ESI BLOG

Julia Gillard fails as Prime Minister
24th June 2011

In the following and on The Drum website I argue that Gillard has failed as Prime Minister.

In June last year, just weeks before she was involved in Prime Minister Ruddís political assassination, I argued that Julia Gillard, the then Deputy Leader, was a political pragmatist and a politician without any deeply felt and coherent beliefs or vision.

In the comment piece on this site titled Pragmatic about political convictions, I observed, "It's clear that over the years, Gillard has lost her youthful idealism and that the seasoned politician we now see is both pragmatic and willing to compromise long held beliefs".

Evidence included, during her time as education minister and notwithstanding her socialist-left origins in student politics and Fabian inclination, embracing the Howard Governmentís conservative rhetoric on a back to basics curriculum, funding non-government schools, literacy and numeracy testing and holding teachers and schools accountable for the results.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Gillard has also demonstrated that ideals no longer matter and that she cannot be trusted by advocating a carbon tax, after ruling out the option during last yearís election campaign, adopting a policy on boat people that tries to out-right the right side of politics and pretending that she was not a key member of Ruddís gang of four.

Gillardís lack of credibility and inability to capture the publicís imagination and garner support is best illustrated by the Alice in Wonderland admission during the last election campaign that she would stop being fake and finally reveal the 'real' Julia to the Australian electorate.

Compare Gillard to other recent Prime Ministers of both major political parties and itís obvious that she rates a distant last in terms of conviction, charisma and ability to shape the nationís agenda.

Gough Whitlam, for all his faults, was a passionate believer in the leftís view of equity, social justice and cultural change.  Bob Hawke was dedicated to economic and industrial reform and such was his charisma that nobody batted an eyelid when, after Australia won the Americaís Cup, he counselled, "any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum".

Paul Keating became famous for his big picture view of politics and while he polarised the debate there is no doubt what his views were or how genuine he was in areas like the republic, reconciliation and Australiaís role in Asia.

John Howardís longevity as a political leader and ability to win elections, in a large part, were due to the fact that even if you didnít like him you knew what he stood for and that he was prepared to fight hard for what he believed was best for the nation.

As to why Julia Gillard is failing as a leader and why she is as unpopular as the Prime Minister she helped depose, there are many reasons and opinions. Both John Faulkner and Kevin Rudd are correct in arguing that the ALP has long been ruled by political apparatchiks more concerned with power than ideas and policy.

The irony, of course, is that Gillardís ascent in the political game is a perfect example of how ALP apparatchiks work the system. First get involved in student politics while at university, then work for a like minded trade union or legal organisation, get a job as a political advisor with a senior politician and then stand for pre-selection to parliament.

A TV documentary filmed some years ago where the young and ambitious backbencher was interviewed in her office and home also suggests why Gillard lacks the ability to appear Prime Ministerial and to carry the policy debate.  The bookshelves appeared empty and the young backbencher admitted that there was little time for cooking.

Like many other post-Greer, liberated women, Gillard, to date, has also forsaken marriage and children in order to give her full energy and attention to achieving political success.

While itís true that marriage and children are not mandatory in this age of celebrating diversity and difference, those who are married and who have children will know that such relationships irrevocably change how we view the world and how we relate to other people.

Those who have followed Gillardís career while in parliament will also appreciate that her inability to win public support and to develop substantial, coherent and convincing policies is because of the Peter Principle.

Like many who are promoted above their level of competence, there is a sense that Gillard finds the complexities and challenges of being Prime Minister a notch above the level she is most comfortable with and to which her abilities are best suited.

With foreign affairs one only needs to remember Gillardís admission that she is more comfortable with being in a classroom than travelling the world meeting prominent and influential business and political figures.

The on again off again East Timor solution to the boat people crisis and the shambles as a result of publicly releasing details about the agreement with Malaysia before matters had been finalised are further examples of inexperience and ineptitude.

Coupled with the ALP Governmentís inability to successfully resolve the issue of the impact of the carbon tax on Australiaís mining industry and to convince the public that millions wonít be worse off as a result of introducing such a tax, itís obvious that the government lacks direction and cohesion at the top.


 

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24th June 2011

In the following and on The Drum website I argue that Gillard has failed as Prime Minister.In June last year, just weeks before she was involved in Prime Minister Ruddís political assassin...
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