ALP Leadership Changes — What the heck has been happening?

I got Facebook message from a buddy of mine this morning, it read:


I turned on ABC24, and there it was…





So, what the heck has been happening? What does this actually mean?

The key things to understand here: Spill Motions, Votes of No-Confidence and the Labour Caucus.

What is a Spill Motion??

Firstly, Spill Motions; they are a declaration that the leadership of a political party is vacant – it can be just the leader of the party, or several positions [I.e. Deputy Leader, Party Whips etc]. Up until today, June 26th 2013, there have been 12 Spill Motions in Federal politics. Today, if it eventuates, makes 13 –

It has been 3 years and 2 days since Julia Gillard spill motioned Kevin Rudd and took leadership of the ALP. She did so because she and a number of others in the ALP and Caucus did not think Mr Rudd’s leadership was the most effective for the party. So there was a meeting and vote behind closed doors, and Julia emerged victorious.

Julia Gillard has repeatedly stated she’s “getting on with the job” of being PM – and is not going anywhere. Kevin Rudd would need 35 names on his petition to call a spill, and 52 to defeat Julia.

In the event of a Leadership challenge, it is not just ALP MPs [Frontbenchers and Back-benchers] who vote for a new party leader — the ALP Caucus also vote. The Caucus consist of Union and Faction Leaders, or, “faceless men” as they are known:{}

There has been all this talk of a ‘Vote of No Confidence’ – how does it all connect?

A Vote of No Confidence [VoNC] differs from a Spill Motion – a VoNC is a Parliamentary Procedure [conducted only in the Houses of Parliament], and Spill Motion is only conducted within Political parties. They are often discussed together in Australian politics.

“In law, a motion of no confidence (alternatively vote of no confidence, censure motion, no-confidence motion) is a parliamentary motion which when passed would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government.” {Wikipedia: No Confidence Motion}

Basically, any MP – usually a leader of the Opposition – can bring forward this motion. If it achieves at least 50% + 1 [I’m writing this at lightning speed, so forgive any errors!] or at least 76 votes out of 150 in the House of Representatives. If it passes, the outcome is a compulsory resignation of the Government, and a succeeding election.

Tony Abbott brought forward several VoNCs, and ‘threatened’ their use against the Gillard Government, who exist, numerically, by the skin of their teeth with 76/150 seats. This is a very delicate political climate, but a VoNC has never passed in Australian politics since 1975:

But how do all these big words relate to what’s happened today in Canberra?

Kevin Rudd has not officially spill motioned/challenged Julia Gillard’s leadership. All that is happening is there is a petition, a piece of paper being passed around members of the ALP to see who would vote for Rudd or Gillard *IF* there was another leadership spill. It’s a litmus test. As I type, Question Time is 2/3s of the way through, and there has been no declaration of a Leadership challenge/Caucus Vote; just a lot of bickering about Climate Change [so far].

Tony Abbott, in the last 10 minutes has moved a VoNC, which has been supported by fellow shadow frontbencher, Chris Pyne. Both attacked the apparent incompetence of the Gillard Government — Abbott moved that the Australian people should decide who should lead the country, the PM shouldn’t be decided behind closed doors by “faceless men” – and that the election should be brought forward to August 3rd, instead of September.

Anthony Albanese has risen to reply and has opposed [for the 81st time according to him] the suspension of standing orders [parliamentary procedures] as Leader of the House. NO acknowledgement of any leadership spill, instead, attacking the Opposition’s lack of transparency about their own election policies on the second last sitting day of Parliament.

The purpose of calling VoNCs is used a in a few ways:

– Wasting Parliamentary time – the time used by a vote/division could have been used to debate/introduce new legislation

– To undermine the Government and the job they have been doing – to try and call an early election to see them voted out of leadership.

So what is actually happening today!?

Officially, nothing.
Until Kevin Rudd officially decides to call a Spill Motion, nothing.

What are people saying on Social Media?

#auspol on Twitter is turning up some mixed results. A lot of news outlets like the Herald Sun, have tweeted phrases like: “Here we go again Kevin Rudd to challenge Julia Gillard for Labor Leadership tomorrow #spill #auspol“

#qt – Question Time – is another interesting thread to follow!
Will Dallas Brooks tweeted:
“Time for a nap. Somehow I think this leadership soap opera is going to go on longer than a Wagner festival on Valium. #qt #auspol“

On Facebook – there is little to no reaction. I have posted on my personal page and have interacted with several of my Gen-Y and other friends, but there is no uproar. It would appear that not many people care? Your author would love to be proved otherwise [!]

Some points for thought:

– Should Julia bring forward the election? Why won’t she?

– Is the ‘behind closed doors’ vote to decide the Prime Minister of our country by {MPs} and un-elected “faceless men” undermining our democracy?

– Do the Opposition just have to sit there and smile? Does ALP in-fighting ensure them election victory?

– Is Tony Abbott’s [over]use of the VoNC an abuse of Parliamentary procedure?

– 81 VoNC motions have been put forward — what does this say about the legitimacy/level of confidence in the Government, or does it negate the Opposition and their role to present an ‘alternative Government’?

My apologies for the slap-dash maiden entry – hope it clears up some questions!
Would love to hear your thoughts, comment away!
Or share with your friends 🙂

Next Entry: A little more about the ALP Caucus



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