This will become known as the week that Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard began her ascent on The Lodge.
It started with an inadvertent, but calculated, remark by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that one day Gillard would make a very good PM.
That was the anointment of his successor.
It sent Gillard on a media blitz, handing out billions of dollars for education infrastructure. She was in Queensland with Premier Anna Bligh and then in NSW with Premier Nathan Rees giving away cheques to build brand new assembly halls at schools where classes are held in demountables and there’s no heating or air-conditioning.
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As if to reinforce her credentials, she appeared on Sky News to be interviewed by political editor David Speers and then on the ABC’s 7.30 Report last night by Kerry O’Brien.
She told Speers that oh, shucks, it was humbling to think that one’s name was being mentioned as a future PM but this wasn’t about her it was for the little girls sitting in their classrooms who might be dreaming that one day they might aspire to be prime minister. Sick bags all round.
Mercifully, as the studio lights dimmed the Speers interview concluded with a handshake. It could have been worse. There was such a frisson of togetherness during the encounter that viewers might have expected them to embrace.
Simultaneously, Gillard has been conducting a major political makeover. She made her name as the workers’ friend in the battle against John Howard’s WorkChoices and she led the charge in parliament to have the anti-union laws dumped.
It was a point of difference between her and the ever-so-conservative PM. But the “new” Gillard has switched camps: Adelaide’s La Passionaria is now safely with the business lobby and “on message” with the PM in a tough line against the construction workers’ union and others.
And last but not least, she has decided to disavow her past as a friend of Palestine and make a trip to Israel where she will be given a five-star induction to the peace-loving people of plucky little Israel.
Her visit received an official blessing in yesterday’s Crikey from Melbourne Ports Labor MP and unofficial Member for Tel Aviv, Michael Danby, who keeps the ALP fastened to a pro-Zionist policy.
If you join all the dots there is only one conclusion to be made: Gillard is readying herself for the top job, and that means Kevin has other plans for his future.
Certainly, the boys are unusually active. A five-man committee of the ALP’s national committee has been established to oversee the pre-selection of candidates for the forthcoming election.
The committee comprises all the usual factional suspects — Anthony Albanese and Mark Arbib (NSW), Mark Butler and Bill Shorten (Victoria) and Bill Ludwig (Queensland).
This means a makeover of the federal ALP is on the cards as well.