Issue #8…24 June, 2013
Wonders never cease in Australian politics! On Saturday 22 June and for the first time since 15 October 1975 when then-Editor of the Melbourne Age (Graham Perkin) demanded that Gough Whitlam stand aside for the good of the Labor Party, the present Editor (Andrew Holden) has demanded another Labor Prime Minister, Juliar Gillard, do likewise. Holden must have known that he would give licence to others to come out making the very same demand…Mike Carlton, a Labor cheerbunny if ever there was one, in his SMH column (same day), Stephen Mayne in his Mayne Report (today) and Victorian Labor MLA, Kaye Darvenitza (also, today in The Age). But they’ll be the first of many. Surely. Holden’s very words for demanding that Juliar Gilllard stand aside, were: “in the interests of her party, the country and democracy”. It won’t eventuate, of course, because as the PM views it, she must soldier on for women’s rights; the gender card must be played to the nth degree.
Support for her newly-formed Labor Women for Juliar Gillard Fund has, from ALL accounts, been lukewarm but even prominent women on the Labor side of politics, leading Sisterhood lights e.g. Eva Cox, Wendy McCarthy, Jane Caro and Mary Delahunty have, this past week, condemned the PMs gender war games.
It is timely to make some evaluations of female prime ministers, past and present, because Australia’s ONLY female head-of-government has been a dumb-cluck – a woman who perpetually makes dreadful judgement calls. In this respect, The Age newspaper occasional guest columnist, Nick Galvin, asserted on 10 June:
“one thing is sure…there will be no Gillard era”.
Israel had a great Prime Minister in Golda Meir; the UK had a great Prime Minister in Maggie Thatcher; many would say that Indira Gandhi was a great Indian Prime Minister and Germany surely has a great current Prime Minister (Chancellor there) in Angela Merkel. But Canada only had one short-term (3 months or so) Prime Minister in Kim Campbell whilst New Zealand’s two female Prime Ministers (Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark) were mediocre and eminently forgettable. There have never been female heads-of-government in large countries e.g. America, Russia (Catherine was a Tsarina), China, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa and there probably won’t ever be. I won’t broach the South American continental experience apropos female heads-of-government because the point will be lost. And the lamentable point is this: female prime ministers are rare though not necessarily accidents of history. A lot of store/good will was invested in making a success of Australia’s first female head-of-government. And, irrespective of the way she came to the nation’s top job, she was given a more-than-fair go by the press and the pundits of the day. Her “honeymoon” might have lasted a good deal longer had she patiently waited before seeking “urgent” writs for a General Election. The trust the Australian people placed in her evaporated steadily over her 3+ years in Office due to incompetency, lies, deceit, hypocrisy, overpromising and underachieving on a grand scale and a perceived wholesale “trashing of the joint” – to put it mildly. The Electorate will never forgive her administration for running down the defence budget – to 1938 levels – and abysmally failing in the area of border security. Oh, YES indeed, The Juliar Gillard Australian Prime Ministership will be remembered by future-historians the same way contemporaries are viewing it: with sheer disgust and dismay. She has been ruinous, divisive and spitefully misandrist. And what Nick Galvin was saying, in extrapolation, is essentially this: the Australian Electorate won’t ANY TIME SOON vote for a female prime minister…a generation and more of talented Australian women can be expected to, most unwillingly, forego any aspiration of reaching the pinnacle of Australian Democracy: Parliamentary Leadership of their chosen majoritarian political party. The ‘glass ceiling’ shall unavoidably return.
The PMs Treasury Bench time is one thing. Her pre-parliamentary days are, rapid-quick, catching up on her. The Commentariat, as one, believes she’ll “do time” for her complicit part in the AWU/Slater & Gordon/Bruce Wilson affair. The Victorian Major Fraud and Extortion Squad of Detectives couldn’t take the risk of being accused of politicising events. Nevertheless, that Force is painstakingly and thoroughly assembling a compelling case against the PM [4 indictable criminal charges, I understand] and this will be presented to the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions sometime immediately after the 2013 Federal Election is decisively concluded. Make no mistake, it is a well-known fact from the traps that the PM is under serious investigation in the matter. The AWU/S & G/BW affair is the proverbial big and mostly silent ‘Elephant in the Room’ – mentioned mainly by conscientious, indefatigable investigative journalists e.g. Hedley Thomas, Mark Baker, Nick Cater, Tim Blair and Grace Collier.
To the opinion polls…well, the Labor-leaning Morgan Polling organisation gave one last thrust at boosting Labor’s stocks (see Independent Australia, an unapologetic left-wing newsletter for 21 May) trying to show that the LNP 2PP vote was down one point whilst the Labor 2PP vote was up one point – but nothing since! I suspect it’ll stay that way because Labor’s vote is ONLY going one way (primary or 2PP) and that’s Southwards [confirmed in the latest Newspoll, published today in the Australian).
Then, on 27 May in The Australian, Labor Ministers Stephen Conroy, Anthony Albanese and David Bradbury ALL tried to pooh-pooh the fact that their own party officials were in possession of research which clearly showed that the Victorian Seats of Corangamite, La Trobe and Deakin could not be “saved” – likewise the NSW Seat of Lindsay.
The PM herself lost more ground with the Sisterhood when she endorsed a male factional warlord – David Feeney – for preselection in the red-ribbon, safest-of-safe Victorian Labor-held Seats, Batman, (being vacated by Martin Ferguson, a very capable and honourable Labor politician) over more-than-deserved female candidates: Ged Kearney and Mary-Anne Thomas. The AFR article of 1/2 June by Gemma Daley gives more of the picture but the irony is – with so much internecine disruption in Labor ranks pro tem – the Greens candidate, Alexandra Bhathal (who came a respectable second in Batman in the 2010 General election) may get over the line this time and defeat whoever Labor preselects.
The Poll of Polls (The Insiders program on ABC1, 2 June) reported a steadfast 55%:45% LNP/Labor 2PP trade-off thus no budging, virtually, for five straight months. Summation: A clear-cut conservative wipeout of the woeful Labor govt.
Essential Media’s latest data (published 4 June) went further…Essential concluded that EVERY Seat bar Griffith (K-Rudd’s Seat) in Queensland would be lost.
Also, along with the above-named Victorian Seats, Chisholm and Isaacs would be lost. Translated: the new 2PP trade-off would read LNP 58% versus Labor 42% equating to a 112 Seat to 38 Seat victory by the Coalition. So K-Rudd would, effectively, become the MHR for Queensland! But I wouldn’t be so sure of even this outcome. Why? Because former AMA President, amiable Bill Glasson, the endorsed LNP candidate for Griffith, is diligently blitzing the Seat whilst cock-sure K-Rudd struts around the country causing mischief in his megalomaniacal fashion. Glasson could solve Labor’s #1 problem if he was victorious over K-Rudd. At LuxBet, punters today could get the excellent odds of $25 to $1 on Glasson.
On another plane, Heath Aston (The National Times, 17 June) opined that Pauline Hanson could make a return to the Federal Parliament – to the Senate – from the State of NSW in Election 2013 with Bob Katter’s and Clive Palmer’s parties’ preferences. Not even master preference orchestrator of minor & micro parties, Glenn Druery, could pull this off! Perhaps in Queensland, her home State, but definitely NOT in New South Wales where, per several attempts, wanna-be-again Hanson hasn’t even been able to make it to the Legislative Council.
The 17 June Fairfax-Nielsen Poll proved conclusively for Peter Hartcher, The SMH Senior Political Editor: “The PMs venture in to the gender wars has been an unmitigated disaster with male voters alienated and women voters unmoved”.
Last word for now to Labor’s former and long-term pollster, Rod Cameron (The Age, 6 June): “I predict an epic disaster for Labor at the 14 September General election – one that threatens Labor’s existence”. He could be right! Very Right!!
In PollWatch #9 I shall assess where it’s AT for The Australian Greens. They’re at the political crossroads. Watch this Space.