Gillard the Brave


Nobody has died yet, but yesterday's editorials were howling for blood. Just about every reporter and would-be opinionator wants Kevin Rudd to mount an open challenge to Julia Gillard's leadership. Her newly furrowed brow — I had never seen a wrinkle before she was dragged out of The Lobby by The Bodyguard — is proof that being hated makes you look old.brac

Rudd on the other hand has gone smug. He says that questions about Gillard handing out polling in 2010 which showed that his leadership was foundering were 'for others' to comment on.

Papers like the Herald Sun have gone for the iceberg theory. Her captaincy of the HMAS Concordia is over, it editorialised on Thursday, doomed not only because of her policy reversals (the carbon pricing scheme, pre-commitment on pokies and the watered-down mining tax) which brought it too close to the Rocks, but for her oratorial failure to convince the likes of Laurie Oakes and my next-door neighbour that she is sincere.

For me, her spack-attack on the Chief Justice of the High Court after that court scuttled her atrocious attempt to send asylum seekers to Malaysia without the protection of the UN Charter of Human Rights was bitterly disappointing from the very first woman to hold the office of Australian prime minister. And I have said so. But I have had to reconsider my feelings about her leadership too.

The level of personal criticism and downright hatred carries with it the burden of misogyny. And being hated is unbearable. Just ask Kristy Fraser-Kirk who was badly damaged by her entirely justifiable attack on the Board of David Jones when she was sexually harassed by the CEO. Just ask me. You think you can tough it out. You can, but there is one hell of a price.

Gillard is brave, even if she is not particularly brilliant. Who, among our politicians, would like to stay on the bridge as the liner starts to tip?

Alistair Mant wrote in one of his books on leadership that the major problem with leaders, particularly in politics, is that level three people aim for and often get level five jobs. They have to work so hard and in such detail that they feel they are doing a fabulous job, but they have lost a realistic view of the endeavour in which they are engaged.

One of the two great lessons from this crise de cruise, is that level three politicians do hang on rather too long. In my humble opinion Rudd was just one of those, and he felt and feels that it was 'his' job and he was robbed of it.

Perhaps one of the least smart things Gillard did was kicking Kim Carr out of her cabinet last year. This man does not let go of anything, particularly a grudge. Word has it that it was because he was running the numbers for Rudd. But as a well known Labor Party identity told me, it was always better to have a numbers man like Big Kim in the tent pissing out, rather than outside pissing in.

On Thursday Steve Bracks was talking to Jon Faine on ABC Radio in Melbourne. Bracks was the only recent ALP premier to have resigned at the top of his game and at a time of his own choosing.

Faine said that it was unusual for them to invite politicians onto the show, but that they hadn't invited Bracks the former politician, but because of his other work in East Timor and in business. Then he got the message about the unemployment rate dropping and the conversation became political anyway.

Faine's cohost commented that it took supposedly about five years to get over being an editor of a major newspaper, and asked Bracks how long it had taken him to get over being premier. Bracks thought for a moment and said that, given that he had moved on at his own time and for his own reasons, it had taken him less than a year.

Relevance. Carr can't ever let go. Obviously, that Four Corners program on Monday night had plenty of his DNA on it. If there were ever an inner-sanctum leak that Gillard's staff were preparing an acceptance speech a couple of weeks before she moved against Rudd, that was it. It seemed such a small matter, but it was another rupture of the fabric of the good ship governance.

Sad, indeed, that the labor party will go down, along with national government, when the plotters get their way. 

Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer. 

Topic tags: Moira Rayner, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Labor leadership



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Existing comments

Moira says of Julia Gillard that "nobody has died yet".Clearly, she's not been reading the obituary notices! Integrity, decency and transparency died in the early days of the Gillard "government'..and those other life supports...consultation, fairness and honesty are just awaiting the formality of the last rites. But it's good to see Moira revisiting her feelings about Gillard's "leadership" the vast majority of Australia's are still waiting to see some shred of it. The greatest casualty of Julia Gillard's prime ministership is what she has done to make the election of the next female prime minister that much....needlessly...harder. That'll be the greatest regret.
Brian Haill - Melbourne | 17 February 2012

John Clarke and Brian Dawe summed up this farce brilliantly last night on 7.30. Gillard is brave - she has bravely introduced necessary policy, compromised where she had to and walked away from what should never have been promised. This soap opera is the product of media minds that seem incapable of debating substantive, complex policy issues - just like the current Opposition.
elizabeth | 17 February 2012

The once great ALP. True Believers to True Deceivers. Very sad.
Eugene | 17 February 2012

Thank you, Moira, for this comment. You've expressed very well my own thoughts. I certainly don't go along with all Julia does or says, but I feel strongly she doesn't deserve all the bricks that are thrown at her. The press have a lot to answer for.
Frank O'Dea | 17 February 2012

While Gillard may be 'brave,' there is also reason for the Masses to be calling for her downfall. She has not been straight with the people. While this government still claims election victory, that is not the case and it seems that this is one of the major causes of dispute - and some reason for the rising animosity toward this government. Gillard claims she is doing thing in the total interests of the Australian people - then it is time to do just that and call an early election so that a government is elected and no longer reliant on minority men calling the shots! This contributes significantly to the position she now finds herself in - and I agree, no one likes to be hated! The answer is ultimately in the hands of the Prime Minister - or is she so afraid of defeat her judgement is now permanently clouded?
Jacki | 17 February 2012

On the money. When plotting becomes the main game governing goes out the window. Kevin Rudd and the PM are both very able people who have not been able to find a good rhythm in the top job. But the problem is more than plotting and personalities. Neither party has come to terms with a changing global environment and the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. We are in for a rough ride until people in both parties take a deep breath and start thinking seriously about policy and how it fits with the voters.
RFI Smith | 17 February 2012

Anyone who thinks handing the ship back to Rudd before the next election must be delusional. This seems to be a concerted personal attack on Gillard based on what we all know already, ie Politics is dirty and not for the honest. Gillard's criticism of Chief Justice of the High Court was fairly disappointing though as anyone who understands international law and human rights would have known that proposal was never going to last. Sending people who are seeking safety to a country that has never had a good humanitarian record was just a poor decision. Julia Gillard has made her political decisions that she will either win or lose over, but turning back to someone who was on the nose already is just putting the white flag up. But judging by the weight of the mainstream media, the Labor party has more than the Liberals to worry about.
Paul Belci | 17 February 2012

Good piece, Moira, but was Gillard brave or stupid? It is said that the difference can be obscured in the rhetoric - and who is delivering it. Gillard aside, I would just add (to no surprise of yours) that the sinking of the 'Good Ship Labor' has been going on for two decades now - ever since the 'old plotters' became displaced by 'young careerists' and the dominance of factions gave way to the rise of focus groups. Labor sank, in short, when it lost its rudder - and its moral compass. But you will remember that of course with me in the odour of WA Inc and the questionable membership of the the then new 'Curtin Foundation'. Unfortunately for Gillard she took the helm as the ship was well on its way down.
FrankDonovan | 17 February 2012

Moira, it sounds to me that you are having withdrawal symtoms about the ALP losing it's way. I believe that Julia Gillard has been treated unfairly by most of the popular mainstream media because of a culture of anti-feminism. Most media commentators support Rudd for no other reason that he is a man. The reason that Rudd was sacked as leader a couple of years back was that he alienated himself from the parliamentary caucus; he was a "one man band". The irony is that Gillard is not a strong advocate of feminism. However, I believe she is doing a reasonable good job as prime minister, but lacks stateswomanlike qualities. I believe that Paul Keating is the only prime minister in the past thirty years who was a genuine statesman.

The political system in Australia has become largely irrelevant. There is very little difference in the political philosophy and idealogy of most Australian people and political parties. Most of these people believe in a multicultural pluralist society with a social democratic government and welfare system for disadvantaged people. This philosophy is common throughout the country with people such as Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Bob Brown and independents such as Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshotte (this spelling doesn't look right). Elections have become popular celebrity contests for the leaders of both the ALP and the Liberal party as well as media people. Both the ALP and the Liberal party have become alienated from the electorate because of centralised and bureaucratic organisations. Most of the ABC coverage of politics on local radio stations such as 774 and TV channels ABC1 and ABC24 is mediocre and superficial and commentators such as Jon Faine make comments that are generally ill-informed, self-indulgent and pretentious.
Mark Doyle | 17 February 2012

The day we find anybody telling the truth in Canberra will be the day when the sun will rise twice!
Beat Odermatt | 17 February 2012

The Queen reminded Tony Abbott that there are different kinds of difficulties in running a minority government. Why would the government be foolish to reinstate Kevin Rudd? Because they would lose power while in government, the independents would become entirely unpredictable in their voting patterns. This is why the media interest in leadership is merely obsessive at the moment; any Machiavellian would tell you that it’s a stalemate, with Gillard firmly in place. And yes, the press gallery hate Gillard, don’t they? John Howard lied through his teeth for years on end and they never said boo. His explanations about children overboard and justification for going into Iraq are clear in some people’s memories. Now we have to put up with daily reminders that Gillard may have told a lie or two, as though it were a crime against humanity. The boyos in the Canberra press gallery seem to have given themselves a license to attack Gillard every day , at whim. It’s a concentrated campaign. It’s so pathetic I just turn the page and read about global warming and other things they could be better spending their time on. Some of the journalists have never got over Keating removing Hawke, nor have a lot of people in the party room. But that doesn’t have to be the pattern. Government is more than its leader.

Even today in the face of yet another racist beat up of refugees in the media all Gillard and Abbott can do is whine about the refugees getting here in the first place.

Neither want to tell the truth, but Gillard is one of the coldest people I have ever met and talked to.
Marilyn Shepherd | 17 February 2012

What a relief to read some sense! I think the Media has gone nuts. And whenever things seem weird to me after 40 years of close engagement with media and politics and there is a definite smell of rat - someone is getting something out of this and it usually not the usual suspects.As was said the other day Julia dominates question time - is very bright (I disagree with writer above here) - is tough - and is warm and friendly behind the scenes. Anyone who takes a calm cool look at the current political games the media is playing would tell ALL members of the Labor Caucus and stirrers. Shut up and get out to your Electorate - stop asking for some miracle Abe Lincoln to save your seat. He got assassinated anyway!PLEASE!! I am in Kev's electorate and have worked at elections for him and many many others. But let it be. Or we will go down in a screaming heap.
Di Lange | 17 February 2012

I feel Julia has failed at the job, failed to be true to Labour's platform, failed to inspire and failed to show good judgement. The media is a pest but it can't be blamed entirely. What saddens me is that if Labour goes down at the next election, then Penny, Tanya and other hard working women will go down too. These women are the ones inspiring the teenagers around me. They are the straight talkers and they are at the top of their game, right now. How long will they have to wait to be in government again?
RBH | 17 February 2012

No one won the last election but Gillard and Labor have been terminally damaged by agreeing to cobble together policies agreeable to such uselss idiots as Wilkie Oakeshott Xenophon, Windsor. Had they left the field to Abbott the conservatives would be in turmoil and we'd be talking about when Turnbull will topple Abbott.
As Faulkner said "Labor is an old party getting older and a small party getting smaller.
I wish it weren't so, but Julia its down to you.
Brian Derum | 17 February 2012

From a bad situation, there is rarely a good outcome. With both political parties putting party politics ahead of of statesmanship, the future look bleak. "Toughing it out" is productive only when the "cause" is right, and clearly presented as such. Neither of which seems to be the case. There are troubled times ahead.
Robert Liddy | 18 February 2012

We have to keep up the fight against sexual harassment in Australia - thank you Moira.
"Australians, all let us unite, for we are young and free"
Alex Fraser-Kirk | 18 February 2012

All please take a cold shower then read the 12th Psalm ,written whatever century BC .Sadly the "Kingdom" has not yet come & with the added plight of high speed media ,unknown back then ,it's arrival may take some time .If you are impatient ,it maybe adviseable to read 12 P on daily basis .
John Kersh | 18 February 2012

PM Gillard has a number of problems, the first being that the hung Parliament is unusual, and not well understood. It is however a legitimate government, contrary to what the Coalition are saying on a daily basis.

The second is that although Gillard went to the 2010 election saying she wanted to put a price on carbon followed by an emiissions trading scheme, [the Climate Change Speech is still on on her website], and, this was reported in the australian by esteemed senior journalists Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan. In that article she differentiated between a carbon price and a carbon tax.
thanks to Laurie Oakes' "gotcha" the Opposition and the media have run the "carebon tax lie" meme ever since.

The third and most obvious is that not one journailst ever writes these days about the effect of the various vested interests spending their millions advertising against the government policies.
P. Oliver | 18 February 2012

It is a pity that neither her supporters nor her detractors seem to get past the fact that she is a woman. Is there not an inverted form of gender discrimination going on. Why can she not, at least by her supporters, be regarded simply as the Prime Minister? Why cannot we simply ask - are we being well served by this person? Make a judgement on the leadership in gender neutral terms - both ways!
graham patison | 20 February 2012

I agree with Moira Rayner. I cannot remember in my 70 years such a sustained and vitriolic level of attack on any other politician. I respect Gillard, approve of most of her policies but have reservations about her judgement. There is no doubting her courage in the face of this unrelenting abuse.
Martyn Smith | 20 February 2012

It's nothing to do with her gender for most of us, it's to do with the general lack of empathy or decency she exhibits.

She is just Howard in drag, that is the problem.
Marilyn Shepherd | 20 February 2012

She has sold Labor policies to the lowest common denominator..Wilkie here,Bob Brown there,Xenophon there, here a Windsor there an Oakeshott ...and in so doing she has finally finished off an old dying party. That's her legacy. Oh and thanks Bob Brown for rejecting the orignal Rudd/Wong ETS which had the effect of knocking off BOTH Turnbull and Rudd and smoothing the way for P.M Tony Abbott.Well done Greenman.
Brian Derum | 20 February 2012

Last year we had massive flooding across Australia, earth quakes in New Zealand and the tsunami in Japan. It was a time when peoples attention were drawn to these disasters. In 2012, no big disaster had occurred as yet and the media tries to make some news by inventing “leadership speculations”.When the media becomes “bored” because of a lack of real news, the old broken records of bank bashing and leadership speculations are played to bore the people even more. I do not agree with many things Julia Gillard does, but the is still the best of a bad lot.
Beat Odermatt | 21 February 2012


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