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Angry ghost of Gillard past

  • 26 July 2013

The Stalking of Julia Gillard, Kerry-Anne Walsh. Allen & Unwin, 2013. Website


If the plural noun for owls is parliament, and crows go about in a murder, then the ideal collective description for rats may well be 'press gallery'. Or 'cabinet'. Kerry-Anne Walsh may be happy with either or both uses.

As a former press secretary for Bob Hawke, veteran journalist and member of Canberra's 'commentariat', Walsh has waded through rivers of shite. But as she makes perfectly clear in The Stalking of Julia Gillard, she feels we've have been compelled of late to tread water between the sycophantic shallows of vested-interested reporters and the murky depths of political manipulation.

A sharp operator who knows her way around paragraphs and parliament, Walsh writes with gruff disbelief. Her subtitle, 'How the media and Team Rudd contrived to bring down the Prime Minister', suggests a certain fellow feeling for former PM Gillard; yet from her earliest pages, Walsh makes it clear she isn't engaging in a 'defence of Gillard' nor 'a definitive account of her government' — 'I didn't talk to her for the book, and I don't gloss over her mistakes.' (Methinks, Jen, that Walsh doth protest too much.)

Walsh does, however, in 300-odd pages, deliver a nuanced, authoritative acknowledgement of Gillard's policies and achievements despite a chickenbone-flimsy majority and the catch-22 'Chinese whispers' of both Gillard's colleagues and her inquisitors. Having worked both sides of the street, Walsh acknowledges 'what a bastard of a business politics and journalism can be'. Therein lies the tome's value for me. Frank, incisive analyses, ruthless observations and skills delivering a spanking for pollies and pundits alike.

Perhaps Walsh's most admirable achievement, Jen, is her depiction of gutter politics, sexism, cowardice and plausible deniability. But she's doing more than flogging books.

An 'expanded personal diary', The Stalking makes no pretence towards objectivity. Walsh's dismissive contempt for both Rudd and Tony Abbott (among many others) is to be relished or relinquished, depending on the reader's bent.

Walsh is a True Believer. Her final, over-written lament resonates with her emotional truths; Rudd's return as PM means the government has 'collectively surrendered its principles and its fate to one of the great wreckers in modern Labor', and 'all Labor supporters across the country have been able to do for three years is sit and watch in horror as a once-great party has been devoured alive from the inside'.

Jen, a sticking point for me, amidst the righteous