I don’t often use the term “unAustralian” because it is essentially undefinable, but reports this morning that Julia Gillard would demand that caucus decide any leadership vote by an open-show of hands rather than a secret ballot, licences me to use it.
The suggestion that Gillard would try to restrict Labor MPs from this right gives an insight into the bullying and aggression that has been the hallmark of this government.
The reason the secret ballot was first adopted in the 1850s was to prevent voters being stood over and coerced, which is obviously the reason why Gillard wants to abandon it in this instance.
Political parties don’t use a secret ballot for votes on things like motions at branch or conference level, but generally the question of leadership at all levels is decided by a secret ballot.
The ALP has regularly subverted the intent of the secret ballot by using devices such as requiring that factional colleagues show their “secret” ballot to the person next to them, but such practices have never obtained in the Liberal Party.
It is a regular occurrence for successful and unsuccessful candidates to sit around after a ballot and try to work out who had dudded them. Sometimes quizzlings survive as your “best mate” for years because of this secrecy.
And of course the “Australian ballot” is the way we determine who represents us in parliament.
There is an irony in a government running campaigns against bullying at the same time that it is obvious that at its highest levels this is the only way that anything ever gets done.