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Julia Gillard's collapse in authority

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 13 December 2012


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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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