Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections on Julia Gillard becoming Prime Minister

It's pretty obvious I'm a Julia Gillard fan. I credit her ascendancy to Prime Minster as the reason I reignited my interest in politics, which I once had as a student in the 1980's but had let lapse through the last few decades. As a teen I would tell people I wanted to be the first female Prime Minster of Australia. Ha! As if! I wonder back then if I really thought it might happen; that we would have a female Prime Minster in my lifetime. I wonder how many now would seek the job. The attacks have been brutal, personal and constant.

I wasn't as horrified by the ousting of Kevin Rudd as some. My main recollection of his early years as Prime Minster are the 'Sorry' speech which I remember watching live, and being quite emotional and proud and having some semblance of the significance of it to the indigenous peoples,  and also the stimulus that got us through the GFC. I was involved in my kids primary school as we excitedly planned for a BER building to house a library and 5 classrooms. Our school is over 100 years old. It hadn't had major works for more than 40 years. It was amazing and to this day I am incredibly grateful that when our Government decided to stimulate the economy by ensuring building industry jobs were maintained, they chose schools and kids to be the beneficiaries.

I remember the rumblings that Kevin had a fiery temper and was difficult to work with. I sat up and took notice when my local member, Darren Cheeseman said in a door stop that Julia Gillard would be Prime Minister one day.  The night 'it' happened, exactly 3 years ago to the day*, I was on twitter. It was like watching a wave come through.  Twitter in 2010 had quite a few people on board in Australia but not as many as now, but still it seemed huge. It was like a crescendo and was completely unbelievable. I was fascinated.

I had to drive to a funeral the next day. I was pretty emotional and as I drove I listened to Kevin give his farewell press conference with his family around him. I felt sadness for him and shed some tears. If you've read this, you'll know that's normal for me. I then listened to Julia Gillard's 'moving forward' speech. It wasn't the greatest start in terms of speeches but I felt confident that she would grow and move forward ;)  And I definitely think she has.

I expected Kevin to resign. He didn't. I wish he had. His staying has been lethal for Labor. Some will argue that the removal of him was the beginning of the end, but for him to be so loathed from within would certainly have been Labor's undoing anyway. I see him now take on some of Campbell Newman's Queensland fights and think he should go to State Parliament. Queenslanders love him, let them have him and let Labor re-grow up there. Surely the Queenslanders are learning the hard way how much austerity bites. That they'd vote for more of that with Abbott confounds me.

I listen to the Prime Minister speak about education and the Gonski reforms and I hear her passion. Education is the fire in her belly. Her emotion when the final NDIS bills were brought to Parliament demonstrated to me how crucial and life changing that legislation is. Regardless of what happens on September 14, the legacy of those two reforms, alongside carbon pricing will be enormous. Along with her notorious negotiation skills. That this hung parliament has brought forward so much legislation is a credit to her ability to bring the cross benches with her and with Labor to legislate important reforms.

I sometimes wonder if Julia Gillard wishes she had come to the Prime Ministership differently. I kind of do, but what happened has happened and there's no changing it. Do I think the ALP should change leaders again? No. I hear the 'experts' saying annihilation is ahead unless they go back to Rudd, but I cant fathom that. If he truly had stayed quiet and loyal and worked for the good of his electorate, the country and the Government and still the polls were bad, I might have a different view, but I honestly feel that handing him the Prime Ministership on the back of disloyalty and a campaign of white anting would be wrong and would absolutely send the wrong message. Not to mention the perception that the ALP leadership is a revolving door.

Hopefully after Parliament rises this week, and the election campaign begins more earnestly we will see proper scrutiny of all policies and less focus on leadership issues. If Q and A continue with their themed events and have a health themed program with Plibersek and Dutton, a finance themed program with Wong and Robb, I just know the ALP can shine. Perhaps pressure might come to Tony Abbott to actually appear on Q and A and face the questions of the Australian public, or even a long form interview on Lateline.  Debates will show the strength of Julia Gillard. The snippets of Parliament's question time that are seen on the nightly news don't do justice to how well she performs in Parliament.  It took her misogyny speech to show her at her finest; in Question time, with no script and passionate about what she was saying. Let's see more of that!

Maybe journalists will really arc up when Tony Abbott walks away from a press conference just when the questions get interesting  Maybe an investigative journalist will follow up on some unanswered questions he has managed to avoid...his involvement in Ashby/Slipper, whether he was at the LNP fundraiser dinner with Joe Hockey and Mal Brough to name but two. Maybe we'll start to see what our real choices are on September 14.

The past 3 years have been one hell of a ride but I'm enormously proud of Julia Gillard and what she has achieved.  I would say to her: Stay Strong Prime Minister.  You have my continued respect, admiration and support!

Feel free to express an alternate opinion in the comments but please don't just express hate. Go write your own blog if that is what you want to do.

* I've ended up publishing this after midnight...the rumblings on twitter were on the evening of June 23, 2010. She was confirmed as Prime Minister on June 24, 2010 when Kevin Rudd did not contest the leadership ballot. Sources say it would have been an overwhelming majority to Julia Gillard.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Following up

I'm still coming to terms with the feedback and number of reads the letter I wrote to Leigh Sales generated. I'd never really taken much notice of the 'page reads' in blogger. I didn't really care. Sure, I hoped someone might read my words, but I never had huge expectations. It was nice when one piece had 100 reads. That felt quite satisfying. But as I sit here now, my 'Dear Leigh Sales' post is sitting on 7250 reads and 105 comments. I'd kind of hoped that Leigh herself might read it and also Craig Emerson. Heavens, they've had it tweeted into their time line often enough, I hope they did. 

To know that the sentiment I expressed was being agreed with so categorically was quite overwhelming.  I originally kept the comments moderated. I know how nasty #auspol can get on twitter and the last thing I wanted was a comment storm erupting after I posted the link on twitter. But after a little while I noticed a trend. The comments were all consistently supportive and self moderated. Kind of like my post.  I'd deliberately tried to stay calm as I wrote it, because I am sure a ranty, sweary post can turn the recipient off faster than anything else. So, I took the moderation off. The comments kept coming and the theme was consistent. 

Amen. Well said David and Linda

Thank you for articulating my thoughts exactly. I, too, almost wept when Leigh wrapped the interview - it saddened me that she did so so smugly. Debra

Thank you Michelle I think you have summed up many peoples frustration over this ongoing non-challenge Leadership challenge. Like you I too am sick to death of it,a point I reached about 18 months to 2 yrs ago,so every hypothetical spoonful we've been force fed since then has had the most disgusting tainted taste to it that I am overcome with nausea every time I hear the subject raised..which as you know is every single day.
Lee Skelton.

24 hours after I first published the post it had about 2000 reads. At about the same time twitter was erupting over the Age editorial for their Saturday paper advising Julia Gillard to step aside as Prime Minister in favour of Kevin Rudd.  Long time journalist, Mike Carlton had also written a piece suggesting that...and was copping it in return from Gillard supporters.

Like my first post, I'm writing this as an ordinary Australian. Not someone with media experience, nor political savvy, nor knowledge of the inner workings of political parties. It gives me the advantage of being removed from the coal face and the inner workings but also the disadvantage of not being close enough or knowledgeable enough about how things 'really' work. But that is what is wearing thin; the journalists on twitter, and even in their publications who flout this knowledge and inner circle like a badge of honour, dismissing the ordinary citizens who dare to question or challenge their position. 

It seems to be the reason this leadership story has legs. A few rats in the ALP ranks decide to feed their dissent to their media mates...the story grows, gets reported, gets re-reported. We're all sick of it. You can't tell me the Coalition don't have members who disagree. It seems they are on a path to being rewarded for their discipline!

I used to know someone who would ask your opinion on something by prefacing it with her opinion. For example, if she was choosing a paint colour she would say 'I like this cream paint for the walls, which one do you like?' It made it kind of hard to say 'Well actually I like the white paint'. I mention this because it reminds me of the polling situation. Newspapers, news coverage and current affairs programs run constant leadership stories, stories painting Labor as a rabble, stories suggesting the Government hasn't achieved much... and then they send the pollsters out.  Imagine if they had opinion writers lauding the achievements of the Government, the AAA economy ratings, the policy wins, or even just clarifying what some policy decisions meant for us all, by asking questions and reporting details. 

I know the ALP has low polling numbers. I know. I hope like heck they improve. I hope when Parliament rises and the campaign moves into full swing the focus will be on policy, and leadership debates and more scrutiny of the 'alternative Government'. I hope the incredibly insular Canberra based press gallery can take the focus off what people are saying in the hallways and cafeteria of Parliament House and perhaps ask questions so ordinary Australians out in the cities, and suburbs and towns of our great country can understand what we will be voting for in September. I hope some of them read my 'Dear Leigh Sales' post and the comments below it and will take note of the feelings out amongst ordinary Australians.

I will finish this post with this Mike Carlton tweet: 

'Amazed at the number of people who think I should not have an opinion unless it agrees with theirs.' 

and I say in response to that...

I'm amazed at the number of people who think I should not have an opinion unless it agrees with theirs. 

It goes both ways.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dear Leigh Sales

Hi Leigh,
After watching 7:30 on ABC tonight I wanted to write to you. You interviewed Trade Minster, Craig Emerson. For much of the interview you were asking him questions about the leadership of the ALP. A few things I want to bring up in regard to that.

Before I start though I want to assure you I am going to stay calm and non abusive. I have seen that you receive some pretty nasty tweets following so called controversial interviews. I am not a troll or professional political pundit. I am a woman in her mid 40s. I have an education. I work part time, I have a husband and 3 kids, a mortgage and a dog. I volunteer with many of my kids activities and life is pretty busy. I feel unique, and I am, but on the surface I think you could say I am an 'ordinary' Australian.

I've never been a member of a political party, and in fact have probably avoided them. The whole environment seems macho and not really my scene. The idea of Women for Gillard appealed to me as a way of getting involved in politics, without immersing myself in the deep end. The fact it has been mocked mercilessly bothers me. I'm sure there are other women who would like to get involved but are apprehensive. However, my post today isn't about that.

With regard to your interview...
At one stage you said that you were asking questions that ordinary Australians want to know the answers to. I'm an ordinary Australian and I am sick to my back teeth of the leadership speculation that has continued for the best part of 3 years. I don't actually know what questions you were hoping Craig would answer. I don't have a transcript but I recall you asked whether he thought Julia Gillard would stay on as Prime Minister beyond next week. This has been asked of many ALP politicians this week (this year!) and I honestly don't know what answer you are all expecting. Do you expect him to say 'Well no actually, I think she'll be gone by Wednesday?' Even if he did think that? Do you think he'd say 'We're putting boxing gloves on at the next caucus meeting and we'll settle it then'? You are never going to get the answer you want. However, I know that whatever answer you do get will then get dissected. Perhaps when Craig said 'Of course', he really meant 'Of course not'... It's like a dog chasing its tail.

No interview with any ALP person, pollster, politician or power broker is going to give you the answer you desire. And yes, we, the ordinaries, understand that backbenchers are mumbling, and the Rudd loyalists.  So what? Spend one sentence, or two, acknowledging that and move on. Aren't you embarrassed that for almost 3 years you've had the same story and still Julia Gillard is Prime Minister?

Craig made a valiant attempt to talk about policy and ideas despite your constant leadership questioning. When he finally managed to get a few sentences out about carbon pricing being introduced in China you then advised that the time was up for the interview. I nearly cried. How often do the ALP get accused of not being able to get their message out, but here we have a Minister, not involved in any leadership mutterings, invited onto your program, and he is subjected to 95% leadership questioning. In fact all Minsters have expressed that they are steadfastly behind the Prime Minister and they would probably love the chance to appear on your show to discuss their portfolio, yet they are subjected to leadership questioning that they can add nothing to. I would almost argue that there is a deliberate attempt by the media to stymie the Government's message... 'Keep asking leadership questions, avoid the policy message at all costs...'

I have been reminded numerous times this week that we are in the last sitting fortnight of this parliament but we barely know what legislation is before the parliament. All mention seems to be in relation to whether Julia Gillard will see out the fortnight as leader. We do get snippets of rants from question time in the news, but barely enough to know what the topic of the question or answer is even about. Isn't your show, 7:30, meant to help us ordinaries learn about these things? I imagine a lot of legislation will go through parliament before it rises next week. Help us to know what it is and what it means for us.

I understand that Julia Gillard has a planned meeting in Indonesia in a few weeks. The way it is reported is not advising us ordinaries about what the meeting is for, and what might be discussed, instead we hear speculation on whether it will be her or someone else actually attending. Really? Perhaps the reporter might also, in a sloganistic way, mention that she'll talk about stopping the boats! But is that the extent of Australia's relationship with Indonesia? Stopping boats?

It bothers me enormously that as we approach an election so little is known of the policy position of the Coalition. What is direct action? How will it work? Why do all IT experts seem to advise against the Coalition FTTN and prefer the FTTH NBN? Do they have a health policy? An education policy? I rely on journalists to ask questions and to help us ordinaries become enlightened. How do we make a wise voting choice in September? A choice that is based on informed understanding of policy and ideas?

I know you are trying to do your job Leigh, but really, please don't suggest to an interviewee that you are asking leadership questions because ordinary Australians want answers.  I speak as an ordinary Australian when I say, one question is enough, then move on to other topics. I tweeted just that very thing tonight and had been retweets, and saw many expressing the same sentiment. We do not have a microphone to ask our politicians questions, we are counting on our journalists, especially those of the public broadcaster, to ask questions that help us to understand.