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.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly with the comments above, and feel quite buoyed that there are many like minded souls on todays social media, who think for themselves and have reached broadly the same conclusions about our democracy .. Cheers Michelle,

  2. Sorry to be picky, but Tanya Plibersek and Peter Dutton have already appeared on Q&A together for a Health Debate. I was there in the audience!

    Otherwise, hear! hear! to what you have said. And, honestly, I cant understand how Coalition mouthpieces like Joe Hockey get away with disparaging 'School Halls' as White Elephants that no one in any school community wanted. It's just another lie to appeal to old Conservative voters I think.

    Anyway, keep up the good work! Now to go follow you on Twitter! :)

    1. Thanks, I must have missed that QandA (or forgotten?) I just went to look up some Shadows...they dont all come to mind, since they rarely ask questions in QT about their portfolio and we so rarely get policy discussion in the media...

      Carr and Bishop
      Macklin and Andrews
      Emerson and Mirabella
      Shorten and Abetz
      Burke and Hunt
      Combet and Hunt
      the list goes on...

      This format at least allows some policy discussion to occur.


    “Gillard Has Guts!”

    One paper told the truth today
    No matter what the others have to say.
    You know, about the PM being dead,
    Politically I mean. How often has that been said!

    But she's still here, alive and well,
    And with plenty of good news to tell.
    Her picture says it all dear reader.
    We couldn’t have a better leader.

    While leakers and gossip writers go to town,
    Character assassins bring her down,
    And Abbott does his stunts and struts,
    She keeps smiling. Yes! Gillard has guts!

  4. Michelle,
    Lovely to have a new voice on the blogs (excuse me on that matter; you might have been around for awhile but I only discovered your blog with that earlier passionate and brilliant post in defence of our PM.

    I'm an old timer now at 71, and I can see a longer view of our political history. I have thought this over long and hard as she survived a sabotaged election campaign, negotiated a government with diverse independent interests, and proceeded to bring in major reforms on so many fronts.

    Even on something like plain paper cigarette labelling, where the credit rightly belongs to the brilliant Nicola Roxon, it still needed Gillard's strength to hold firm to it in the face of Big Tobacco and IPA fierce opposing campaigns and lobbying.

    I see her as our finest leader since Ben Chifley, possessing energy and depth of character mixed in with her humility. On the Labor side, and probably the other side as well, she is the first federal leader since Ben not to have overriding ego issues.

    There is another curious parallel, too. Throughout the 1930s, Ben carried the falg for the Federal ALP in NSW against the breakaway Lang Labor Party, which had much more popular support. Lang, like Rudd did many good things but was consumed by a megolomania and raw populism. Chifley had much more depth and vision, which he was able to bring into the forefront during the War years as Treasurer and later as PM and Treasurer.

    And Lang in the 1940s, jealous as ever, tried to undermine Chifley over some rent-collecting he'd done for his mother-in-law in the early 1930s. It didn't work overall and Chifley is still revered.

  5. Michelle, another great blog. My daughters and I watched with excitement as Ms Gillard became Australia's first female Prime Minister, despite the way it occurred. I think she has done a wonderful job leading this minority government and I think history will be much kinder to her than the media of today.