So Julia Gillard has reneged on her pokies agreement with Andrew Wilkie, and Wilkie has responded by withdrawing his support for the government. This was always likely after the government installed Peter Slipper as Speaker, and therefore no longer needed Wilkie’s support to survive.
In my last post I referred to a small possibility that the government could yet fall over this year. That possibility is now greater. If Craig Thomson get charged, or some Government MP retires due to ill-health or dies, we will likely be back at the polls.
Whilst I agree with Wilkie when he says that “We should be able to trust our politicians to keep their word”, he didn’t feel that was such an imperative when he voted for the carbon tax that Julia Gillard promised pre-election that she would never introduce.
In short, Gillard betrayed the Australian people by legislating the carbon tax. Now she has also betrayed Wilkie. He shouldn’t be too surprised.
Does Julia Gillard’s words mean anything? Consider the number of times she has been unable to keep her word in just the last two years:
1) Said that she’d sooner become full forward in the AFL than roll Kevin Rudd, a few weeks before she did so
2) Said that “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” just before the 2010 election. The following year she changed her mind.
3) Promised to Wilkie that we would have mandatory pre-commitment nationwide before breaking that promise as well.
Here we have a Prime Minister who has consistently chosen what is in her short-term political interest over keeping her promises and other moral principles time and time again. The result is that she is regarded as unscrupulous and untrustworthy by many voters, and is desperate to avoid an election where voters will be able to pass judgment.
Ultimately, Labor will have to get rid of Gillard before the next election. This latest episode confirms that she is damaged goods and will only sully the government’s image. Labor must change leaders like one changes one’s clothes after rolling in the mud. A new leader will to some degree provide a fresh start.
In terms of policy, however, Gillard reneging of her agreement with Wilkie has positive unintended consequences. Obviously a pre-commitment trial is a wise step, as it would be reckless to implement mandatory pre-commitment nationwide at great expense without being confident that it will substantially reduce problem gambling.