PPRuNe Forums - View Single Post - War in Australia (any Oz Politics): the Original
Old 5th Oct 2013, 02:17
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Orstralia
Posts: 295
Graham Richardson -

THERE is no question that Julia Gillard will have a place in Australian history. As one of the handful of people who have ever risen to occupy the highest office in the land, it is a place to which she is entitled.

In a century's time, when another generation of Australians read their history books, they will form their opinions on how she was treated. The writers of those history books will have pored over thousands of pages of Hansard, hundreds of thousands of column centimetres of newspaper clippings and countless hours of television interviews and radio transcripts. There is a massive amount of information available now that these historians will lap up.

Very few of them, I suspect, will spend much time examining her two performances with Anne Summers this week. And performances they were. Neither could possibly be described as interviews. They were adulatory in nature, and tough questions were avoided like the plague. The ex-prime minister always had her fans and 2600 of them packed the Sydney Opera House to the rafters. They cheered every blink of an eye or wave of a hand. This was a reception held in her honour and she is actually entitled to that. An interview, however, it was not.

As performances go, it was very, very good. Gillard always had the capacity to charm but during her period in the top job that capacity was very rarely witnessed - it was reserved for private one-on-one chats but never on public display. Her speech developed a weird cadence, and the pausing and emphasis were unnatural and awkward.

But this week she was terrific. She sounded like a normal person and that meant she was so much easier to listen to. If only that manner of speaking had come to the fore a couple of years ago, her political story might have had a different ending.

Her stance on Tony Abbott's alleged misogyny got the greatest applause. I believe her famous "I will not be lectured on sexism by this man" speech was a great speech. It was picked up by women all over the world. Gillard became an instant international celebrity. The Opera House audience and no doubt another million or two of their countrymen and women loved it too. In a few short minutes she re-energised her supporters and herself as well. But neither she nor those adoring fans gathered around her this week ever understood that the speech and the theme that she tried to maintain until her demise never delivered her one vote. Most Australians were completely unaffected by it.

Summers set the tone of all this with an aside about how no one in the room had ever been polled. In other words, the polls were always wrong. The people really loved their first woman prime minister. Underlying much of the discourse and interwoven through so many audience questions was the view that Gillard had been ruthlessly stalked and undermined because she was a woman. Much was made of the disgusting internet and social media attacks on her.

Gillard has every right to feel violated by Larry Pickering and the lunatic fringe. Some of the depictions of her were beneath contempt, but again, most Australians never saw them. Australians did not turn on the former PM because she was a woman but rather because she was a political failure.

As deputy PM she showed so much promise but she couldn't make the next step - it was a rung too far. That is why the two interviews this week annoyed me: other failures were not even referred to, let alone probed.

When the carbon tax was obliquely referred to in Melbourne, Gillard's view was that all would have been well had she not relented and agreed to use the word "tax". She would do well to remember history when she is trying to shape it. In the first few days after she announced the carbon price she did indeed try to insist that it wasn't a tax. For those few fleeting moments she tried to suggest that it was all semantics. She relented and admitted it was a tax because absolutely everyone knew what it was. She could not sustain the tax denial as every economist, commentator and punter knew this was much more fundamental than a semantic argument.

Summers could not bring herself to ask the obvious follow-up question: why did you set the price at four or five times the European rate? Then again, that should have led to many more questions, like why continue to support Peter Slipper, why keep saying she had "faith" in Craig Thomson long after that faith should have evaporated, why repeat the surplus promise hundreds of times when every chief executive, shareholder and economist knew it was impossible? As some point Gillard needs to do a real interview where she faces up to the reasons people lost faith in her.

One thing she got right this week, though, was her veiled criticism of Kevin Rudd. Despite Chris Bowen's absurd denials this week, Rudd deliberately and effectively sabotaged the 2010 election campaign. For a full 18 months after that he shamelessly and ruthlessly undermined her.

For all of this treachery, Australians still liked him, and his resurrection did stop an electoral slaughter that would have really scuttled Gillard's place in history. I wonder what would have happened had Rudd behaved properly and honourably during the 2010 campaign. I wonder what could have happened had Gillard been able to win a few more seats and been able to govern in her own right without having to placate the Greens and the other odd bods and sods among the independents. Sadly, we will never know. Sadly, we are left with a different reality, which neither Gillard nor Summers were prepared to face this week.

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Last edited by RJM; 5th Oct 2013 at 02:18.
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