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Rudd and Turnbull: presidential and parliamentary systems

By Jeff Schubert - posted Wednesday, 29 June 2011

An opinion poll has suggested the Labor Party would easily win an Australian election if former leader, and former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was reinstated in place of current prime minister Julia Gillard.

Almost likewise, the Opposition would increase its vote if former leader (but not former prime minister) Malcolm Turnbull were to replace current leader Tony Abbott.

According to news reports, the latest Essential Media poll, which is released weekly, found "Labor's primary vote would jump a massive 13 percentage points, from 32 per cent to 45 per cent, if Rudd were the Labor leader and Abbott the (Liberal-Country) Coalition leader". "Labor would beat the Coalition on a two-party-preferred basis by 53 per cent to 47 per cent, enough to win an election comfortably."


However, "with Julia Gillard as prime minster, the poll finds Labor trails the Coalition on the primary vote by 32 per cent to 48 per cent, with the Greens on 11 per cent. This gives the Coalition a two-party preferred lead of 55 per cent to 45 per cent."

Moreover, "the Coalition could stretch that lead by making Malcolm Turnbull its leader". "In a match-up of parties led by Turnbull and Gillard, the Coalition's primary vote would be 53 per cent, compared with 31 per cent for Labor."

According to the news reports, "the poll did not test the major parties led by Rudd and Turnbull".

Both Rudd and Turnbull were removed by their parliamentary colleagues. But, not because they lost an election – but fundamentally because their colleagues did not like their party management styles!

Both Rudd and Turnbull were seen as imperious and dismissive of the views of others in their parliamentary parties. In other words, they preferred a presidential approach to government to a parliamentary approach.

I have previously written about both Gillard and Abbott. Both have significant – even possibly dangerous – leadership attributes. Gillard because of her basic "incompetence" and Abbot because of his unthinking enthusiasm for his ideas.


But are Rudd and Turnbull, despite – in my view – being more sophisticated in their thinking, any better?

As has been noted, Rudd has something of a Napoleonic complex.

Turnbull has very significant psychological issues related to rejection (possibly in stemming from his mother's decision to abandon him at a young age) and has as reputation among some whom know him well as being "almost feral" in his tendency for, at least, verbal abuse – especially after a few drinks late at night.

Here is the dilemna!

Rudd and Turnbull are more intelligent and probably superior policy makers to Gillard and Turnbull. Under a presidential system they are likely to be dangerous authoritarians. But, under the theoretical constraints of a parliamentary system, with its quickly implemental checks, they are likely to be superior decision makers - even if their colleagues think them not superior "leaders".

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This article was first published on Jeff Schubert @ Free Trade

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About the Author

Jeff Schubert is an economist, business consultant and writer. He is author of Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao. He is a regular commentator on Russian affairs and now lives in Moscow. Jeff is also the creator of The Little Pink Ant. His websites are: and The also blogs about Russia at

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