Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 00:00 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 00:00 | SYDNEY

Gillard's rise: What will the world say?



24 June 2010 08:44

It's over. Australia has a new Prime Minister.

As a rule, Australian politics gets pretty modest international media coverage, but with this leadership change coming so close to the G20 summit, Rudd's absence is going to be noted by foreign leaders and the foreign media. That Rudd was a driving force behind the G20 will add poignancy to the event.

I predict the overwhelming foreign reaction will be bafflement that Australia, one of the few countries to escape the GFC relatively lightly, has chucked out the leader who saw it through the economic crisis.

Foreign media will wonder why countries that did far worse did not remove their leaders. And foreign governments may marvel that there seems to be very little reward for doing something right. I'm not saying this is a fair reading, but it is the obvious thing for an outsider to focus on. The role of climate change policy in bringing down a once-popular leader will also get a run in the international media.

Here are some initial thoughts about what this leadership change might mean in various parts of the world:

  • Look for the American media to say that Obama has lost a valuable personal ally (Foreign Policy has commented on the close bond between Rudd and Obama).
  • Some American commentators may overplay the fact that Gillard comes from the left faction of the Labor Party. The good ones will point out that this is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological one, and that Gillard is a centrist (within the Labor Party tradition) who will be very supportive of the US alliance.
  • Southeast Asia: Rudd has already taken some quiet backward steps on his Asia Pacific community, but perhaps his defeat will be seen as the final death knell for that proposal.
  • Japan: It is widely agreed that Rudd has managed the Japan relationship poorly, so his passing is unlikely to be mourned in Tokyo. With the Japanese Government also recently electing a new leader, there is opportunity here for a fresh start.
  • China: Is there much in this leadership change for  China's interests? Gillard's views on the big foreign policy questions (and China is the biggest) are a little opaque, though it seems unlikely she would make significant changes to the foreign ownership policies pursued by Rudd and his treasurer (who is now deputy PM, by the looks of things). As for the Defence White Paper that irked the Chinese, Defence is surely way down Gillard's priority list (except when it comes to Afghanistan).
  • On British media reaction, check out the blog of Nick Bryant, the BBC’s man in Sydney. The Brits might point out that, with Gillard’s ascendancy, the leaders of Australia's two major political parties are now both UK-born. Perhaps we'll even see some comparisons between Gillard and Thatcher?

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