PM Julia Gillard not a social conservative
22nd March 2011

In the following, and on The Drum Unleashed, I argue that Gillard's new found love of the Bible is simply an example of political pragmatism and deceit.  In an attempt to distance the ALP from the extreme-left Greens, Gillard is trying to paint herself as a cultural conservative.

Social conservative Julia: which is the real one now?

There are moments with every politician when what they say is so unbelievable and out of character that one can only stand back, gob smacked at the degree of political opportunism and deceit involved.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent foray into the culture wars by attempting to paint herself as a social conservative, championing the Bible and its impact on the Western literary canon, is simply the latest example of a desperate politician trying to regain momentum and political traction.

On being interviewed yesterday on Sky News and asked about her social values, the Prime Minister describes herself as a “cultural traditionalist” who respects family values, the past and, copying Tony Abbott’s criticism that the proposed national curriculum ignores the place of Christianity, argues that all schools should teach stories from the Bible.

After acknowledging the cultural importance of the Bible, the PM goes on to say, "It's impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs them and brings them back together”.

Given that the proposed ALP-inspired national history and English curriculum (compulsory for all Australian schools across the years kindergarten to Year 10) fails to make any mention of the Bible or its impact on Western literature, one has to wonder how fair dinkum the Prime Minister is - after all, when minister for education she appointed the national curriculum board, with Barry McGaw as chair, and its terms of reference.

Is the PM’s new-won social conservatism simply a cynical attempt to distance her ALP Government from the Greens or is the ‘real’ Julia happy to be portrayed as a Tony Abbott mini-me when it comes to teaching the Bible and the culture wars?

Based on her experience as a left-wing student activist with the Socialist Forum and a number of speeches attacking John Howard when he was Prime Minister, it’s clear that Gillard’s recent conversion to cultural conservatism is as dodgy as her pre-election promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

Take her 2003 speech to the Sydney Institute and more recent comments justifying why she joined the ALP. In the Sydney speech Gillard attacks Howard’s neo-conservative views on social issues for being fuelled by “bile and venom”.

Gillard, arguing that the left is the only political philosophy capable of guaranteeing that Australian society can be, “tolerant, outward-looking and egalitarian”, goes on to argue that the left must mount the barricades and win back the public debate.

In a speech to the Fabian Society, three years after the Sydney Institute speech, Gillard revisits the topic of the culture wars and, once again, condemns Howard for promoting ideas and policies, supposedly, that are premised on “unfairness, division and exclusion”.

Fast forward to yesterday’s speech, where Gillard argues that marriage must be between a man and a women and that euthanasia is not feasible, and it’s clear that there are occasions when the current Prime Minister wants to enforce the same kind of discrimination she attacked Howard for pursuing.

In her recent speech to the US Congress, Prime Minister Gillard turned more than a few stomaches with her superficial and clichéd appeal to America’s democratic tradition and her tearful rendition of the impact of the moonwalk on her as a child.

Yesterday’s speech provides another example of Gillard’s spin and appeal to romantic sentimentality when she describes her experience of growing up in a “conservative family”, championing “old-fashioned” values like “politeness and thrift and fortitude and doing duty and diligence”.

Turning herself into an antipodean Abe Lincoln, unfortunately, doesn’t quite ring true given Gillard’s record of political pragmatism and her role in betraying Kevin Rudd’s trust and helping to execute him as Prime Minister.

When minister for education, it’s also the case that Julia Gillard spent millions and enforced polices changing tertiary selection from one based on ability, merit and hard work to one where there is positive discrimination for so-called disadvantaged groups of students.

Instead of tertiary entry relying on ability and effort, it’s now a matter of being a member of what the cultural-left defines as a victim group.

It’s no secret that the ALP, at the federal level and in states like NSW, is facing political atrophy and, as highlighted by a number of internal reviews, that the main cause is that Keating’s true believers continue to desert the party given its lurch to the loony left.

Jumping into bed with the Greens after last year’s election may have won Gillard government and brought short-term political survival but, at a cost. Clearly, Gillard’s strategy is to reinvent herself and to paint the ALP as socially conservative in an attempt to stake the middle ground.

The strategy is doomed to failure. Not only do we no longer know who the ‘real’ Julia is but, as recent polling shows, voters are fed up with good government and sound policy being subverted by opportunism and pragmatism.


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22nd March 2011

In the following, and on The Drum Unleashed, I argue that Gillard's new found love of the Bible is simply an example of political pragmatism and deceit.  In an attempt to distance the ALP from ...
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