Farewell Ms Gillard – I’m not sad to see you go

Last night, a Twitter critic accused me of consistently undermining Julia Gillard when I should have showed solidarity.

Twitter Rock

My first response was that he was overestimating my power to bring down a Prime Minister with my modest blog.

But, his criticism raises some interesting points.

I am a woman – a feminist. Does that necessarily mean that I am required to support a Prime Minister who happens to be a woman? What if the woman was Julie Bishop? Should I throw my support behind she-of-the-death-stare in order to keep my membership of ‘the sisterhood’?

Like many other people, I was delighted to see our first female Prime Minister come to power.  I even wrote her a letter.

While many were outraged by the method in which Ms Gillard despatched the  incumbent PM, I was less perturbed than most. Politics is a dirty game. Rudd obviously had serious flaws and had lost the confidence of his party.  There was probably no ideal way for Gillard to succeed Rudd, and, if her party thought she could do a better job, who I was I to argue? Perhaps I spent too much time in the corporate world to be surprised or even offended by political skullduggery.

I will admit to a little frisson of excitement that, in addition to being a woman, Gillard was also open about her atheism.

Let me set the record straight here. I did not expect, or even want, Ms Gillard to be an ‘atheist Prime Minister’ – any more than I want Tony Abbott to be a ‘Catholic Prime Minister’. I did hope, though, that she would be a secular Prime Minister, making decisions based on utilitarian considerations, evidence and rational argument.

And yet, with almost indecent haste, our new PM fronted up to the Australian Christian Lobby to insist that, despite her atheism, her morals sprang from her Baptist upbringing. The implication was that atheist morality was, somehow, inferior. Further, selling out the mental health of Australia’s most important asset – our children – the new PM pledged her continued support (and millions of dollars in tax-payers’ funds) to the National School Chaplaincy Program.

Equal marriage? We soon learned that, despite living in a defacto relationship with her partner, Ms Gillard did not support same-sex marriage because of her ‘traditional values’. WTF????  It was an oft repeated mantra that just never rang true.

More believable, was the hypothesis that her Prime Ministership had been secured at the cost of a deal with fundamentalist Christians within the Labor Party – notably Joe de Bruyn and Don Farrell. In other words, she had sold out her principles for power.

In August 2012, Ron Williams took the government to the High Court of Australia to challenge the funding of the National School Chaplaincy Program. He was successful. The High Court ruled the Federal government’s funding of the scheme unconstitutional. But, instead of accepting the authority of the High Court, Gillard’s government rushed through dodgy legislation to allow its continued funding and keep the Christian right happy. It was a cynical, dishonest move which thumbed its nose at the authority of the High Court and will necessitate Williams – an ordinary citizen – going back to court in another action to insist that the Commonwealth abide by the original decision.

Earlier this year, Ms Gillard’s government cut welfare to single parents in a Quixotic attempt to balance her government’s budget. Ignoring warnings from no less an authority than the UN that the cuts potentially violated several human rights conventions to which Australia is a signatory – including the elimination of discrimination against women – Ms Gillard defended the move which has brought incredible hardship to many women who are doing it tough and simply trying to do best they can for their families.

And then there is the Gillard government’s lurch to the right on asylum seekers. The ‘Pacific solution’ is no solution at all.

Women like me who have faced misogyny all our lives were buoyed by Ms Gillard’s now famous tirade against Mr Abbott, but, in the context of her refusal to fight for equal rights for gay women, the human rights of female asylum seekers and their families, and her insistence on making life inestimably harder for single mothers, her conviction lost much of its shine.

It’s true. Julia Gillard is a strong, intelligent, hard-working woman who has probably been as good a Prime Minister as any. Under incredibly difficult circumstances she implemented some extremely important policies – the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Gonski education reforms, and a price on carbon, among them. She deserves credit for that and has earned her place in history.

But, should this, and the fact that she is a woman, exempt her from criticism? I don’t believe so.

I am quite willing to admit that Julia Gillard was dealt with more harshly in the press because she is a woman. She certainly did not deserve the shocking, personal, misogynistic crap that was dealt to her by various dinosaurs of the rat-bag right and I spoke out against that, too.

This is a blog. I am an opinion writer, not a journalist. It is, I think, very clear that the opinions stated here reflect my own particular interests. On  the issues that really mattered to me, personally, Gillard did not deliver.

I never criticised Ms Gillard for ‘knifing Rudd’. I never criticised her because she is a woman – why would I? But, neither did I give her a free pass because she is a woman. Frankly, I don’t think she would have wanted that kind of patronising concession from anyone.

Some people have criticised me for attacking Ms Gillard, arguing that commentaries like mine will make it easier for Tony Abbott’s party to win at the next election. I think they massively over-estimate my influence!

But, even so, should Gillard really be exempt from criticism because Abbott is worse? Should we ‘keep mum’ over important issues like equal marriage, gay youth suicide, professional mental health support for school students, separation of church and state, respect for the High Court and more than a subsistence income for single mums because Gillard performed well in other areas? I don’t think so.

This month, it became increasingly clear that the ‘Gillard brand’ was irrevocably damaged. She was, for all intents and purposes, unelectable.

Perhaps if she had not sold her soul to the likes of de Bruyn and Farrell we might have seen the ‘real Julia’ and things might have been different. Sure, the mainstream media can take some of the credit – perhaps most of the credit – for her political demise. But, Julia had a hand in it too. We do no credit to strong, female leaders if we depict them, one-dimensionally,  as the hapless victims of a predatory male-dominated press-gallery.

And now, Rudd has returned the favour and mercilessly manoeuvred to remove an incumbent PM from office. Ms Gillard has no basis on which to complain about that. She gave that strategy her imprimatur when she did the same thing to Rudd. That’s politics.

Am I ‘ecstatic’ that Rudd has won the long game? Not particularly. I readily accept the possibility that he is a grumpy, irascible, foul-mouthed individual with a charismatic veneer and a chaotic management style. It may be that Rudd’s only saving grace is that he can charm the electorate out of a landslide victory for Abbott. If he wins the election and then gets knifed by Bill Shorten, it may be the best outcome all round.

I’m sorry if my pragmatism sounds shocking. But, ultimately, the ALP’s only goal must be to win the forthcoming Federal election or, at least,  not to lose it in a landslide.  For a variety of complex reasons – including ‘the misogyny factor’ – Gillard was simply not capable of achieving either of those goals in the short time before the election.  Whether or not that’s her fault is, frankly, academic. As far as I can see, installing Rudd was the only viable option.

That doesn’t mean that Rudd will be a good PM. It doesn’t mean a Rudd-led ALP will be a good government. But, hopefully, there is enough talent behind the scenes in the ALP to keep Rudd in check and keep the Australian boat afloat.

To give credit where it’s due, Abbott and his team, no doubt, would be good economic managers. But the ALP has also done a good job under extremely difficult circumstances. And, on the issues that matter to me – separation of church and state, equality, social justice, asylum seekers, human rights, reproductive rights, et cetera – Abbott, frankly, scares the shit out of me.

Let’s be honest. A Rudd government won’t be perfect on any of those issues either. But I have more confidence that the ALP will deliver kinder, more just, social policies than the Coalition. If the Greens gain the balance of power in the Senate, that provides an extra safe-guard.

After Gillard refused to back equal marriage I swore that I would not vote for any party whose leader did not support marriage equality. To me, a Prime Minister who does not believe in the basic human right of all citizens to equality under the law does not deserve the highest position in our nation. I would not have voted for a Gillard-led Labor government for that reason – regardless of any other policies. Equality is the bedrock upon which a democracy is built. A Prime Minister who would sell that out for power is not one I could respect nor cast a vote for.

Rudd is a late-comer in his support of marriage equality and, while I may doubt his motives and sincerity, while I may cringe at the theological gymnastics he performed to reconcile his new position with his faith, he has stuck his rainbow flag in the sand and that’s good enough for me.

I am not a ‘Labor voter’ or a ‘Greens voter’ or even a ‘Liberal hater’.  I am an advocate for equal rights, social justice,  human dignity and a secular state. Ultimately, I will vote for the party or parties that support the foundations upon which my political beliefs are constructed.

I don’t presume to tell anyone else how to vote. My role as a writer and blogger is simply to call the shots as I see them and let my readers make their own choices. I try to do that responsibly and fairly.

I refute the allegation that I had any hand in ending Ms Gillard’s Prime Ministership but, I couldn’t say, honestly, that I’m sad to see her go.

Chrys Stevenson

27 thoughts on “Farewell Ms Gillard – I’m not sad to see you go

  1. Stuart MacLeod

    To me Julia Gillard was the atheist PM who twice declined an invitation from the President of the AFA to speak at the International Atheist Convention when it was held in Australia, but she accepted an invitation to speak at an ACL meeting.

  2. John Turner

    I too was disappointed by Julia Gillard’s attitude to the Christian Lobby and chaplain funding.
    I am not convinced that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey et al would be good economic managers. The GFC was brought to us courtesy of neo-liberal politicians and relaxed regulation of banks and other financial institutions.
    From 1998 John Howard was advised by the then Governor of the Reserve Bank that regulation of banks should be tightened and that capital flows needed to be restricted.
    The present problems of the Euro area and the UK are not likely to be cured by austerity programs and the QE of the USA is not providing adequate growth in employment nor repairing or improving the infrastructure which is generally in a deteriorated condition.

    1. AnthropoidApe

      Indeed, there is no particular reason to think that “Abbott and his team, no doubt, would be good economic managers”.

  3. abbienoiraude

    Phew! Wow!
    Thank you Chrys for standing up and speaking out for your own values, your own sense of right, for social justice.
    As usual you have touched a centre in me that rings true. I may diverge a little from your ‘take’ on Rudd but that is fine by me.
    I too was disappointed in those very things you numbered by our atheist PM. I did not like how she came to be the PM originally for I wanted her to be our first female PM but ‘not like that’. I wanted her to be patient and wait the three years out and to take over ‘in time’.
    It took some time but gradually I accepted the situation but refused to dub her ‘St Julia’ like so many of my sisters for the very reasons you outline in your blog.
    I have no interest in voting for someone based on gender, race or philosophy. I study long and hard the policies and the vision each party/independent person has for our nation. Social justice being the first and foremost cornerstone of any decision. I will not like or vote for or support someone just because they are the same sex as me.

    I don’t have to even ‘like’ the person I see as best for the country. I have to like and trust in their policies. I didn’t ‘hate’ Julia and I don’t particularly ‘like’ Rudd….but when he speaks I can actually hear him. I like his use of language and his clarity of communications skills. I like his intent and his ability to cut through the bs of the Oppositions arguments.
    Fairness, equality and a voice for the least abled in our society matter to me first and foremost. Personality, not so much.
    Thank you for this brilliant piece. Thank you.

  4. Michael Barnett

    This bear from Melbourne is most definitely elated that Julia Gillard is no longer the Prime Minister of Australia for no other reason than because she refused to treat all Australians equally.

    As we turn the page and move on to the next chapter in Australian politics I am hopeful that the leader of the country will actually lead, rather than be dictated to by an intolerant vocal minority, and attempt to rectify the injustices that John Howard’s government implemented in 2004, assuming he survives the coming election.

  5. Paul

    To fail to criticise the PM when she makes a decision that goes against your principles would be hypocritical.,
    The other side who criticise her when she makes a decision which accords with their principles. Are incredibly hypocritical an deceptive.
    To support her just because she is a woman would be wrong and ridiculous.
    To hate her just because she is a woman is outrageous and I know there are plenty out there who unshakeably believe that a woman should never be in authority over a man. This is one reason why she had to go. I would prefer to have JG promoting, presenting and implementing Labor policies but to me the most important thing by far is the defeat of Abbott. So it seems that the best chance of achieving that is with Rudd as Labor leader. All other principles must be subject to the most important principle at this time for Australia. That Abbott must not be Prime Minister. For that principle I support Rudd as Labor leader coming into the next election.

  6. Al

    Thank you Chrys for separating and describing the issues beautifully.

    There has been too much muddying of the misogyny debate versus the political realities at play. Was Gillard the recipient of horrendous behaviour due to her gender – absolutely. Should her gender mean that she was immune to the same political dynamics and actions that placed her in the PM’s office – absolutely not.

    Gillard certainly can be praised for numerous achievements whilst navigating the rocky waters of a minority government. That didn’t win her many brownie points in my book for acting against equality and human rights on a number of important issues.

    Sadly, Gillard clearly went against her principles out of the desire to appease certain voter blocks. Supporting the ACL by acting against the protection of secular rights in public schooling was shameful.

    The most depressing thought is that the man most likely to take office at the next election has deliberately dumbed down the political discourse in this country, encouraged the climate for the kind of gender based treatment that Gillard was subjected to and is a walking definition of Machiavellian principles.

  7. eva

    Hear hear re Shorten.

    I too was mightily disappointed, gobsmacked actually, at Gillard’s stand on chaplains, but had no idea it might have to do with RR people in the party. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Re marriage, she is reported to have said “all you need is love”, meaning, I thought, a piece of paper saying you’re married is unnecessary for anyone, so why should gays want it too. But you say that too had to do with her RR upbringing. Once again, thanks.

      1. mike williams (@memeweaver)

        If an opposing politician made a statement about “traditional values”, then Labor would pick it apart in a minute. But they seem to think that it’s a satisfactory answer to trot out to the electorate.

        I’ve written to my local member Anthony Albanese about some of these issues, and don’t get a reply.

  8. Lady Jewels Diva

    I always have a problem with the way some people get things in life. She got that job by knifing Kevin in the back and that turned me off right from the start.

    She continued to waste the money this country did not have, tax us, take money, and set up schemes that will either never come to fruition or take another five years to come to fruition with money we DON’T have.

    Accusing Tony Abbott of being a misogynist made me hate her guts with a passion when she herself has never been nice or polite to the opposition. and there is plenty of footage from the years to show she gave as good as she got. Yet what did she get? She got dislike from the opposition NOT because she was a woman but because she did THINGS we hated.

    We have been told in the last six months, and even by Kevin himself, that we should respect the house of the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister herself, and essentially get over ourselves and pull our heads out.

    I will NEVER respect someone who shows NO respect. Julia, Kevin, the whole Labor party HAS NOT shown respect to the Australian public, nor the Liberal Party, so I will NEVER show them respect.

    I have never watched her misogyny speech because at the time all I saw in the snippets on tv was nothing but a rabid dog, viciously biting the hands that fed her and kept her in that job. And recently, topping off that stupidity with crap about men in blue ties.

    Well Julia, a man in a blue tie screwed you back over. Everything she said and did made me hate her even more and I am so freakin’ glad she’s gone. As much as I don’t like Kevin, and hope he does not win the election, I’d rather see him than her.

    I do not believe in God, I believe the marriage law should be abolished, I don’t give a crap if someone is gay, people need to just live their life how they want and Julia can [CS: Deleted – I will not publish sentiments on this blog that I condemn coming from other quarters. This comment only barely made it through moderation]. Thank God she set the stipulation of whoever lost had to quit politics forever!

    Goodbye Julia, you are the weakest link!

  9. Glen Mcbride

    Bless you Prime ministers are never perfect – they please us and irritate us. On the whole she did many reaklkly goiod things – so I can forgive her. BUT BUT every time she opened her mouth, she lost a thousand voters – she talked like a parson or schoolmarm – she needed to learn all over how to talk to people. Anna Bligh could talk in a relaxed voice and ordinary OZZie voice – Julia hardly sounded human when she opened her mouth. I never turned off when she spoke as everyone else seemed to, but I had to concentrate to hear her and always felt irritated by her speaking. Sad. They had to sack her – there was no option. Of course I was irritated by her doing the religious job on our schools but perhaps the high court will now do something that will fix it better than any politician – and I think most pollies will be relieved to have it fixed for good.

    Keep up the good work – Of course sometimes you will hit disagreement – but that’s life Warmly Glen ________________________________________

  10. Peter J Watts

    An excellent analysis, not just because it substantially accords with my own views. I have not previously seen your blogs, however I await those in the future with keen anticipation.

  11. Eha

    I have read your posts awhile oft not commenting because of the inevitable time factor. I so agree with your analysis, am glad to have my own thoughts in print and may want to share with my lists during the weekend . . .

  12. Margaret

    I also agree with your analysis. The very last straw for me was her appearance on Kyle Sandilands. Thanks for your fabulous blogs. Keep telling it like it is!

  13. Team Oyeniyi

    I’m kind of in agreement and kind of not. I think you have presented a very balanced perspective and there are things I didn’t like too. The whole appearing to try to keep the religions happy bothered me greatly. But we do have the Royal Commission, so that is something.

    I think JG was very unfairly treated by the media. I hope we never see the likes of such nonsense again, but we might. Sexism doesn’t die an easy death, sadly.

    Also she wasn’t running the country by herself – by that I mean JG did have to “play politics” to at least get some of the progress she wanted.

    I do not believe we ever saw the “real Julia” and clearly her popularity suffered because of that. Clearly a strong woman, she should have been strong enough to tell the minders to “f-off”.

    My guess is Kevin won’t last long after the election, which ever way it goes.

    The saddest part of the whole damn thing is where are really good leaders in our two parties? JB, TA and SM are enough to make my hair curl. We’ve lost some good people with JG’s departure. Seems we have a bit of a drought of political talent, at least on the front benches.

    Not a lot of time for the new Treasurer, but of course I am well aware I am personally biased on that score, so I try to not think about him at all.

  14. Andrew Smith

    If I may borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll ‘What a clear way you have of putting things!’

    You have assembled, incisively analysed and now given voice to the numerous nagging sources of dissatisfaction that I (and no doubt others) have felt towards a government that we sincerely wanted to like and respect, but somehow in the end just couldn’t.

    And at the same time it was difficult to articulate reasons that sounded adequate to justify such strong feelings of dissatisfaction, especially when the only alternative (namely a Coalition government) was and is almost too alarming to contemplate.

    Thank you for your eloquent statement of a point of view which I am sure is shared (in sorrow rather than anger) by many people.

  15. Leon

    Hi Chrys, another great piece of research and writing – just love your work and am alway keen to see your next effort.
    I know you are keen on analysing Q&A performances, and wonder if you could make a comment on Sophie Mirabella’s parting shot last night, where she accused the ABC of providing more support to Labor than Rupert Murdoch provides to the LNP – an oft-repeated theme among so many LNP supporters who post comments in response to ABC political analysis, many of them completely rabid.
    As an ardent ABC supporter who fears reprisals against the ABC under a coalition government, I think it would be wonderful if you could mount one of your well-reasoned arguments to demonstrate that the ABC does a great job of providing balanced coverage, even under difficult conditions when motor-mouths like Sophie provide ample ammunition for bias..!!

  16. Vance

    Andrew Rock seems to have been unaware that secularists have a “longer game” that transcends the gender of individual politicians – even female Prime Ministers.

    1. Charlie Carter

      I had an email from Kevin Rudd today. He was telling me about the reforms he is going to make to ensure that elected leaders don’t get overthrown.
      I reminded him that Julia Gillard led The Labor Party to the last election, and that it is the Party that makes the rules, not Rudd.
      I am also reading ‘The Stalking of Julia Gillard” by Kerry-Anne Walsh.
      [CS: Comment removed – sorry Charlie, this may be true but it’s defamatory and neither you or I are qualified to make a psychological assessment of Mr Rudd], but this book spells out chapter and verse.
      Rudd lies with a facility, fluency and frequency that belies his ostentatious religiosity.[CS: I’m assuming that you mean that Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book suggests that “Rudd lies …” I’m leaving this in as commentary on the book, but it’s pushing the boundaries of what I’ll allow in comments.]

      I cannot continue to belong to a Party that allowed this to happen. Sure, Gillard made mistakes, but as the saying goes, it is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your arse in crocodiles.

      My fantasy projection for the political future is as follows;

      There is a hung Parliament after the election, with an independent (or two)
      Neither can stand Rudd.
      They negotiate with Abbott, but demand a Carbon scheme and the NBN.
      Abbott cannot agree, and his colleagues, not wanting a second term in the wilderness due to his lack of negotiating skills ditch him for Turnbull who really wanted both anyway.
      Abbott retires to the back bench in fury, and proceeds to ‘do a Rudd’ on Turnbull.
      Chaos ensues, the independents withdraw support, and the Government falls.

      The new leader Penny Wong leads Labor to victory, and moves into the Lodge with her partner.

      Abbott and his mate Cardinal Pell renounce their citizenship and migrate to the Vatican.

      1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Charlie, I’ve approved your comment but it’s sailing dangerously close to the wind of being defamatory. I’ve deleted one small section and made a comment against another. I may or may not agree with your observations but we can’t just fling around psychological diagnoses or claims of dishonesty without hard evidence. I hope you’ll understand. If you would rather I just removed the comment, I am happy to do this, but I hope you’ll accept the compromise.

      2. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Charlie, when I delete a comment about a politician on the basis that I find it defamatory and unsupported by an offical psychiatrist’s diagnosis (which is the only way you could get away with it), the response is not to post again making the same allegation. That’s the kind of behaviour that wastes my time, takes me away from doing other stuff and puts you at risk of getting blocked from commenting. I have unapproved your last comment and I’m not taking the time to edit it. Either repost without the ‘s’ word or go and do something else. Criticism is fine. Unsupported allegations have no place here.

        If you want to call Rudd names, go do it on your own blog.

    2. Stuart MacLeod

      Just when I thought I could forget about our first atheist PM and her curious relationship with the “less-than-liberal-ACL” and other religous folk … I read an article about her speaking at a Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints meeting where she was presented with some information about her family history. Setting aside the issue of the Mormons praying for and baptizing people who have long since deceased to increase their fold … it really irks me that Julia was twice invited to attend/speak/open the International Aethist Convention which was held on both occasions in Melbourne … but refused the invitation. I am definitely not sad to see her go although I am not overly thrilled about the come-back of Kevin Rudd either.

  17. Pingback: Gaynor ‘Gatsby’s’ his way into political oblivion | Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear | Garry Burns Anti Discrimination Activist Australia

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