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Ruthlessness, brutality and cowardice

By Jennifer Wilson - posted Tuesday, 29 June 2010

If the events of the last few days demonstrate anything, it’s that the practice of democracy in this country has lost its way, along with the government that’s suppose to set the course and steer the mighty ship.

On the positive side, we’re on the way to becoming a republic, in thought if not in deed.

Like it or not, we have become a country that increasingly behaves as if our political system is a presidential system. More and more we’re voting as if for a president, even as we pile into the booths and cast our votes for our local member. In the major parties the leader is a synecdoche - Rudd was Labor. Howard was the Coalition. Both leaders attempted to ignore or stifle the voices of their elected colleagues in the pursuit of power and their own personal vision.


Howard was well known for his iron grip on his party. There was little dissent from within the ranks when there should have been. Similar complaints are made about Rudd. He was allegedly an unapproachable micro manager, and people were allegedly frightened of his temper.

The question that has been asked many times over the last few days is, did anyone ever sit down with Rudd and give him some straight talk about his style?

No Labor politician has answered this question, though several political commentators have alleged that Rudd’s colleagues were so intimidated by him that nobody dared approach him, and anyway, he never opened his door. This commentary is not dissimilar to opinions expressed about Howard, though the details may vary.

Does this mean that none of the men and women we’ve elected inthe last 15 years have had the bottle, singularly or collectively, to front their respective leaders when those leaders urgently needed to be spoken to?

If this is the case, it speaks of a system so dysfunctional that it simply doesn’t work anymore. A system where there can be no dissent because its members are too frightened to take a stand. A system in which individuals are so intimidated by their boss that they can’t do the jobs we pay them to do: that is, run the government in a democratic fashion. A system in which the leader’s personal vision overrides the collective vision, and nobody dares to stand up and say so.

If this is the case, we’ve already kissed democracy goodbye. We’re living in the dictatorship you’ve got when you think you’ve got a democracy. This most recent coup is further evidence.


It takes more than a dictator to create a dictatorship. It takes other people to be silent and take no action. The elected representatives in our form of dictatorship aren’t afraid for their lives, and the lives of their families and friends. They aren’t afraid of imprisonment and torture if they oppose the leader. They don’t have these justifications to offer for their collusion in creating the circumstances in which the major parties have the landed the country.

Elected government members had a responsibility to do everything within their power to address the difficulties presented by Rudd’s leadership. That was their responsibility to the punters who put them, and him as Prime Minster, in government.

Instead, they abdicated their responsibility and allowed, among others, the unelected to orchestrate the events that led to this most undemocratic action.

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About the Author

Dr Jennifer Wilson worked with adult survivors of child abuse for 20 years. On leaving clinical practice she returned to academia, where she taught critical theory and creative writing, and pursued her interest in human rights, popular cultural representations of death and dying, and forgiveness. Dr Wilson has presented papers on human rights and other issues at Oxford, Barcelona, and East London Universities, as well as at several international human rights conferences. Her academic work has been published in national and international journals. Her fiction has also appeared in several anthologies. She is currently working on a secular exploration of forgiveness, and a collection of essays. She blogs at

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