"I am convinced that we make a great mistake in depriving one sex of voice in public matters, and that we could in no way so increase the attention, the intelligence and the devotion which may be brought to the solution of social problems as by enfranchising our women. ... the vastly more intricate, more delicate and more important questions which the progress of civilization makes of public moment, require the intelligence of women as of men, and that we never can obtain until we interest them in public affairs. And I have come to believe that very much of the inattention, the flippancy, the want of conscience, which we see manifested in regard to public matters of the greatest moment, arises from the fact that we debar our women from taking their proper part in these matters. Nothing will fully interest men unless it also interests women."
These words are from the final paragraphs of Henry George's book 'Social Problems' (1883). More than a hundred years later, there are still plenty of democratic countries that never have elected a female leader. In this regard, a first female prime minister can be celebrated as a symbolic milestone, a sign of progress that might fill us with optimism.
However, we must warn the progressive people of Australia: this might be pyrrhic victory. Labour's sudden decision to set aside Kevin Rudd raises many questions. This unexpected stab-in-the-back by a factional conspiracy, reminds us of the fatal end of Julius Caesar in 44BC. In that light, Gillard's first communications as prime minister teaches us a lot. After quickly announcing new negotiations about the planned mining tax with the miners, the campaigns of both the government and the miners regarding the tax were pulled back immediately. The miners cried victory and the shares went up.
The tax on mining resources is a fair tax, almost unanimously supported and recommended by economists and even the IMF (!). It does not shrink the economy, but gives the people of Australia a fair share of what is rightfully theirs. Shifting taxes from people's personal incomes, trade and investments towards land, natural resources and monopolies is the most important reform needed for progression towards a society with more social justice and more economic incentive and fair competition.
Yes, Kevin Rudd made some mistakes in his communication, but he did have the guts to put this important reform on the agenda. Is it possible he is paying the price for that now? Could it be that the miners had a big influence on this decision - perhaps financially? Is Gillard being used as a pawn in a dodgy power game, that involves lots of $$$? Questions that will possibly be answered in the future. But if the answers are positive, it is difficult to celebrate Gillard's promotion. Because in that case, rather than proving the increased influence of women on public affairs, this event shows us the failure of democratic decision making, and the establishment of the economic oligarchs. And that was Henry George's worst nightmare.