Tag Archive: Julia Gillard

A backflip too far?

Late last year I wrote a post bestowing the virtues of the current minority government status we have in our federal parliament. Rather naively and/or presumptively, I wrote that

…it is almost certain that Australia will have these cash-guzzling machines limited in some fashion, if not removed from existence altogether…

I wrote this based upon the fact that, in November when those words were committed to paper (or whatever its digital equivalent is), the situation was thus: the government had an agreement with key independent Andrew Wilkie to implement pre-commitment technology on poker machines by 2014, and Wilkie, who then held the balance of power, had promised to renege his support for the government should they fail to do so. At this time, what we didn’t expect to see by mid-January was the whole Slippery Pete speaker swap, reducing Mr Wilkie’s influence, and now the government’s decision to abandon its agreement with him on poker machines.

This latest episode, which did cause Mr Wilkie to withdraw his support as he promised to do, simply goes to reinforce the image that this minority Labor government is illegitimate and prepared to abandon any principle and backflip on any agreement in order to gain or maintain power.

Look at the list: Rudd dropping the ETS because it was too hard to legislate, Gillard overthrowing Rudd before the election, Gillard subsequently abandoning the need to act on climate change, Labor gaining government with a minority by wooing a few independents, Labor then backflipping on the backflip over carbon pricing to introduce the carbon tax, Labor seducing Slipper into the speaker’s role to shore up its numbers, and now this pokies backflip. The list is quite damning, seeing as this has occurred over not even two years.

While some of the policy outcomes (read carbon tax) have in fact been beneficial, that does not change what they were. Backflips. Reversals. Lies. And with the now two key backflips her government has perpetrated, Gillard has managed to alienate both of Labor’s primary supporter bases. The social conservative, suburban “Aussie battlas” were offended and driven away by Gillard, arm in arm with Bob Brown, deciding to introduce a carbon tax when it had promised not to do so. While I may support the tax, and these may be the people who choose to deny climate change based upon the fact that it was cold last night, nothing changes the fact that this backflip hurt her politically, at least on that side. Now, by breaking the pokies regulation promise, she has alienated the social progressive supporter base she had, the type who support government intervention on problem gambling. The two sides of the party who Gillard and Labor need the support of have both been alienated by two damning backflips that leave them feeling betrayed.

So where does this leave a voter like me. I reluctantly voted Labor at the last election, based upon the fact that I thought Kevin Rudd’s handling of the financial crisis was exceptional, and in spite of Labor’s lack of commitment to what should be core principles such as action on climate change and fairness to immigrants. However now, Rudd remains alienated in favour of an unconvincing politician whose every word sounds like it has been scripted and rehearsed, and who looks in no way either convincing to her voters or convinced of what she’s saying herself.

But what’s the alternative? As a progressive-minded young person, I’d rather be caught eating paddle pops in hell than vote for anyone like Tony Abbott, yet this government continues to find ways to make him look more credible than itself. His policy beliefs also swing more wildly than a loose gate in a cyclone, so he’s hardly a “conviction politician” like he claims himself and his former leader John Howard to be. And his core beliefs are so far right of centre that I’m sure Mussolini would be looking on in approval.

So what can we hope for? A change of leader in one or both of the major parties is probably the best option. Someone more convincing that Gillard or more moderate than Abbott to lead their parties would be a start. Then for some parties to provide some policy inspiration and give us something to choose between and a reason to vote for them at the next election.

Stop me now. I’m dreaming again.


Lots of Qs, even more As

Last night, a now much talked-about episode of Q&A was aired on ABC Television around Australia. The central theme of the media attention this episode has generated has centred around former PM and now foreign minister Kevin Rudd admitting that he made a mistake as PM by dropping the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and that there were divisions within the party as to how to deal with the CPRS prior to its dropping.

Now, the Right has predictably seized upon this as a demonstration of a divided and unruly cabinet, and Tony Abbott will (EDIT: he has already) point to Rudd’s confession as a sign that the Labor party is incapable of governing and needs to be voted out. Catchy lines and great spin that might win a few meat-head votes, but far from insightful or even correct.

Rudd last night announced a fact of no great surprise to anyone: that a political party is made up of people with differing views and opinions, and that those opinions were aired during the debate on the CPRS. I mean, is it really surprising that 83 Labor MPs don’t all share exactly the same view, and have exactly the same belief about how best to deal with what was undeniably a difficult issue?

Rudd for mine performed brilliantly on Q&A last night, he was forthright, refreshingly honest for a politician, and far from being filled with a desire for revenge on Julia Gillard, sought to simply clear the air about the goings on in his last few months as PM. His explanation of why the CPRS was shelved is the best explanation I’ve heard yet from anyone in the Labor party, and described the way he did last night, is fully understandable, and provides a real insight as to why it was shelved the way it was.

I haven’t exactly been the biggest Rudd fan over my time. I didn’t even vote for him in 2007, and grew rather disillusioned with his direction, especially towards the end before his now famous “knifing” (as the Liberals have coined it). However, I was genuinely disappointed with the Labor party for the way in which he was dumped NSW-premier style in order to get a more attractive woman to win the election for them. For me, Julia Gillard has been a huge let-down – no longer do we have the fiery left-wing red-head vigorously fighting for her beliefs in the parliament, but we have a media managed puppet of the right wing faction who is being told what to do and say every step of the way.

Seriously, when Gillard, an open atheist, came out preaching the values of the Bible being taught to children last month, the little respect I had for her individual identity and beliefs was officially destroyed. That is, if it wasn’t already lost by her pandering to the Right on many issues, like asylum seekers, euthanasia and gay marriage. Gillard is a dud – she looks as if she has been granted the leadership on the sole condition that she does and says everything the right-wing faction tells her to. Never mind the fact that she is actually a member of the Left faction, with (God forbid) left wing ideals and beliefs.

We at least knew what Rudd stood for – he looked like a man determined to deliver on his ideals and beliefs, he looked passionate. Look at him saying sorry to the stolen generation, look at him providing stimulus during the GFC. He believed in what he was doing, and was convinced it was the right course of action. That’s why I think he suffered so badly when the CPRS was dropped last year. Climate change was another of his passionate beliefs, and dropping the ETS was an example of him abandoning those beliefs, seemingly because it became too hard. It was a complete backflip on this man of conviction, and was treated accordingly by the public, leading to his (in my view premature) demise.

When have you seen Julia Gillard as PM show the same conviction and belief in her policy as Rudd did? Maybe once campaigning for the introduction of the flood levy, but other than that she has looked wooden, boring, unconvincing and fake. While Rudd was hardly the most exciting media performer, one criticism you’d have never levelled at him (prior to the ETS backflip at least) is that he was fake.

Back to the topic of Q&A last night, for as refreshing as Rudd was, his opposition counterpart Julie Bishop was the complete opposite. She was uninteresting, predictable, and spouted nothing but the tired one-liners that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have been pushing endlessly since before Rudd was removed as leader last year. Seriously, she and her party mates can’t even think of another way to say the terms “knifed a first-term Prime Minister”, “Rudd shouldn’t have trusted Julia Gillard”, “stop the boats”, “great big new tax” and “carbon tax lie”. As a result, Julie Bishop could have been replaced by Tony Abbott, or even a well-trained monkey and you wouldn’t have known the difference (for more reasons than one) – her lines were that old and repeated that it didn’t take her to say them. Hell, why not send a Barnaby Joyce or Wilson Tuckey in her place – they might stumble on something or at the very least amuse us with their crazy antics. It’s no surprise that Ms Bishop was booed by the crowd (43:40 in to this video) for using these rather poor and ineffective tactics to answer her questions.

Still, the papers have gone crazy about Rudd’s comments, and this will inevitably be seen by many as Rudd undermining Gillard’s leadership, possibly in an attempt to regain it for himself. I believe neither of these to be true. Rudd appeared to have a strong desire to be honest and open, possibly for the first time, about his method of thinking and his approach to the issue that cost him the leadership. He does not want to undermine Gillard’s leadership, as it would only result in Tony Abbott becoming PM, which is a scenario even he, a victim of Gillard’s “betrayal” himself, could not support. And while he may still believe that he had potential to lead the nation in a greater capacity and for much longer, the realist within will know that it would be more than highly unlikely for that to ever happen again, that a Gillard-led government is the best possible scenario at the moment, and that being foreign minister cruising around visiting diplomats overseas for a living is a pretty cruisy job that should not be thrown away for a bit of an ego trip.