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Sep 8, 2010

Gillard’s wild ride has just begun

Crikey media wrap: After a thrilling finish, Julia Gillard clings on to power by the barest of margins: just one seat. How will Gillard negotiate a government with so many interested parties and different agendas?

This rather vacuous election campaign resulted in a thrilling finish, with Julia Gillard clinging on to power by the barest of margins: just one seat.

It was eerily quiet in the morning as the Canberra press gallery tried to firm up what time the three independents would call a presser with their all important announcement…

Until Bob Katter went rogue. The fiery independent MP for Kennedy split from the Three Amigos trio and called a press conference in his office at 1.30pm, declaring his support for the Coalition.

Shortly after, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor announced — after a painfully drawn out 20 minute speech by Oakeshott — that they both would be supporting a Gillard government, giving Gillard the thumbs up to continue as PM.

But how will Gillard negotiate a government with so many interested parties and different agendas? It won’t be easy, seems to be the collective message from a wary commentariat.

Michelle Grattan at The Age is already imaging the future: “In the months and years ahead, Gillard will be caught between the need to take some tough, bold decisions, and lowest-common-denominator buyoff politics to accommodate the small players.”

Yes, it’s a tough road ahead for our newly minted PM. “It is Gillard’s task, given she failed to win the popular vote, the primary vote or more seats than the Coalition, to mould public support to her cause and portray any opposition to that cause as being destructive, anti-democratic and against the will of the people,” says Dennis Shanahan in The Australian.

“This is a recipe for weak and uncertain government…” declares Paul Kelly in The Australian. In another article in The Oz, Kelly expands his argument: “Despite the talk of sunshine, the legacy is more likely to be bad political blood, a war between the pro-Labor rural independents and the Nationals, and a guaranteed Tony Abbott-led Coalition campaign that the Gillard government is without legitimacy.”

Michael Stutchbury worries for the Australian economy in The Oz: “Australia political peril now is that a minority Labor government with no policy mandate will be consumed by a struggle to grab a bigger share of our extraordinary national prosperity.”

Let’s not forgot the facts. “Yesterday’s theatre of the three rural independents doesn’t change one thing: the new government will be a minority administration,” notes Peter van Onselen in The Oz. “That means it will be inherently unstable, no matter how much the independents like to spruik stability as a key criterion in their decision-making.”

We’re dealing with precious political ground, says Samantha Maiden in The Oz: “A single by-election. A no-confidence motion. All could kill this fragile government.”

You think the last fortnight was tough? “…as this Labor – Green – Wilkie – Oakeshott – Windsor alliance is lowered gingerly into place in the House of Representatives, the path ahead makes what has gone before look like child’s play,” argues Annabel Crabb at The Drum.

It’ll test Gillard’s leadership skills. “If Julia Gillard can make a go of governing Australia over the next three years, her next job should be to succeed Ban Ki-Moon as UN general secretary,” jokes David Penberthy in the Daily Telegraph.

No leaks, scandals and rats in the ranks — the Labor party must be on its best behaviour. “With the demise of just one MP and a subsequent byelection enough to cause another election or a change of government, Labor sources said last night that discipline within the ALP would have to be rock solid if Ms Gillard were to govern for the next three years as she has promised,” reports Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dennis Atkins offers up specific steps that Gillard should take to strengthen her leadership in the Courier-Mail, including dealing with the Kevin Rudd problem by giving him the foreign ministry, not awarding the ‘faceless men’ with ministerial positions and order a full review of Labor’s performance.

Gillard’s coalition is a mismatched merry band of adventurers, notes Tony Wright at The Age:

“Gillard, Prime Minister to a rainbow collective, could have been excused for breaking into a song from that old musical Hair: ”When the moon is in the Seventh House/And Jupiter aligns with Mars/Then peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars.’ She didn’t, of course.”

But despite the formidable challenges, this can be a reforming government. “If the good intentions expressed yesterday count for anything, the new minority government will be more reforming than was the Rudd government or than a majority-Gillard government was likely to be,” writes Mike Steketee in The Oz.

This is a historic moment — even if it does come with a price tag. “Julia Gillard finally became the nation’s first popularly elected female Prime Minister yesterday,” writes Simon Benson in the Daily Tele. “And it only cost $10 billion — and a ministry for one of the two country independents who delivered Labor into the first national minority government in 70 years.”

Lenore Taylor offers a fascinating explanation in the SMH of how the two independents Windsor and Oakeshott weighed up the promises and policies from the two main parties. “Australia’s next prime minister was chosen just before 2pm yesterday by two blokes on a green couch in small office in a far flung corner of Parliament House,” says Taylor.

It wasn’t so much that Labor won, but that the Coalition lost. “The Coalition lost the race for the two independents’ loyalty because of the hairy-chested warnings of another election, and soon, from some Liberal sections. This was what Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott called background noise,” says Malcolm Farr in the Daily Tele.

It was the end of an exhausting campaign, at least for the media. “…the machinery of democracy was proving excruciating by day 17 of wheeling and dealing. The media was fed up with waiting, tired of having nothing to say to their cameras, sick of dealing with people who don’t leak, don’t issue transcripts and make key announcements at 10 o’clock at night. The independents never learnt to play by the gallery’s rules,” notes David Marr in The Age.

Janet Albrechtsen gets cynical in The Oz over the independents taking their time to decide:

“The transformation from irrelevant backbenchers to media tarts playing kingmakers was too quick. Now we know that their singular focus on stability has been a singular focus on making sure they remain in the spotlight for as long as possible.”

Rob Oakeshott really milked that speech for everything he could. “No one asked Rob Oakeshott whether he’d tuned in to new TV reality show The X Factor. But he appeared to bow to the theatrics of reality show judges in presenting a decision without historical precedent,” points out Patrick Carlyon in the Herald Sun.

Not that a Gillard government is in any way illegitimate. Peter Brent at The Oz explains how and why Labor has also won the two-party preferred vote. “If declaration votes had behaved like their 2007 counterparts, the Coalition would have won the 2pp. So for a while it looked at least possible that the Coalition had won the national vote. But they didn’t. Labor did.”

“The rapid ascendancy of Gillard would give even the most ambitious, career “goal-hanger” a few moments of self-doubt. So how do leaders become equipped for their next role?” asks Pia Lee in The Australian, as she offers up advice and CEO strategies for coping with the top job.

Sure, second place is just the first loser, but let’s not forget Tony Abbott just yet.”He missed out by the narrowest of margins on claiming the nation’s top job but Tony Abbott was applauded as a hero by colleagues when he stepped forward to accept election defeat last night,” writes Malcolm Farr in the Daily Tele.

“If it’s possible to have a triumph in losing, Tony Abbott has a triumph,” declares Dennis Shanahan at The Oz.

It’s unlikely that Abbott would be feeling overly triumphant this morning. And many are tipping that the aggressive attack-dog Abbott will return. “Despite calls for consensus politics, for the next three years Australians should expect a Liberal-led opposition to behave like an animal that’s tasted blood and is hunting down its limping prey,” says Tim Wilson in The Age.

Australian finally has a government, but it’s going to be a nail-biting three years.

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40 thoughts on “Gillard’s wild ride has just begun

  1. Outstanding Outcome For Australia

    Gillard better organise a roving medical team and ensure all her MP’s and Independants have their vitimin C each day. They could be wheeling in hospital beds and drips to ensure they dont loose the numbers.

  2. skink

    I heard Abbott say that the Coalition had won more seats and received more votes than the ALP. He was wrong on both counts

    just as I was beginning to wonder whether he was delusional he trumped it by saying that he did not want to be remembered as the best Leader of the Opposition never to become PM.

    Not much danger of that, Tony. By my reckoning he is currently battling for the wooden spoon with Mark Latham and Bill Snedden.

    He’s not even the best Leader of the Opposition in the last year, and I can’t help wondering whether Abbott’s comment was made whilst looking over his shoulder

  3. skink

    Oh, I just read the Shanahan piece

    Abbott has a triumph in losing?

    please let it be remembered in posterity that Abbott had the opportunity to form government if he could have got three country conservatives, all who should have been natural members of the blue team, to join him.

    Windsor was very clear last night that he had been put off by the Coalition’s broadband policy, its poor Treasury costings, and by conversations with Coalition backbenchers who suggested that either they did not want government this time, or if they got it would destabilise Parliament to force another election in the hope of getting a majority.

    The fact that country conservatives chose to join what the Libs are calling ‘the most left-wing government on history’ is a terrible indictment of Abbott’s management

  4. Nearlythere

    All the talk in the MSM of ‘unstable’, timid, govt and an election in 12-18 months time is puerile. If anything the knife-edge of this situation will produce greater discipline and focus (something lacking in the Rudd govt).

    The vast majority of legislation (80-85%) will continue to pass through the HofR and Senate with the support of both major parties – as it has always done. The independents and greens are, numerically, irrelevant in this situation.

    For contentious bills, the situation in the HofR is simply now similar to the situation in the current Senate, where the Govt will have to work hard to get the numbers. If it fails, and it will from time to time, it will have to just accept it, and move on. Ironically, the situation in the Senate will become MORE ‘stable’ (if by that, you mean predictable) from July next year – so the hardest time, from an ALP point of view, will be the next 9 months or so.

    Barring a major failling out with the Independents and Green in the HofR (which I can’t see happening soon, given that they have staked their immediate futures to a Gillard government), the biggest risk is from a by-election. Even then, I would expect that a change in the numbers on the floor of the HofR, should in the first instance simply produce a change in Government, rather than an immediate election. I really can’t see us going back to the polls for at least 2.5 years.

    So the advice to all ALP Members should be to take your Beroccas, have your heart checked, and don’t use a work computer to access P*rn….

  5. Acidic Muse

    I suspect finding a workable consensus over the next three years isn’t going to be anywhere near as difficult for Julia Gillard as our rather myopic commentariate would have us believe.

    She’ll spend the next few months putting Labour’s internal house in order. Then she will begin pursuing the legislative agenda that she took to the election with exactly the kind of measured, steely vigour that has become a hallmark of her leadership style.

    Yes, there will be compromises here and there, but surely it’s in the interest of everyone currently participating in this colourful coalition to make it work. If , after all, a failure on the part of the independents to compromise enough to allow Julia Gillard to govern effectively drives us back to the polls early, it is they more than anyone who will have the most to lose.

    All those Labour voters who supported Adam Brown and Andrew Wilkie on this occasion will surely not reward them for constantly taking positions designed to throw a spanner in the works of a centre-left progressive government. Looking at the demographics of their electorates, ”spoiler” is surely not the brand identity of choice they wish to take to the next election

    Oakeshott and Windsor will be under even more pressure to ensure this governments last long enough to deliver real benefits to rural Australia.

    Only then can their choice to support Gillard be truly vindicated in the eyes of their own electorates. They need outcomes, not merely unfulfilled promises in order to stave off the viciously venomous attacks upon their credibility that will inevitably flow from the right at the next election

    Tony Abbott knows this better than anyone, which is why we can expect him to become increasingly more desperate to destabilise the government. Aside from providing endless amusement for the many emotional vampires in our media, this will ensure the “Toxic Tony” brand is even more clearly evident next time we go to the polls.

    If that is, Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t already expunged it completely

  6. Elan

    I can’t agree with you SKINK. Abbott did a remarkable job………or did Labor do a really poor one?

    Frankly I can’t stand the odious git, but this was a one horse race. What happened? That man very nearly snatched power!

    I’m a pragmatist. I know full well that he pandered to prejudice to do it. Both sides are only too familiar with grubby tactics;-but he came from way behind.

    Personally I’m damned relieved that he didn’t succeed, but it is scarily obvious that his way of thinking appealed to a lot of voters.

    That’s frightening.

    And it’s not over.

  7. skink

    when questioned about her environment policy by Kerry O’Brien last night, Gillard said:

    “what I would like to see from that committee is that we can genuinely include, across the Parliament, people who believe climate change is real and who believe we will only reduce carbon pollution and meet our 2020 targets if we price carbon. And then with all of those people in the room, we’d work through to look for the points of agreement. I’m not going to prejudge, Kerry, how quickly that can be done, but I believe that there’s a determination to approach this in a different spirit than the way the carbon pollution reduction scheme ultimately ended up being approached, where consensus was shattered and it was a matter of high partisanship between the major political parties. ”

    I interpreted that as her passing a knife under the table to Malcolm Turnbull

  8. Damo

    The Coalition is always a Liberal Minority government + The Nationals.

  9. skink


    I think it was a case of Labor doing a poor job

    the ALP lost seats in Qld and NSW, both states with unpopular ALP state governments, and the electorate there wanted to give the ALP a spank. Queenslanders were also miffed about Rudd and the farce of the Mining Tax.

    all the polls after the election showed that people wanted a minority Gillard government, by a larger margin than pre-election polls, which suggests they wanted to punish her and shackle her, but not remove her.

    The only good thing Abbott did during the campaign was say nothing stupid and not lose his temper for three weeks.

    someone astutely noted on these pages that if Gillard survives the next three years, then by that time the Qld and NSW governments will have recieved a damn good kicking and the voters will have got it out of their system and be more amenable to Gillard.

  10. Fran Barlow

    [ can’t agree with you SKINK. Abbott did a remarkable job………or did Labor do a really poor one?]

    Very much the latter. They repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.

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