The true test of a leader is how they respond to a crisis. Unfortunately for Julia Gillard and her government, the government’s response to the Qantas dispute has shown that the government has no idea how to lead in times of crisis.
The workplace relations minister could have ended the stalemate using section 431 of the Fair Work Act, terminating industrial action by both sides and forcing them into negotiations. Instead, Julia Gillard has told us that using the provision would have entered uncharted waters as it had never been used before, despite being part of Australian industrial law for a long period of time. Gillard’s argument is that if the minister had made a declaration that it could have been challenged in court, causing further uncertainty and instability.
Instead, Gillard says, it was quicker and more certain to go to Fair Work Australia and ask for an order to end the dispute. There is no reason why this couldn’t be appealed either.
The point is that Gillard had tools at her disposal but instead decided to act in her political interest not the national interest.