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Jul 29, 2010

Dash of passion in a bland campaign

Daily Media Wrap: Finally, a little bit of election spice. Yesterday Julia Gillard came out swinging against allegations she had not supported the paid parental leave and increase to the pension proposals in cabinet.

Finally, a little bit of passion about policy in a very bland campaign. Yesterday Julia Gillard came out swinging against allegations she had not supported the paid parental leave and increase to the pension proposals in cabinet after Laurie Oakes’ bombshell story on Tuesday night. She was in defensive mode at her hastily-called 9am press conference:

Of course I wanted to see a pension increase, of course I wanted to see paid parental leave…

I wanted to satisfy myself that they were affordable. I believe that is the appropriate approach to take … and it is the approach I will take to the future…

You can be passionate about doing something and hard headed in getting it done…

I will always, always examine expenditure proposals, examine them rigorously, hold them up to the light, ask every question, require every answer to get to the bottom of what we need to know.

Most of the commentariat agreed: Gillard “the fighter” is a good look.

It was her “strongest performance of the campaign,” says Patricia Karvelas at The Oz.

No more mister nice girl, says Malcolm Farr at The Daily Telegraph. “The fluffy Julia Gillard who has daintily led Labor’s election campaign disappeared Wednesday morning and the combative Gillard took over and kicked a few posteriors. The difference? Anger.”

Dennis Shanahan at The Oz was grateful for a bit of spice in the campaign: “The Prime Minister got angry and was all the better for it. Gone were the slogans, robotic gestures and rehearsed lines.”

Gillard should be thanking Oakes, says Ben Fordham on Ninemsn, “The most important thing Julia Gillard did today was fire up… She didn’t look rattled for a single second.”

Finally, the real Julia Gillard stands up, writes Samantha Maiden at The Oz: “For the past fortnight, it’s almost as if the real Gillard has been put into witness protection. The lioness of parliament’s bear pit in question time has been replaced by a lamb. Having killed Kevin, the Prime Minister’s been going all-out to prove to the nation she’s as pure as her expertly laundered White Lady Funerals outfit.”

Peter Brent from Mumble agrees at The Oz: “This morning we saw something we hadn’t seen in Australia for over a month: a prime minister.”

It wasn’t just Gillard who benefited from the performance: “Ms Gillard’s defiant manner buoyed colleagues who had grown worried at the flat and scripted style she had adopted during the campaign,” writes Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Michelle Grattan sums it up nicely in The Age: “Most people thought this return to feistiness an improvement. Blood-pumping, anger-showing, but strictly on script. One MP said: ‘In some amazing way, today may be what she needed. That’s really Julia Gillard, and that’s what people want to see.’ The question is whether the punters will believe her.”

The spin didn’t convince everyone. “Someone, perhaps he’s from Queensland, is out to punish Julia Gillard. Her worst day as Prime Minister has come thanks to a malicious leak from within Labor’s ranks,” writes Phillip Hudson in the Herald Sun.

The gloss is coming off, says Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald, “The paint of Julia Gillard’s bright and shiny prime ministerial image is cracking and peeling under the searing lights of prime ministerial scrutiny.”

Gillard may now suffer the wrath of elderly voters, says the Herald Sun editorial. “While she evaded giving answers to some questions, Ms Gillard denied she told Cabinet that “old people don’t vote Labor”. It was a direct answer but it was self-serving, and cash-strapped pensioners may decide that Ms Gillard’s heart is very much overruled by her head.”

Whether or not Kevin Rudd is the Oakes’ leaker — the jury is still out and Gillard isn’t pointing fingers — this “rat in the ranks” story can still continue to damage her campaign, particularly since there is so little policy or anything else meaty for journos to sink their teeth into.

“This is all the more destructive in a low-volume campaign in being waged in an atmosphere of frustration and even boredom at the lack of vision and major policy ideas on offer from Labor and the Coalition,” argues Paul Colgan on The Punch.

Barrie Cassidy on The Drum agrees:

It may be that just one — or at the most — a handful of malcontents within the Labor Party are driving the campaign against Julia Gillard. But it’s happening, it’s relentless, it’s vicious and it’s got powerful media support. If it keeps up, that’s enough to create at least a whiff of disunity within the Government. Disunity in its pure and naked form is death. Just a whiff of it is enough to make serious inroads into Labor’s numbers in some key marginal seats, particularly in Queensland.

It’s a delicate balancing act to keep this government together, writes Rebecca Wilson at the Herald Sun — “It is fast becoming horribly apparent why Prime Minister Julia Gillard broke all land speed records to get herself to an election. Within a fortnight of the announcement that we would go to the polls on August 21, Gillard and her Labor party colleagues are slowly but surely revealing their true colours.”

Is this a leak of BP proportions? “…the latest leak against Julia Gillard is a leak of the most smearing and unpluggable kind,” writes Lenore Taylor in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Annabel Crabb plays a game of political Cluedo, offering up all the whodunnit leak possibilities — Kevin Rudd with a knife in the rose courtyard? — “It was compelling to see Julia Gillard fire up with some serious fight today. Unfortunately for her, it was a fight picked by her own side,” she writes on The Drum.

Meanwhile, in news about actual policy, Tony Abbott yesterday announced a cut of 1.5% to company tax.

George Megalonis calls it “our first campaign lesson in economic comedy” in The Oz.

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25 thoughts on “Dash of passion in a bland campaign

  1. John T

    Passion is all very well, and welcome.

    But what we need to be told truthfully, and well before the election, is whether K Rudd will have any sort of front-bench post.

    It would be very dodgy for Australia to be led by a PM whose judgment would lead her to entrust KR to such a post – or any post requiring balanced judgment and consultative governance.

    And it would stop me voting for her if there is not a pre-election denial of the possibility.


  2. Bendigo Hoags

    Yes Julia will ” always, always examine expenditure proposals, examine them rigorously, hold them up to the light, ask every question, require every answer to get to the bottom of what she needs to know.” They were fighting words but Tony Abbott in predicably replying that it was a pity that other items of government expenditure within her ambit, ie school BBQ sheds and insulation program was not held up to the same scrutiny, immediately took some wind out of them.

  3. Fran Barlow

    I don’t believe for a second that Rudd is at the source of the “leaks” — assuming these are indeed “leaks”. I rate the possibility of them being fabrications as quite high. Someone, possibly an over eager journo or some miffed MP is circulating scuttlebutt. Oakes could simply be lying of course. He loves the game to be about him.

  4. Rod Hagen

    Perhaps the saddest thing in all of the “leaks scandal” stuff is the sight of so many supposedly senior journalists wasting so much time and space dealing with something that, when it all comes down to it, means next to nothing in terms of the future good government of this country.

    The journos may well be bored with the “low key” nature of this campaign so far, but are they really too lazy to dig deeper into matters of real substance rather than “biting” on the soft “personality and persiflage” stuff that has filled their columns for days? I’ve always expected a bit more the Grattans, Carneys, Cassidys, Wrights, Hartchers and other senior members of the gallery.

    If this elections is ultimately decided on the basis of a couple of leaks , fundamentally irrelevant to the real running of the country, from some miffed has-been or mischievous young former “advisor”, then the senior members of the press gallery will have played a part in the process. Come on guys and gals. Give us some real policy analysis. If you don’t do it, nobody will. Plough into the weak spots (and strengths) of the stuff that really matters for Australia’s future on offer from Labor, the Libs and the Greens, rather than giving this nonsense any more oxygen.

  5. Fran Barlow

    Bendigo Hoags gave us a textbook example of self-serving Coalition phrasemongering:

    [was a pity that other items of government expenditure within her ambit, ie school BBQ sheds …]

    The truth is that statistically, about 1% of BER expenditure has attracted complaint. I should add that the refurbished science labs at our school are not capable of being used to run BBQs. They do however, have excellent equipment both for practical science classes, and for delivering the latest in interactive science content.

    It is clear that the Coalition, lacking any positive or rational public policy proposals, are focused on slandering the government’s policies in the hope that this cons people into voting for them.

    In any event, it is very clear that all programs, including welfare programs, need to be assessed to ensure they deliver the outcomes intended as effectively and efficiently as possible. Otherwise an apparent increase in benefits might end up being diverted into benefits for those other than the intended beneficiaries.

    As to the broader policy arc within which BER and Home Insulation fit, it is also clear with hindsight that these programs helped protect the livelihoods of at least 350,000 people. Rudd and Gillard can take credit for ensuring that Australia did not suffer the blows that many other OECD countries suffered and that existing industrial capacity and skills did not lie idle and get wasted. They ensured that businesses did not adopt an excessively defensive posture (which would have had its own costs) but continued to trade.

    This harmed the government becuase it forced its focus away from reform and in the direction of crisis management. More than any other contextual factor, it very probably cost Rudd his leadership. Now the Coalition, who opposed action and would have engineered a recession on at least the scale of 1992, and with workchoices in full cry, are pretending they are fit to govern and that it is the government is dysfunctional.

    Not only ironic, but a scandal really.

  6. sickofitall

    While it’s nice to have a daily rundown of the clattering mess of the MSM, it’s getting tiresome. How do any of these idiots get to work, let alone turn on a word processor?

  7. Plane

    I am on the side of the journalists in this. With Labor having a strategy of putting us all to sleep and with Coalition and the Greens being mind-numbling scripted there was ironically a lack of news coming out of the election and the journos started writing some trivial stories. Now at least there is something happening. Abbott and Gillard are strong, at times combative people. Great ! Glad it is now on display and maybe we will start to get some real debate

  8. Bendigo Hoags

    Come of it Fran Barlow, you must admit that debate consists of slinging mud from all sides in an effort to gain ground and make points. You have done just that in your reply. That is the standard of politics now, unfortunately. We have a tight time frame for electioneering, a media that concentrates on trivialities with no time for proper analysis of policies and media advisers that control the words that eminate from our leaders mouths. What semblance of proper analysis may take place is restricted to certain media that is not the popular version that the great unwashed reads or watches. We are a “A Current Affair” mob rather than a “7.30 Report” mob.

    Slogans are bandied about to simplify messages. In 1987 Bob Hawke for instance was successful during that election campaign for taking advantage of a divided Liberal Party with his comment, ” a political party that can’t control itself is not fit to control the country”. Effective words that may have gained new currency.

    Yes there was an excellent response by Rudd and Swan to the GFC, but the weapons available to fight this fight were made available to them by the previous government. The previous Howard Government in turn had the advantage of a resources boom to build reserve. The Coalition were less opposed to stimulus than the idea of massive cash splashes followed by infrastructure spending that could have been better targetted. No discussion was allowed to be entered into, even briefly in the parliament, or even within ALP itself, it was the gang of 4 essentially.

    As for the comment the Coalition would have “engineered” a recession at least the scale of 1992, would it really have allowed a recession as Paul Keating’s the recession we had to have?

  9. David

    @Bendigo Hoags…so you were quite happy for Howard and Costello to sit on the profits, watch the bank balance get larger and larger, reduce spending on infrastructure (they were derelict) and any other area they could get away with for 12 years. They certainly had the resource boom to build reserves and they most certainly sat on it until pre election 2007 when pork barrelling went mad.
    I am amazed the Coalition and their ardent supporters still blame Gillard for all the shonky quoting during the schools stimulus. What about the success stories in that programme? thousands and thousands of them.

  10. Bendigo Hoags

    Actually no David, I was not happy at all for Howard and Costello to sit on the profits and create such things as Future Funds – I thought this a nonsense. They should have spent more on infrastructure of many and varied types, schools only being part of this. Plus a number of ready to roll road and municiple infrastructure . In fact the surplus of funds to the level they were should not have been available when in fact they were in early 2009. But fortunately they were available for Swan/Rudd to use and to tell a vastly different story to what it could be today. The cash splashes probably advantaged the white goods manaufacturers of Asia more than us and I know at least 4 school pricipals that admit that they are grateful for the new school auxillary centre/gym or whatever but say that they could well have done without it for a long time to come.