,misses the equally important point that this vote came days after another disproportionate response by the Israeli military in Gaza using hardware and jets made in and paid for by American taxpayers.Our ally;and support by Australia in the vote would have been condoning this recent unconscienable behaviour by Israel.in effect that we are callous and indifferent to the voidable and pointless loss of life of innocent bystanders in a warped,endless conflict.
    This is the same Liberal MP Bishop who has supported John Howard about Iraq etc. previously and her opinion should be taken in that light,thank-you.

  4. Michael says:

    Michael time to leave your party !

  5. Lynne Newington says:

    Julie seems to forget, that Bob Carr [in consultation with the Prime Minister] has inroads to the Vatican through his best mate John McCarthy as the Ambassador to the Holy See that Tony Abbott also a devout Catholic, would be pleased with, regardless of what political pursuasion.
    And Cardinal Pell, was the first religious leader to be notified about the Royal Commission called for by the Prime Minister.
    Then there’s bishop Pat Power who has always made known where he stands, and that would be in line with the Vatican’s {mostly dormant for years}, call for an internationally guaranteed “special status for Jerusalem”, already in place by Israel, due to the sacred sites for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
    “All pointing to the ire of Israel”.
    After a while you recognise the pattern!

  6. Cat says:

    Love your work Julie, look forward to the election next year. It’ll be tough but I support you 100 %.

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