Leadership Lessons: Minority Governments, Independents and Relationships


  • Tracey M. Arklay

    1. The University of Queensland
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    • The author wishes to thank Rod Rhodes, John Kane, Anne Tiernan and two anonymous AJPH referees for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. This essay was accepted for publication prior to the replacement of Julia Gillard as ALP leader and prime minister by her rival, Kevin Rudd in June 2013.


The 2010 Australian election returned the first “hung” House of Representatives since the Second World War. This paper tracks the political lessons of history to the only other time when a prime minister had to work in a hung parliament. Circumstances and political parties differ, but on closer examination some common themes emerge. The prime ministership is both a gift and a burden, where control is, for the most part illusory. R.G. Menzies lacked the personal qualities his parliamentary colleagues found in Arthur Fadden. In 1941 he lost the prime ministership because he lost the support of his party room. Just as she had defeated Kevin Rudd in 2010, Julia Gillard was eventually defeated in a caucus ballot in June 2013. However, at least initially, Gillard displayed personal traits which Rudd lacked and which enabled her to retain the trust of both the ALP caucus and key independent members. History contains some valid lessons which, given recent events, need restating: relationships in politics matter.