It was an historical day in Australian politics, in which the country lost Kevin Rudd as leader and gained its first female Prime Minister. As the world looks at what this means for Australia, the country’s first legal officer shed some light on the yesterday’s events, and his involvement in them.
The federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland had offered some insight into yesterday’s remarkable events in Australian politics, and his take on the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Speaking with Tony McManus on Radio 6PR, McClelland said “people have got a new spring in their step with the appointment of Julia”.
Pressed as to whether yesterday’s events were “a little Eureka Stockade-ish”, McClelland said: “It’s the Government I suppose being in the stockade and the miners have been out there circling, so good analogy but I think almost in reverse.”
He said he had become aware of the spill after a 7pm broadcast on television, but would not comment about whether he knew things were happening in the background and that they “had been boiling for some time”.
McClelland, who is close to Rudd, also comments on the “pretty moving” speech by Rudd yesterday. McManus asked whether the Australian public had expected to see more of that personal element to Rudd’s character during his time as Prime Minister.
McClelland said: “I think there's a lesson in that for any leader of the Australian people. Kevin is a particularly decent man and I know him very well obviously. I've been in politics all his period of time. But I think leaders have to ensure they don't camouflage their personality and indeed their person. Yesterday we saw Kevin's humanity and the person of Kevin Rudd.
“I think it's impossible to repress Julia Gillard and that's a head start, but I think there's a lesson there for each and every leader. If you think of those who really perform well and are able to connect and show empathy with their community, it is those people who speak from the heart as opposed to the script,” he said.
But the Attorney General said in terms of voting, he is “just another member of caucus”. He said her appointment is relevant to Western Australia because of the resources super profits tax, noting her “conciliatory” stance was highlighted in the Government withdrawing their ads.
Pressed as to whether the mining industry would do the same, McClelland replied:
“Some have indicated they will as a sign of good faith so that's a really excellent start. Julia has been tremendously effective in negotiating a conciliated outcome with, for example, the repeal of WorkChoices and creating a framework that's broadly acceptable to employees and also business interests. So I think she's got a skill set there that is very relevant.”
He added: “She has said she wants, and that view is shared, to genuinely negotiate on these issues. It's obviously a very important economic consideration. I mean the mining industry has been tremendously important to the success of our nation.
“I think in many areas, including Western Australia, it's seen as a real identity issue, so for as long as there's a fight going on, I think people identify with their own local culture and self image.”
McClelland said the issue does need to be resolved, as well as seeing a focus on policy development in infrastructure, health and education.