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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 The lioness of parliament’s bear pit in question time has been replaced by a lamb.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.

  11. Rod Hagen

    You are far too easy on the journalists, Plane. If the parties refuse to come to the party with real stuff then the journos have an obligation to go and dig for it, rather than all running with the latest bit of frippery?

    They wouldn’t have to dig very deep to do better than this. Where are the hard-nosed questions and analysis of both leaders responses concerning the war in Afghanistan, for example, following on from the far more significant “wiki-leaks”material? Both parties have serious questions to answer here, but neither Gillard nor Abbott are being asked them.

    What about some serious digging into the question concerning Australian foreign relations generally? Gaza, Israel and the the middle east generally? Or even more importantly how do the two parties now balance our sometimes conflicting ties with major world economic and strategic players such as the US, China, India, Indonesia and the like? Where do they see these things going over the next decade? Neither Gillard nor Abbott have demonstrated much experience or knowledge of such areas in the past. If the press want to move them out of their comfort zones why don’t they pressure them on such things?

    On the domestic front , how do they both respond to the substantial disquiet which most Indigenous Australians clearly have about policy in such areas? Or do they just continue to spout the same old essentially assimilationist lines of a Mundine on the one hand and a Pearson on the other?

    What about some serious “pushing” from the heavyweights on matters such as the real significance or otherwise of public and private debt? On balancing the costs of high tech medicine against the needs of all? On the huge long term water issues that we’ve had a real foretaste of over the last few years (but which seems to have largely disappeared from the agenda now we’ve been lucky enough to have had a bit of rain!).

    If the parties are both bunging out stultifying “on message” campaigns then rock the boat and get them to deal with stuff that matters that they don’t want to talk about, rather than letting the entire affair devolve into not much more than twittering gossip. If they refuse to play on the real stuff then keep on pushing them harder until they have no choice. That is what good journos are (or were) trained to do.

  12. Michael R James

    Annabel Crabb said “Kevin Rudd with a knife in the rose courtyard?” Probably, because it is no accident that historically upon the overthrow of a dynasty there was usually a complete cleansing: the extended family, all courtiers and absolutely anyone associated with the old regime. It is the only way to prevent this kind of thing. And worse, they left Kevin injured and breathing spitting blood, so of course he pulled the knife out of his own back and used it on his attackers. People who are somehow unwilling to believe this of the candidate for Griffith should remember that Lu Kewen is the one with an honorary PhD in ratf*cking from BeiDa, learned from the masters who have a 5,000 year documented history in the fine arts of it.  (And to get all banal, he has only 3 months to serve as a backbencher to qualify for his $100k pa parliamentary pension.)

  13. GocomSys

    FUNDAMENTALS: Q1. Would you give Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the Bishop sisters access to your bank account? Q2. Do you think climate change is ‘crap’? Q3. Can you see Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop representing Australia on the world stage?
    If the answers are “NO’ , why vote for them.
    We know what to expect from a CONSERVATIVE government. We had one not long ago. Remember?
    OUTCOME: Run a big budget surplus (makes the Federal Government artificially look good), effectively transferring public debt to private debt by reducing or cutting a variety of social services. Beneficiaries: Big business, Miners and other profiteers. Losers: The public.
    SMOKESCREEN: T.A. will make many unsubstantiated promises during the election. He admitted himself that he can’t be trusted. Why should we? Do not be conned by media trivia, misdirections, incorrect statements. When becoming confused by information overload just remind yourself that T.A. and his team are unelectable for all the obvious reasons.

  14. tumbrelpusher

    Australian Political Journalism – Federal Election 2010; Limited News Template

    My mate’s cousin, right, told me all about what happens in Cabinet, right, ‘coz my mates cousin works in the cafe in Parliament House, okay?!? Anyway, they heard that Jules was all, like, gunna stop money goin’ anywhere, ‘coz, like, that’s how she is, right!?! I mean, like, look at her earlobes and stuff, she even changes her hairstyle sometimes, you know…. And she didn’t have any babies yet.

    You know, I like Tony but, ‘coz when he was young he really used to smash into people like, but he doesn’t do that no more. And he believes in Sugar Candy Mountain and the God-like power of men with s**tloads of bucks.

    Edit to suit…yourselves

  15. shepherdmarilyn

    Pensioners have in fact had three extra increases in less than 3 years that they would not have got with Howard and co.

    first the $500 a year for power bills + increased phone for the internet.

    Then the $30 per week, then a raise from 25% to 27.7% of AMWE.

    In Sydney maybe it is difficult to be on the pension but in SA it’s pretty easy to live.

    And pray tell why would Rudd stick around for $100,000 per annum pension when his family has accumulated wealth of $56 million?

    Our journalists do get hung up on mindless trivia though. Don’t remember such outrage over Andrew Wilkies correct assessment that Iraq was no risk and had no weapons. In fact I believe all but the Canberra Times endorsed the murder of Iraqis for no reason.

    It’s mindnumbing trivia.

    I despise Joolya, but there is less than a snowballs chance in hell she would vote down the paid parental leave scheme or pension increases.

  16. John Bennetts

    Some commentators happily assert that the ALP is split and broken. OK, I agree to a very slight extent. Of course there are tensions, that is what happens when people with intelligence and passion get together seeking common cause.

    There is no comparison between this and the alternativer government, which is a hodge-podge of recycles antiquarians, rusted-on nincompoops and poor communicators, who have joined forces, more or less, under the baton of the unpredictable and unreliable Abbott. The man who releases one policy per day, only to be forced to eat his own words the following day.

    The ALP has cracks, sure. But it sure as eggs is a much more solid structure than the alternative.

  17. David

    @Bendigo Hoags…thanks for your reply. I take note of your comment about principals. Fortunately the schools stimulus programme was in the main about keeping and creating jobs not rubbing principals egos. Cheers

  18. Venise Alstergren

    It is to be hoped the amount of emotion amongst the Crikey commentariat here, is quadrupled X 1000 when you consider the meritricious crap spewing out from the be-carpeted-chest and back-Tony Abbott.

  19. Astro

    Gee they are all deserting SS Labor at the moment

    Belinda Neal – unelectable in Robertson

    John Della Bonka – knows labor has no chance at coming elections

    Expect more to disembark before the next NSW election.

    Last person standing, please turn out the lights.

    PS Dont accept your $$$$ payouts so we can use the cash to pay off the Sydney metro $500 million wastage

  20. David

    ASTRO do you write crap because it comes naturally or do you suffer from eternal diahorrea and could use a decent sized bunger. You mention one federal politician who didnt desert Labor, she was given the royal order of the boot by the party for reasons known to most except brain dead tossers such as yourself. One thing you make very clear, you are indeed a good example of the brain power of the every day Lib. If ALL, in your wierd world is 1 fed and 1 state pollie , its no wonder Abbott finds economics boring and a mystery, it drifts in from his weirdo supporters.

  21. Astro


    I know everything about Belinda Neal she is my local member in Robertson!!! and also unelectable if she ran as an independant. Fully recognise that Della Bonka is Upper House NSW.

    She has deserted, wont get a gig anywhere at Labor anymore after Iguanas incident, kicking the soccer women player and ignoring the electorate in 2008, 2009 and sucking up in in 2010. We are not stupid in Robertson.

    I enjoy having the Belinda Neal memorial burger at Iguanas and think of how silly that family was.

  22. Rod Hagen

    Enjoy your burger, Astro. I doubt you will actually get much more electoral or other pleasure in the course of this year.

  23. Astro


    Munch Munch will do Rod

    Enjoying Mark Latham tip on Gillard and Rudd on Sky News Paul Murphy show.

  24. Liz45

    @ASTRO – I have no time for people who use their position to boss and bully others around, but I had to smile when I heard Kevin Rudd(capable of losing it?) suggest that Belinda Neal participate in an anger management course? Does that apply to others as well? Bill Heffernan to partake in a course run to stamp out sexist bullying; Reith for lying about parents throwing their babies in the water; Ruddock – a long course with Amnesty International – for committing ‘cruel and inhumane’ treatment of asylum seekers; Brandis for calling his leader(Howard) a lying little rodent – anger management/loyalty; Downer taking a memory refresher course as he couldn’t recall a damned thing about AWB and Julie Bishop? a course on manners – so she’ll realise that it’s rude to stare????

    I’m loathe to wish ill on others – but, isn’t it time Latham’s pancreatitis resurfaced? That’d keep him quiet! His own worst enemy! He’s a dad too! Scary thought!

  25. Venise Alstergren

    LIZ: Tony Abbott is his own worst enemy too. 😈

    Not while I’m around he ain’t. 😈


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