October 22, 2012

Horse 1383 - If X , then Y must resign.

If X , then Y must resign.

Abbott said it to Gillard; Gillard said it to Abbott; Bishop said it to Swan; Gillard said it to Bishop; Abbott said it to Swan; Macklin said it to Hockey; Barnaby Joyce almost said it to himself. When Peter Slipper was on the verge of resignation, Ms Gillard had a glorious fifteen minute rant at Mr Abbott... and said it again.
I don't think that calling for the resignation of someone in government unless in the case of serious misconduct or criminal act, achieves anything.

A member of parliament is elected by their local constituency. This means to say that either the majority of the people in the area that the MP is supposed to represent, or in the case of proportional representation, a sufficient proportion of people have consented to that person being their representative.
If Ms Gillard suggests that Mr Abbott should resign, then does she mean to say that she knows better than the majority of people living in the seat of Warringah? Likewise if Mr Abbott calls for the resignation of Ms Gillard, is he saying that he knows better than the people of Lalor?

We do not elect Ministers of the Crown; in fact we do not even vote for the government of the day. We only vote for our local MP and their power and right to be in parliament is derived from their electorate.
In the 2007 election, we did not vote out a government. We voted for our local members who then formed a government. The people of  Bennelong directly appointed Maxine McKew to replace the former PM John Howard but they didn't formally elect the new Prime Minister either.

I think it strange that Gillard and Abbott in particular keep on calling for their opposite number's resignation. If they mean that they should resign in some other capacity, say as leader of the party, or as head of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet then this also makes no sense.
I suppose that you could ask for the opposite party to choose a new leader but that would be like trying to ask a cat to look at itself in in the mirror - even if you asked nicely there's no guarantee that it would do so and even if it did it would be because it wanted to rather than because you asked.

 The "If X , then Y must resign" line sounds theatrical and grand if you happen to like going for ten second sound bites on the six o'clock news but it doesn't really add much to the political discourse of the day. It certainly is not the rousing "out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice" sort of parliamentary speech that Mr Churchill would have said; nor is it really the same as the scathing bile filled yet witty fights that we had from Keating and Howard.
Ms Gillard is certainly capable of brilliant oratory and we've only really seen that a few times on the floor of the house. To the best of my knowledge Mr Abbott has never delivered such a speech.

I will readily admit that politicians are endowed with their own unique method of speaking be they a firebrand, or someone who is quite methodical about hitting all the points that they have to make (and let's be honest, Wayne Swan isn't the most dynamic speaker but he is the best person for the job of Treasurer on both sides of the chamber) but this almost fallback line of "If X , then Y must resign" is bordering on the verge of childish.

One of the consequences of having a house which is so finely balanced is that in theory, there should be a greater flow of the duopoly of voices from both political tribes. What he should also find as we found in NSW, is that the chamber will naturally tend towards a further degree of disorder. One writer called it like "a couple of mad uncles bickering in the attic" and I suppose that there's a ring to truth about that but what is really being lost in all of this is that if there are two evenly uncles bickering in the attic, the argument isn't going to be ended merely by asking the other to be quiet.

The  absolute essence of the "If X , then Y must resign" argument is "'no, you shut up' ; 'no, you shut up'". Nobody listens and fewer problems are being solved. Asking your opponent to be quiet denies the core of political dialogue. It is the triumph of politics over government and the problem with politics is that is gets in the way of and replaces good government entirely.
Section 51 of the Constiution of Australia states that "The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to" and then lists a heap of legislative powers.

 "If X , then Y must resign" says that "The Parliament shall" but not that the Parliament will "make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth" and if the Parliament will not, then surely the entire parliament must resign.

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