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Dec 13, 2011

A dumb reshuffle puts spotlight back on Gillard's woes

Julia Gillard's federal cabinet reshuffle -- promoting Bill Shorten and Mark Arbib while sacking good ministers -- again demonstrates her lack of judgment and fragility.

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Is this the most nonsensical, craven, plain dumb reshuffle ever devised by a prime minister? It’s hard to recall a worse one. There was one of John Howard’s when he gave Wilson Tuckey a junior ministry — but Howard was a prime minister with authority, political nous and a firm grip on his party.

Julia Gillard has none of those things.

A bare two weeks ago, Labor had real momentum. It had finished the parliamentary year on a high with the Slipper coup and the mining tax bills through the House of Reps, put the seal on Gillard’s “year of decision and delivery”. Attention was turning to Tony Abbott’s relentless negativity and his need to change his tactics over the summer break. Some were talking about the need for a reshuffle of the Coalition frontbench.

But in that time Gillard has brought Labor’s momentum to a halt and wrenched the political spotlight back onto her tensions with Kevin Rudd and her own lack of authority and judgment.

All of it has been unforced and unnecessary. No one made Gillard omit Rudd from her conference speech. No one forced her into being rolled by her own faction on gay marriage. And Nick Sherry’s departure could have been dealt with via a minor redistribution of responsibilities. Instead, there’s yesterday’s mess, only necessary if you ignore the 700 words of pointless blather about the economy from the prime minister with which she introduced the reshuffle yesterday and agree this is all about rewarding Bill Shorten and Mark Arbib and punishing those considered less than enthusiastic Gillard supporters.

There are a couple of good points. Shorten will do a better job in industrial relations than Chris Evans. Shorten has improved in parliament since he was first promoted into the ministry, when every trip to the dispatch box induced chortling mockery from the opposition benches. Business might find that its incessant bleating about the need for IR reform, untainted by actual evidence of any kind, meets a sterner response now than it did from Evans. Nicola Roxon probably can’t be much worse as attorney-general than Robert McClelland. Mike Kelly is back in Defence where he belongs.

But the creation of a super-portfolio of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education under Greg Combet — because Shorten couldn’t get something without Combet getting something — is unbalanced and unlikely to improve the government’s focus on any of those portfolio issues. Arbib has been given significant additional responsibilities despite displaying no remarkable talent as minister for sport. Robert McClelland’s make-work cabinet portfolio of “emergency management” is risible. Were they even trying when they came up with that?

Then there’s the treatment of Kim Carr, hitherto the key minister on the most significant domestic economic issue facing the government, the impact of the resources boom on manufacturing. Despite his own strong views on industry assistance, Carr oversaw measures that avoided the blatant protectionism now being espoused by the opposition and the government interventionism being demanded by manufacturing unions. His reward after a difficult year is a humiliating demotion, dispatched to the outer ministry with a bodgied-up role as minister for manufacturing and defence materiel. He’ll probably come into the ministerial wing one day and find his office has been moved down into the basement.

Shabby stuff from Gillard.

But what impresses about the reshuffle is not its ineptitude and grubbiness so much as the lack of authority displayed by Gillard. This is so obvious, she may as well have created a ministry “for ministers I can’t sack” and stuck McClelland, Carr and Evans in there. Peter Garrett too, according to rumours. Having decided to wield the knife, Gillard appears to have been discombobulated when ministers declined to politely turn their backs so she could stick the blade in, or their factional protectors intervened. The result is a bloated cabinet of 22, permanent testimony to Gillard’s lack of authority.

Nor does the reshuffle address the government’s two long-term problems – the tension between Gillard and Rudd, and its inability to convince voters of its economic credentials. At the centre of the latter is Wayne Swan’s lack of cut-through, despite being an excellent treasurer. When Lindsay Tanner was finance minister, he could play the attack role traditionally required of the treasurer. Penny Wong is a nonentity in the role. The only threat she poses to opponents is putting them to sleep. Together, Swan and Wong mean the opposition — despite being frighteningly incompetent on economics — is winning the argument right from the start.

Nor is there anything to cause Rudd to lose any sleep in yesterday’s events. If anything, he’ll be encouraged by a display of fragility and poor judgment from the prime minister.

It’s as if, having stoically endured all manner of adverse conditions throughout the year without flinching, Gillard has stumbled the moment the pressure finally came off. Abbott must be unable to believe his luck.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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203 thoughts on “A dumb reshuffle puts spotlight back on Gillard’s woes

  1. C@tmomma

    I really am thinking about not renewing my Crikey subscription, if this is the quality of the bilgewater it is going to be going on with, from it’s so-called ‘Chief Political Reporter’.
    Did Bernard look through the bottom of an empty glass of the increasingly-expensive plonk he likes to drink before spewing this vomitus back up onto his keyboard?
    Not one mention of the fact that Kim Carr was demoted out of the Cabinet, and I would have added if I was Julia Gillard, “Don’t let the door hit your fat arsk on the way out”, because he had been found to be the Cabinet Leaker. And, not only that but he was part of the vanguard to replace an effective and competent, not shambolic, Bernard, leader of the government, Julia Gillard, with the megalomaniacal Kevin Rudd, which the collective amnesia of the Press Gallery is encouraging in the wider community. Why? So the Canberra Peanut Gallery can feel their oats again next year and cause another Labor Prime Minister to be deposed at their urging? Only after they have built Kevin Rudd up again, will they then use the remaining time until the next election to knock ‘Kevin O’Lemon’ down again. All the while allowing a truly incompetent bunch of duplicitous hypocrites, in the form of the self-confessed liar-led Abbott Coalition, to skate on by to victory. Which would amount to the greatest dereliction of duty of any bunch of Australian journalists in our history.
    They, and Bernard, and Crikey, should be ashamed. However, it seems that the first lesson you learn when you descend into the bowels of the Press Gallery in Canberra, is how to be a shameless liar. Just like that other former journalist, Tony Abbott.
    I repeat, I am seriously considering not renewing my Crikey subscription if standards of journalistic objectivity do not improve. And I do not mean the switch has to be flicked to tongue slobbering arsk-licking of everything the Gillard government says and does. Just a bit more scrutiny directed where it is justified. And an offer of one extra month of this garbage makes no difference to my decision-making. I can get this sort of putrescant Coalition sycophancy and Labor government automatic derision for the people much cheaper elsewhere.

  2. Acidic Muse

    For the second day in a row, we’re subjected to Bernard’s foam tinged ranting about the unfairness of Kim Carr’s demotion without any mention the elephant in the room – Carrs recent leaks to the media on Cabinet discussions around asylum seeker policy

    Kim Carr wasn’t “knifed” as Bernard boldly shrieked in his headline yesterday, he was simply demoted for what many would agree has been a fairly lacklustre performance in his portfolio compounded his recent Cabinet leaks on asylum seeker policy. Instead of any balanced analysis of this, we’re subjected to Bernard’s selective reporting of anti Gillard Canberra gossip. Whether he’s pitching for better paid a job with the Murdoch Mafia or simply playing his part in Kevin Rudd relentless attempts to destabilize this government is open to conjecture but either way this kind of shabby, hysteria based journalism does Crikey no credit at all

    Bill Shorten is an immensely talented politician whose elevation is clearly justified on it’s own merits, as is the trust Gillard has invested in stellar performers like Tanya Plibersek, Greg Combet and Nicola Roxon.

    Doubtless the more self obsessed Australian journalists will continue to pedal this dumbed down narrative of negativity around faceless men, tribal internecine warfare and midnight assassination – it requires less cognitive capacity than surgically scrutinizing the governments policy agenda in the context of our national interest and makes Australian politics sound almost as interesting as Big Brother to the brain-dead masses.

    Our only saving grace is that the steely, consensus building Julia Gillard is currently Prime Minister instead of that megalomaniac technocrat Rudd, whose obsessive narcissism would eat him alive in the face of such relentless criticism from those self aggrandising cannibal clowns who make up most of the Canberra press (peanut) gallery

  3. ronin8317

    In reply to to the claim that the sea level was higher in 1910, not according to CSIRO.


    In regard to the bar bil for NBN, 15K for 72 people + spouses is actually pretty low. The prices being quotes is far too low for most bars in Sydney : you need to double it at least.

  4. John64

    History quiz: What happened first?

    1. The state’s legal recognition of marriage.

    2. People getting married in wedding ceremonies.

    If you answered 1, you fail – go back to school. Marriage wasn’t “legally” recognised (and never actually needed to be legally recognised) by the state for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. Marriage actually pre-dates recorded history.

    There’s no law that prevents one person getting on bended knee and asking another person of the same sex (or their dog for that matter) to marry them.

    There’s no law preventing those people, once committed, from sending out invitations to all their friends inviting them to their “wedding” ceremony.

    There’s no law that prevents the couple from exchanging vows and rings during this ceremony.

    There’s no law (at least not these days) preventing those people from consummating that marriage on the wedding night.

    There’s no law preventing those people from living together.

    There’s even no law preventing a same sex couple from raising children together (though there are laws around how they might “acquire” those children).

    The only law there is, is that it won’t be recognised by the state. That’s it. All other legal implications of the union can be handled through a Power of Attorney (bank accounts, decisions when it comes to health-care etc…)

    Until same sex couples actually start getting married – why /would/ the state recognise it?

    Stop asking for the state to give you something like Oliver Twist begging for more gruel.

  5. The Pav

    Dear John 64

    Forgetting the relevance to the topic I really think you miss the point.

    Back in the old days lots of things happened such as slavery and so on. We’ve moved on and become a society of laws.

    When I married my wife ( still amrried faithfully 30 years on, three kids mortgage the whole nine yards) the law automatically recognised certian things. Property rights, inheritance rights, authority for medical treatment etc.

    The argument is for same sex unions to have equality. Why should they have they have to fill out a plethora of paper work and deeds when the simple act of recognition is legally available.

    Iwas fairly ambivalent about this issue until I read the story of a partneship where one was ailing and the partner couln’t take responsibility for treatment. An estranged and disapporoving sister got the authority an ran roughshod over the wishes of the couple.

    OK so they should have had some legal document in place but they didn’t think of it, probably like 99.9999% of the population didn’t and why should they. Let;s face it most people don’t even make a valid will.

    I would hate for anybody other than my wife to be making decisions about me if I was incapable and vice versa.

    That’s the kind of injustice & inequality I believe is wrong and will vote to remove.

    What has happened is the past , we should note it , learn from it and moce on otherwise we will never progress. The first time for anything is a precedent.

    Then you state “Until same sex couples actually start getting married – why /would/ the state recognise it?”

    Well they are getting married so by your argument the state should recognise it,

  6. Thorn

    Isn’t is odd that people such as Suzanne Blake continue to go on about this Govenement being ‘inept’, when all the evidence points to an entirely different reality. ( the recent blogg on “Australian Exceptionalism” is a great example of how the truth is avoided by the governments crtitics)

    It is as if by continually repeating the same crap that Abbott does about the Government’s supposed incompetence they think that it might eventually come true. Kind of like Goebbel’s ‘tell a lie often enough’ etc.

    BK is fixated on the politics of Canberra and not enough on the results. I have voted Labor more often than not, but to me it is not just them being in office that matters. If they can get enough decent policy legislated, it does not matter that much if they loose next time. After all there will always be swings this way and that in Australian politics. That is unless Abbott is still the leader of the Liberal’s. If that is the case then the social fabric of this country is in real peril. Not only has he pledged to turn the clock back on important policy areas but he has no plan at all and zero interest in anything other than being in power.

    A Government should be measured upon what good it has done, and Abbott would undoubtedly try to emulate Howard and do nothing. In a decade Howard did not introduce one item of Social Policy that I can think of except crazy stuff that gave welfare to the middle classes. In fact the only valuable piece of Liberal social policy ever I can think of was the referendum giving equal rights to Aborigines.

    On top of that Howard did his level best to extinguish the things that made this country special: the natural sense of justice, the fair go for all, the empathy with people not so fortunate as we are, the willingness to sacrifice a little so everyone could live that bit better. The drying up of the relative funding to public health and education while pushing rebates for private institutions was a classic example of that.

    Just being in power is nothing if nothing is achieved, and yet it is this that the media continually focuses upon. This minister, that leader, those ‘faceless men’ …. who gives a shit really.

    Whatever you might want to say about this Government, they have done an exceptional job with the economy and have passed, or about to pass, really valuable legislation that will benfit this country far into the future. I would prefer one term of doing, than four terms of treading water.

  7. The Pav


    My current affluent postion testifies to my business success.

    I started as six year old in the family shop.

    Studied. Helped dad build the single shop into the largest chain of its typ in the state. Left went off on my own, laboured, did welding , care giver in an aged home,then joined a large company became a senior manger..made sh*t loads of dosh and retired early. Got bored so now I use my skills an industry for the betterment of society, even for you Suzanne.

    I think that’s an adequate CV. Given your increasingly demented outporings & regular errors & inconsistancies I would reckon that stacks up against anything youi might offer,. In any event none of that is particularly relevant to the argument only the validity of my assertions. Which I note you have at any time to make one relevant or coherrent point of rebuttal yet are more than willing to peddle lies and falsehoods.

    I actually believethe NBN Co does have a Business Plan ( BTW Shouting doesn’t make you right) I think you might be getting confused with the alleged need for a CBA.

    As to that I merely cite the case of when the PMG put telephone lines in originally. Bet there wasn’t a CBA or even a business plan & that the initial take up rates were miniscule but I would guess that we’re pretty glad they did put lines in.

    As is usual with your type you have a cargo cult metality & have latched on the idea of a CBA as some mystical holy grail. Don’t forget even if they did do a CBA your response would be to deny its validity. Its nation building, should have been done years ago and the risks of not doing it clearly outweigh the risks of doing it.

    There wasn’t one for roads, railsways,airports , schools, hospital, TV, satellites, Universities, Sewrage systems? There are so many cases I can’t even begin to name them all

  8. The Pav

    Dear SB

    “If you are a registered shareholder, you can ask what you like at the AGM. I know at times you dont get a chance, and that is wrong, but you can ask”

    Theoretically correct but just try it sometime.

    “The issues with Australia public and large private companies is that the controlling votes is usually held by a few big funds, and they are lazy and dont vote, or they vote for resolution for fear of upsetting the Board and not bene given access to confidential briefings – This is a rort and the asleep inept incompetent ASIS should stamp it out”

    Sort of right & in part I agree. I would note however the the industry super funds are somewhat more active & demanding which in part accounts for their better performance. That the commercial funds are asleep and not held accountable is just another instance of the democratic failure so thank you for supporting me in this. I note that you consider big business is incompetent and in need of strong regulation yet curiously enough these are the same people you consider democratic. I suspect you support Abbotts call for less public servants yet you want the ASIS to do more………A couple more of the logical disconnects that you so frequently do.

    “The NBN is a wholly owned Government organisation and every cent they spend is taxpayer dollars.’ Yup but that doesn’t mean it’s not commercial and what’s more I would be willing to bet that I have more input intoi the NBN a a voter that I would as a shareloder of BHP=B

    “Incompetent, foul mouthed Conroy and the other criminals, corrupt people and incompetent fools in the ALP have no ides how to wisely spend our money. Looks at the BER, Insulation, Green Loans, Solar Panels waste.”

    Incompetent – as opposed to Abbot who at the election was exposed as not even understanding his own policy

    Foul mouthed- Well I supposed he could have said Sh*t Happens when peol, die but I agree he shouldn’t of said although I doubt its going to corrupt any kids. Might I suggest it could be a case of

    “And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
    Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.”

    I would suggest that you cease slandering people & I am somewhat surprised your comments passed moderation. What you have written is probaly actionable, is not based on any reason or fact and far exceeds what might be regarded as the rough and tumble of public discourse. I susoect that you can’t recognise your error as you are clearly brain washed into your position.

    Or perhaps its just your sneaky way to get Crikey into trouble. Either way they are dispcable comments but only to be expected from one such as you.

    As to the Solar panels, BER etc. I would refer you to the official and impartial reports that contradict your perverted view of reality.

    I notice you haven;t responded to a previous post when I cheerfully dispatched your tripe to the boundry thereby conceding victory to the voice decency and reason. ie me

  9. The Pav

    No worries, Davi Hand

    I’m used to it. I think the phrase “pearls before swine” might apply.

    At least I can have a ratioanal debate with you and insult & invective is not your stock in trade. I also see we agree that people shouldn’t threaten to cancel subscriptions so at least we have that in common

    I agree the NBN does represent a risk. Any commercial activity does. ( A ship is safe in harbour but then that’s not what ships are built for)I also agree that Wireless is a competitor of sorts. Despite this my reading is that there will need to be the kind of service that the NBN will provide. I think the greatest risk is not doing it.

    The spectrum is not unlimited, there will be issues of security, relaibility, volume, integritythat the NBN will be better at. My internall wireless connection went down in a thunderstom recently. Exposuer to atmospherics is an issue.In Crikey a few months back there was quite a good item that pointed out the deficiencies & limitations of wireless

    Again on a risk basis, if NBN works/doesn’t work we have the back up of WiFi and vice versa. Eggs ( pretty expensives one I agree) in basket type of thing
    Yeah maybe wireless is newer technology but so what. The old copper network has done so much more than originally intended. The NBN will develop in way we can’t imagine.

    I don’t believe that the TV comparison is flawed. TV faced competition ( radio, books, film , live shows as the old technology then the new tecjh of VCR/DVD internet yet people still buy TVs) and yet despite the huge capital cost (purchase TV) & ongoing costs ( remember TV licenses) from an initially slow beginning the take up rate exploded.

    I think you are being overly cynical regarding the commercial structure. Sure they don’t mind the effect you speak of but this is more a reflection on the poor standard of debate and the obsession that any debt is bad which seems to inhibit reasoned discussions and hence lead to various contrivances, Just an unfortunate fact of the world we live in.

    But structured as is it should facilitate the exit strategy and avoid the catasrophe as that which happened with the Telstra sale.

    As I said previously a trial roll out makes sense so that ‘s going to happen anyway. The smart politics is doing it in Windsor’s electorate. Nothing wrong with being smart.

    I do have reservations about the NBN but on what I have read & understood I beive on balance that it is the way to go. I am sure there are going to be problems/stuff ups.etc. What large program doesn’t but I believe ultimately it will be seen as a valued project and something that had to be done. I can think of many projects that were decried in theirinfancy yet are now regard as icons.


  10. Edward James

    @ The Pav & Geomac. Hardly off topic people! The Bernard Keane by line is about Gillard’s woes. But hey its nice to get some feed back. Craig Thomson another Labor political shonk is certainly one of Gillard’s woes. The Prime Minister has told the Parliament she thinks he is doing a fine job representing his constituency. That continues to reflect poorly on her and the Labor Party. I don’t think Thomson should resign people. I think the Labor Party which he continues to bring into disrepute should have the balls to expel him! And be dammed. I note there is a long line of Labor Party members who have brought the Party into disrepute, how many have been expelled? Look at the piss weak performance of NSW Labor Leader John Robertson suspending not expelling Ian Macdonald after big noting himself on ABC 7 30. Your comment has been published:
    Many voters heard John Robertson on 7 30 NSW telling viewers what he would do about Ian Macdonald and anyone else. I don’t care that he knows no shame when it comes to those personal values he brings to the Parliamentary process, after the Labor party only suspended Ian Macdonald! Labor has proven itself to be “weak as ” after it has kept a string of elected representatives in the party long after they have been exposed bringing Labor into disrepute. Craig Thomson is another political problem we the people have considered these reps and found them unworthy. The fact Labor refuses to see the damage they do to the party. Says more about the short comings of the Labor party than those bits of dead wood they continue to support at any cost. Edward James
    To view your comment online go to:

  11. The Pav

    Dear Ed,

    I made the comment about dodging the question before I realised you had answered it. An oversight for which I appologised. This means what I said was redundant, wrong etc etc.

    BTW isn’t an “anonymous politician” an oxymoron? I think the term I used was professional politician. It would appear I was on the money there given you seem to be running for office in Gosford.

    As to the rest of your post quite frankly it mystifies me & I don’t follow your point.

    If you are saying the ALP should expel members who bring it into disrepiute . Sure I don’t have a problem with this but again why is it only the ALP that you call to this standard? And how is this push polling? The connection you make completely escapes me?

    I’m gald you are involved in council elections but so what? How is that a response to my question?Are you endorsed by any particular party? I certainly wasn’t aware of your public persona & as far as I was concerned “Edward James ” was as close to your name as The Pav is to mine. Curioulsy enough the events in Gosford , while no doubt of vital interest to the Gosfordians are totally unknown to me. I’m sure you hold my local council elections in the same regard.

    I don’t think we are your readers ( but its nice to know you care for us so) I think we are Crikey readers & why would you assume I would be aware of your writings elsewhere?

    Sure I can publish my name & address LIKE a politicain but I’m not one so I don’t. Part of the reason is also because I have a very recognisable name & I have a family member in the public eye ( not politics I hasten to add) & I don’t one anybody to confuse the two of us. My nom de plum allows me to express what I think without causing any difficulties.

  12. Edward James

    Jesus H Christ THE PAV I answered your push poll question @ Posted Thursday, 15 December 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink THE PAV all our readers can see you ignored my answer three times Pav.
    When you understood the article was about “the woes” You labeled me as ” like a professional politician ” which my readers understand. And so should you based on the information I have provided you and any interested readers to access here
    Politicians are the very thing I despise PAV!
    I wrote working toward the next council elections at Gosford. Your next question dear PAV Please explain to me Why would you infer from what I had written that I was standing to join the local “Corrupt” Gosford City Council, which I have identifed as corrupt for over ten years? A council which I have regularity claimed in publicly avaiolable information open to THE PAV is responsible for the wrongful deaths of five people at Piles Creek . Would you be able to use my phone number PAV? Edward James 0243419140

  13. Edward James

    @ GEOMAC I want a chance to move toward good honest open government! I see the Labor Party top to bottom as a road block preventing that move year in year out Federal, State and Local. The Labor Party have had almost two decades to clean up their party. It is obvious from the Prime Ministers overt support of Craig Thomson and John Robertsons weak as suspension of Sir Lunchalot that Labor have not got the stomach to cut out the rotten cancers eating the belly out of their Party. So it is up to the voting public to do what Labor has refused to do. Judge them right here in the court of public opinion. Nothing to do with the law courts in another place. Plagirism is not a criminal offence we get it. But it is certainly shonky and certainly unworthy of someone who asked for our votes to be given in trust. What he done is certainly able to adversly influence our perceptions of his personal values in a place where perceptions count. Craig Thomson has had access to the floor of Federal Parliament to address his constituents doubts about him. His refusal to speak out in his own defence in his own enviornment cowards castle speaks volumes. There is a movement among the voting public toward change. The people who want that change have watched the Labor Party blocking the way forward like a dead tree. It is time to push it off to the side of the road and burn it So regeneration may take place. We know the Labor Party is unable to heal itself. It is up to people without long standing political alliances to exercise their votes to bring about effective change. Edward James

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